MEET THE AUTHOR: CLAIRE FULLER
Claire Fuller is the author of Our Endless Numbered Days, which was published in the English-speaking world early last year, and has been translated in various languages lately. The Dutch translation was released earlier this week under the title Onze Eindeloze Dagen.
It is Fuller’s debut novel, and tells the story of Peggy, and eight year old girl in the mid 70s living in London, whose father takes her to a remote cabin in a European forest and tells her that the rest of the world has disappeared, with them being the only survivors. I interviewed Fuller, to talk about her experience in writing, her first novel, as well as her upcoming second novel.
Clear your mind… Okay? If I say “book”, what’s the first title that comes to mind?
Requisitioned: The British Country House in the Second World War by John Martin Robinson, but only because I was reading it two minutes ago. I bought it for research for my third novel which I’m writing at the moment which features an English country house that was taken over by the army in the war and left more or less derelict.
Tell us a bit about your life before becoming a writer. I know you are probably tired of being asked about this, but since you started writing so late compared to most writers, I was wondering what were your main interests before starting Our Endless numbered Days. What were your experiences with fiction-writing before the novel?
Not tired of answering…yet! I didn’t start writing until I was forty – nine years ago. Before that I spent most of my time (when I wasn’t working in my marketing job) either making art – sculpting and drawing – or reading. My first degree was in sculpture and I had a few exhibitions and exhibited individual pieces in joint shows, but I haven’t done much since I started writing. Although I’m doing more reading than ever. Before I started writing Our Endless Numbered Days I wrote short stories and flash fiction (pieces of very short fiction). I had a few of these shortlisted in competitions, and one of them (“Emily, Baker and Me”) won the BBC Opening Lines competition.
What was the biggest challenge you faced during the whole process of writing your first book and getting it published?
I was very lucky with the publishing side of things. I got a literary agent very quickly, and the book sold in several countries. The biggest challenge was keeping faith with writing. When you don’t know if anyone will ever read your work, whether it will be published, it is very hard to keep going. I just told myself that even my favourite authors would have had moments like that, and only by them keeping going was I now able to read what they had written.
The UK paperback cover of Our Endless Numbered Days, published by Penguin.
How extensive was your research process for Our Endless Numbered Days? How and when did you learn so much about the piano, or about surviving in the wild? What about the consequences the book’s events had on Peggy’s mental state?
My research was extensive, but I didn’t do any of it until I was writing a part which I knew nothing about. Then I would stop go and do some research and then come back to the writing. I couldn’t play the piano and knew nothing about surviving in the wild. I still can’t play the piano, but I do now know something about how pianos are made, and how to catch and skin a squirrel! I experienced as many things as possible for real (like making fires, walking through the woods, gathering mushrooms), but most of my research was done online watching videos. Peggy’s possible mental state was also researched mostly online, although a friend of mine is a nurse and she and I had a few chats about medical conditions.
On a scale from 1 to 10 where 1 is “the uncomfortable feeling of hearing my voice played back to me from a recording device” and 10 is “the feeling of my favourite song coming on the radio”, what is it like for you to see how much Our Endless Numbered Days is being talked about?
8? That’s a hard one. Of course I like to see that people are talking about Our Endless Numbered Days because that means it’s being read and touching people in some way. But with that comes the knowledge that not everyone is going to like it. I don’t have any problem with that, but some more negative reviews can knock me sometimes. Still, I’d rather have those, and have people talking about it.
Our Endless Numbered Days came out on the 16th of February in the Netherlands (where our website is based) in its Dutch translation. Did you work together with any of the translators at all, or not? Are you going to be doing (or have you done) any book tours or other kinds of promotional visits to the countries the book is coming out?
I didn’t work with any of the translators, they have all been appointed by the publishing houses. And unfortunately I don’t speak, or read, any other languages, so I can’t even check what they’re writing. And there aren’t any plans as yet to visit the countries where the book is coming out, although I’d love to!
I read that you like listening to music while writing, and that Iron & Wine was playing a lot when you were writing Our Endless Numbered Days. What was the “soundtrack” for your second novel, Swimming Lessons?
The soundtrack to my second novel is the music of Townes van Zandt. You can listen to one track of his here.
Can you tell us something about your second novel?
Swimming Lessons is based by the sea in England. It’s about Ingrid who writes letters to her husband, Gil about their marriage. But instead of giving them to him she leaves them for him in his books. And he has thousands of books which he collects for the things people leave in them and the marginalia. Then Ingrid disappears off her local beach. In a second narrative strand it is 12 years later, and Ingrid and Gil’s adult daughter, Flora comes back home after Gil has had an accident. Flora wants answers to what has happened to her mother, without knowing that the answers are in the books that surround her.
I would like to thank Claire Fuller for this interview. You can find Our Endless Numbered Days in your local book store, hopefully, and otherwise you can order it online. If you have read the book, join in the conversation on the currently reading section.