Hi Claire, thank you so much for joining me today. Can you tell me a little about your book, Saving Francesca Maier and what inspired it?
Saving Francesca Maier takes place over a summer in Berlin, when a family arrive to visit old friends in the city, disturbing secrets that have long lain dormant.
Having grown up in the UK, my first job as a young graduate was in Berlin and the book was inspired by those two transformative years in my life, during which I felt an exhilarating – and at times terrifying – sense of freedom. It seemed natural to put those intense emotions into the character of Francesca, an adolescent girl on the cusp of change when she’s brought to her father’s home country for the first time.
What’s your typical writing day like? Is there somewhere specific you like to write?
With two young children and a busy editorial business, my writing is often squeezed in at the edges of the day. I like to write before the rest of my family is awake but also find many of my ideas come when I’m not at my desk. Writing Saving Francesca Maier, quite a few plot ideas came to me whilst swimming and at least one of the scenes is inspired by a yoga pose!
What’s your favourite word and why?
In writing and in life I am always reminding myself to appreciate that people can make quite incredible transformations. It’s those transformations that can provide a lift and new momentum to a narrative and a sense of hope in life. Some of us are too often told that people can’t change and that’s when we get stuck in our place in life and our emotions. Reading novels can remind us that other paths are possible, and part of my writing has been inspired by the personal transformations of people I’ve known – especially those that come after many years of one way of being. There’s an important shift in mindset for one of the characters in Saving Francesca Maier which needed a catalyst but also required incredible bravery to stick to, once my character glimpsed that change was possible.
Which books have inspired you?
I’ve always loved novels which take place during a time of holiday – like Françoise Sagan’s Bonjour Tristesse, the story of a schoolgirl’s holiday romance (published when the author was only 18!) or Esther Freud’sLove Falls, in which 17-year-old Lara travels to a Tuscan villa for the summer. People can act so differently on holiday and there’s always an intensity of both place and time. There’s also something so special about travelling when young, that delicious first experience of a new place or culture.
Any advice for someone who is thinking of writing a novel or suffering writers’ block?
Working with writers as an editor, I’ve seen that different advice is suitable at different points in a writing project or life. Here are a few I’ve personally found useful. If writing is important to you, get your writing slot completed as early as possible each day – as there are too many other things that can hijack the day. If life’s too busy to write as much as you’d like to, commit to doing one thing each day to further your project. One decision, one photo as a prompt, one snippet of writing. Book clear writing dates of half a day or more in your diary. Take yourself out to write – don’t think you always have to write at your desk. The thinking and developing time is equally important to getting the word count down – though you do have to do that, of course!
My book 52 Dates for Writers – Ride a Tandem, Assume an Alias and 50 Other Ways to Improve Your Novel Draft is full of writing prompts and exercises inspired by my work with authors, useful for both those starting to write and those who need a new perspective on their novel to escape writer’s block.
What are you currently working on?
I’m currently writing a follow-up to Saving Francesca Maier, in which one of the German characters come to Edinburgh to work as an au-pair. She’s treated quite awfully by the family who hire her, and soon caught up in their outrageous demands of her. The placement is arranged by Francesca’s mother Imogen, so we also get to see how Francesca’s story unravels.
More about Claire:
Claire Wingfield lives in Scotland and writes novels and non-fiction as well as working as an editor and literary consultant, so her life is filled with books!
See Claire’s books at her Amazon author page here: www.amazon.co.uk or ask in a favourite bookshop.
Readers can sign up to Claire’s author newsletter at www.clairewingfieldauthor.com,
My review for Saving Francesca Maier:
Can you leave the past in another country?
Francesca Maier knows little of her father’s home country or her parents’ life together before she was born. A summer in Berlin brings the past – and its secrets – alive. Adrift in a foreign city, she finds an unexpected friend in east Berliner Antonio – but what will he sacrifice to save her?
‘Saving Francesca Maier’ probes the secrets every family hides and the choices we make in a volatile world.
Saving Francesca Maier is the first in the This City series from Claire Wingfield.
Francesca and her mother board a plan to Berlin at the beginning of the novel to meet Alex (husband/father.) Having wanted his wife and daughter to return with him for a holiday to his home country for years, Alex is excited. Imogen and Francesca not so much, especially when they have to stay with old friends. It’s not long before tension builds and secrets are in danger of spilling out.
This novel is a coming of age story for Francesca but I think it’s as much about the adults too – the dynamic between Anja, Richie, Alex and Imogen.
It’s obvious early on that there is tension between these characters and like Francesca, it’s hard to understand what’s going on until further on into the novel. Past really does clash with the present and shows how disruptive secrets can be.
The tension and mystery are rolled out well throughout the novel which made it compelling to read.
As a character, (although they are all pretty conflicted,) Francesca is trying to navigate being a teenager and having feelings she’s not felt before. Having been sheltered by her parents, she is experiencing freedom for the first time; something we can all empathise with. She is written so well and has a unique voice. I often forgot how old she was. Her voice was so mature in places.
The setting and descriptions in this book are wonderful. I have not been to Berlin but I felt immersed in it and got a real sense of the history.
This is a great start to a series I will definitely be keeping up with. I can’t wait to see what comes next. Loved it.