My First Time...with Claire Handscombe
Claire Handscombe is a British writer who moved to Washington, DC in 2012, ostensibly to study for an MFA, but actually, let's be honest, because of an obsession with The West Wing. She was recently long-listed for the Bath Novel Award, and her journalism, poetry, and essays have appeared in a wide variety of publications, including Bustle, Book Riot, Writing Magazine, and the Washington Post. Claire is the host of the Brit Lit Podcast, a fortnightly show of news and views from British books and publishing.
Here's the bio for Unscripted...
Nobody is a bigger fan of actor Thomas Cassidy than Libby. Nobody. That's why she's totally going to marry him.
She’s going to write a novel, name the main character after Thom, and find a way to get it to him. Intrigued and flattered, he will read it, fall in love with her prose, and ask to turn it into a movie. She will pretend to think about it, then say, ‘Sure, but can I work on it with you?’ Their eyes will meet over the script… and fade to black.
But with four interwoven lives in play, can anything be that simple? Thoughtful, quirky, and moving, Unscripted is a story of friendship and second chances, and asks the question: how far can you take your dream?
Describe the exact moment you decided to write your book?
Describing the exact moment would give away how the book ends, so I can’t do that -- but I can tell you that when I wrote my first novel, I daydreamed about adapting it for the screen with my celebrity crush. Since that didn’t seem to be happening, I wrote a book about the daydream instead!
What’s the one thing you wish you’d known before starting to write it?
That you never know how people will feel about having a character inspired by them, so be very very wary of doing that!
What did you enjoy most about writing it? I enjoyed getting into the heads of each of the characters and letting the writing flow from there. There are certain scenes I’m really proud of and they tend to be the ones that flowed easily in a moment of inspiration -- I know you should show up at your desk regardless of whether you’re inspired, but there’s no doubt that sometimes the magic just happens!
And the worst part?
Undoubtedly the edits. I’m someone who writes too little in my first draft, so the second summer, when I went back to edit, it was harder to dig in to make meaningful additions rather than “padding”. And after I got my agent, she got me to add certain scenes and change other things, and that was hard to do too because it didn’t feel organic. But even that was nothing compared to re-reading for the millionth time during the copy edits and proofreading stage -- it’s hard not to get sick of this book you’ve loved during that stage!
What’s your go-to procrastination method?
Twitter! Of course.
Go-to writing snacks?
I always feel I write best after a breakfast of (specifically!) Sainsbury’s brand pecan and maple crisp cereal. I make a big pot of drip coffee after a bowl or two and sit and write until I’m hungry again -- and that cereal is surprisingly filling, so that usually gives me a couple of hours.
The book that changed you?
I’m going to cheat on this one - The West Wing script book. It was the beauty of the writing on that TV show that got me writing again and ultimately inspired a move to Washington, DC!
Your pump up song?
It depends on the book! And each book has its own playlist, which I listen to as I get ready to write and also during edits. Drafting has to be done in silence for me, though. “Party in the USA” by Miley Cyrus is a good one for Unscripted -- it’s catchy and fun, and also thematically appropriate since it’s about a newcomer to Los Angeles.
If you could share a bottle of wine with one writer, who would it be?
If I knew for sure that I wasn’t going to embarrass myself and that he would be kind to me, it would have to be Aaron Sorkin.
One piece of advice you’d give first time writers hoping to get a book published?
The best piece of advice I got when I was writing my first novel was: until you’re done, don’t look into the publishing process or worry about trends or what’s considered sellable these days. Learn the craft of writing, and read good novels, and write the book of your heart. I wish I could recapture the magic of my time writing my first novel. It didn’t turn out to be publishable, but I learned so much, and it was a truly wonderful creative time for me.
Why do you write?
I Iove language. And some stories or characters or emotions bubble up inside me, and I have to get them out there -- it’s a compulsion!
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