Today on UK LesFic, we welcome new Indie author Clare Lydon, whose début novel London Calling shot to number one on the Amazon Lesbian fiction chart on the day of its release and has been sitting pretty there ever since. A tale of one woman’s search for love in modern-day London, London Calling is littered with ladygays, a vat of tequila and a colourful array of Converse. We put some questions to Clare about her new novel…
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London Calling is the story of Jess and her journey getting her life back on track, as well as her search for new love back in her home town of London. She’s just returned from three years in Australia heartbroken and broke, and we follow her as she reconnects with the city, her family and friends, new mates and lovers, and dodges bullets from her past.
I dreamt up the bones of the story while I was in Sydney on holiday with my partner who’s from there. I was sitting in a coffee shop on Oxford Street (gay central) and just started writing. I love cities and found Sydney inspiring too, so I knew I wanted to work it in somewhere. Most of what I wrote about it fell onto the cutting room floor though, so maybe I’ll release the Director’s Cut of the book sometime soon with all that detail back in. Now there’s an idea…
Would it be true to say that the city of London functions as one of the novel’s characters? What it is that makes London such a great place to write about?
London is the greatest city in the world – only New York comes close to it. There’s always something happening in London, which means it’s rich pickings for a writer: art, culture, architecture, scenery, cuisine, sport – you name it, it’s here. I’ve lived here for 15 years and grew up only 30 miles east, so the city’s always played a starring role in my life.
I’ve read so many lesfic novels set in America and I wanted to write one set in London, with its energy springing from the pages. My aim was to write a novel true to the world I live in, a modern world with technology and culture rippled through it and brimming with lesbians.
The synopsis for London Calling places its protagonist Jess Sharp “at a crossroads – back in London, living in her parents’ spare room, jobless and single.” Knowing a little something about the price of housing in London, is this scenario something you or your mates can relate to?
Absolutely. Housing prices in London are crackers and landlords have to be one of the most discussed topics across the city. It’s tricky to find a job that pays the bills and gives you enough to work and play too, as Lena Dunham so beautifully depicts in Girls.
I know a lot of people in Jess’s situation, wondering how they’re going to get on the housing ladder while paying extortionate rents. She’s lucky she gets a place so central for the price she does, as her friend Kate is happy to cover her costs and nothing more. Housing is always a hot topic of conversation for 30-somethings, and for many Londoners having stairs or a garden is a scenario that’s never going to happen.
LesFic is a genre that has been dominated by American writers, but the Brits seem to be storming up the charts at the moment. Any thoughts on why that might be?
Firstly, because we’ve got some brilliantly talented writers! Sure, the Americans have the publishing clout and the history in lesfic, but the Brits have got great things to contribute too. Secondly, seeing as there are no lesbian publishers in the UK, the rise of self-publishing has helped many UK authors get their voices heard, which is great. And lastly, I hope it’s also because the lesfic word is getting out among the UK’s lesbians, and they’re enjoying seeing their lives reflected in print.
Speaking of storming up the charts – did you do anything outrageous to celebrate when London Calling hit number one in the LesFic chart on its first day of release?
I was out having dinner with my friend who designed my cover, that night. We had dinner, went to a bar, and I was on the bus home when I got a text from two of my mates telling me I was No.1. I couldn’t believe it. I got chatting to a very gay man on the short walk from the bus stop to my house and told him – I couldn’t keep it in. His name was Gordon and he was wearing a straw trilby with flowers in it. He gave me a massive congratulatory hug and told me to remember the moment. We’re now BFFs, obviously.
You’ve said previously that London Calling took four years to complete. What gave you the kick up the bum to get it finished?
I’d had it half-written for ages but was too busy with life to finish it. However, last May I got made redundant from my job and decided to use the money to take some time off and throw myself into writing. I spent the first few weeks at my mate’s house in Spain writing in the morning, sunbathing in the afternoon – hard life – then came back to the UK and finished the first edit. It was a beautifully hot summer to have at my mercy, and the writing flowed. Then I went to LFestive last November to meet some other UK authors, and once I’d told them I was going to do it, I figured I’d better follow through.
If you could be the godchild of any two authors, whom would you choose?
JoJo Moyes and Jeanette Winterson. JoJo’s books are always heart-breakingly beautiful and Jeanette’s work speaks for itself. Oranges is probably one of the best debuts ever and her recent memoir about her mother was so raw it bled off the page. I’d also like Armistead Maupin and Nick Alexander as my godfathers – both fantastic writers and I’m particularly pleased that Nick Alexander is finally getting the acclaim he deserves.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’ve completed the first draft of my second book, and now I just need to knock it into shape. It’s a completely different book to London Calling, dealing with a slightly older age group and based in the country – but I’ll probably return to London for the next one. I’ve learnt so much over this past year doing my first book, so I hope editing and publishing the second will be a breeze. Time will tell!
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Cheers very much, Clare!
London Calling is out on Kindle now, with other digital versions following soon. The paperback version will be out at the end of April. Find out more about Clare and her writing here at Clare’s website.
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