Friday 22 February 2013

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2013 YA Debut Interview: Ferryman by Claire McFall

We all like supporting YA and New Adult debut authors, but this year, rather than just read their books, I'll be highlighting them on my blog too, so you can hear about these wonderful authors.

Today I'm interviewing UKYA author Claire McFall, whose debut YA novel, Ferryman, is being published by Templar in the UK on 1st March 2013. Read on for more:

Ferry by Claire McFallFerry by Claire McFall - When teenager Dylan pulls herself free from a train wreck and emerges onto an almost deserted Scottish hillside, she believes she is the only survivor. Seeing the figure of a boy on the bank she enlists his help. But Tristan is no ordinary passerby, and Dylan soon learns that instead of being the only survivor of the wreck, she is in fact the only fatality. And, Tristan is no normal teenage boy - he is her ferryman tasked with guiding her through the wasteland to her afterlife. As the pair journey further together through the dangerous wraith-infested wasteland, they fall deeply in love. When they reach the other side, Tristan promises to cross over with Dylan, but when she steps across the threshold and turns back, he is not there. Confronted with life without Tristan, Dylan vows to find him, but that means traversing the dangerous wasteland without a guide - A truly moving, epic love story, that's exciting, scary, funny, thought-provoking and truly original. from Amazon UK.

Claire McFallCan you tell us a little about yourself?

Hmmm, me. Well, first of all, I’m an English teacher, but don’t let that put you off. I’m nice, I promise! I live in the Scottish Borders - which is absolutely gorgeous – with my hubby who thinks he’s Indiana Jones – and is also gorgeous – and my pooch, Jazz. My pupils think I’m a bit mad, and that’s probably true, but in a good way – not in a cut your head off and stuff you in the closet kind of way. I love reading and I can’t leave the house without my Kindle. No, really, I can’t. What if I got stranded somewhere and couldn’t get home to read the next bit of the story??? I love singing, but I’m really bad at it so to save others from the pain I mostly do karaoke in my car. I run a lot, but that’s only because I eat cake a lot. I do like cake. And sweets. And chocolate. And fudge. And biscuits (…and we’re back to running again!).

Have you always wanted to be an author?

In a word… yes! When I was ickle I used to write what I can only describe as truly awful poetry, then my mum bought me a typewriter (yes, a typewriter. Wow that makes me feel old!) when I was about nine and I started on The Great Novel. Luckily for me, no scraps of evidence of this wondrous tome still exist but I remember tapping – okay, thumping – away at the keys for hours at a time until I bruised my fingertips (typewriters are tough!). The worst thing was: if you made a mistake – which I did frequently as I wasn’t a very good typer – you’d messed up the whole page and to start all over again!

When I went to university I stopped writing for a while as I was too caught up in the excitement of finally being a “grown-up” (Ha! I’m still not!), but once I started teaching, I fell back in love with putting the stories in my head back down onto paper so that I could read them again and again.

How did you come up with the idea for Ferryman?

I got a couple of lines from the book (the opening to chapter three) stuck in my head, and they wouldn’t go away. Then, like a tiny acorn, it just grew and grew. I admit, a big part of the challenge was seeing if I could really write a whole novel, but once I got stuck into the story I knew I had to stick it out– I needed to see how it ended!

If you could describe Ferryman in three words, what would they be?

Ooh that’s hard. As any of my pupils would tell you, I am not a woman of few words! Okay, let me think… Epic. Scary-thrilling-exciting (is that cheating?). And… Up (You have to read the book to get that one!).

Why will readers like your main character, Dylan?

I think because – aside from being entirely imaginary – she’s a real person. She has hopes and dreams just like anybody else, and she has bad days and bad moods just like anybody else. I didn’t try to base her on anyone, but I think little bits of me trickled in by accident (or maybe it was because subconsciously I really wanted to be her in the story…) and so she’s a little sarcastic at times and she’s strong, but underneath that are the same insecurities that we all have. She’s not perfect, and I think that’s what makes her lovable.

What research did you have to do for Ferryman? Was there anything you found that surprised you?

Would it be really awful to confess I made most of it up?! I do do research, and for the book after Ferryman that meant ages trawling through street maps and looking at photographs, and looking up instructions of how bombs are made – I hope I don’t have an FBI file somewhere! – but because of the world that exists in Ferryman, just about all of it came straight out of my head. That possibly says more about the weird and wonderful things lurking in my brain that I want to think about, but there you go ;)

Tell us about how you write; do you write in a particular place? Do you have any music playing? Do you have any must-haves with you while writing?

I literally sit on my sofa with my lap-top on my knees and the whole world buzzing around my head. There will be people on the phone, the telly blaring, my hubby trying to have a conversation with me and Jazz bugging me to take her for a walk. But I don’t hear any of that. Everything just fades away when I’m writing because I’m not really in the living-room – I’m with my character, wherever they are.

Maybe it’s strange, but I find it much easier to tune in when there are things I have to block out. When ever I try to sit in silence, I find myself listening for something. And if there’s music I start singing, and no-one wants that…

What was most surprising to you during the writing process?

Two things. First of all how fast words count up! On a really good day I can punch out ten thousand words… and when I read it back I’m gob smacked by how much is there.

The second thing, is how slow editing is! I love creating stories, stories and more stories… and as soon as I’ve finished something I want to get started on something new. It’s really hard to make myself sit down and look at drafts and edits and (very good!) advice from the lovely people at Templar on how to make the story better. Once the reworking is done, I’m the first to admit that it needed to be done and that the story’s much better because of it… but it takes a whole lot of cakes and biscuits and sweets to get me through!

How does it feel to know your book will soon be in the hands of readers?

Terrifying! I love the story in Ferryman and I love Dylan and Tristan. They’re real people to me, and I’ll be scared in case others don’t love them too!

It’s very exciting too, though. Seeing the cover for the first time was absolutely amazing – I didn’t have a proof copy of the book yet so I printed out the cover and wrapped it around a novel from my bookshelf, and then paraded in front of the mirror pretending I was holding my book. I can’t imagine how I’ll feel when I see someone else holding onto a copy… and reading it. I’ll probably scare people to death, sneaking up on them to read their facial expressions so I can see what they think!

Anything else you would like to add?

Just to say I really hope everyone enjoys Ferryman as much as I do… and I’d love to know what people think! I have a website and Facebook page (links are here somewhere!) so please drop me a message if you can. Tell me what you think; ask me a question; let me know if you have any great ideas for my next story… or just say hi!

Thank you, Claire, for such a great interview! Isn't she just lovely?! And how exciting does Ferryman sound! I'm really looking forward to reading it! You can find Claire on her website, on her blog, and on Facebook.


  1. I saw Ferryman a while back, and thought it looked fab. I love that Claire writes with her laptop on her lap (thats how I write!).

  2. "...not in a cut your head off and stuff you in the closet kind of way." heh, nice to know! Although that way is rather fascinating too :D

    I love that she started out writing on a typewriter (I actually had one when I was little too!) and then got back into it once she started teaching. I don't think the itch for writing ever truly leaves you!

    I'm the opposite when writing - I find it hard to concentrate when there so much noise. Silence + keyboard = the blender that shakes Brodie's brains into action!

    I love the focus of these interviews, Jo! I've thoroughly enjoyed this opportunity to delve into Claire's crazy, funny and and insightful mind :) Suffice it to say, she's 100% convinced me I must read Ferryman! Although that cover and summary did an equally good job. Looks SO gorgeous and sounds amazing!