Free Zoom Literary Festival

On Friday 1st May (4pm UK time / 5pm French time) I’ll be appearing at LockDownLit, an online version of Festilitt, a wonderful French literary festival I appeared at (in real life) in 2017.

The event is free, you just need to click here and log on to Zoom at the correct time on Friday to join the audience. You can also email info@festilitt.com to join their mailing list to be informed about any future author appearances as part of the festival, and reminded about this one.

I’ll be interviewed by Kath Humphries about Bitter Orange, and there will be plenty of opportunity for questions from the audience.

Hope to see you there.

Signed cards for Christmas

Christmas books final

 

Personalised cards for Christmas

If you buy a copy of one of my books as a gift for someone this Christmas, let me know and I’ll post you a signed card for free, to include with the book. If you buy more than one book, I’ll send you as many cards as you need.

I’m happy to post cards to anywhere in the world, just send me a message, telling me which book or books you’ve bought, who I should write the card for, and what your address is. Or if you want to treat yourself this Christmas and buy one of my books for yourself, I’ll send a card personalised for you.

And if you post a Christmas-y picture of the book or books you’ve bought on your main feed (not stories) in Instagram, I’ll include a little extra gift. Just make sure to mention this offer and tag me (@writerclairefuller) so I know you’ve done it.

Happy Christmas!

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Buy a copy of Bitter Orange, Swimming Lessons, or Our Endless Numbered Days.

(The small print: this offer is only for physical books – not ebooks or audio; please try to buy your book from a real bookshop, not Amazon; I’ll try to get cards to you in time for Christmas, but can’t guarantee it; this offer is not for copies of my books you have already bought for yourself.)

Bitter Orange Long Listed for Dublin Literary Award

Dublin lit award

I’m stunned and delighted that my third novel, Bitter Orange has been long listed for the Dublin Literary Award.

This prize is an unusual one. Firstly the books on the long list are nominated by libraries around the world. This year (for books published in 2018) 400 library systems in 177 countries were invited to vote for up to three novels. Which has resulted in a long list of 156 books – a lot of reading for the judges. Books must be in English, but can be translated.

Secondly, the prize is the largest single book prize at 100,000 Euros.

I’m really not expecting Bitter Orange to make it to the short list of up to ten titles which will be announced in April 2020. I’m simply delighted that my third novel was nominated.

Last year, the wonderful debut, Idaho by Emily Ruskovich won the prize – a novel I’ve been banging on about since I read it in 2016 and it made my list of best books that I read that year.

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Buy a copy of Bitter Orange.

Bitter Orange Paperback Published in the US today

US paperback

The paperback is published today (Oct 22) in the US. It has the same wonderful cover as the hardback, but with a cut-back cover to show a quote from Time Magazine: “Unsettling and eerie, Bitter Orange is an ideal chiller”.

Although the novel is set in the blisteringly hot August of 1969, the novel has plenty of spooky, gothic elements for people looking for a book to cosy up with in a chilly fall.

It’s available today from all good independent bookstores, bookstore chains, and online. Click here to order.

In conjunction with my US publisher Tin House, I’m running a competition on Instagram to win one of two copies. You must have a US address to enter. Visit my account on Instagram: @writerclairefuller

Bitter Orange is an ideal book for book clubs, and this paperback edition has book club questions in the back to help get your discussion started. 

If you do read it, don’t forget to drop me a line to let me know what you thought.

Happy reading!

Bitter Orange paperback published

By the river 6.JPG

Bitter Orange is published in paperback in the UK today. I love seeing that little penguin in the top right-hand corner.

To celebrate, I’m giving away a few signed copies. You can enter one or all of these:

  1. I’ll be giving away a signed copy to a UK-based subscriber of my newsletter. Sign up here.
  2. Another signed copy will go to anyone who follows me on Twitter and retweets my pinned tweet. Visit my Twitter feed here, or @ClaireFuller2
  3. Two signed copies will go to anyone who follows me on Instagram, and tags a bookish friend or two in the comments of my latest post. Find me @WriterClaireFuller

I can only post to UK addresses. All competitions close on Sunday 12th May.

Good luck!

 

Book titles: Bitter Orange

BitterOrange FINAL pb cover

Archaeology

The titles of my books have always tended to evolve, and Bitter Orange is no exception. Usually though, the early Word files are simply called, Book 1 or Book 4, or whichever it is. But my third novel had a title from the beginning: Archaeology. I thought it was going to be about people digging things up, literally and metaphorically.

