Harpy Interviews: Clare Fisher
Clare Fisher joins Harpy to discuss living in Leeds, inspiring female voices, and her upcoming short story collection How the Light Gets In
Clare Fisher’s debut novel All the Good Things has been making quite an impression since its publication by Viking earlier this year. Gerard Woodward, in his review for The Guardian, calls the book “sparky and unsettling”, and praises the clarity of voice in protagonist Beth. For the Leeds writing scene, the novel’s success probably comes as no surprise. Born in Tooting, London, Clare moved to Leeds after achieving an MA in Creative and Life Writing. Since then, alongside working as an editorial consultant and teacher of creative writing, she has been prolific in leading numerous events; from book clubs to writing groups and open mic evenings. Her willingness to share her knowledge, and support others in their creative pursuits, is evident in the boundless work that she does alongside her own writing. This generosity with her time and talent is perhaps part of what led Clare to teach creative writing in prisons, which you can read about in her feature for Penguin; ‘5 things teaching creative writing in prisons taught me’. This experience would undoubtedly inspire the narrative of All the Good Things, in which 21-year-old Beth is encouraged by her prison counsellor to write a list of all the good things in her life. As Beth writes her list, a moving narrative of hope and redemption unfolds, but eventually she will have to confront the bad thing she has done.
Having only relocated to the north of England in recent years, Clare has said that her heart is torn between London and Leeds. As someone who is new to Leeds myself, I was keen to ask her about her impression of Leeds as a city, and as the place in which her writing career has truly begun.
When did you make the move to Leeds? Is it a good city for writers, do you think?
I moved to Leeds three or so years ago, and, once I got over my Londoner’s arrogance, I grew to love it: it’s big enough that there’s a lot going on, but small enough that you rarely have to travel for more than half an hour. There’s also a strong D.I.Y culture across the arts scene, I think, with people generally being friendly and willing to help each other out. This makes it great for writers or any other artist or creative types.
It seems like you’re always busy with workshops and events for writing and story-telling. Why are these creative spaces important for you?
I initially set up a writing and reading group because these were the things I wanted as a writer/reader, but which were lacking in my environment. One of the most enjoyable aspects of doing this has been watching other people grow and benefit from it, as well as making connections with writers, readers and other interesting folk I’d never have met otherwise. That said, I AM busy now and have had to start guarding my time more rigorously.
When people talk about All the Good Things, they seem to be struck by Beth’s ‘voice’. What was it like finding and writing that voice?
That voice came to me late one night as I was trying to sleep; writing the first draft of the novel was mainly a matter of following it. That makes it sound easy, but it wouldn’t have been possible without trying and failing and trying and failing to write fiction for many years before that.
Which female voices inspire you?
So many! In literature, I would say Zadie Smith, Rebecca Solnit, Lorrie Moore, Audre Lorde, Grace Paley, and many others… But there are great female voices in almost every sphere nowadays - you’ve just got to seek them out.
Tell us about your upcoming short story collection, How the Light Gets In. What can readers expect?
It actually began life as part of a commission for Light Night Leeds in 2014 - so I have the city to thank for its existence! As a book of very short fiction - some stories are only a paragraph or two long - it’s a lot more experimental and playful than the novel. There are overlapping concerns and the stories are mostly voice-driven, but there is a far wider range of voices and scenarios than in the novel. Hopefully it will be a pleasant surprise…
Apart from the new collection, what does 2018 have in store for you?
I’m not sure. Hopefully I will finish a half-decent second novel at some point…
Lastly, what are you reading at the moment?
Go, Went, Gone by Jenny Erpenbeck - a novel about the refugee crisis in Berlin. Erpenbeck is a fascinating and thought-provoking writer (I loved her novel, End of Days, too). I’m also reading Your Silence Will Not Protect You by Audre Lorde - a collection of her essays and poetry recently republished by the new feminist press, Silver Press. Needless to say, it’s awesome.
Look out for How the Light Gets In, which will be published by Influx Press in 2018. Keep up to date with Clare’s news on her website, and follow her on Instagram (@clarefisherwriter) and Twitter (@claresitafisher).