Stephen Clarke is a British journalist and novelist. He was born in St. Albans, England, on 15 October 1958, and now lives in Paris, where, according to the biographical notes in his novel Dial M for Merde, he "divides his time between writing and not writing."
Before publishing his "Merde" novels, Clarke wrote comedy sketches for BBC Radio 4 and comic-book stories for the U.S. cartoonist and comics artist Gilbert Shelton. He spent several years working in Glasgow as a bilingual lexicographer for the dictionary firm HarperCollins. He then moved to Paris, France to work for a French press group, and has now lived there for more than a decade. (bio via HERE)
Merci Beaucoup to Stephen Clarke for agreeing to be interviewed for Reading is Fashionable... it was truly a delight... a lot of laughs doing this interview...
Where are you from?
The south of England, Bournemouth - a sort of Venice Beach without the pelicans. Or the surfers and skateboards. Or, quite often, the sun.
When and why did you begin writing?
When I was five, because my teacher told me to.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Good question - actually, not until I actually had a book published, though I'd already written five unpublished novels. Not until it was my job. Which is wrong, really, you're a writer as soon as you write anything, published or not.
Do you have a specific writing style?
Yes, I think so. That's what every writer needs - a way of saying things that is their own. People ask me to write things because they think that the way I say things is going to be fun. It's a question of outlook - what you notice about life and what it makes you think, and you have to make it personal.
How did you come up with the title A Year in the Merde?
There was a famous book with a similar title, about the "difficulties" of living in Provence. I was writing about the much less poetic problems of settling into a job in Paris, living in tiny apartments, battling with bureaucrats and mangling the French language, and tried to come up with a word that was the opposite of Provence. And it was merde.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Not really, I just want them to have a laugh.
How much of the book is realistic?
All of it. It either happened to me, or to friends, or is a mishmash of the two. And that's why the French like my books too - it's all based on observation rather than cliché and prejudice. I live here, I write about things I see, and the French hold up their hands and tell me, you're right, that's exactly what we're like. Of course they're proud of it.
What books have most influenced your life most?
My diary - it tells me what to do and when. It also contains my address in case I forget it.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
Humorists like Douglas Adams and Spike Milligan, and novelists like Dickens and Zola who simply sat down and worked through a story to the end. There's a lot of stamina involved in actually finishing a book. Lots of people don't make it.
What book are you reading now?
I can't type answers to an interview and read at the same time. This isn't an iPad.
Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Yes, Shakespeare. He's very new in geological terms. Actually, he is new - when you read Shakespeare, the number of expressions he invented, his imaginative way of expressing ideas, it's all very new and inspiring.
What are your current projects?
I'm getting my bike repaired - it has a wonky wheel. Oh you mean writing? I have a book coming out in the UK at the end of March called Paris Revealed, so I'm preparing the talks I'm going to be giving about what makes the city really tick (as opposed to what the guidebooks tell you).
An alien called Dfthrygygyfhshdtr (pronounced Blip) who set up my website in about three seconds. I paid him in toenail clippings - he doesn't understand money at all.
Do you see writing as a career?
I hope so. If it turns out to be just a hobby, my bank manager is going to be very unhappy.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Yes, I'm never totally satisfied. Every time I reread a book of mine, even when it's been printed and I'm preparing a reading, I want to make changes. That word's not quite right, that sentence could be shorter, that joke would have worked better if ... It drives my publishers mad because I'm always saying "can I reread it one more time?" But then perfectionism is just a way of showing your passion for something. If you don't care, neither will the readers.
Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Yes, here's the first word of my new book: "When". I never reveal work until it's published. It's like giving someone undercooked potatoes.
Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
I don't have to, but I love to. I get invited all over the world to do talks, readings and signings, and it's always fun. I just got back from four days in Lithuania - my books do well there. I think because they have a British-style deadpan humour. The mayor of the city gave a speech to the authors arriving at the Vilnius book fair, saying "We thank the foreign authors for coming to Lithuania despite the recent bankruptcy of our national airline." Beautiful.
Did you learn anything from writing your latest book and what was it?
Yes, I learned a huge amount about Paris. Why is it so romantic? Why is it a fashion capital? How does the city make sure it always looks so good in the movies? Why this hands-on obsession with food? And are the Parisians really as sexy as they think they are? That's why it's called Paris Revealed - it's the city doing a kind of striptease.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Yes, Dan Brown, come to Paris, have a good look around and then rewrite all your descriptions of the city. Jean-Paul Sartre, lighten up, life is hard enough without you adding to the misery. And Charles Dickens, bring out a new book soon - this business of keeping your public waiting has gone on much too long.
YOU can purchase Stephen Clarke books HERE !!!