I keep a writing diary and on 22nd April 2016 (the novel was started on 23rd December 2015), I thought that Archaeology was too difficult a word to write. ‘Those three bloody vowels in a row are beginning to annoy me,’ I wrote. And on 30th August of that year, I added, ‘I’m thinking of changing the title to Blood Orange’.

Blood Orange

For the rest of the time when I was writing it, the novel was called Blood Orange, and this was what it was called when I sent it to my literary agent, and when it was submitted to my publishers in the UK, the US, and Canada. And they bought it with that name. Blood Orange.

The story is about Frances, a woman who is commissioned to survey the follies in the gardens of an English country house in 1969. There she meets and becomes besotted by Cara and Peter and visits the orangery alongside the house which has (or had at the time of writing) a single blood DSCF8951orange tree, so enormous it has broken through the glass panes. Blood oranges are sweet, and the fruit are ripe at a certain time of year. Three blood oranges are picked from the tree and squeezed to make juice – a point integral to the plot.

Then, in July 2017, after the book was sold, my editor at Penguin told me that the sale of another book, a debut thriller by Harriet Tyce had just been announced in The Bookseller (the UK trade magazine for publishing), and it was called Blood Orange.

Titles of books, or albums or anything else aren’t copyrighted, but it was quickly agreed that publishing books with the same title around the same time was not a good idea, and Harriet’s had been announced, and mine hadn’t. It was mine that would have to change.

Bitter Orange

Changing a title I’d been happy with for months if not years was a difficult thing to accept. I was angry – at no one in particular – for quite a while.

I had lots of conversations with my editors and agents and lots of suggestions were bounced back and forth. I went through the novel with a highlighter and I wrote lists of word combinations. It was Sarah Lutyens, one of the founders of my literary agents, Lutyens and Rubinstein who came up with Bitter Orange. I think she just emailed it to HoAme one day – two perfect words.

Except, that a bitter orange (which is not eaten or juiced, but generally used to make marmalade), is a very different thing to a blood orange. I wrote to Patricia Oliver from Global Orange Groves who had been helping me with orange tree advice for the book. Bitter oranges fruit at different times to blood oranges, and the juice is barely drinkable. Anyone who writes will know that you make what might seem like a simple change in the text: blood to bitter, but the repercussions ripple on and on. If I needed my characters to try to drink the juice, someone needed to realise they needed sugar, then they had to get sugar, which meant someone had to go shopping, which meant someone had to leave the house when I needed them to remain there. I faced lots of niggly revising.

Bitter Orange is better

But once I’d sorted out the changes and had lived with the new title for a while, it seemed more suited than Blood Orange, which I think sounds very thriller-like, and Bitter Orange isn’t a thriller.

By the time the book was published in the UK, in the US, and Canada, I loved the title: Bitter Orange.

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What do you think about the title? Please leave a comment below.

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Bitter Orange is published in paperback in the UK on 2nd May, and is also available in the US, Canada and Germany (where it is called Bittere Orangen). Visit this page to buy a copy.

Sign up for my newsletter with information about forthcoming books, events and competitions.

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Where next?

Read an article on my favourite book titles.

Writing, Editing, Publishing Q&A

1609a444-3d81-4110-b2ad-343fb675a9ab.jpg

 

Over on Instagram (@writerclairefuller) I recently asked if anyone had any questions about writing, editing or getting published. And there were lots! I’ve answered them all in brief in an Instagram post, but it’s hard to be concise with so many questions. So here are my longer answers. Do let me know if you have any other questions in the comments below and I’ll save them up for a future post.

My writing day

How I organise my writing time (@raluca1503 @tftmotherland)

I worked for so many years in a marketing company following normal office hours that now I write full time, I can’t rid myself of the old 9 – 5. Well, actually 9 – 6pm. But I’m doing much more than working on my novel in progress in that time, and it does depend on where I am in the publishing cycle. I have been known to be promoting one book, Continue reading

New Cover for Bitter Orange Paperback

 

BitterOrange FINAL pb cover

The paperback of Bitter Orange will be published in the UK on 2nd May 2019. (Readers in the US will have to wait a little longer.) And I’m delighted to share with you the new cover. As you can see it’s as different as you can get from the hardback, but I hope it will intrigue and entice a whole new set of readers.

The hardback is still available in many bookshops and available to order, but if you’re waiting for the paperback publication you can pre-order now from Amazon or (preferably) your local bookshop.

