Well, you can’t say I don’t spoil you!

After recommending Sally Hinchcliffe’s terrific book, Out of a Clear Sky, last week (read what I said about it here) I’m delighted to be able to post this – an interview with her. Big thanks to Sally for taking the time to do it. Hope you enjoy it, folks! I did.

“So, who’s it for and what’s it about?

Well, everyone, I hope. It’s a psychological thriller but you don’t need to be a big thriller reader to enjoy it. It’s about birds, and the people who watch them, about obsession and what happens when obsessions go too far. And it’s also about Africa and Britain and what it means to make one or other of those places your home.

Why did you write it?

The short answer is that I was doing an MA course and part of it formed my dissertation. But the germ of the book had been at the back of my mind for ages – the phrase ‘the stalker stalked’ came into my head and wouldn’t go away. I wanted to write a book set in a world most people wouldn’t be familiar with and birds and birdwatching fitted the bill.

What do you hope readers will get from it?

If they’re not birders already, I hope that they’ll look at birds now with new eyes, and understand what makes them so fascinating to some of us. And of course I hope they’ll be entertained, and maybe a little disturbed as well.

How long did it take you to write?

Three and a half years, the bulk of which was rewriting. Writing a book takes a looooong time, something I underestimated at the start. The book went through four or five major drafts and I was working full time at the time as well as completing my MA so that slowed me down a little.

It seems to me that you’ve an extensive knowledge of birds, did that mean more or less research before you started writing it?

There’s a difference between the things you think you know, and what can actually be verified. So I did have to do some research to check my facts – things like the swifts never touching land and sleeping on the wing, I wanted to be sure that was actually true. I ended up reading a lot of in-depth monographs about bird behaviour, most of which never made it into the book. It’s quite easy to get carried away with the research side, but at least I was doing it as I went along rather than before I started it.

Did you use a fountain pen to write it?

Sorry, no! I use a laptop, and although I do print out drafts and scribble all over them when I’m revising, it’s all in skanky old biro rather than a nice pen, whatever I’ve got to hand. The last time I picked up a fountain pen was to write my final exams…

Tell us something about you.

Erm… gosh. I used to be in the fire brigade at school. Actually, that could be the basis for a whole other book…

What’s next for you?

I’m working on my next book – it’s too soon to say what it’s about but this one won’t be about birds. At least, it’s not about birds so far.

Anything you’d like to add?

I’d like to encourage everybody to read my book – and if they do, to drop me a line (through my website) to let me know. It’s a lonely old life, writing, and hearing from a reader makes my day. Oh and thanks for the interview and your lovely review!”

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They were both a pleasure, Sally. All the very best for future projects – I really can’t wait to read the next one.
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