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Meet Clive Arup, with 'The Pixies of Little Wittenham'.

Updated: Oct 20, 2022

‘The Pixies of Little Wittenham’ is a magical story of mystery and fantasy, that teaches young children about the importance of communication and discussion to solve problems.


Partnership Publishing interviews Clive to discuss his journey into writing, his inspiration behind the book and some other interesting questions about his life.


Book Design and Illustration by Julia Palmer

What inspired you to start writing?

When I stopped working full-time I needed to find a creative outlet.


How long have you been writing?

I started writing in 2002 so about twenty years.


Have you always wanted to be a writer?

No. I was a Civil Engineer and only ever wrote reports which I hated.



What advice would you give a new writer, someone just starting out?

Write about something you know or feel.


How do you handle writer’s block?

Do something different and don’t start again until you are literally bursting to write.


What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of good writing?

Capturing the imagination of the reader and then keeping them interested.


What comes first, the plot or characters?

For me always the plot.


How do you develop your plot and characters?

I like to write about real events that I’ve experienced and real people I’ve met and fictionalise them to a greater or lesser degree.


How do you come up with the titles to your books?

With great difficulty!


When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I’m not sure I have ever called myself a writer, more a person who writes occasionally.


Describe your writing space.

it’s my office in a converted barn next to my house in a small village.


What time of the day do you usually write?

It is usually afternoon before I can create mental space for writing and often not at all.


What is the most difficult part about writing for you?

Getting started.


What is your work schedule like when you are writing?

When the mood takes me grab it.


What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

Something I call autofictography which is a combination of fiction and autobiography.


Do you hear from your readers much? What do they say?

I have asked a select group of acquaintances to read and critique my writing. They are generally very honest and I would change something if a number of them agree about a similar aspect.


What does success mean to you? What is the definition of success?

If someone enjoys reading something I’ve written that is success. My definition of success would be simply that.


Is writing your full-time career? Or would you like it to be?

No but I’d like to do more.


When you’re writing an emotionally draining (emotional, or sad, etc) scene, how do you get in the mood?

Mostly I’m recalling actual events so it’s quite easy to get in the mood.


Writing can be an emotionally draining and stressful pursuit. Any tips for aspiring writers?

For me it’s quite therapeutic and if approached in that way the stress can be neutralised.


How do you handle literary criticism?

I try to see it as constructive.


Is there lots to do before you drive in and start writing the story?

Just clearing the decks a bit so nothing is nagging me.


When writing a series how do you keep things fresh, for both your readers and also yourself?

I haven’t done this much but if I did I’d follow the Jed Mercurio rule of cliff hanger.


Describe your perfect book hero or heroine.

Someone who tackles problems the way you’d like to but can’t.


ABOUT YOUR BOOKS


What is the most surprising thing you discovered while writing your book?

The fact people/characters just emerge out of nowhere as I write.


Who is your favourite character?

Often that unexpected one that just emerges.


Where do you get your inspiration?

From life.


Where can readers find out more about you and your books?

I’m going to develop a website.


Which of your books were the most enjoyable to write?

My first novel although it remains unpublished.


Can you share a snippet that isn’t in the blurb or excerpt?

A series of children’s books based loosely on bedtime stories I told my children years ago.


Does one of the main characters hold a special place in your heart? If so, why?

Talgarth is a warrior for good.


What is the key theme and/or message in the book?

Negotiation is always good.


What do you hope your readers take away from this book?

The idea that animals have a natural tendency to co-exist


If you had to describe your main character in three words, what would those three words be?

An eco hero


If your book was to be made into a movie, who are the celebrities that would star in it?

It would be an animation with Bill Nighy voice over and maybe Rob Brydon.


What were the key challenges you faced when writing this book?

Making it interesting for children and parents.


What was the highlight of writing this book?

Working with the illustrator to bring the subject matter alive visually.


ABOUT OTHER AUTHORS, BOOKS AND READING


Who is your favourite author and why?

For a great story Neville Shute, for great literature Dostoyevsky


What are you reading now?

The Chief Witness by Sayragul Sauytbay


What book is currently on your bedside table?

Where the crawdads sing by Delia Owens


What books or authors have most influenced your own writing?

Neville Shute and Julia Donaldson


Who is the author you most admire in your genre?

Julia Donaldson


Favourite quote (doesn’t matter the source)

If you keep doing the same thing you’ll keep getting the same result.


Favourite book/story you have read as an adult

A town like Alice by Neville Shute


Favourite book when you were a kid

She by Ryder Haggard


What famous author do you wish would be your mentor?

Robert Harris


If you could ask one successful author three questions about their writing, writing process, or books, what would they be?

a) What makes you decide what tense to write in?

b) Do you have an ending in mind when you start?

c) Do you allow characters to express views that you have?


Do you listen to audiobooks? If so, are there any you’d recommend?

YES. Ugly dogs don’t cry by DD Armstrong


What do you like about audiobooks?

For me they are very practical


Do you have a library membership?

NO unless you count Amazon prime!


How many bookshelves are in your house?

About ten.


ABOUT YOU


What do you like to do when you are not writing?

I’m a bit of a news junkie and networker.


What did you want to be when you grew up?

Initially a train driver and then later a Civil Engineer.


What was your dream job when you were younger?

Consultant Engineer

What’s for dinner tonight? What would you rather be eating?

Pasta with pesto and spinach. Fresh fish.


What’s your favourite food?

Fish and seafood generally


What is the best part of your day?

Early evening.


Have you ever been on any sports teams? If so, what sport?

Yes many, cricket, rugby, golf.


Favourite artist and favourite song?

Joni Mitchel and Blue


Your hero?

Thomas Telford


If you could choose three people to invite for a dinner party, who would they be and why?

Howard Jacobson, Yuval Noah Harare and Hans Rosling to depress me, cheer me up and fact check everything respectively.


If you could invite one person to dinner, who would it be and what would you cook?

John Cleese and lobster


Share something your readers wouldn’t know about you.

I lived in Yemen for ten years


If you could only have one season, what would it be?

Spring.


If you had to describe yourself in three words, what would they be?

Quietly determined optimist


If you could cure a disease, what would it be?

Multiple Sclerosis


If you could choose celebrity parents, who would you choose?

I genuinely wouldn’t. but if pushed Arnold Palmer and his wife


If you were a tour guide, what would you like a visitor to see and what impression would you want them to take away with them when they leave?

The oldest pubs of London and the part they played in our history.


What’s your favourite spot to visit in your own country? And what makes it so special to you?

St Andrews in Scotland. It’s the home of golf.

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