Interview – Claire Merle


1. Why did you
choose to write a dystopian novel?

I began writing The Glimpse around early 2009. It
was based on an idea I’d had years earlier after attending a talk on the rise
of ADHD and the medicating of children. I started asking myself, ‘what will
happen if the number of people suffering mental health problems just continues
to go up and up?’ ‘How will we cope?’ ‘Why are more young people suffering than
ever before?’ There is no scientific test for ADHD and offering mind-altering
medication such as Ritalin for behavioral problems is riddled with complex
problems. So to answer your question, I didn’t set out to write a dystopian, I
set out to explore these issues. At the time I was writing my first draft, the
only dystopias I’d read were classics like 1984 and The Handmaid’s Tale.

2. How do you get
your ideas?

I love concept ideas. The Glimpse started off from
asking the question, ‘What would society be like if there was a test that
predicted how likely you were to become mentally ill?’ A story I’m revising at
the moment is about a girl who gets stuck in a time bubble, going backwards
through her life while everyone else is still going forwards. Often I’ll start
with a concept that intrigues and excites me and as I work on characters and
plot, the concept will shift, becoming unrecognizable from where I started out.
Sometimes I put two ideas together because I also like to find an emotional
axis that drives the story through the main character.

3. How important
is it to have a strong protagonist in a dystopian novel?

In his book ‘Elements of Fiction Writing’, Orson
Scott Card writes about how a character needs to have admirable qualities and
be someone the reader can look up to otherwise you probably wouldn’t want to
spend much time with them. After all, who would you prefer to work with:
someone who moaned and complained all day, or someone who inspired you, who
took action, who went after what they wanted? A strong protagonist is important
in almost any novel.  A main character with strong attitudes, convictions,
views, opinions and determination is going to be far more engaging than a main
character who can’t make decisions and has no strong sense of point of view or
attitude. However, it’s all about balance and ultimately what you wish to
communicate and what sort of emotions you want your reader to experience. Make
your protagonist too strong and readers might not believe in him or her, or
relate to her.

4. What should
the opening to a dystopian novel include?

You want to try and get a sense of setting,
character and conflict (this doesn’t have to be your main conflict) on the
first page. The faster you can pull your reader into your story, the more
likely you are to keep them reading so it can be helpful when structuring your
opening to think about what excites you and fascinates you most about the story
you’re going to tell and how can you hint at, or convey these elements to your

5. What writing
tips can you give to our budding writers?

Persistence pays. It’s fairly usual for an author
to have their first novel published, so don’t get put off by rejection. I also
think finding somewhere to get peer feedback can be extremely helpful in
revising and polishing. It’s often far easier for someone else to pick up on
any plot holes or inconsistencies than the person who’s written the story.
Though, I would always suggest completing a first draft (or two) before you
show it to anyone else, and being careful about who you pick as a critique
partner. Someone who doesn’t like your writing style or your genre is probably
not the best person to ask for help. I have a free book on Wattpad full of
writing tips for anyone who wants more writing techniques that can help to hook
a reader.

6. What other dystopian novels have caught your eye?

I recently read ‘The House of the Scorpion’ by
Nancy Farmer. It’s the story of a boy cloned from the DNA of a drug lord.
It’s one of the most unique and beautifully written dystopians I’ve come
across. I’m currently reading ‘Free to Fall,’ by Lauren Miller. It’s set in a
near future where people’s lives are guided by Lux, an app that optimizes a
person’s decision making process by telling them what to do in any situation
for the best personal results. I found this idea, and the fact that it’s a
fast-paced thriller, intriguing. 

Here’s where you can find Claire online:




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