Thursday 14 March 2013

Secret Serendipity Seven with Claire McFall

Another new author feature on the blog today – Secret Serendipity Seven, where an author tells us seven secrets about their latest book. First to share their secrets is debut author Claire McFall, who recently published Ferryman which I will be reviewing later today.
Number 1 – a tale of two halves
I don’t know if this is meant to be a secret or not… but Ferryman didn’t originally end where it ends now.  Not even close.  When I first submitted the novel to my agent (Ben Illis @ A M Heath) it finished at the ultimate moment of betrayal – when Dylan walks across the line.  Mostly I stopped there because I truly honestly didn’t know what came next.  But – and I have to agree – that was far too sad.  Dylan deserved a happier ending, and so did Tristan.  So back to the drawing board I went and churned out 30,000 words in a weekend (the maddest weekend of my life!) and the world beyond the wasteland was born.  
Number 2 – Sorry Miss Parsons!
Miss Parsons – Dylan’s evil registration teacher, is a real person – and a real teacher!  She’s the head of the English Dept at my old school and she is absolutely not a cow, as Dylan describes her.  Miss Parsons very kindly let me use her name in the story because I like things to be as real as possible.  And her classroom is decorated with lots of brightly coloured posters that cheer the place up J
Number 3 – how much Scots is too much?
I’m Scottish, and Ferryman (in the real world at least) is set in Scotland.  Because of that, I think there’s a definite Scottish flavour about some of the writing.  What I discovered during the editing process, was that words that were very familiar to me… were just plain weird south of the border!  For example, the horrible David MacMillan’s nickname – Dove – nearly didn’t survive the editing process.  In and around Glasgow, it’s a fairly common nickname for David… and it’s also an identifier.  If you’re called ‘Dove’ instead of David, it isn’t because you’re thought of as fluffy white, good and pure.  That one I managed to keep, but some phrases had to be chopped.  When Dylan walks past the shops at lunchtime, her thoughts on the train and not on going back to school, she’s truanting.  In Scotland, she’s ‘dogging’ it.  My editor kindly and very tactfully pointed out that if you’re not familiar with this word… well let’s just say there are a variety of ways it might be taken.  Oops.  
Number 4 – I hate up!
Dylan’s wasteland is MY fault.  When she expresses how much she hates PE?  Me again.  You should only run if you’re being chased.  Yes, by an axe-wielding murderer.  I actually run quite a lot these days, but that’s only because I like cake an awful lot. I don’t like it.  And I HATE up.  My husband tries to take me hill-walking, the definitive word being tries.  It just… it’s just… why?!?  It’s hard work, it gets you sweaty, your legs hurt, the weather up there is always miserable (rain, wind, sometimes snow!), there’s sheep and cow poop everywhere.  And then, when you reach the top, you just have to come back down!  Honestly, what is the point?
(If you love hill-walking, sorry!  And you totally have my awe.  But it’s not for me!)
Number 5 – I’m a tea-leaf!
The wraiths.  I pinched them.  Well, I didn’t pinch them exactly… but they didn’t spring from the font of my imagination.  Which is probably a good thing – I’d be worried if evil incarnate was lingering at the back of my head ready to journey forth!  Instead, they came from the film “Ghost”.  Now, “Ghost” came out in 1990 (wow – that makes me feel old!) and it starred Patrick Swayze who was – you’ve guessed it! – a ghost who was trying to get in touch with his girlfriend (Demi Moore) through a psychic, Whoopi Goldberg.  It has that really famous scene with Swayze and Moore and the pottery wheel and they get all covered in clay and “Unchained Melody” by the Righteous Brothers is playing in the background.  That’s the one!  Anyway, when EVIL Carl dies, these creepy, creepy, creepy black demon things swirl up from the ground and suck him back down to hell.  When I was seven and “Ghost” came out, they were the scariest things I’d ever seen!  So, when I needed an evil being, that’s what came to mind… so I nicked them.  Sorry, Paramount.
Number 6 – drowning is the scariest thing imaginable
Writing the scene where Dylan and Tristan crossed the lake and Dylan almost drowned was… horrible!  I literally felt like I couldn’t breathe when I was typing.  My chest got all tight and I went cold and clammy and before I knew it I was gasping and I had to stop.  You know when people ask you how you’re most afraid of dying? (People do ask that, right?  Or are my friends just weird?) Well I always say drowning.  Which is odd, because I’m a good swimmer, and I think I could tread water for a really long time.  
But what if you were TRAPPED under the water?  I have two nightmares: one, all my teeth fall out in pools of blood (I have lots of problems with my teeth and I’m really scared I’ll be Gappy McGaperson one of these days!) and two, I’m in the pool and the automatic pool cover comes over and traps me under there.   It FREAKS ME OUT.  I don’t do scuba diving, I hate submarines… and that BBC documentary where they went exploring in the sea under the ice shelf? I thought I was going to have a heart-attack.  
Maybe I should move to the desert?  I don’t think they have any ‘up’ there either…
Number 7 – to be continued…?
One of the things readers have said to me is that they want to know what happens next!  Is Dylan okay?  Does she get to meet her dad?  More
importantly – what about her and Tristan?  Is he human now?  Will they survive?  How’s he going to carve a life out of this world?
All valid questions.  At the moment, they’re questions without answer.  But I have to admit, I’m curious.  I don’t know if there’s enough fodder for a whole sequel.  But never say never.  And I want to know what happens to Tristan and Dylan, too.  I can just imagine his first day at Kaithshall Academy… the look on Cheryl’s face.  Dove’s reaction.  Ooh, it would be good. 
Hmmm. Maybe, maybe, maybe… 
Ferryman by Claire McFall published by Templar Publishing
To find out more about Claire McFall:


  1. Love this feature - very cool! 30,000 words in a weekend?! How?!

    1. Thank you! I have no idea how Claire managed that. I would be lucky to get five done!

  2. Wow you are amazing with your imaginative features. I am so lucky you help with mine too (hugs)


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