Today, I’m delighted to welcome Fran Clark to my blog. Fran was born and currently lives in West London. Her first novel, Holding Paradise, is published in 2014 by Indigo Dreams Publishing. Fran is studying for a Creative Writing MA at Brunel University. A professional-singer songwriter and vocal coach, she recently released her second album of original songs. She is now working towards the completion of her second novel.
Q: Fran, please tell us something about yourself and how you came to be a writer.
I had this story idea knocking around for a very long time – ten years, in fact, if you can believe that. I eventually attempted to start writing it but never got further than a few paragraphs. I didn’t know where to take it and, particularly, how to tell it. I continued writing songs and recording my music. All of my songs are mini stories anyway so I eventually took pen to paper and tried to polish my prose. The first draft of Holding Paradise was over 500 pages long and I liked it enough for me to want other people to read it. The idea of being published got hold of me. I started editing, reduced it to about 312 pages and handed it to a few people to read. I was encouraged by the response and I haven’t stopped. Now writing has an equal place with music in my heart.
Q: You write Women’s Fiction. What can readers expect?
Expect ordinary characters with extra-ordinary things happening in their lives. Expect love but my emphasis is on relationships that are not necessarily between lovers. In Holding Paradise the relationship between mothers and their daughters are explored.
Q. I’m really interested in how your song-writing informs your novel-writing. Can you tell us a bit more about that?
It’s interesting that the song I used in the book was just a spark of an idea. The mother and daughter had to connect in some way and, as I use songs to express feelings, it seemed logical for a singer-songwriter character to do just that. As I write lyrics melodies for the song always come into my mind. So whereas I completed the novel in 2011, the melody has been following me and I finally found time to record it after completing my second album.
Writing the song for the character of Eva was a way of developing her. I plan to try a similar thing with my singer/performer in the book I’m currently writing. Writing prose is a way of developing the story-telling part of my song-writing. All my songs are mini stories and developing a song into a short story or novel length just felt like a natural progression. I have not used any of my song themes in my prose so far. The stories for song and fiction seem to come from different places within me.
Q: How does your home and its environment influence your writing?
I find it very easy to get into my writing at home. Everyone knows to leave me alone when I want to write – usually. Sometimes I have to remind them that I could do with some peace. My flat is situated in a quiet and peaceful place with scope to walk along the river when I need to get away from the laptop to think. My office is my place for teaching vocals, creating music and writing so it is a creative space and that helps a lot.
Q: Hilary Mantel says that a Catholic upbringing is the only qualification a writer requires. Do you have any writing qualifications?
Well I was raised a Catholic so maybe I ought to agree! But the best qualification has got to be imagination and knowing how to tell a good story. That said, I am studying for a Creative Writing MA as I want to improve my writing skills – let’s hope it works because it was a bloody expensive course.
Q: Do you think literary agents are vital to an author’s success? How did you go about signing with your agent?
I don’t have an agent but I want one. The small publishing house that went with my manuscript are great but in a world where everyone is a writer and thousands of books are coming out every week, the help of an agent to further your chances has got to be a plus. Writing is a lonely job so an enthusiastic agent who believes in you is bound to keep you motivated. I am on the look out for an agent and will be submitting my second novel to agents as soon as it finished.
Q: What are you working on at the moment / next?
After finishing my first novel I followed it up with a collection of short stories – all linked to the characters in Holding Paradise. I can’t wait to bring them out. But at the moment I am trying to finish my second novel so that I can submit it to agents. Agents are not interested in short stories from unknown writers.
Q: What is your ‘writing routine’ – if such a thing exists?
To be honest I don’t have a strict regime. I write as regularly as I can. It is best to write often – everyday if you can but you mustn’t beat yourself up if you can’t manage to. My best times for writing are early morning or late at night.
Q: Where do you get your inspiration from?
Usually it is by hearing real life stories. I always think about the people involved and try to understand their motives until I am re-writing them and placing them in situations that they might not normally find themselves. Also I just have ideas for stories popping into my head at random times and in random places. Washing up, the supermarket, the gym can inspire a story in me. I daydream far too much and I’m a people watcher. A unknown passer-by can trigger off a story.
Q: Khaled Hosseini says that he feels he is discovering a story rather than creating it. Are you an avid plotter or do you start with a single idea and let the novel develop organically?
I always have a plot in mind but once I start to write I will always let the narrative go where it needs to. My characters tend to start writing themselves and I think that’s a great thing. I don’t think it is a good idea to try to stick too closely to a plot as it can stifle creativity.
Q: Is there a phrase or quote about writing that you particularly like?
I can’t remember the quote word for word but I did read Stephen King’s memoir, On Writing, which tells writers to complete their first draft with the office door closed and the subsequent drafts with the door open. In other words, go for it, get all your ideas down and don’t let anyone influence you. Once you’ve got it all out on paper then you can let others in on the process.
Q: Does your book have a dedication? If so, to whom and (if appropriate) why?
Holding Paradise does have dedications. To my dad and to my brother. When I was younger my dad was very strict and seemed to be out at work all the time. One day, in my late teens, I heard him sing. He had the most amazing voice and that made me see him in a completely different light. I realised we didn’t know each other so well and I wished that fantastic singer could have heard my songs and seen my first book published because I know he would have been proud. The dedication to my brother comes because I came to a stage when writing Holding Paradise when I didn’t think I could finish it. Then my brother died, unexpectedly. I realised that life is short and unpredictable so always seize opportunities and to just go for the things you believe in.
Q: Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Absolutely. A few unfinished short story ideas and two novels. One of them I’d written over half of (about 55,000 words) and stopped because I don’t think I can tell the story right.
Q: What do like to do you do when you’re not writing?
If not writing then I’m wearing my other hat as a musician. I recently recorded a song that is written into my novel and I’ve used it for the book trailer. My husband is a musician and we perform as a duo or sometimes a larger combo. I read and try to exercise regularly, running, yoga, aerobics are my favourites. I need to keep it up as I do love to eat too.
Q: Where can we find out more about you and your work?
My blog:http: http://franclark.blogspot.co.uk/
My website: http://www.franclark.co.uk/writerindex.htm
Book Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zMgXbD51wQk
Online bookshop: Indigo Dreams Publishing
Thank you, Jane. I will be having an online book launch party on my blog on Friday 25th April 9am to 9pm (GMT) and all of your readers are invited. All they need to do is pop over to my blog and sign up for the details and the chance to win a free copy of Holding Paradise.