Pure Fiction meets… Carol Clewlow

In three weeks’ time, the second Pure Fiction will take place in Whitley Bay Library (visit the Facebook event here). To whet your appetite, I caught up with one of our readers, the lovely Carol Clewlow.


Throughout your varied career, which piece of work / element of your career are you most proud of?

I’m not. And I know this sounds like a curmudgeonly answer but I’m not proud of any of them. I just see the flaws which frankly seem major and grow with time.

Are there any of your early novels / other works which you would like to revisit, or to be able to ‘rewrite’ now? Is there anything you would do differently?

Loads I would do differently ( see above). Characters/situations where I was just getting my rocks off at the time ( we do a lot of this as novelists and sometimes it works out really well. See D.H Lawrence Sons and Lovers).   But I don’t want to slag the books off too much. Because some people have liked them. And some people have liked them a lot.  And for that I am grateful beyond belief.

Can you tell me about your writing residency at the medical school, how it came about, and how it led to Operating Theatre?

This is something I remain eternally grateful for. The placement was advertised and I just felt it had my name on it. I am rubbish at interviews so for this actually went for training ( never done it before or since) but I got the job.  Newcastle University Medical School already had a good history in the humanities, i.e. running courses for interested medical students in fiction, poetry etc., the idea being that many students have had to give up English studies early on to concentrate on science subjects, a pity since a good  novel/play can teach them plenty about human beings. My job was to run workshops on these courses plus creative writing sessions for anyone interested. Julia Darling who many will remember was working at the University itself and was very interested in things medical. She and I were approached by a wonderful far-seeing GP who was also a lecturer, and who was a theatre-goer, and felt drama could be a useful tool in teaching medical students. And Operating Theatre was born. That was in 2001 and 15 years later we perform 4 plays  a year for Newcastle medical students, as well as drama on a variety of subjects to do with health and social care at conferences and events throughout the country.

Did seeing “A woman’s guide to adultery” made into a mini-series alter the way you saw future characters, or wrote your future works?

Frankly, now it can be told, it wasn’t a good adaptation.   There were good moments, thanks to the actors, but the script was pretty dire. It also managed to entirely turn on its head anything that was being said in the novel. I didn’t complain at the time, being starry-eyed about the whole thing, not to mention the cheque.

Where do you find your inspiration? Has it changed at all during your career?

I love the writer who asked where he got his ideas said Harrods. I think I’m more of a Co-op girl. Inspiration has changed dramatically I think. The first books were written in wonderful rushes of This Must Be Said, This Book Must Be Written. It’s not like that now. Now I sit waiting and hoping. For the last two years I’ve had an idea kicking around refusing to come properly to fruition. I think it has now. I touch wood as I say this, knowing the Gods are listening and dying to thwart me.

What else are you involved in at the moment that you’d like to share with us?

See above.. But keep it under your hat. Like I say, The Gods Are Listening.

Can you give us a sneak preview of what you’ll be reading at Pure Fiction?

I’d love to… but I never make up my mind until the last moment.


Finally, the history-nerd cannot help coming out – if you could sit and chat with any historical character, who would it be, and what would you take the chance to discuss?

That’s tricky.  Be a toss up wouldn’t it: Shakespeare or Jesus? Probably have to be Jesus in the end. I’d say, Ok.. really need to know. Was it a clever scam? I mean did you actually survive the crucifixion… get spirited away? I mean that has to be worth knowing..ie if medicine was available then which  actually could have healed him? Also, I’d want to tell him, you’ll never guess what’s happened since.   What they’ve done with your ideas. I mean do the words Westminster Abbey or The Vatican have any significance for you at all?  And Shakespeare..? You and Anne Hathaway? Went back to Stratford in the end didn’t you? What was that about? And that whole second best bed thing.

Thanks for joining me, Carol – looking forward to Pure Fiction! For those who want to find out more, tickets are available now…



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