Unsettled Ground Shortlisted for Costa Book Awards

I’m thrilled to let you know that my fourth novel, Unsettled Ground has been shortlisted for the Costa Book Awards. This prestigious annual prize, which is fifty years old this year, awards prizes for books written by UK and Irish authors, in five categories: Novel, First Novel, Biography, Poetry and Children’s Book. One of the winners from these categories is selected as the overall Costa Book of the Year.

Unsettled Ground is one of four books in the Novel category, the winner of which will be announced on 4th January 2022. The five category winners will then be considered for the £30,000 prize announced in early February. You can read more about the prizes here, as well as seeing which other books are included in the novel category.

With this and the shortlisting earlier in 2021 for the Women’s Prize for Fiction it’s been quite a year! Keep your fingers crossed for me.

And if you’re in the UK and you’d like to buy a signed and dedicated copy of the hardback of Unsettled Ground, or any of my other books, click here.

Buy Signed Copies of my Books

This November and December, in time for Christmas, I’m offering UK readers a chance to buy signed and dedicated copies of my books, whether for yourself or as a gift. You can buy a single copy, several of the same book, or a combination. Find out more about Our Endless Numbered Days (paperback), Swimming Lessons (paperback), Bitter Orange (paperback), and Unsettled Ground (hardback). Once you’ve let me know which book or books you’d like and what you’d like me to write in them, I’ll calculate the cost of the books and the postage, email you a secure payment link, and once you’ve paid, I’ll get the books in the post. Simple.

Send me a message using this form, and make sure you include:

  1. Which book or books you would like
  2. What you would like me to write in each one (whether just my signature, or whether you’d like me to dedicate the book to someone as well as sign it)
  3. Your UK postal address
  4. I will assume you would like the book(s) sent second class, but let me know if you’d like to pay extra and have it/them sent first class

    If you’re very local to me, I may even be able to hand deliver! Paperbacks are £8.99 each, and Unsettled Ground (hardback) is £14.99 (plus postage).

(Offer closes on the last 2nd class posting date in time for Christmas: 18th December 2022. I buy my own books from local book shops in order to support them.)

Readings and a party, but no cigar

With my #librarianhusband, Tim

So, although Unsettled Ground was one of the six novels shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction, it didn’t win. The wonderful, Piranesi was announced the winner at the award ceremony last week. I can’t deny some disappointment, but I really enjoyed Susanna Clarke’s second novel (published after a long illness and sixteen years after her debut), and think it is a very worthy winner. And, it was amazing to be out in London, firstly reading from Unsettled Ground to an audience of 450 people (so great to be reading in front of ‘real’ people again), and on the following night attending the prize party. After the announcement I was finally able to relax and enjoy myself, and catch up with lots of old friends and meet lots of people who also love books. Thanks for having me, Women’s Prize!

Reading from Unsettled Ground the day before the prize announcement
Fellow shortlisters: Cherie Jones, Brit Bennett, Patricia Lockwood, Yaa Gyasi, me, and Susanna Clarke
Tim, Yaa Gyasi (a fellow Penguin author), and me, on the readings day.
Me, before the announcement.

Juliet Stevenson reads from Unsettled Ground

Me and Juliet Stevenson when I won the Pin Drop / Royal Academy short story prize

As part of the Women’s Prize for Fiction short list festival, the wonderful actor, Juliet Stevenson read the opening of Unsettled Ground and now the video is available to watch. So if you’re thinking of buying a copy, this should serve as a taster.

Here’s a bit of extra info that you may not know: A few years ago I won the @pindropstudio / Royal Academy short story prize with my story, A Quiet Tidy Man, and the winner had their story read our by Juliet. So, not only has she read my work before but I got to meet her and I can confirm that she’s as friendly as she seems (see the picture above).

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Events

I have few in-person events coming up which you might be interested in especially if you live near Essex, Oxford, or London. Visit my events page for more details.

Updated Cover for Unsettled Ground

The UK cover of Unsettled Ground has had a refresh! The colours have been made much brighter, so now you can see all the creepy-crawlies in more detail, as well as the rotting fruit. Also included is a new quote from The Times (the previous one was about Bitter Orange, and some readers found that confusing), and the Women’s Prize For Fiction Shortlisted ‘sticker’ appears permanently in the bottom right-hand corner. I love how the cover really glows now, which makes it very eye-catching. Do let me know what you think. At the moment this new cover will only appear on the ebook.

