After completing an English degree at Oxford University and working as an actor and arts administrator in London, Clare Owen married a boatbuilder and moved to Cornwall. She squeezes writing (and occasionally performing) around roleplay jobs, renovating a house, bringing up three kids and doing Airbnb in a wooden cabin at the end of the garden – a cabin she covets as a writing room!
Clare didn’t really begin writing until her early thirties. Her first attempt at a novel coincided with her first baby and she’s got up at 5am to write ever since. Her short fiction has been published by Mslexia, Storgy, Litro and in the anthology An Outbreak of Peace, and her first YA novel, Zed and the Cormorants (Arachne Press), is coming out in early 2021. She can often be seen reading her work at spoken word events and she also writes/acts with an all-women ensemble, Riot of the Freelance Mind. Their most recent show, The Hinterland, was performed at The Lab (Plymouth Theatre Royal), followed by a tour of the South-West.
Q: If you could travel back in time, which of the great writers would you like to meet and why?
A: I think it would have to be George Eliot. She was such a brilliant intellect – and could write on all the big political, philosophical and ethical issues of the time – but was also acutely sensitive and passionate, and created characters with great psychological depth. I reread Middlemarch in lockdown and had forgotten how funny she can be too.
I’d love to meet Virginia Woolf but would be terrified that she might find me commonplace and rather shallow.
Q: Do you have a lucky writing talisman? If so, what is it?
A: I have (on loan) an orange hat with holes in that was found in a skip in Wales. As soon as I put it on, I feel a little bit skittish and like the world is full of possibility. I once wrote a monologue about dressing for the job in hand and it became the hat for creating/devising/improvising… as opposed to the heels and pencil skirt necessary for a productive day of admin and paying bills and sending out query letters to agents.
Q: Do you have a favourite quote? (From a book, film, song, speech…)
A: Oh dear, so many…
On life: ‘I have always depended on the kindness of strangers’ – Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire. If only we lived in a world where, hand on heart, everyone could say this!
On writing: ‘I dig out beautiful caves behind my characters; I think that gives exactly what I want; humanity, humour, depth. The idea is that the caves shall connect.’ – Virginia Woolf.