Letters From a Patchwork Quilt by Clare Flynn - Interview
Published: September 24, 2015
Number of pages: 350
Genre: Historical Fiction
In 1875 England, a young man, Jack Brennan, from a large and impoverished Catholic family refuses to be pushed into the priesthood and runs away to fulfill his dream of becoming a teacher. Jack falls in love with Eliza Hewlett, but his dreams and plans are thwarted when his landlord's daughter, Mary Ellen MacBride, falsely accuses him of fathering the child she is expecting. Rather than be forced to marry his accuser, Jack decides to run away to America with Eliza. Just as they are about to sail, Jack is arrested and dragged from the ship, leaving Eliza alone en route to New York with just a few shillings in her pocket. AMAZON
The story is different, original and touching. It's interesting to read how the lives of Jack and Eliza unfold in different countries. The plot is powerful, the characters are well sketched, memorable, and their personalities will remain in the minds of readers even after they finish the story. It's a story of love loss and tragedy; a heartbreaking and moving tale where readers will wish to see Jack and Eliza reunited and happy together. The narration is descriptive; it also speaks about the society that existed during that age and pulls readers into the story. It's well written and the story is not predictable, making it a engaging read.” -Readers’ Favorite (5 Star Medal)
1. Who or what inspired you to start writing? First of all thank you so much, Angela, for hosting me on your blog. It's a real pleasure to be interviewed by you.
I started writing as soon as I could read and was always writing poems and stories as a schoolgirl. Years of corporate life including lots of business travel, working abroad and having to learn new languages meant writing got put aside – although reading never! And I always knew I would eventually have to make time to write as it is the one thing I was desperate to do.
I was inspired by my late mother, who was a very talented woman and wrote poetry herself. My teachers also inspired and encouraged me. We always had books at home and I think writers absolutely have to be readers first. My literary influences growing up were an eclectic bunch - from Louis May Alcott to Agatha Christie, from Charlotte Bronte to Scott Fitzgerald from Tolstoy to Jackie Collins. I also read across the genres and being told a book was "unsuitable" for me was an immediate signal to get my hands on it. 2. What do you do to help you get over writer's block? I just sit in front of the computer, put my hands on the keyboard and write. To be honest I don't believe in writer's block. If you sit there long enough the words will come. But I do have two tips to help people who do suffer from this.
The first is to write "morning pages" – to fill three sides of A4 handwritten first thing in the morning. I do them before I've even got out of bed – often it's what I can remember of my dreams, sometimes it's things I am worried about, often it's just a rant – and very occasionally the pages may involve ideas I will use in my writing. I don't consciously try to relate the pages to my work in progress but regardless of what garbage I spill out (I never let anyone read them and rarely read them myself) it helps keep the creative engine oiled. An incidental side benefit is that when I feel depressed (fortunately for me that's rare) writing morning pages always helps me get over it.
The second way is to just get out and get away from the desk. Go for a walk. Go to a museum or gallery. Watch a movie. Read a book. Do some sewing (I quilt). Paint or sketch. Then, stimulated and rested, go back and sit in front of the computer!
3. Do you have scheduled writing time or a certain amount of words you write each day? I try to write around 1000 to 1500 words a day, but don't beat myself up on the days when that doesn't happen as there are other days when I can't bear to stop and I do much more than that. I also have other stuff to fit into the day – including researching the book I'm working on, reading around the subject and doing marketing.
4. Where do you get your ideas for your books? They just appear and the ones that I end up going with won't leave me alone until I commit to writing them. I often get inspired by location – my second novel, Kurinji Flowers came to me during a sleepless night in a hotel room in India. I gave up trying to sleep and instead sketched an outline for the book. The start point was me imagining who might have been in the room back in the days when it first opened in the 1930s. My research helps me flesh the book out. I use research not just for fact-checking but as creative stimulus. I ask what would happen if she witnessed that happening? – then let the characters take over.