Make sure you sign up to my newsletter and follow me on Twitter or Instagram to hear about competitions to win copies of my novels. (A competition to win a copy of Swimming Lessons is running on both Twitter and Instagram until 7th February 2019.)

I’d love to know what you think about the cover – please comment below.

Buy a copy of Bitter Orange.

Signed Cards for Christmas

Christmas

 

If you’re thinking of buying a copy of Bitter Orange, Swimming Lessons, or Our Endless Numbered Days for someone for Christmas, let me know and I’ll send you a signed card for free, for you to include with the book.

I’m happy to post cards to anywhere in the world, just send me a message, telling me which book or books you’re buying, who I should write the card for, and what your address is.

Happy Christmas!

Finding Inspiration in Place


A little while after Bitter Orange was published in the UK, the author and blogger, Isabel Costello asked me to write something for her ‘literary sofa‘ website. If you don’t know it or her, she hosts a huge number of fascinating posts, author interviews and book reviews. This is the piece I wrote, republished here, about the inspiration for the location in Bitter Orange.

There’s a place not too far from where I live called the hangers. It’s a short range of wooded twisting hills, so steep-sided that they haven’t been cultivated or much changed by humans, and the trees that cling there – beech, lime, yew and ash – are ancient. I regularly walk the footpaths snaking through these woods, and when I was looking for a location for my third novel, Bitter Orange, the hangers’ ghostly beauty seemed perfect.
Bitter Orange is set in a dilapidated country house called Lyntons, and deciding which house it could be based upon was never going to be a problem. About ten miles from my house in the opposite direction to the hangers is The Grange, is a neoclassical property managed by English Heritage. In the grounds there is a lake and a small flint grotto, but most of the surrounding countryside is undulating farmed fields, beautiful in their own way, but not dramatic enough for what I had in mind.
So, I shifted my house ten miles east and set it down right at the foot of the hangers. That’s one of the perks of being a writer – I can move anything to anywhere else, even whole country houses. Now the hills and woods corralled the house, keeping whatever was there isolated and contained.


The original (real) house was built in 1660, red-brick and square, but in the early 19th century it was transformed into one of the finest examples of Greek Revival architecture in Europe. The land around it was built up so that the basement floor was completely underground, and at some point all the windows in the attics filled in so the servants mustn’t have got much daylight unless they went outdoors. In its hey-day The Grange had 24 indoor servants, while the estate supported 100 households.

But two world wars changed life for many English country estates and due to death duties their owners could no longer afford their upkeep. Many houses fell into disrepair and were consequently abandoned or demolished. (In 1955 England lost one house every two and a half days.) And The Grange was no different. It was last inhabited in 1964, and in 1972 it was almost demolished by the Baring family who had bought it, until the government got involved and the house was preserved.

And so it still stands today – preserved but unrestored. The outside is open to visitors (and free) all year round, but the inside is only accessible on certain dates for tours. And if you get to go inside you’ll understand why. Most of the interior has been ripped out, and many of the ceilings have gone (netting hangs under them to collect the falling debris). Plaster has gone from many of the walls, but enough remains to give this house an eerie atmosphere of a place kept in suspended animation. A house stopped in the final moment before disintegration.

Once I’d decided that my characters would live in a house inspired by The Grange for the summer of 1969, I visited the outside often, walking around the huge cedar of Lebanon trees, and down to the lake. The orangery (once renowned for its innovative system of channelling rainwater down its interior pillars to water the plants) now houses an opera company – The Grange Festival. The Festival hosts open days and the house is usually open as part of England’s Heritage Open Days scheme.

I visited the interior on as many occasions as I could, and I also wrote to English Heritage to ask if someone could show me around. Richard, the caretaker kindly took me into every room possible (there are still stairs up to the attic, but there are very few rooms that are safe) including every room in the basement. Here, the opera company stores its costumes and props, and so illuminated by bare bulbs I saw dummies and masks, brooms and top hats. As we walked around, Richard told me about the ghosts that haunt The Grange and confessed that sometimes even he (a down-to-earth type) doesn’t like to be there alone. I could see why. At least one of those stories made it into the finished version of Bitter Orange.

In the novel there is a bridge over the lake and follies in the grounds that Frances, the protagonist is commissioned to examine, including a mausoleum, obelisk and ice-house. It took me two years to write Bitter Orange and the landscape surrounding the house is so firmly fixed in my mind that when I go back there now, I look around and always think, but where is the bridge, where are the follies, and why aren’t there any hangers surrounding the house?

House photo courtesy of http://www.alresfordheritage.co.uk