Two Days, Five Events in France


Festival du Premier Roman

A couple of weeks ago I was went to Chambéry in France, where I had been invited to speak at the Festival du Premier Roman, an annual literary festival all about debut novels. The organisers bring together 15 French authors, as well as writers from Spain, Portugal, Romania, Italy, Germany and Great Britain.

desmond-elliott-prize-logoThe list of British first novels is provided for the festival organisers by the literary director of the Desmond Elliott Prize (the premier UK prize for debut fiction), who adds another two books to the prize’s ten-strong long-list, bringing the Chambéry reading list up to twelve books. Although my novel, Our Endless Numbered Days, won the Desmond Elliott Prize in 2015, that was no guarantee that it would be one of those selected.

The Chambéry reading groups have about six months to read all twelve books before they debate and vote on their favourite. At the same time, schools in France, Portugal, Italy and Germany are also deciding on their favourite. The authors of the winning books are invited to the festival, and I was lucky enough to be one of them, with Carys Bray (one of the three short-listed authors of the 2015 Desmond Elliott Prize) being the other from Great Britain.

IMG_0782Before I visited, students from France, Germany, Italy and Portugal read and studied Our Endless Numbered Days in English, so that when they came together for the festival in Chambéry they were able to use the novel for inspiration for an Erasmus project about innovation in literature.

It was an intensive two days. I spoke to four groups of students  (with up to 60 people inDSCF7686 each group), as well as one group of adults where I joined Carys to talk about our books to the English book club readers.

Chambéry is a beautiful town, and I and my husband, were made really welcome. We were given a guided tour, taken out for drinks and coffees, invited to an art exhibition, met up with the Desmond Elliott Prize’s literary director for lunch, went out to dinner, and DSCF7683generally packed everything in that we could.

The students worked on designing alternative covers of Our Endless Numbered Days (you can see them here), asked me lots of amazing (and difficult) questions in English, and then went off to act out some of the scenes from my book which were videoed and edited.


If you’re interested in the whole Erasmus project you can see a video about it here (click on
the picture), including a short clip of me being interviewed.

The videos the students made of them acting scenes from Our Endless Numbered Days are available online. Here are a couple (click on the images to view).








It was a wonderful experience; all they need now is a festival for second novels.

Some things I’ve learned in my year of being published

DSCF4159A year ago today, my debut novel, Our Endless Numbered Days was published by Fig Tree, an imprint of Penguin. Many things have happened since then which I could never have imagined – my book won the 2015 Desmond Elliott Prize for debut fiction, was published in nine territories around the world (with a few more to come), and was selected for both the Waterstones, and Richard & Judy book clubs. But it’s not just the (mostly) great reception that the book has received which has amazed me, but the things I’ve learned along the way – some good, some not so good. Here they are in no particular order.

Good: People

The Prime Writers

The Prime Writers

This has to be the biggest and best thing that having my novel published has brought me – meeting others who love books. The list of these lovely people is enormous, but includes other writers especially The Prime Writers, The Taverners and the Friday Fictioneers; Book bloggers; Editors and publicists; My literary agent and foreign rights agent; and many many booksellers. But perhaps most lovely of all are readers. Those who have turned up to events, those who chat about books on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, and those who have sent me messages.

Not so Good: Self-Comparison

Writers don’t talk publicly about this, but I’ve had enough whispered conversations to know everyone feels it: ‘Why is that book being promoted over mine?’ ‘How is that book doing so well?’ ‘Why him? Why her?’ And then we turn to face the crowd, sip our wine and smile. We barely even admit these feelings to ourselves, perhaps with good reason – they’re negative and can easily send us into a downward spiral, but I suspect all writers suffer from them. There’s always going to be writers many rungs above me on the publishing ladder, and sometimes they might have written a book that I think wasn’t very good, didn’t deserve the awards, the shortlisting, the publicity money allocated it.

I am learning to switch off self-comparison, but it’s something I have to work at, especially when I see particular books all over social media. But of course I’m certain some writers will be thinking this about me and my book. One way I’ve found that helps overcome it is to talk publicly about the books I do love, especially those I think should have won the award, should have been shortlisted, or had more promotion.

