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Book Who's Talking...Tim Clare

Thursday 21st May 2015

Emma Smith

Book Who's Talking...Tim Clare

Anyone who has come in the shop recently and has spoken to me will probably have had 'The Honours' by Tim Clare thrust into their hands as it has become my new favourite thing to rave about. Set in 1930s Norfolk, this dazzling debut features one of the best young heroines I've come across, probably since Lyra in Pullman's 'His Dark Materials'. When Delphine's family arrive at this grand house in the middle of the Norfolk countryside, she soon discovers it has many hidden passageways that lead her imagination running wild. Delphine is definitely not your typical 13 year old girl - she's obsessed with survival techniques and she knows everything there is to know about guns, and it's not long before she has to really learn how to use one! 'The Honours' will undoubtedly make my 'best of 2015' list at the end of this year, and I'm certain we are going to see a lot more of Tim in the future. 

After reading 'The Honours' over one weekend I quickly got in touch with him to ask if he would kindly take part in our Book Who's Talking, and after many excited email exchanges I'm pleased to say you can now find his answers below, with a link to the books mentioned by Tim at the end of the page. Enjoy!


1)    If you were to be stuck in a lift for three hours with any character
from literature, who would it be?


This is a tough one - my first impulses were all characters from children's books, but then essentially I'm saying I want to entrap a child in a small enclosed space with a hairy looming man for 3 hours. I mean, basically it's a punishment for whoever gets stuck there with me, right? Who would I want to incarcerate with me, an intense, bearded stranger with a panic disorder who talks a lot when he's nervous?


So I guess I would choose someone not very nice. Maybe General Woundwort out of Watership Down, because he was a bit of a tyrant but also small relative to a person. I guess that means I'm stuck in a lift with a very aggressive rabbit for 3 hours, but still. Good anecdote.

2)    What was the last book that produced an out pouring of emotion in you?

A snort of laughter or tears into a handkerchief?


I'm pretty emotionally incontinent so a lot of books leverage disproportionate reactions from me, but the last one was Octavia Butler's Wild Seed. The bit with Isaac. Argh. I did a cry.

3)    Which book do you really wish you had written?


I promise, promise, promise this isn't a dodge, but really, I never read a great book and wish I'd written it. Because those concerns are that author's, and really you're only ever driven to write the novel only you could write. I mean, I wish I'd done a better job of everything I've written, but on a creative level I don't ever think 'I wish I'd done that', because I genuinely don't. I just want to write books that don't feel like anything else. Even if that makes them horrible to market!


I love dozens of books, adore them and come back to them again and again, but if I'd written them I'd be denied that pleasure. I'm super-glad I didn't write Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, because I got to be a reader instead, which was pure wonder and discovery and joy.

4)    What book did you make your parents read and re read to you when you were younger?


I remember hearing Max & Moritz a lot - the German story of two naughty boys who play a series of brutal pranks on the citizens of their town and then get ground up by the miller and fed to geese. That illustration of the organist's meerschaum exploding is more iconic to me than the Mona Lisa. And I always thought their punishment was ludicrously cruel - it set me off on a lifelong course of siding with the baddies.

5)    What one passage from any book you have read has always stuck with you and why?


Ah! Fantastic. These things always lose something airlifted out of their original context, but still:


'The reef enclosed more than one side of the island, lying perhaps a mile out and parallel to what they now thought of as their beach. The coral was scribbled in the sea as though a giant had bent down to reproduce the shape of the island in a flowing, chalk line but tired before he had finished. Inside was peacock water, rocks and weed showing as if in an aquarium; outside was the dark blue of the sea. The tide was running so that long streaks of foam tailed away from the reef and for a moment they felt that the boat was moving steadily astern.'


That's Lord of the Flies. I remember when I first read it, picturing this boat-shaped island, and when I got to that last line I actually leant forward in my chair - I actually almost fell over - as I tried to compensate for the sense of motion it evoked. My balance centres actually kicked in, responding to an imaginary scene. I was like 'oh - so that's good writing, then'.

6)    What is the current read on your bedside table?


The Story of Pain by Joanna Bourke. A really good study of the history and language of pain and the different ways different cultures and periods have discussed it.

7)    We know you are not meant to judge a book by its cover but we all do, so confess…tell us which book you read purely down to aesthetics, and did it
live up to your expectations?


Um. I probably do this a lot, actually. I mean, with most SF it's the opposite - horrendous, irrelevant, bland covers that I have to actively ignore to get at the great content. But I compulsively buy secondhand books on looks. I just bought a 1936 guide to flying a light aircraft - it looks amazing and (although I've only flicked through it so far) the content is everything I could have dreamed of.

8)    You meet a person who is not a reader at all but they’re prepared to give it a go with your ONE suggestion….what book do you press into their hands?


Oh God. I don't know. I can't imagine a one-size-fits-all book for the non-reader. I'd probably want to know what their personality was? What kind of things they liked? What age they were? Maybe Beautiful Cows by Val Porter. It's just lots of colour photographs of very beautiful cows and bulls. Some have long hair. Everyone appreciates a good yak, right?


If you would like to have a look at any of the books mentioned by Tim (with a subtitution or omission when out of print) please click here.

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