claire collison
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Claire Collison's debut, Treading Water, is out now.

1. What inspires you to write?
A lot of the same things that inspired me as a photographer: recording, making sense, making true. The space between a memory and a memory revisited. Fragments –overheard mobile calls, inscriptions on park benches, a note attached to a hot water bottle in a rented cottage bearing the legend, ‘PERISHED!’

2. How long did it take you to write a novel?
The mulling took ages, then maybe 9 months writing, then a long settling period, and another couple of months editing. But Treading Water was very personal, and getting the distance from it took time.

3. Do you have a writing routine? If so, what is it?
I have a back-breaking furniture shifting habit: the more I know I should be writing, the more wrong the position of my sofa is. But eventually there’s nothing for it but to write. I like processes. I keep checking the word count, then once I’ve got a good wodge I print it out and take it somewhere other and scribble all over it.

4. Is it harder to start or finish a novel?
I think daring to start is hardest. Once I’d made that decision, Treading Water practically fell out of me. I got completely immersed in it. I met an old college friend in Lower Marsh who asked if I worked nearby. I replied ‘No, but one of my characters lives in a flat just there’. Letting go was hard, too. It felt like I was putting my baby up for adoption.

5. How did you go about finding an agent and do you think it's necessary to have an agent?
Circuitously. After a rollercoaster of submissions and rejections I pretty much gave up: it’s hard to sustain confidence in the face of that, and writing is a confidence trick of sorts. But I kept entering competitions, and Sarah Waters selected my short story for one that she was judging. I don’t know why it took me so long to think laterally: If Sarah liked my writing, maybe her agent would. Within a week of receiving my typescript, she was representing me. It felt like a mighty weight had lifted! Yes – an agent makes life massively more pleasant. A good agent is encouraging, supportive, reassuring, and has the expertise that means you can concentrate on the business of writing.

6. How do you cure writer's block?
Swimming works for me. And shifting furniture. Autogenics (a meditation technique) is something I don't do nearly enough. Fifteen minutes of that, then writing stream of consciousness rubbish for the next fifteen minutes. It’s amazing what comes out – a kind of colonic irrigation for the head.

7. What is your all-time desert island book?
J D Salinger; For Esme With Love And Squalor.

8. What's the biggest myth about being a writer?
That you wear glasses on a little chain round your neck.

9. What advice would you give budding authors?
Get off the Internet and get writing.

10. What can readers expect from you in the future?
Refinery is a teenage rites of passage novel se
t in 1970’s Kenya: Dysfunctional family life bathed in Disco and smeared with Ambre Solaire.


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