Thursday, 3 November 2016

What inspires ...or the how of the Why d'you Write what you do .... by Clare Weiner aka Mari Howard

Dragonfly What inspires your  writing?'

“What inspires your writing ...?”

What is a privileged childhood? 

Privilege can mean many things. I’ve never thought I’d had a privileged childhood – but the ‘How do you do it?’ question, about my novels, shows me I had.

It wasn’t books, it wasn’t stories ... it wasn’t wanting to be a writer ... pencils first inspired drawing ...

The two privileges that shaped my writing

One is learning from a very young age about the natural world. I loved nature study at school. Before that, there was plenty of nature study at home. At age 4 or five (as it must’ve been, my maternal grandfather only lived until I was five), I remember being shown, by Grandpa, how prisms filter and divide white light into rainbow colours. And being told how rainbows are formed. I can remember the excitement over an eclipse, (also at age 5), and the explanation about how we can, and how we mustn’t, watch. Then learning the names and characteristics of birds, wild creatures, insects, and flowers combined being outdoors, drawing, and looking things up in the books to learn more. One summer my class studied beneficial insects. We had amazing, huge, drawings pinned up on the wall, the different kinds of bees with all their parts labelled, drawn by our teacher. Both at home and at school, we collected wildflowers, learned and named the parts, drew and labelled them.

Girls read fact books too!

 Later I spent hours reading a science encyclopaedia my Dad collected while he was young (some of it, of course, a bit out of date even then...). And being given, and reading, ‘fact books’ on how the Universe began, planets, plants, and animals evolved, and about the ancient creatures children still love today, dinosaurs. And, enjoying stories like the Alice books, the Ballet Shoes books, Milly Molly Mandy, (and on towards what we read under the bedclothes,and what we read when we grow up - JRR Tolkien, Joanna Trollope, Marilynne Robinson, Lela Aboulale, Khalid Hosseini...etc ...)

Alongside this, in childhood there was the other privilege: books and stories from the Bible. Shelved with the evolution of the universe, the planet, and everything, were
books and stories on how God made the world, on Jesus’s life, his arrival in our world at Christmas, and all the events of the Last Supper, Good Friday, Easter, Ascension and Pentecost. We kept all the festivals with reference to their Christian basis.

So my earliest years led me to a natural acceptance of God's world being both a miraculous and a scientific creation. And when, after studying such exciting things as single celled animals and how digestion works, and enjoying the chemistry experiments, (but less so the chemical equations) my maths was not up to A-level science and geology, I changed tacks and took Religious Studies. 

Our teacher was brilliant. She demonstrated how the Old Testament prophets and the teachings of Jesus are relevant to both the ancient societies of their origin and to contemporary social and political questions of our time. She emphasised the words of the Prophet Micah, (chapter 6 v.8) ‘What does the Lord require of you but to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God?’

A mix and match embedded in my stories

In today’s secularised world, many people, even the not so young, are ignorant of the Scriptures. Most people have little idea how ordinary Christians apply faith to their daily life. Via the media, novels, and other writing, representations of “The Church” (an apparent unholy amalgam of the C. of E., Roman Catholic, and Non-Conformists) centre on its failings, its arguments around sex and gender issues, its scandals. Or on its exclusivity, Gothic-style ancient buildings, beautiful classical music, and ‘religion in public life’. 

What inspired me, first in non-fiction and then in fiction, was sharing the wonderful togetherness of faith and science, and looking at diversity of cultures without fear of differences. Through writing a mix of romance, mystery, and family life, I attempt to bring together secular and faith-based characters struggling with the demands and the ethos of today. It’s not written to convert, or evangelise...
A natural weaver ...

Faith is just present, woven in, giving the reader a glimpse inside the minds, homes, and worship places of ‘religious’ people, to give the label ‘Christian’ an empathetic reality. Including several varieties of making the bottom line  to ‘do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God...’ (And some places where believers get it wrong!)

It is a privilege to know God as our Father. It is a privilege to know and understand something of how the world he has made works. It’s wealth beyond material goods, which I try to pass on through storytelling.

What inspires you as a writer? 

Clare Weiner, writing under the pen name Mari Howard, has published 2 novels of the Mullins Family Saga, Baby, Baby, and The Labyrinth Year, and is researching and working on a third. Both are inspired by faith and life science. Find her website here 


  1. Lovely post, Clare. I think I was originally inspired to write, because of large class sizes and finding it easier to write (albeit very untidily) than to speak my thought out loud. I share an early introductio to the natural world with you and exposure to Bible stories. I never had any problem reconciling "religion and science". They are two complementary ways of looking at the world around us.
    I think my inspiration to write now is partly not to bore the people around me. Readers can abandon me without any embarrassment! Sue

  2. Great post. I think you're right saying most people don't know what faith means & your books are really good about showing that in a practical, not preachy, way.

  3. Excellent post. I think I was inspired to write by a)growing up with two languages and therefore thinking about words a lot and loving them, and b)as you were, by reading widely, both contemporary and historical books. I wish I'd learned more in 'nature study' but I think I still know more about the natural world, at least about botany, than my son ever learned at school!

  4. Thank you for your comments, everyone - really nice interesting ones!

  5. Thoughtful as always, Clare. Thank you