My novel, Clay, is now available for pre-order on Amazon. It will be released in January of next year as a hardback, initially, and on Kindle.
Clay is set in the wild, forgotten corners of a city, and was inspired by the streets around my home in Streatham Hill. Tooting Common, Palace Road Nature Garden, Brixton Hill, Rush Common – all these places feature not only on this blog, but also, altered and transformed, in Clay. It’s a deeply felt book about the joy that can be found in making and maintaining a connection with nature – something I feel very strongly about. Even in London you’re never more than a couple of paces away from the wild; you just have to start seeing it. And not only do we need to notice the natural world in order to protect it, but that act of noticing, and the ones that follow from it, can sustain us.
Clay also deals with issues of freedom and risk, particularly as they apply to children. Like many people, as a child I played out: in the streets around my home, in the woods and the local parks. But most children these days aren’t allowed out of their parents’ sight. Something is being lost here, something vital. Kids need to learn how to be responsible for themselves in order to be safe; they also need to be bored at times so they can develop their imaginations. And they need contact with nature. Research on ‘nature deficit disorder’ is piling up, and it’s not looking good for the next generation. More widely, how are our children going to develop enough love for their environment to protect it when they grow up, if all they know of it is seen through the window of a car?
I started writing Clay in late 2008 – although I didn’t realise at the time that I was writing a novel. I wasn’t sure what I was writing; perhaps a collection of short stories about people living in the city, perhaps a series of vignettes that could be linked together in some way. I certainly didn’t think that I was writing for publication, which is probably just as well.
Slowly, as I wrote, the scenes began to link together, the characters started to feel real, and finally, after about a year, a plot emerged. I had been working with a brilliant writing coach, Kathy Gale, who is also a psychotherapist; she asked if she could send a couple of chapters to an ex-colleague of hers called Michael Fishwick, now a commissioning editor at Bloomsbury, and he immediately showed an interest.
At about this time I submitted a short story to a writing competition held by the John Muir Trust in Scotland – and won. As I worked on into 2010 Kathy sent more material to an agent, Peter Straus at Rogers,Coleridge & White, along with news of my prize. He asked me to come in for a meeting.
I signed with Peter’s colleague Jennifer Hewson at RCW and soon after went in to Bloomsbury to meet Michael and Alexandra Pringle. In late 2010 I was offered a contract for Clay. I’ve been extremely fortunate to have had such a smooth route to publication; I saw my mother struggle with rejection slips, as most writers do, for many years, and I don’t know if I would have had the guts to keep going.
Now I’m about half-way through writing my second novel and I'm learning more about what works (and doesn’t work) for me all the time; unlike most other jobs, there’s not really anything anyone can say that’ll help you – you just have to work it out for yourself. It’s a lonely life at times, and when it’s not going well it can be debilitating, but when it all comes together, as it eventually did with Clay, it’s the best feeling in the world.
Click here to pre-order Clay on Amazon. A note on the cover: the image was taken on Tooting Common a couple of years ago, on my iPhone, and features my husband, Anthony. It first appeared on this blog.