Good: Getting out there

Talking with Rowan Pelling

Talking with Rowan Pelling at The Curious Arts Festival

In the year since Our Endless Numbered Days was published I’ve done nearly seventy events – literary festivals, university talks, book club appearances, and more. And all of them because I wanted to. Before I sat on stage at my first ever event at Cheltenham Literature Festival I didn’t know I could do public speaking, and had no idea I would actually come to enjoy it.

Not so good: Learning how books are promoted

Before I my book was published, and I was just a reader, if I thought about it at all, I would have assumed that good books simply get found by readers, and that bestsellers are discovered, not created. The reality isn’t quite so simple. There’s some luck involved, and some passion, but also an awful lot of business. It never occurred to me that books get reviews, get talked about, get promotions, and posters (mine included) because the publisher has chosen to invest in that book. And they’re probably investing in it because they’ve paid quite a lot for it.

Putting this under ‘not so good’, perhaps isn’t quite right. Promotion and marketing isn’t aren’t bad things, I’ve just had my eyes opened to how they work, and why some books get to the top of the pile.

Good: Writing

In this year I’ve learnt a lot more about what I like about my own writing (I don’t like to do it, I prefer editing), what I like to write about (I keep an on-going list of my favourite things), how I write (better with deadlines). And I’ve learnt the absolute pleasure of doing this for a living.

Not so Good: Something for nothing

This is a debate that still has a long way to run. Of the nearly seventy events I’ve done in the past year, I was only paid for about five of them. Of course I could have said no – I chose to go, unpaid. I haven’t counted up the exact number of interviews, articles and short stories I’ve written in this year (I reckon it must be about forty), and again the majority were unpaid. It’s promotion, right? Yes, of course, but some of those literary events, newspapers and magazines charge their readers and have decided for commercial reasons not to pay the people who provide the content.

Good and bad: reviews

There’s no point in writing a book that doesn’t get read. And not all readers are going to like the same book. But a novel is a creative thing that comes from inside the writer, and it’s difficult when something you’ve worked so hard on is criticised without thought. I read all my reviews and I don’t engage. I might, however, shout at the screen a bit, and then go and read a good one.

Good: Some wonderful moments

There have been lots of amazing moments in this year. Here are a few of them:

  • I still haven’t seen someone I don’t know reading my book, but during some hovering in a bookshop (as you do when you’re an author), I did see a stranger pick up a copy, read the back and buy it.
  • Hearing the announcement in a crowded room at the top of Fortnum andDE3 Mason that Our Endless Numbered Days had won the Desmond Elliott Prize
  • Watching a couple of teenage boys holding hands under the desk at a sixth form college event I was speaking at. (They didn’t know I could see.)
  • Finding the courage to go and say hello to David Vann (Legend of a Suicide), one of my literary heroes, at an event in Oxford, and before I could speak, him holding out his hand and saying, ‘You’re Claire Fuller, aren’t you?’

It has been a momentous year. Next year please can I have more of the same, and yes, I’m happy to take both the good and the not so good.


Our Endless Numbered Days wins The Desmond Elliott Prize

I’m absolutely thrilled and delighted that my book, Our Endless Numbered Days has won The Desmond Elliott Prize for debut fiction. My husband Tim and I came back to London from our holiday in Sweden on the hottest 1st July ever recorded in the UK, 37.8 degrees.

The winner was announced by Louise Doughty at a ceremony held in the Drawing Room at Fortnum and Mason. Here are some pictures of the event, including me feeling very nervous beforehand.

There was quite a lot of media coverage, including a live interview with me on BBC Radio 4 Front Row (starts at 18 minutes 52 seconds), The BBC website, The Guardian, and The Telegraph.

If you’d like a signed copy of Our Endless Numbered Days, Foyles bookshop is running a competition to win one of three books. Click here to enter.

Our Endless Numbered Days shortlisted for book prize

Finalist-Banner (1)


I’m absolutely thrilled that my book, Our Endless Numbered Days has been shortlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize for debut novels. The shortlist of three (also including A Song for Issy Bradley by Carys Bray, and Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey) was decided from a longlist of ten books. The winner will be announced at an awards ceremony in London on 1st July.

You can read more about the shortlist on the BBC website.