Today we travel to the East Sussex coast, in the UK town of Bexhill on Sea, to chat with Claire Baldry. She and I discuss how being a retired headteacher, type 1 Diabetes, the speaker circuit, poetry, Jane Austen, and being a compulsive multi-tasker come together as part of Claire’s past and current writing life.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m a retired headteacher and English Advisor, and I now live on the East Sussex coast in the UK town of Bexhill on Sea with my husband Chris. Chris has had type 1 Diabetes for most of his adult life, so we have done a lot of fundraising for Diabetes UK. In 2017, we were awarded the SE Diabetes UK fundraising Inspire Award.
I started writing light-hearted poetry when Chris was rushed into hospital in 2012, and I was confined at home for several months as a carer while he was recovering. He no longer needs full-time care, but once I began to write, I couldn’t stop. I’m now on the speaker circuit, performing my poetry, and talking to groups about my writing and how Chris’s disability impacts on our lives.
How many published books do you have?
I’ve now published five booklets of amusing poetry, an autobiographical novella and two novels. The poetry is mostly light-hearted, though I do throw in the occasional more serious verse.
In what genre do you write?
I enjoy writing about older protagonists, and both my novels have a central theme of ‘love in later life’. I’m passionate about promoting books and poetry with issues which appeal to readers in mid-life and beyond. I have created a popular website called ‘Books for Older Readers’ which contains a wide variety of virtual book shelves where readers can browse and discover books with themes such as second chances, intergenerational relationships, and career changes in later life.
What does your ideal writing space look like?
At home I have a large area with a desk in a spare bedroom which I have set aside for writing and I never use it. To me it feels too isolated. I always creep back into our living room with my laptop and write in a corner sitting on the sofa. I just cut myself off from anyone else in the room and concentrate on my writing. I think my years of primary school teaching taught me to ignore noise. Having said that, there are only two of us at home now. If I lived in a house full of noisy dogs and toddlers, I might be grateful for a bespoke writing space.
If you could have a fantasy tea or coffee date with an author from the past who would it be, and what would you ask them?
Definitely Jane Austen. I love her sense of humour and am sure she would make me laugh. There is so much hidden feminism in her writing. I would like to know what experiences gave her such an advanced perception of Victorian society.
What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned about yourself through your writing?
I seem to have an unexpected interest in the psychology of people with traumatic pasts. I find myself wanting to empathise with them and understand their motives. So each of my seemingly conventional novels contain at least one character who has had a difficult past. Without wishing to give too much of the plots away, in ‘Different Genes’ there’s Bob who obsesses about the main female character with very dramatic consequences, and in ‘My Daughter’s Wedding’ we meet the lady who regularly goes to funerals and steals sandwiches.
What do you miss about being a kid?
Actually, not much. In childhood we have to take on other people’s values and obey their rules. I’m a bit of a control freak and I like to be in charge.
Describe the perfect solo date you’d take yourself on….
For me the whole idea of a ‘solo’ anything, fills me with horror. I hate being alone and always seek out company. I’m sure that’s one of the reasons I started writing after I retired. If I am not with other people, I make them up and write about them. My books and poetry are filled with my ‘pretend friends’.
Which of your personality traits has been most useful and why?
I am a compulsive multi-tasker. Why do one thing when you can do so many more? I always have a multitude of tasks in hand. This does sometimes cause me stress, but it is enormously useful when I am writing and marketing at the same time.
Tell us about your most recent book.
My most recently published novel, called ‘My Daughter’s Wedding’ is about the preparations for a wedding from the point of view of the mother of the bride. It includes an ‘older generation’ love story, but also explores the relationship between bride and mother at this emotional time.
It was a pleasure getting to know you through this interview Claire. Thank you for being a part of MTA! – Camilla
Where to find the book:
You can find it on Amazon or order it from most bookshops.
US Amazon: https://amzn.to/2Cfd3r4
UK Amazon: https://amzn.to/2rdQ9hp
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