Flash Fiction: A Great Guy

Another week, another 100-word flash fiction story inspired by a photograph. My story is below. Feel free to join in, and if you post yours on your website or on social media, link back here and let me know, so I can have a read of it.

A Great Guy

Let me tell you ‘bout my uncle Jack. He added a kitchenette and a bedroom to his place on Switcheroo Road and let the rooms out to men who stole from him, small stuff mostly: teaspoons and hammers, glasses and tobacco, and left without paying the rent. Each time he said it’d be different: this man was down on his luck; another was a great guy. Reckon he was in love with them all, just couldn’t admit it. Finally, that annex stood empty for five years ’til my aunt Rosie rented it. Although, course, she wasn’t my auntie until later.

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For any Oxford / Oxfordshire-based people, I’m doing my first in-person literary event for a long time, at Blackwell’s Oxford on 21st July, with author Lucy Atkins (Magpie Lane). It would be lovely if you could join us. Tickets here.

None of it Happened and All of it is True*

Bette Hubbard in bed with her rabbit and record player

I want to tell you about a message I received recently from Betsy Teter, a reader in South Carolina, in the US. It has astounded me. But first I need to tell you a little bit about Unsettled Ground. And this is going to include spoilers, so if you haven’t read it, I urge you to stop reading this article now, if you’re planning on reading the book.

Stop!

You could always go and buy Unsettled Ground, read it, and come back here. In fact, you could buy it from Hub City Bookshop in Spartanburg, South Carolina, if you’re in the US (as well as being a physical bookshop, they also sell online).

But anyway, the thing about Unsettled Ground is that I made all made up. None of it is based on anyone I know or any stories I heard. In the book (as you know, since you’ve read it – ahem) Jeanie has rheumatic fever as a child, and then when she’s twelve her mother tells her has rheumatic heart disease (RHD) and so she must live a gentle life with her, at home. Only when Jeanie is in late middle-age does she discover from her doctor that she never had RHD and so nothing is as she imagined.

Betsy wrote to tell me about her mother, Bette Hubbard who died in 2008. Here’s what she said:

‘The doctors told [my mother] at age 13 that she had rheumatic fever and they sent her to bed for eleven months. Then they told her a couple years later that it had returned, and she was put back to bed for 9 months. Her family was so worried about her they carried her back and forth to the toilet. This was the central story of her life. She missed a huge part of her childhood. Then, when she was in her late 70s and began to develop some symptoms of Parkinson’s, the doctors dropped a bombshell: she had never had rheumatic fever. She had been misdiagnosed.

‘Bette was very bright, and her parents sent her to college in the warmer climate of the American South to protect her health. She was one of a small handful of Northerners at her college (in those days she was tagged a Yankee) and in her senior year she was elected student body president.

‘She died of some sort of Parkinsonian disease – the doctors called it “white matter disease”. We saw dozens of doctors trying to figure out what this was, and along the way, one of them told her there was absolutely no sign that she’d had rheumatic fever. Her heart was strong until her last days.’

Thank you so much to Betsy for telling me this amazing story and letting me write about it here.

* The title of this piece is a quote said by the mother of the author, Anne Patchett, and I keep it stuck on wall next to where I write to remind myself about what it is I’m trying to do when I write.

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If you live near Oxford you might be interested to know that I’ll be doing my first in-person event in a while on 21st July at Blackwell’s Bookshop with fellow author Lucy Atkins (her latest novel is the amazing Magpie Lane). We’ll be interviewed by Sarah Franklin about our ‘dark fiction’. Tickets are available here.

Flash Fiction: Goodman Orthodontics Limited

I’ve started writing flash fiction again after a break of a couple of years. I’m not sure why, but I’m enjoying it. I’m still responding to photographs, but this time from pictures that I own. And I’m still setting a rule of it needing to be exactly 100 words plus the title, and it must be a complete story, not just a scene. If you want to have a go, feel free to use the photograph above as inspiration for your own piece of flash fiction – you can work to my rules or you can set your own. If you post yours online, please do link back to this page, and if you want to post a link to your piece in a comment on this page, I’ll try to have look at what you’ve written (just to have a read, not critique) if I have time. If you want to write your own, you might want to write it before you read mine, so that my idea doesn’t get stuck in your head.

