Today I welcome American author Janet Clare to Behind the Pen. Her debut novel, Time is the Longest Distance, is being released on December 11 by Vine Leaves Press, an Australian small press.
When did you start writing and what was the catalyst?
I started writing seriously about twenty-five years ago, and I wasn’t a kid. I always loved to read and I greatly admired writers, and dreamed of being one myself. However, I admit that part of the catalyst was that my ex-husband had come out with a very decent non-fiction book and I was extraordinarily upset, perhaps childishly so. I was a bit like the wife who puts her husband through medical school and then he takes off with his nurse. Although, in my case, I was the one who initiated our breakup, a therapist asked if I was sorry we weren’t together for what I saw as his success. After thinking about it, I decided, no, I wanted it for myself. And, for me success was finishing my novel. The true reward was finding the great joy of writing.
What is your favourite scene and why?
This is difficult. My novel is short and therefore I think all the scenes are just as necessary. I would have to say an early scene where Lilly travels to Los Angeles after her mother has summoned her, which pretty much establishes who Lilly is. Then, of course, a scene much later that I won’t reveal because it would be giving away too much. Guess, you have to read the book!
What inspired your novel?
Years ago, I heard about a man who, having spent most of his life in the United States, returned home to Australia for his father’s funeral only to find he had a whole other family living on the other side of the country. It started me thinking about that vast land, and all the spaces where we hide ourselves. How separate we can be from people – often family and those we love – who we see every day. And, too, the longing for those lost from our lives.
How would you best describe this novel to a new reader?
It’s a story of discovery and yearning. An American woman traveling in an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar people, and she’s related to them. It’s a story about exploring secrets and re-examining decisions.
How much research do you do? How do you balance the demands of getting the facts right telling a good story?
I did quite a bit of research for this book. Lot’s of reading, checking facts through various websites. I had so much information. Maybe too much. My teacher and mentor, the late Les Plesko, gave the best advice about research and fiction. Do it, and then forget it. In other words, for the most part just let what you’ve learned seep in, let it become a part of you. So that it becomes a part of the work.
How much planning do you do? Do you plot the entire story from beginning to end, or let it evolve naturally as the writing progresses? In terms of characters, are they already a firm picture in your mind or do they develop a personality of their own as the story progresses?
I make notes. Scraps of paper, post-its. Some that have nothing to do with what I’m writing, but nevertheless may work their way in. Never an outline. I admire people who do it, but I can’t. I have an idea, a point of view, and a place, which is very important to me, and obvious in Time Is the Longest Distance. My protagonist might come from someone I see, which was the beginning for my second novel. I’m always curious about interesting strangers, what their story might be. So, I try to listen, (I confess to being a terrible eavesdropper, though I also ask questions if it’s appropriate), then I just make it up. Start and see where it goes, which is often never where I would have thought at the outset.
Do you have an all-time favorite book? Why is this book significant to you?
I think if I had to narrow it down, it would have to be Beryl Markham’s, West With the Night. I first read it a very long time ago, and frankly, I should read it again. But it’s just a wonderfully brave, true account of an amazing woman. It’s also a love affair. And, it’s Africa. What could be better? This book is part of why I wanted to travel to Africa, and I did, after surviving a catastrophic illness that wasn’t. I went on my own. Though with none of the dashing bravery of Markham.
Drink you enjoy every day?
Easy. Coffee. Then more coffee.
Fashion accessory that despite having plenty you still keep collecting?
Love a fashion question. Scarves. You could always use another, fresh one, right? And, they’re easy to buy, no taking off your clothes to try it on!
Favourite place to be?
Anywhere I’m not. And, near the ocean.
Time is the Longest Distance
Set in the harsh desert of the Australian outback, Time Is the Longest Distance is a moral story of immorality in a place where “night comes on like a door slamming shut.”
Lilly, a 45-year-old New Yorker, is persuaded by her newly-found father, Cameron, to take on the Canning Stock Route, the most difficult outback track in the country. Crossing the dead heart of the Great Sandy and Gibson deserts, she is joined by her half-brother, Grant, and his twenty-something daughter, Jen.
Like a moon walker far from her life, Lilly becomes entangled in an unlikely love affair and a witness to an unsavoury death. The hard days and long nights provide time and space for Lilly to recall the years with her ex-husband, Stephen, artist and all-around drunk—the greatest love and disappointment in her life—forcing her to examine her own imperfections as she learns, first-hand, about the power and destruction of secrets, sexual taboos, and the thrill of transgression.
Released on 11th December 2018
Available for Pre-order from Amazon