Lucy Clarke has a first class degree in English Literature and is a passionate traveller and diarist. She has worked as a presenter of social enterprise events, a creative writing workshop leader, and she is now a full-time novelist. Lucy is married to James Cox, a professional windsurfer, and together they spend their winters travelling and their summers at their home on the south coast of England. Lucy’s debut novel, The Sea Sisters, was chosen for the Richard and Judy Book Club. A Single Breath is Lucy’s second novel. www.lucy-clarke.com / @lucyclarkebooks
Your new novel is called ‘A Single Breath’. Please could you tell me about it?
When Eva’s husband, Jackson, tragically drowns, she longs to meet his estranged family. The journey takes her to Jackson’s brother’s doorstep on a remote Tasmanian island. As strange details about her husband’s past begin to emerge, memories of the man she married start slipping through her fingers like sand, as everything she ever knew and loved about him is thrown into question. Now she’s no longer sure whether it was Jackson she fell in love with – or someone else entirely…
Are any of the characters in ‘A Single Breath’ anything like you?
A piece of me goes into every character I write because I need to be able to understand and empathize with each of them. I certainly share some of Eva’s determination, and perhaps also her desire to have time alone and space to grieve. Equally, there are hints of me in some of my male characters – such as Saul, who is passionate about the sea and chooses to base his life around it.
Both in ‘A Single Breath’ and ‘The Sea Sisters’ the reader is taken on a journey of loss and discovery. What is your writing process for writing something that is so beautiful and, at times, very deep?
When I am writing scenes that are particularly emotional, I often play particular pieces of music that evoke strong emotions in me. I have to pick the right time, too. Sometimes I’m in the mood to write a more upbeat, light scene, whereas other times there’s nothing I like more than getting stuck into a challenging, heart-wrenching scene.
What can we expect next? Is book number 3 in the making?
I’m currently writing my third novel – and LOVING every moment of it! The working title is The Blue, and the novel is set on a yacht sailing towards the South Pacific, crewed by a group of travellers. Best friends, Lana and Kitty, join the yacht in the Philippines and sail through crystal clear lagoons, and remote, uninhabited islands. But, on a 10-day ocean crossing, the crew wake to discover one of their friends is missing – and no one claims to know anything. Disturbed by the disappearance, relationships between the crew begin to fracture, and Lana and Kitty’s friendship is stretched to breaking point. It’s a story of friendship, hedonism, and the delicate balance between truth and fiction.
They say the journey to being published is one of the hardest an author can take, please can you describe the journey that you went on?
I was 24 when I realized that I’d love to be a novelist. Up until then, I’d always assumed that I’d have a career in business, and I pushed aside all the signals that I’d perhaps make a good writer: I’ve always kept diaries and journals; I read voraciously; I studied English Literature at university; I’m at my happiest with a notebook and pen in my hand. It took a round-the-world trip with a van, tent and travel journal to make me realize that what I wanted to do most was write.
Once I’d made the decision to be a novelist, then came the small matter of actually doing it. Like most writers I needed to work to support myself whilst trying to make it happen, so I set up a small business delivering events in schools, which afforded me both an income and a flexible schedule so I could make time to write. It took me until I was 30 to sign my first book deal. I could paper a wall with the rejection letters I received along the way, but eventually good news landed. I was delivering an event at a school in Kent when I got the call to say I’d had an offer, and my knees literally went weak with the shock. A month later I sold my business, and now I’m thankful for being able to do what I love full-time.
Writers put so much time and energy into their characters and I have been told in the past that a writer carries their characters around with them. So my question is if you could go out for a day with any one of your characters: who would it be, what would you do and why did you pick this particular character?
What a lovely question! I’d spend the day with Saul, because I have a bit of a crush on him myself. And I’d spend the day in Wattleboon, freediving, then drying off on his boat. I’d ask him about his work as a marine biologist as I think he’s fiercely knowledgeable, but also very modest, and I’d like to hear more from him.
If you could choose one book that you think everyone should read, what would it be and why?
The Old Man and the Sea. Hemingway is a master of simple, elegant prose – a sentence of his conveying what most of us writers struggle to convey in a page. I’ve read this book several times over the past decade and find new joys with every rereading of it.
If there was one saying that could sum up your life to date, what would it be?
Trust your instincts.
What or who in life inspires you?
Travelling inspires me. I love seeing new places. It reminds me that my way is not the only way!
Please would you share who your 5 dream dinner party guests would be?
Jamie Oliver (to do the cooking)
Stephen Fry (for the chat)
Angelina Jolie (for the intrigue factor)
Ryan Gosling (to look at)
Maggie O’Farrell (so we can talk books once the others have gone)
At your dinner party, there’s a cocktail in honour of ‘ A Single Breath’ what are the ingredients?
Vodka, crushed ice and a splash of passion fruit.
A big thank you to Lucy for talking to The Love of a Good Book