Without trying to sound over-the-top or ridiculous… I have Claire Highton-Stevenson to thank for a lot. She was the person who gave me the first nudge towards self-publishing, all the way back in October 2021. She also organises the annual South Coast Sapphic Hang Out (SCHSO) in Crawley, UK, every year. I went for the first time last year and made lots of new friends and connections! It's been hard enough work organising Sapphic Fiction February, let alone a full in-person event, so my hat comes off to her!
And there’s also the small matter of Claire being a highly successful, award-winning and uber-talented author too. I love all her books – particularly Keep Her Safe, which she released last autumn and which I reviewed on my newsletter a few months ago, and Scarlett Fever, which she released just a couple of weeks ago! Time to find out how she does it – over to you, Claire…
Introduce yourself! Tell us a little bit about you - who are you, and what do you do?
I am an indie author of contemporary women loving women fiction. I write across the tropes about strong, independent, sexy women finding love. Although, I am also happy to throw out a murder mystery every now and then. I'm known for a few twists and often some mystery in my stories, and I often put them within the same universe or throw in a few Easter eggs. I also don't fade to black and always, always have a happy ever after.
What made you want to sit down and write your first book?
I was reading a lot of fan fiction but didn't think I could do it justice to write someone else's characters, but I had this story buzzing around in my head, so I played with it for a bit in my thoughts and then just started writing it, it was nothing like the ship I was sailing, but I had fun doing it, so I just kept writing stories until eventually a friend asked to read them...she made me publish.
How do you develop your plots and characters?
I get an idea...it could be anything, a sentence, someone in a shop, a song, anything could set my mind racing. Then I just start writing and see where it takes me. It's pretty simple. Once I have the bones of a story, I go back from the start and begin to build the character and plot with more detail, and then I just keep going, back and forth until it all makes sense and I type The End.
Which of your characters do you relate to the most, and why?
All of them. They're human, they have to react and behave in ways that are recognisable. So, there are elements of lots of people I have known over the years. They're normal, even when they're in really abnormal situations.
Has your own writing ever made you cry?
Yes. And so it should, if you're trying to evoke emotion in your readers then it should be doing it in you while you write it, right?
Does anyone you know in real life read your books?
Ha, yes, most of my friends have read at least one, some read all of them. My friend Kim is my biggest fan, and my best friends 90+ mum reads them now and then too...I got over the embarrassment of it a long time ago. I write stories, they're not about me.
Imagine your book, or one of your books, was made into a film. Who would play the lead roles?
Well, I often use a muse board for books so I have several characters cast when I can't quite picture them. I struggle visually with imagining made up people. Andi in In Dyer Need was based on Susanna Reid, Ren in the same book was Emma Willis. I'd love to see Suranne Jones play Whitton. Emily Blunt as Cam Thomas, Angie Harmon as Michelle, in the Cam Thomas series...
When you’re not writing, what do you do to relax?
I meet up with friends, but often a do stuff by myself, depends on the weather. I live at the beach, so it's nice to go there and just sit for a while, but also, I love mooching around old castles or stately homes and gardens. I really love going for lunch somewhere nice, or to the cinema.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given with regards to being an author?
Don't compare, share. When we work together to promote each other, we all grow and become more successful. I get why some people prefer to be lone wolves, but it doesn't work for me. I see a new author and I want to help, like those that helped me.
How about in general life?
Don't compare! Their dream isn't your dream, and though it might look like someone else is living the dream, you have no idea what's going on behind closed doors, or what the pay off is for that. Build your own dream, create your own happy place.
What is a motto you live by?
Be yourself. What's meant for you won't pass you by.
How can people connect with you?
I'm all over social media. My user name is usually ItsClaStevOfficial, but you can find all of my information on my website, www.Itsclastevofficial.co.uk, where you can also sign up to my monthly eMag and grab a free copy of Out: A Cam Thomas Story.
Finally a light-hearted one. If you were a sandwich, what sandwich would you be?
A footlong sub with meatballs and plenty of sauce!
If you enjoyed this interview, then make sure you’re following my social media accounts (@kblakemanwriter on Twitter and @katherineblakemanwriter on Instagram) to get all the latest updates! And if you want to support my own Sapphic Fiction journey while you’re here, my new novel The Summer We’ve Had is available now!