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Goodman Orthodontics Limited

She watches him arrive for work, his shoulders slumped, head down. Wills him to look up and smile. A nice ordinary smile. His wife’s left him, she thinks; no, died tragically. He’s single and lonely. Has five sad children, or better, none. She discovers he works in dentures, and passes his office daily. She considers sending a memo: re your Status Update, re my Decision-Making, re our Team-Building. Then, at an adjacent table in the canteen, she sees his teeth glow too white, too bright, like luminous underwater animals.

The next day she works furiously, her back to the window.

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My fourth novel, Unsettled Ground, is shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction. Read more about it here.

Teaching at Arvon December 2021

I’m delighted to have been invited back to Arvon to teach fiction writing for a week in December 2021, this time with fellow author, Russ Litten. We will be at the Hurst in Shropshire from December 13th to 18th, and we’ll be focussing on the ‘elements of fiction’.

Any kind of fiction is composed of these core components: character, story, plot, setting and timeframe. There are also the more intangible aspects of powerful story telling, like creating a distinctive narrative tone or the building of a unique mood and atmosphere. Then, there is the alchemic process of bringing all of these elements together – how does character inform dialogue? How much does setting impose tone? How can you shape the emotional effect your work has on the reader? All of these questions and more will be held up for examination in a series of group discussions, writing exercises and workshops.

Visit Arvon’s website to find out more information and to book.

For those who don’t know, for over fifty years Arvon has been the UK’s home of creative writing. The organisation has three centres, in Devon, Shropshire and Yorkshire. And their residential and now, online courses, are led by highly acclaimed writers, and span poetry to playwriting, song to screenplay, fact to fiction, starting to finishing – and they offer grants to help with course fees for those who need it. Generations of writers have been inspired by their experience at Arvon. They offer a home for creative writing, where anyone, regardless of writing experience, can step away from their normal routine, immerse themselves in the creative process, be inspired by experienced writers and release their imaginative potential.

I’m very excited to be returning, and if you’re a writer (beginner or otherwise) looking for inspiration, support, and motivation, I hope you might be able to join me.

Articles and Interviews

Unsettled Ground was published in the US just over a week ago, and I’m about halfway through my US online book tour. If you’re interested in joining me in Vermont, Illinois, Washington, or Michigan, all from the comfort of your own home, click here to see the rest of my dates.

Aside from these events, I have been busy being interviewed, responding to questions and writing original essays. Here are links to some recent ones:

Original Essays

Vox: The Best £85 I ever spent: A cat who doesn’t like me

Crime Reads: Six suspenseful novels

Lithub: Outsiders, eccentrics, and misfits – a reading list

Time: How my ex-husband became one of my best friends

Poets & Writers: Claire Fuller shares what has inspired her in her writing

Podcast / Radio Interviews

New Books Network: In this engaging conversation, Claire tells Duncan McCargo why all her books are rather dark, why she is not romantic about rural life, why Unsettled Ground doesn’t exactly have a happy ending, and why the novel contains a hidden social message.

Across the Pond: Lori Feathers and Sam Jordison discuss Sam’s boxes and boxes of books, fact checkers, Goodreads fatigue, and most importantly–Lori and Sam’s most interesting discussion with writer Claire Fuller about her new novel, Unsettled Ground.

Little Atoms: Claire Fuller talks to Neil Denny about her 2021 Women’s Prize shortlisted fourth novel Unsettled Ground.

BBC Radio 4 Open Book: Johny Pitts discusses working-class rural life with Claire Fuller whose novel, Unsettled Ground, is longlisted for the Women’s Prize.

Written Q&As

Full Stop: I [Megan Kakimoto] had the pleasure of interviewing Fuller over email to discuss her interests in music, ownership, and how she created the truly remarkable Seeder twins.

Shelf Awareness: The Writer’s Life, interviewed by Alice Martin.

Curtis Brown Creative: In an intimate and insightful [webinar], our students heard about Claire’s journey to publication, and picked up some useful tips and tricks on writing and editing. Here are some of the highlights.

Powell’s Bookstore: A Q&A including Claire’s favourite book as a child and one she’d recommend to read right now.

Bookstore Events Recordings

Powell’s Books: In conversation with the author, Ron Rash.

Exile in Bookville: In conversation with the author, Kate Racculia.

Napa Bookmine: In conversation with the author, Faith Merino.

PRINT A bookstore: In conversation with the author, Lucy Atkins.

Interabang: In conversation with the author, Daniel Magariel.

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Unsettled Ground is available to buy as a hardback (UK and US), ebook or audio book. Click here to buy in the UK. Click here to buy in the US. Click here to buy in Canada.