Writing Superheroes: Clare Flynn

Her holidays are a clever disguise for my secret book writing  missions! Read on and find out more…

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According to Wikipedia, ‘a superhero is a type of heroic character possessing extraordinary talents, supernatural phenomena, or superhuman powers and is dedicated to a moral goal or protecting the public.’ Sounds like a writer to me!

Join me as another one of these unsung superheroes invites into their personal ‘batcave’.


If you were to write the ‘origin’s episode’ of your writing what would be the most important scenes? What did your early efforts look like? Are they still around to be used as bribes and blackmail material?

I never set out to write historical fiction. My first serious attempt to write a novel (as an adult) was while I was still working in the corporate world in the early 90s. It was a thriller set in Istanbul and the first two chapters involved a dead body in a sack in the car park of a multinational manufacturing company and sex on the boardroom table. I am happy to say neither were directly drawn from my own experience!

That said, I always start with location.  It’s where I find my inspiration. I had travelled often with my job to Istanbul, while working as a Marketing Director and I thought it was a magical place so it seemed natural to use it. The book was never finished and is on a floppy disc somewhere in my office where it had better stay!


All superheroes have their mild-mannered secret identity, what is yours? I promise we won’t tell.

Screen Shot 2014-12-17 at 14.47.05My mild mannered secret identity is quilter and painter. I chucked out my corporate business suits long ago! My first ever hand-sewn quilt features on the cover of one of my novels, Letters from a Patchwork Quilt. My artwork is unlikely to feature on any covers – but I did draw on my own experiences of painting when writing about Ginny Dunbar in Kurinji Flowers. Ginny paints – although significantly better than I do – she had a London exhibition of her work, something unlikely to happen to me!


Who are your partners in crime? What are their superpowers?

My partners in crime are many. I am one of the founding members of a critique group here in Eastbourne. Five of us meet once a fortnight to share about 2000 words of our works in progress and give each other feedback – Margaret Kaine, a successful saga writer and author of the award-winning Ring of Clay, Merryn Allingham , the hugely popular author of historical fiction with mystery, Jill Rutherford who writes novels set in Japan and wonderfully quirky short stories and jay Dixon who is a vastly experienced editor. These sessions are great fun but also incredibly useful and a new approach for me as I’ve previously waited until later in the process before sharing with my trusty band of beta readers – the beta readers  will now get a more polished book. I also have Ace Editor, Debi Alper, Super Proof-reader, Helen Baggott , Hot Shot Cover Designer Jane Dixon-Smith and Meticulous e-book Formatter, Lin White. What a crack team! – we can take on the world!


Where do you get your superpowers from?

In the genes. My Mum wrote poetry. My Dad was a great raconteur. His father, my grandfather, was always trying to get his stories published – I have some of them – written between the wars. I never met him as he died in the 1930s. All my siblings are creative – musical and artistic.


Where is your secret lair and what does it look like?

I moved to Eastbourne on the south coast of England six months ago so I have constructed a new lair –  a study with a wall of floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. I tend to work in here in the afternoons as it’s dark in the mornings (it’s a room deliberately without a view – although I do have paintings on the walls). In the mornings I tend to sit on the terrace, in the lounge, or the kitchen, all of which have a fantastic view of the sea which I find very inspiring as it’s different all the time. Sometimes I walk down to the seafront with a notebook and sit in a café or on a bench and scribble away – although mostly I write straight into the computer.


What kind of training do you do to keep your superpowers in world-saving form?

My training consists of reading constantly and widely – not just within my own genre. I also undertake lots of research before going into battle and refresh this as I go. I also like to stake out the land and that usually involves lots of travel. Mere mortals think I’m just taking lots of holidays – but it’s all a clever disguise for my secret book writing missions!


What was the super-villain that threatened to stop your latest project and how did you vanquish it

There are two evil villains that keep trying to threaten my projects. The first is my secret shame – my terrible addiction to mindless moronic games on my phone or i-pad. The second often cloaks itself in the costume of an imaginary villain called Writer’s Block (WB) – but I know for a fact that WB doesn’t exist so it’s just a manifestation of my imagination and when I sit in front of the computer and put my hands on the keys WB gives up and goes away.


What important lessons have you learned along the way?

That super-heroes need partners in crime and it’s worth putting a lot of effort into the finding the right ones to complement your own super-powers.


What have been the best/most memorable experiences along the way?

It’s hard to pick out individual things as it’s all been such a terrific experience. There are so many milestones – doing book-signings and having people buy the books – even super-heroes have crises of confidence! speaking on the radio, doing video interviews, reading fabulous reviews and emails from readers. Overall though I would say that that thing I have valued most and didn’t expect at all has been the friendship and support of other writers. I’ve been astonished to discover a wonderful community of brilliant people across the world  – in particular the friends I have made through the Alliance of Independent Authors, the Historical Novel Society, the Romantic Novelists Association and via Facebook and Twitter.


Tell us about your new book and why we need to drop everything and get it now.

My latest book The Green Ribbons was recently described by a reviewer as  being like Tess of the D’Urbervilles, but without the doom and gloom. It has also been compared to the Brontes and Mrs Gaskell so I’m feeling very honoured!

The book is the story of an eighteen year old girl whose parents are killed in a tram accident so she is forced to make her own way in the world – and makes some big decisions out of good intentions but which have terrible repercussions on her life and on those around her.

It’s set in 1900 in a small English village – a time and place of great change between the industrial revolution and the Great War. I always try to make the locations of my books as vivid as possible – they are like another character.


What’s in store for you in the future? Do you have any other big projects on the horizon?

I am writing my fifth novel now – working title The Chalky Sea. It’s set here in Eastbourne – I didn’t plan that – it just happened. Despite living here when I was teenager I had no idea the town was the most heavily bombed in the South east of England during WW2 and was home to thousands of Canadian soldiers. (Actually as a teenager I didn’t give a stuff about such things!). The story came to me when I was actually intending to write something completely different – it just wouldn’t let me!

Thanks so much for hosting me on your blog, Maria Grace!



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1 comment

  1. Does one need to write a specific type of fiction to be considered a writing superhero?

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