Welcome to Angela Clarke, author of Trust Me.
Before I was a writer, I was a reader. And before I was a reader I was a storyteller. I’ve always loved telling and hearing stories, whether it was an exaggerated anecdote or a gripping piece of drama from a friend, or, more likely, when I was a kid, something I’d made up. I would construct elaborate tales to tell my younger brother, who, proving the ideal audience, never interrupted. I’d then tell them again to my parents and my Gran. Poor them, getting all my practice of narrative arc in a stream of conscious style! There was pretty much only one way to shut me up, and that was to read to me. And that love of stories shared and told has shaped my life, and, ultimately, my work.
I’ve learned practical skills from the masters. And my young female protagonists, Freddie and Nas in the Social Media Murder Series, though very different from each other, share traits with some of my most beloved characters. They’re funny, ballsy, brave, and have the drive and determination to follow their hearts, and do what they believe is the right thing. I’m nowhere near as good as the writers in my list, but I’ll keep returning to them over and over, in the hope that a little of their magic rubs off on me. Here are the ten books that have shaped me, my life, and my writing:
- Princess Smartypants by Babette Cole
I took this book out of the library week after week after week as a kid. It was my absolute favourite. I loved the spunky Princess who doesn’t want to kiss the frog to turn him into a prince. Instead she gives him a helmet and rides off on a motorbike to have excellent adventures. Cole delighted me by subverting the expected narrative, and seeded feminism in me.
- I Capture The Castle by Dodie Smith
I love this charming classic that explores the delicious sweet agony of first love. It has an astounding opening line that promises great things: ‘I write this sitting in the kitchen sink’. I dream of writing an opener as perfect as that.
- The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde
Though a play, rather than a book, I read this text before I saw it performed. My brother recommended it to me as a GCSE free-choice text, as he thought I would enjoy the humour. He was right, and he started my life-long love affair with Wilde’s wit.
- Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
As a crime writer, I have to include a Christie in my list. She’s the high priestess of the art form. And Orient Express is one of her stand out shockers. That ending is exceptional, and floored me the first time I read it. Plus, spending time with Hercule Poirot and his little grey cells is always joyful.
- A Rebours by Joris-Karl Huysmans
I read this in translation during university and loved the decadent description of the protagonist who seeks as many aesthetic sensations as possible. In The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, Basil speaks of a dangerous yellow book which corrupts the eponymous Dorian, in a thinly veiled reference to A Rebours. As of yet, I haven’t stashed a secret painting in my attic.
- Fiesta: The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
I read Hemingway quite late in my reading life, only in the last few years. But he offers a masterclass in tight impactful prose. So much is there in so few words. Before editing my latest first draft I often re-read Fiesta to get my eye in, and help scythe the dead wood. Hemingway knows how to make his prose sing.
- Save The Cat by Blake Snyder
What is a non-fiction guide to screenwriting doing in my list? Well Snyder’s break down of pretty much every story ever told into a small number of formulaic beat sheets blew my mind. It also helped crystallise and name techniques and patterns I was innately following in my own work. It’s my most recommended book to anyone who wants to write across any platform.
- Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
Another university discovery, Woolf’s progressive stream of consciousness text struck home as one of the first female perspectives, written by a female author, I encountered in mainstream academia. She’s a literary hero of mine.
- The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets by Eva Rice
In 2013 I was very unwell and my mobility was compromised for almost a year. During that time, a friend recommended me this book as a pick me up. And it certainly did that: enchanting escapism I can recommend it to anyone who’s feeling under the weather.
- Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough
A recent addition, but Sarah’s cross-genre smash hit thriller blew me away. It has the kind of twist I think it’s virtually impossible to predict, and serves as a reminder to always push myself and my own work. There’s new boundaries out there to be broken!
Trust Me (Social Media Murder Series #3) by Angela Clarke is published 15th June 2017.
Angela is a bestselling author, screenwriter and presenter. The second instalment in her Social Media Murder Series Watch Me, shot straight up to number 15 in the UK Paperback Chart in January 2017. Her debut crime thriller Follow Me was named Amazon’s Rising Star Debut of the Month January 2016, long listed for the Crime Writer’s Association Dagger in the Library 2016, and short listed for the Dead Good Page Turner Award 2016.
Follow Me has been optioned by a TV production company. Angela’s humorous memoir Confessions of a Fashionista is an Amazon Fashion Chart bestseller. Angela hosted book show Tales From Your Life on BBC 3 Counties, the current affairs radio show Outspoken on Radio Verulam in 2015, and has appeared regularly as a panel guest on BBC 3 Counties, BBC Radio 4, and the BBC World Service, among others.
In 2015 Angela was awarded the Young Stationers’ Prize for achievement and promise in writing and publishing. Angela, a sufferer of the debilitating chronic condition Ehlers Danlos III, is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, volunteers with Womentoring, Meet a Mentor and at HM Prisons. She is passionate about bringing marginalised voices into the industry. You can find out more about her at www.AngelaClarke.co.uk
Get a free short story and writing advice by Angela here.