Friday, 15 May 2015

Member Showcase: Claire Dunn

Today it's the turn of ACW member Claire Dunn to step into the spotlight. Welcome Claire.
I’m going to start with the quick fire round, so buckle up and off we go.

What’s your favourite Colour?

Coral. I like coral: fabric, coral flowers, coral jewellery. Otherwise green - in all the shades of nature.

What’s your favourite food?

In spring and summer, salads appeal most, with olives, grapes & apple, seeds & nuts, houmous, sun-dried tomatoes, coriander & basil.

Winter fodder is the opposite: warming, wholesome, nurturing - the sort of thing my granny might make and my mother still does - like rhubarb crumble and custard.

What is your favourite flower and why?

That’s a tricky one. Probably the common garden daisy because it is a tough little thing, good-natured, tolerant, and never gives up.

Have you met anyone famous? if so, in what context?

I worked in London so met dozens of interesting people - some famous, a few infamous: actors, politicians, royalty, barristers of high-profile cases. Some were frequent visitors others just passing through. One who always stopped for a chat was the actor, Stewart Granger. I was young and rather judgemental, but he taught me not to judge an actor by his mantle. I’m indebted to Colin Dexter of Inspector Morse fame, for taking on a complete unknown and spending precious time reading my work and inviting me to his home to discuss it. His encouragement at that early stage meant a great deal to me.

If you could travel to just one country in the world, where would it be?

Sorry, that’s impossible to answer, although I’ve always had a hankering to visit New Zealand.

Where is your favourite place to write?

I can write anywhere (try stopping me) but Cornwall brings out the best. The open spaces, the quality of light and air, and the infinite peace I find there is balm. There’s nothing like a walk on the beach in a winter storm to get the muse working even if the rest of my body is numb.

Pen or keyboard?

Mostly keyboard. As a dyslexic, without the use of a computer I would not - could not - have written a book.

Now for a few more in depth questions.

How did you get started writing?

I started by getting my (ever patient) mother to write my first poem down for me. I was about seven or eight and couldn’t yet write. I was always composing in my head, but couldn’t get it on paper. The advent of computers opened up a new world, so when, in 2009 my daughter told me to write down a story I had been toying with, I did. It came from a recollection of seeing a vandalised tomb in a Medieval church.That was the beginning of Mortal Fire and the start of The Secret Of The Journal series.

In which genre do you write? Why this genre?

The Secret Of The Journal series is cross-genera: romantic suspense with a healthy dose of history. My other love is historical fiction. Why? I think it comes down to the people bit. I love writing about people - their relationships, fears, hopes - so in that sense it doesn’t matter what the genre is. I can’t see myself writing about robots, though.

Have you got a favourite genre to read? If so why?

I’ll read almost anything if it’s well written and engaging. I grew up on mystery books - whether crime, history, thrillers, or romance - so I’d have to say that an element of mystery and suspense keeps me hooked. And if it’s historical - well, I’m all yours.

How would you describe your writing regime?
Eclectic. That’s not very helpful, is it? First, I have to balance writing with running the school, unless it’s a holiday period in which case it’s balancing writing with gardening and family. I write every day if I can. I limber up on social media, say ‘hi’ to everybody, write emails and messages, then settle down with a bucket of coffee and review what I wrote the day before. Then I gather my thoughts and start writing, which will only be interrupted (other than by emergencies) by the need to check a fact or two. On a good day, I’ll write for eight hours plus. On a brilliant day, as much as sixteen hours, and even then the laptop will have to be prised from my hands before I stop. Not all days go to plan. If I can’t concentrate or have meetings to go to, I’ll spend what time I have on research. And if I can’t do that, I’ll daydream through the next planned scene. I find weeding, walking and preparing vegetables all help to empty my mind and let ideas flow in. No rude comments, please.

I don’t have a daily word count; I write what needs to be written. That might be between 500 words to 3000, depending, but I always do something towards the latest MS.

Once I have written the first draft, I’ll go back and edit it as many times as necessary to get it as polished as I can. I’ll then ask two trusted readers to assess it for me - both in terms of content and for inevitable errors. Only then will I approach my editor. Even so, it’s always with a degree of trepidation.

What would be your top tip for writers?

So you want to write? Stop finding excuses why you can’t, sit down (lie down, stand on your head) and write. Don’t stop until it’s finished, and then check, check, and check again until it is the best you can make it. Writing isn’t just about producing a book or article, it’s about the relationship with editors, publishers, booksellers and, above all, readers. Treat all of them with the same respect you deserve and view your work in a professional manner. Set realistic deadlines and keep to them. Learn your craft, go with the flow, and listen to advice.

Can you give readers a short passage from your book so we can get a flavour of what it is about?

“That means only one thing...” he hung back to let the gravity of the situation sink in, but he didn’t need to, I was already there, wallowing in mire at the bottom of a deep, dark lake, drowning, “...he’s a fake, a phony, a sham. So, who is he?”

My nail snapped as I gripped the window sill, ripples of fear flowing up my arms and choking hope out of me. I could see no possible solution, but an inevitable death. Without answering, I wheeled around and pushed past him as I left the room.

The dining room was unlit. I didn’t switch on the sidelights but used the glow from the hall to find my way to the fireplace. I didn’t think. I didn’t need to think. I acted as anyone would to protect that most dear to them.

The scabbard slipped seamlessly from the iced blade, the sword perfectly balanced. I hoped I could remember enough from my fencing lessons to make a clean job of it and that taking him by surprise would do the rest. I turned swiftly and found my way blocked. I opened my mouth to scream but a hand clamped over it, stifling all sound.

What are you working on at the moment?
I’m working on two books at the moment: the fourth book in The Secret Of The Journal series - Realm Of Darkness, and the first in a historical series drawing on my first and enduring love - the late fifteenth-century and the Wars of the Roses.

Can you tell us a bit about it, without giving the game away of course?
Emma D’Eresby has done everything she can to put her past behind her. Now she has every reason to believe she can look forward to a future with Matthew Lynes. She at last reveals the nature of her relationship with Guy Hilliard - her supervisor at Cambridge - and the reason she has found it difficult to forgive him and trust any other. But despite every effort to make a fresh start, history catches up with fatal results.

Thank you for joining me today Claire and for answering all my questions so patiently. It was a pleasure to meet you in a virtual sense. I hope all goes well with your books. 

Secret of the Journal series: Mortal Fire ~ Death Be Not Proud ~ Rope of Sand ~ Realm of Darkness (2016)


  1. If there's anyone reading this who hasn't yet embarked on The Secret of the Journal, I warmly recommend it.

    1. Thanks for the recommendation Aggie

    2. Thanks for the vote of confidence, Aggie.

  2. Thank you, Wendy. I found out quite a bit about Claire that I didn't know e.g.that she runs a school! Would love to know how she finds time to write at all...

  3. You're such a tease, Claire - you've got my brain tied up in knots trying to work out what's going to happen next! Don't know if I can wait till next year...

    1. I'm still unravelling mine, Fiona.

  4. Many thanks to Wendy for giving me the opportunity to air a few of my secrets.

    1. You are welcome Claire. Lovely to get to know you better