Thursday, 14 February 2013

Author Visit: Claire King

Today is release day for the fantastic 'The Night Rainbow' by Claire King. I've read it, and really loved it. Claire's here to chat to you all about it. So, make yourselves a cup of tea and have a read.

Everyone who replies to this post before midday Thursday 21st February will have their name put into a hat. The name pulled out of that hat will win a copy of 'The Night Rainbow.'

This giveaway is open worldwide! x


Hi Claire! Welcome to the blog - please make yourself at home. 

Hi Jen! Thank you so much for inviting me! Lovely place you have here. 

Congratulations on the publication of your first book, ‘The Night Rainbow.’ It is excellent, and also very beautiful. Are you all excited? Nervous? Ready to dance around?

Thank you very much! I’m very excited, and yes I think I must be nervous although I’m not really sure about what anymore. The first reviews coming in have been lovely, so I can breathe a little! All I want, as I’m sure most authors do, is for readers to enjoy the time they spend with the book.

Tell our lovely bloggers a little about 'The Night Rainbow.' 

The Night Rainbow is a story set in southern France, and told from the point of view of five and a half year old Pea, whose family has been hit by a double tragedy – the loss of a baby and the death of her father. Pea needs her mother, but Maman is floored with grief, and also very heavily pregnant. In the height of the August heat-wave she retreats to her room, leaving Pea as the responsible one in the house. Pea and her little sister Margot run wild in the meadows, and it’s there that they meet Claude. Maybe they have found a new papa? That might make everything better? 

It’s a story about the tenacity of children, about loss and recovery and – I think – most of all about hope.

You’ve won awards for your short stories. Did 'The Night Rainbow' begin as a short story? How did you approach the writing of it? Did you do it in sections, or did you approach it as one large piece?

The Night Rainbow was always going to be a novel. I could ‘feel’ it from very early on, if that makes any sense at all? When I started to write it, I started with the climactic scene close to the end, and pretty much worked my way backwards until I’d got to the place it should start. That might sound very odd, but that way I was always asking the question, ‘How did we get here?’  

How long did it take you to write?

It took about a year of actual writing, although there were a few months of thinking that went into it before that. I wrote about 1000 words per day. If you add that up you’ll get to 3 months. The other 9 months were edits.

Place plays a massive part in the novel. How has living in France affected your writing, and why did you decide to move there?

We moved here because we were thinking of ‘settling down’ and we knew it would require a change of pace if we were going to have children and raise them the way we wanted to. When you decide to make a change like that in life, a lot of other questions about life come up at the same time – what sort of adventures do you want? What’s important to you? We kept possibilities as open as possible, and settled on an adventure in France. Both of us worried a little that it wouldn’t work out, but we had enough money for one frugal year, and we could always come back to the UK if necessary. That was eleven years ago…

One way living here has affected my writing is in the way I think about language. Having to think and speak in French somehow ruptured my thought patterns. I find myself questioning word choice, and co-opting some French ideas into my use of English. I found the same thing watching my daughters learning to speak (in both languages). The way they construct words from parents, teachers and friends and use that as a base to make their own speech patterns is both thrilling and inspiring. As Louise Doughty described it in one of her novels, when they learn a new word it’s as though they’ve grown a new finger, and they wiggle it to see how it works. 

What’s the publication story of 'The Night Rainbow'?

The story itself is quite short. I sent it out, and in my first batch of agents I had two requests for the full MS very quickly. One of them, Annette Green, almost bit my hand off for it. When you meet a literary agent who is so enthusiastic about your book, it’s just an amazing feeling. Annette sent it straight out to a shortlist of publishers, and after a couple of tantalizing months, and a face to face meeting, Bloomsbury – who just loved the novel, but had very full 2012 lists – offered for 2013, a two year wait. But again, if you meet a publisher that you feel good about, and who absolutely loves your novel, well some things are worth waiting for.

In a close, parallel universe, none of this never happened. The Night Rainbow either just never found the right agent, or else the publishers’ lists were all full, or they already had a similar book, or they just didn’t want to take the dual risk of a ‘quiet’ novel with a child narrator. Part of me still walks in that parallel universe, because part of me still can’t believe that I made it here.

What are your plans for around publication date?

I’m going to be in London, celebrating with family and friends, starting with Chinese New Year on Sunday, then my mum is coming down from Scotland so we’ll spend some time with her. On Wednesday, the day before the official pub date of 14th February, I’m having a party at Daunt books.  

Launch parties are by no means obligatory, especially for debut novelists, but I’m a big fan of ceremonies in life. They mark important moments, and this really important moment for me. It’s something I’ve been working towards pretty much my whole life. 

I’ll be up in Yorkshire later at the start of March for a book signing in the Little Ripon Bookshop and holding a small drinks party for Northern folk. That’s as far as I’ll get on this trip, but I’m hoping when the paperback comes out the book will be relatively well known and I’ll be invited to a few more bookshops!

Are you allowed to tell us what you’re working on at the moment?

I can’t say too much as no-one has had sight of it yet, but it’s an existential love story set on a houseboat on the Canal du Midi near Toulouse. I’ve been editing it for a long time, but I’m still not ready to hand it in to my agent. I was hoping it would be done and dusted before the launch of The Night Rainbow, but it’s not, and there’s no point rushing it. 

One thing I’ve learnt is that a novel should be the best you can make it, the closest to your idea of what you want it to be, before you submit. Even if you already have an agent and a friendly publisher. Best foot forwards, always!

Sounds advice! Thanks, Claire, and good luck! x

Everyone who replies to this post before midnight Thursday 21st February will have their name put into a hat. The name pulled out of that hat will win a copy of 'The Night Rainbow.'

This giveaway is open worldwide! x


  1. Congratulations Claire.
    If only I could get my to talk to my brain.... Alas, they seem to always at battle.
    G'day Jen!

  2. Congratulations with the release of The Night Rainbow Claire. It is high on my wish list and it is great to read more background story on the book. Makes me want to have it even more.

  3. So good to see, in a world of gloom, an anti-cynical book with compassion at its heart. More rainbows needed!

  4. So good to see, in a world of gloom, an anti-cynical book with compassion at its heart. More rainbows needed!

  5. Congratulations Claire; the book looks wonderful. I can't wait to read it!

  6. Wonderful interview would love to read the book.

  7. Lovely interview and so pleased for you Claire. Looks like a beautiful tale. Good luck with it! Xcat

  8. This is beautiful. Stories like this from writers like this are the reason I feel encouraged and inspired to continue in my work. I can't wait to read this book!

    And Jen, thanks for making this blog such an enjoyable read. In spite of all the stories, working in a bookshop is still one of my dream jobs.

  9. Im always looking for something new to read :)

  10. I really enjoyed this interview and I love the title of the book - and it's cover! I'm looking forward to reading it.

  11. Sounds like a really lovely book. I will look out for it.


  12. This sounds utterly gorgeous *adds to mental to-read list*

    [it also has a pretty cover so y'know, bonus!]

    Lovely little interview with my mid-afternoon coffee, thanks Jen xx

  13. Thanks everyone :) The name picked using random number generator was Jo Wilkinson.

    I do recommend you check out this book, other folks - it's a lovely one. x

  14. Thanks everyone for your lovely comments on The Night Rainbow, and congratulations Jo, I hope you enjoy the book!