Writer Spotlight: Clare Weze
With the Writer Spotlight Series, we create a positive image for Black girls to refer to, by having conversations with different writers and illustrators. This month we have been doing Q&As with many writers, to get to know more about them and their work. Here, we are showcasing all the questions we have asked Clare the author of The Lightning Catcher. You can find more book reviews in our current issue, available to buy here
Sadé really enjoyed reading The Lightning Catcher, especially the scientific facts. Could you share with us a favourite part of the story, and why?
I love the part where Alfie starts to learn where Whizzy came from. The sun is sometimes neglected in fiction, but while researching this book I came across so many exciting facts about it. Blending amazing facts into an adventure story and having Alfie and Sam discover things as they went along was one of my favourite parts. Another favourite was writing Lily, as her frustration with Alfie really entertained me. Early drafts of the book were written when my children were the same age as the siblings in The Lightning Catcher, and the interplay between them was better than watching TV!
What inspired the idea for the book?
The setting came first, and I remember where I was when the first ideas crept up on me. I was at a jumble sale with my children – the same one Alfie is dragged to in The Lightning Catcher, funnily enough! Someone was asking where we lived and as I described our house, the eyes of a listening child began to pop out on stalks, and I realised how isolated and spooky I was making our house sound. It’s down a lonely lane with fields all around and in the right kind of weather, it can look quite menacing. There are trees that stand sentinel and thrash about in the wind. I’ve always loved weather, but those trees gave me the idea for the main plot of the book. Once I had Alfie, he took over. He’s the best character who has ever come to me because his voice is so strong and he knows exactly what he wants.
What age were you when you first dreamed of writing a book?
I wrote my first story at the age of eight in an exercise book, but really, as soon as I found out what books were and that people wrote them, I wanted to be a writer. Around the age of ten or eleven I discovered A Dog So Small by Philippa Pearce, which had a huge influence on me. The Moomin books by Tove Jansson also inspired me, but after that first tiny book at eight, I didn’t write any more fiction until I was in my early twenties. I think I wanted to read a lot instead, and take time to figure things out. I was also hungry for life experiences, so spent time doing rather than writing. With hindsight I would change that and try to do both!
What do you hope young readers will take away from The Lightning Catcher?
I hope they’ll be inspired to persevere against the odds, just like Alfie! I also hope they’ll be curious about the scientific nuggets Alfie and Sam found. Most of all, I just want readers to enjoy the company of all the characters, perhaps go away with a soft spot for Whizzy, and laugh at Alfie’s zany humour.
You won the Northern Writers Award in 2016, what was the journey like after winning such a great award?
It was a very exciting journey, because there’s a special introduction to agents as part of the award, accompanied by a short one-day course on how to pitch your novel verbally. As it turned out, The Lightning Catcher attracted the attention of an agent a couple of years after I won the award, but it definitely made a difference because when people know your work has been taken seriously, they take a closer look.
What advice do you have for young aspiring writers?
Write and read as much as you can, and experiment with different styles. It can be useful to find a favourite passage, character or theme in a book you love and try to figure out why it’s working so well, and what aspects of that technique you could apply to your own writing. Most of all, have fun with the characters and keep notebooks or files of funny or silly little things you’ve noticed in the world around you. Often it’s the smallest things that can be worked up into the best stories. I wish I’d started smaller earlier, as I spent a lot of my teenage years (and early twenties) waiting for that big plot idea to land, as I didn’t realised plots could be grown from small seeds.
Lastly, what are you currently reading?
I’m reading The Wolf Road by Richard Lambert, and loving it. It has one of the most gripping openings I’ve ever read, and I can’t wait to see what else he’s written.
The Lightning Catcher by Clare Weze | Bloomsbury | Paperback £6.99
About the Author
Clare Weze grew up in London and Yorkshire and has British and Nigerian heritage. She writes for both adults and children and has always written around her day job, starting out as a hairdresser in London’s West End, then moving on to a science degree, postgraduate studies and work in the fields of biomedical and environmental research.