Author Interview: Clare Pooley

Meet New York Times Bestselling author, Clare Pooley, and learn more about her writing journey and her new book, How to Age Disgracefully (Pamela Dorman Books, June 11 2024)!

From Amazon:
A senior citizens’ center and a daycare collide with hilarious results in the new ensemble comedy from New York Times-bestselling author Clare Pooley

Praise for How to Age Disgracefully:
“Clare Pooley weaves together the most cleverly flawed and lovable characters and then sets them free to prove that we are limitless at any age. HOW TO AGE DISGRACEFULLY is a love letter to the human spirit.”
Annabel Monaghan, bestselling author of Nora Goes Off Script

“Reading this book felt like a warm hug and its endearing, witty characters like old friends (Daphne is my hero!). I can’t recommend it enough.”
—Tess Amy, author of The Confidence Games

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We really enjoyed getting to know you, Clare. Thank you for stopping by!

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your published book(s).
I’m Clare Pooley. I spent nearly 20 years in the heady world of advertising before becoming a full-time writer. When I hit my mid-forties, I realized that my nightly wine habit was getting out of control and I (reluctantly) quit. I started writing an anonymous blog called Mummy was a Secret Drinker. That blog became my first published book – a memoir called The Sober Diaries. I then moved to fiction, publishing two bestselling feel-good novels – The Authenticity Project and The People on Platform 5 which have been translated into thirty languages. My latest novel – How to Age Disgracefully – is out in June!

Are any of your warm-hearted books and unforgettable cast of characters based on your family members or friends?
Ha ha! My children actually bought me a mug with a caption reading ‘be careful or you’ll end up in my next novel.’ None of my characters are based on any one person, but they are often an amalgamation of characteristics mined from people I know, sometimes myself!

What feelings does writing light-hearted fiction evoke for you?
Especially as you began with your Sober Diary Series. I started writing as therapy, as a way to deal with addiction, and to an extent I still do. I use writing to explore the things that make me angry (like ageism, homophobia, sexism), things that we struggle with (addiction, loneliness, feelings of inadequacy) and, ultimately, the things that make me feel better (love, community, kindness).

It may be too difficult to choose, but do you have a favorite novel you have written? Or perhaps a novel that you are most proud of? And what are the reasons for your selection?
Oh that’s so hard! You’re just like my children, who are always asking me to name a favourite, and of course I can’t! I still love the idea of The Authenticity Project the best – that little green notebook that travels between characters, weaving them together by their truths. In terms of characters, I have huge love and admiration for Iona Iverson in The People on Platform 5, but I think How to Age Disgracefully is the most laugh-out-loud funny book I’ve written.

Do you feel commercial fiction authors are facing particular challenges these days whether it be tied to politics, world issues, technology, or the environment?
I feel that we need feel-good fiction now, more than ever. When the world feels like a scary and dangerous place, we can escape into imaginary worlds for a while, and don’t we all need that? However, I worry that the art of storytelling, which is a profession as old as mankind, is being less appreciated, particularly with the advent of AI.

As an aging lover of this lighthearted good feel fiction genre, could you be a little open with the label ‘henlit’?After all, we are older. Smarter. And still fun.
HenLit is a genius name. My first novel was published when I was fifty, and it makes me so furious when older women are written off as irrelevant, when we are just coming into our powers. Ageism, towards women particularly, is a real focus of my novels, and I try to create characters who are older, smarter and definitely still fun!

In your latest book coming out this May, How to Age Disgracefully, who would you cast if it became a
movie or series?
My favourite character is a seventy-year-old kick-ass woman with a mysterious past called Daphne. In my mind, she is absolutely Helen Mirren. The lead male character, a failed actor turned kleptomaniac called Art is very like Bill Nighy!

What line or passage in How to Age Disgracefully stands out for you the most? Do you have any other passages in any of your books that really stand out for you?
I do love my epigraphs! They usually set the tone for the whole novel. In How to Age Disgracefully I use
some lines from Dylan Thomas: ‘Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light.’ In The Authenticity Project I quote Leonard Cohen: ‘Ring the bells that still can ring, Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything; That’s how the light gets in.’

When did it dawn on you that you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember! I’ve always been a voracious reader, and from the moment I discovered Roald Dahl, C.S. Lewis and Enid Blyton I thought how miraculous it must be to be able to create whole people and worlds like that.

Tell us what a typical writing routine looks like for you and how long does it take you from idea to the time you finish your final edit on most of your books?
I write my first drafts really quickly – in about three months. I see them as a rough pencil sketch which I need before layering on colour and light and shade. It’s only when I have that first draft down that I really know what, and who, I’m working with. I start my writing day before I even open my eyes. I wake up early – around 5am, and I visualize my next scene in my head, as if I’m still dreaming. I’m convinced that this is the most creative time of the day – before real life intrudes. I then spend the next four hours or so writing that scene. I never write new material in the afternoon. Afternoons are for editing, marketing and admin. Once I’ve written my first draft, I spend about another three months crafting it before spending to my editors in London and New York, and a further six months editing with them. The whole cycle takes around a year.

Besides getting lost in your writing, what else do you love to do?
Cornwall is my happy place, so I love to escape there with my two border terriers, for long cliff walks and wild swimming. And I adore cooking and eating with my family and, of course, reading.

Who are some of your favorite authors and why?
I’m a huge fan of David Nicholls, who combines wit and emotion so beautifully. Few writers can make
me laugh and cry the way he does. John Boyne is another great love – The Heart’s Invisible Furies is one of my all-time favourite novels. And two grand dames of literature (although very different!): Jilly Cooper and Margaret Atwood, who are both still rocking the literary world, well into their eighties.

Any advice you like to give to aspiring writers today?
When you write, try not to think about your audience. Write for yourself, write what you need to write, not what you think people want to read. That’s the way you’ll find that thing publishers always talk about: your unique voice.

For your loyal fans, is there anything in the pipeline you can tell us about?
I’m in the very early stages of my fourth novel, but to tell you anything more might jinx it!

Do you think there’ll ever be a day when you’ll want to stop writing stories and why?
Absolutely not. The great thing about loving your job the way I do is that I’d do it even if it paid me nothing, and no-one wanted to read my stories. But I very much hope it won’t come to that!

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