In the case of Letters from a Patchwork Quilt I used some elements of my own family history - just dates and places and jobs and then let my imagination fill in the (enormous) gaps. I visited St Louis, Missouri when I was in the early phases of the book while on a holiday en route to New Orleans and decided it was a great setting for part of the novel, offering a good counterpoint to the English location, Middlesbrough.
5. When you are not writing what do you like to do? I love painting, although I'm not any good at it! I came to it late in life when I was feeling low and my sister suggested I go on a painting holiday to Morocco. I protested that I couldn't paint and she said "How do you know, you've never tried. If you don't like it you can lie by the hotel pool and read". I loved it and have been dabbling with watercolors ever since. In May I am off to Montenegro to paint - I can't wait. You never know – it could end up being the location for the next book!
I also love to quilt, Again this is a recent hobby. I used to run a crafting website with friends and decided to give quilting a go and found it addictive.
Reading is a lifelong passion. As soon as I put a book down, finished, I pick up another. I also love TV dramas and movies. 6. What one piece of advice would you like to give to aspiring writers? Read your work out loud. It's a great way to reveal the clunky bits. It also helps you to identify where the pace varies, to show the light and shade, to hear the rhythm and flow of your words. It's simply the best aid to editing – which you should do relentlessly – don't rely on your editor to pick up the errors. Make it the best you can before you hand it over to the editor.
7. Who is your favorite author or book that you would like to recommend to your readers? That's a tough one as I read so much but struggle to remember once I emerge from the warm cocoon of a book (advancing years!). A recent read I loved are the Neopolitan novels by Elena Ferrante – I used to live and work in Italy but read them in English. I'm sure the original Italian reads even better, but I devoured the books. It took me a while to get into the first of the four, but I was soon captivated and read them in rapid succession. I heard there are plans afoot to film them in Italy. Can't wait!
8. If you could meet any famous person dead or alive who would it be and why? Napoleon. I've been fascinated by him for years. I suppose I have a love-hate relationship with him. I used to have a big framed film poster of him from the 5 - 6 hour long French silent film by Abel Gance - which I sat through in one splendid afternoon. It hung on the wall of my apartment in Brussels and one day I came home from work to find it on the ground surrounded by broken glass but with the hook still in the wall. I was never sure if I had a poltergeist or whether I had incurred Napoleon's wrath. There are so many aspects to the man. He changed Europe forever. Love him or loathe him you can't ignore him – unless you're Josephine!
9. If you could visit anywhere in the world where would you like to visit? I've been incredibly lucky and have travelled very widely across the world but the one place I never wanted to go was Japan. I don't know why as now it's top of my bucket list. I'd love to go when the cherry blossom is out.
10. Five interesting facts about yourself 1. My claim to fame when at university (Manchester, English Language and Literature) was being the founder and chairman of the Rock n' Roll Society 2. I only have one kidney 3. I nearly got blown up by the Sendero Luminosa in Peru when a bomb went off round the corner from where I was having a drink with friends. Like a big idiot I ran towards the explosion instead of away. I think I fancied myself as an amateur foreign correspondent. I still have the photos I took that night. No social media in those days!
4. For fifteen years I held a season ticket for matches at Chelsea Football Club. Come on you blues!
5. When was fifteen I played Juliet in Romeo and Juliet and was apparently the youngest ever to play the role in an English public theatre. I didn't like having to kiss Romeo (who was about thirty) and had the hots for Paris – which was a bit of a problem!
About the Author
Clare Flynn is also the author of A Greater World, set in Australia in 1920 and Kurinji Flowers, set in India in the 1930s and 40s. She is a graduate of Manchester University where she read English Language and Literature. After a career in international marketing, working on brands from nappies to tinned tuna and living in Paris, Milan, Brussels and Sydney, she ran her own consulting business for 15 years and now lives in West London. Co-founder of the popular website, Make it and Mend it, and co-author of the 2012 book of the same name, Letters From a Patchwork Quilt is her third novel. When not writing and reading, Clare loves to splash about with watercolours and grabs any available opportunity to travel - sometimes under the guise of research. WEBSITE | BLOG | TWITTER | FACEBOOK | AMAZON | GOODREADS | PINTEREST | INSTAGRAM