Monday 1 November 2010

Interview with Clare Fisher

Clare Fisher in conversation with Frank Burton

Clare's novella The Hole in the Wall can be read online or downloaded for free from

Some novellas are expanded short stories. Others are condensed novels. Is The Hole in the Wall one of these two options, or was it always intended be a novella?

When I started writing it I had no idea how long it was going to be. The idea came to me whilst I was delirious from tiredness, on the tube going home from work. When I finished Caroline's narrative, I knew there had to be different points of view as well, although I had a feeling there wasn't enough for a full novel.

Is it your ultimate aim to be a novelist, or are you happier with shorter works?

If I'm honest, yes. I enjoy writing shorter pieces but - and the same goes for when I read them - I never feel quite satisfied. If the story's really good, I want more. I want something big. Writing something that sustains your own and your reader's attention for the length of a novel is a challenge I would like to undertake, however impossible and suicidal it may seem!

Who are your influences?

I have always enjoyed novels with multiple first-person narratives. I read The English Passengers by Matthew Neale and Barbara Kingsolver's Poisonwood Bible when I was a young teenager. I think these were unconscious influences - although I didn't realise it until I began to think about your question. More generally, I enjoy writing that is quite direct and paired-down, often in first person; influences in this vein include Douglas Coupland and Banana Yoshimoto. I could go on; I have been influenced by everything that I read and really connect with, even if it is only in a small way.

One of the impressive things about The Hole in the Wall is your ability to adopt a range of voices - male, female, children, adults - people from different backgrounds. Was this a difficult thing to achieve?

I didn't find it a particularly hard thing to achieve. Voice is one of the aspects of writing I have always found most interesting, both in my own work and in others'. I am also an extremely nosy person, and spend too much time wondering what's going on in other peoples' heads... I have always been fascinated by the way people furnish their worlds using language that is particular to them; that is something I was hoping to explore in this piece.

Do you have a favourite character in The Hole in The Wall?

I think it would either be Treasure, for her wacko imagination and relentless optimism, or perhaps her gran, who we never hear from directly but who is a ghostly presence holding the whole thing together.

Caroline and Michael probably represent a lot of couples in Britain today. Do you sympathise with them, or are you satirising them for their hypocrisy?

I would say both. When I write, I have to find a place in my characters that I sympathise with, no matter how ridiculous or distasteful they are; if I don't, all that comes across is bitterness and hate, which I don't think is particularly fun to write, or to read.

So, when you're writing, do you put yourself directly in the character's shoes, or are you able to remain detached from them?

I do what I can to become my characters whilst I'm writing. When things are going really well, their thoughts and feelings come without me having to do anything; when I find myself thinking, that's my thought not theirs, I know I'm stuck. I need to be free of self-consciousness when I write.

Do you have a particular way of getting rid of your self-consciousness?

Practise helps, but the main thing is to feel a certain love and enthusiasm for what I'm writing.

Finally, how do you feel about internet publishing?

Well, it's given me a lot of opportunities to get my stuff out there that I wouldn't have had otherwise, so I'm all for it!

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