Welcome to another Friday Reads blog. My featured book this week is Last One At The Party, a gripping debut thriller by author Bethany Clift. Let’s find out a bit more about the book then we can chat to Bethany. 😊
HER NEW LIFE BEGAN AT THE END OF THE WORLD
It’s December 2023 and the world as we know it has ended.
The human race has been wiped out by a virus called 6DM (‘Six Days Maximum’ – the longest you’ve got before your body destroys itself).
But somehow, in London, one woman is still alive. A woman who has spent her whole life compromising what she wants, hiding how she feels and desperately trying to fit in. A woman who is entirely unprepared to face a future on her own.
Now, with only an abandoned golden retriever for company, she must travel through burning cities, avoiding rotting corpses and ravenous rats on a final journey to discover if she really is the last surviving person on earth.
And with no one else to live for, who will she become now that she’s completely alone?
Your book sounds fascinating, Bethany. Have you always wanted to be a writer?
Yes. I think I *was* a writer before I *wanted* to be one. I have always written. I started writing poetry when I was about nine – long rambling odes with far too many rhyming couplets! I then moved onto writing TV and film and finally novels. I wrote for twenty years before writing became my main source of income. I remember reading a brilliant article about someone whose father had died and she had found 20 unpublished manuscripts in his desk drawer and was devastated that she had never known about his writing and that he had never seen his work published. I understood her emotional reaction but also understood his secret obsession. I think if you are a writer, at some point, you realise it is just something you do, it is a fundamental part of who you are. If I never had another book published, I would still write. I am still a writer, even if no one reads what I write.
Has any author inspired you?
I have lots of authors that I love, admire and envy but tend to be most inspired by the writers whose work ethic is as admirable as the work they produce. Being a professional writer is hard. Ideally – for most of us – you need to be writing a book a year (at least) in order to earn a basic living. This strict schedule leaves very little time for writer’s block or rewrites or taking long walks to gather inspiration! A lot of the time it is early mornings, late nights and weekends spent trying to hit deadlines and still write well. So, authors who manage to write more than one book a year blow my mind! The sheer creativity and hard work that this must take is incredible! Prolific writers – you are an inspiration and I doff my metaphorical hat to you!
What do you like writing most?
Oooh, interesting. I like writing tent pole chapters – those chapters where everything has been building nicely and then BAM something happens that throws a spanner in everyone’s works! I wrote a few into LAST ONE AT THE PARTY and have a couple that I love in my new novel LOVE AND OTHER HUMAN ERRORS – particularly one that is set at a New Year’s Eve party and another in a board meeting! I’m not sure if it is possible to make a board meeting exciting but I have given it a good go!
That sounds intriguing! Do you have a special place for writing?
Sort of. I have a writing chair in my front room (it is my sister’s old breastfeeding chair – a very comfy rocking chair) and, when I can, I write there. It is the front window alcove of the house, the sun streams in and our dog lies at my feet so it is pretty idyllic…BUT my house is quite small and, because of Covid, my front room has had children in it for the majority of the last two years! So I write when I can, where I can. Today I am writing in my writing chair but last week I was doing line-edits whilst sitting on my bed and the week before I had to lock myself in the bathroom to write at one point because the kids were isolating after testing positive for Covid and they were all up in my FACE! So, in an ideal world I have my writing spot, but in reality I am a writing nomad 😊
I love that phrase ‘a writing nomad’😊 . Are you a pantster or a plotter?
Unfortunately, I am not a plotter… but that is not for lack of trying! Every time I start a novel I plaster my entire kitchen wall in coloured cards, breaking the narrative down beat by beat, chapter by chapter; the cards stay on the wall for the whole writing process and I probably look at them twice – once when I put them up and once when I take them down! Some novelists are able to plan a novel for months before writing a word and can then write the novel straight through following the plan. Unfortunately, that is not me. I write around my characters and situations and need to write about them for them to become fully formed. So, for LOATP was originally around 800 pages, only 300 of which made the final cut and for LOVE AND OTHER HUMAN ERRORS I actually did an entire re-write from third to first person narrative at one point – AN ENTIRE REWRITE! It makes me feel slightly nauseous when I think about the amount I write and then discard but I have come to realise that is my process, my characters develop as I write them and get to know them. Unfortunately, there is no short cut!
Is your writing ever inspired by your family or real life incidents?
I think all writing is built upon personal experience in some way. I like to think that I take my very small and measured experience and amplify it in a way that resonates loud enough for others to hear and relate to. I always think that fiction works best when it is based on reality, that we empathise with what we recognise within fictional works. There has to be some element of truth – ordinary characters in extra-ordinary situations or extra-ordinary characters in ordinary situations. In the case of LOATP – because it is written in first person- there is a natural inclination to imagine that the character is based upon me, but she is far braver than I. She is the me that I wish I could be in a situation I hope never to encounter. I also think that are some situations that would be very hard to write about if you have never experienced them – falling in love for example. I think there are some things that you have to experience in order to write about them with depth – and it is that depth of emotion that draws the reader in, then ensnares them in your web.
What are you writing at the moment?
The paperback for LOATP is out on February 17th which is very exciting and my second novel LOVE AND OTHER HUMAN ERRORS is out on August 4th. It is a romance novel about someone who has never been in love before falling in love for the first time. I can’t say too much about what is coming after unfortunately because it is all still in development but I have just finished the series outline for a TV show that I have written with my Mum! It was such an interesting and fun thing to do. We worked so well together and she is a brilliant writing partner – her creativity blew me away. I am working on my third novel at the moment and am hoping to be able to talk about that soon and I am also in the early stages of writing a sequel to LAST ONE AT THE PARTY. Finally(!) my husband and I are finishing the series outline for a sci-fi TV series which is HUGELY exciting. He is my favourite writing partner so I have been having a blast. I’m pretty busy!
That all sounds amazing. What inspired you to write this book?
In 2018 I was driving home through the English countryside late one night and I became lost. I had no idea where I was, no phone signal and there hadn’t been a road sign for miles.
I pulled over and got out of the car.
It was the beginning of January, about 10.30pm, the air was crisp and clear and the sky a celestial bedspread of stars. I became aware of the utter stillness around me. There were no houses, no cars, no airplanes buzzing overhead. I couldn’t hear road noise or any other human-made sound. It was so quiet I could hear the cows loudly chewing grass in the field next to me.
I was completely alone.
And then I thought, what if I wasn’t just the only one here? What if the reason it was so quiet was that I was the only one anywhere; that I was the only one left alive in the whole world. What would I do next?
I didn’t know it at the time, but this became the idea for LAST ONE AT THE PARTY.
That sounds a very surreal – and spooky – experience! What time of the day do you write best?
Early. I am always best first thing. When I am nearing a deadline I often wake up at 4am in order to get a few hours done before the rest of the house wakes up. I am not great in the middle of the day – I have a creativity slump – and I always have a nap after lunch if I can. I nap for fourteen minutes. Exactly. I am very lucky in that I can drop off extremely quickly and I find that fourteen minutes is my optimum nap time – I often wake up without an alarm. I am a huge believer in the disco nap 😊
What are your hobbies?
Hahahahahahahahahahahahaha! Two kids, writing, housework, family, friends and you STILL expect me to have time for hobbies?! Ha! Okay…I like to garden. A lot. If I won the lottery I would have an amazing garden – right now it’s a bit…bitty. If I had more time it would be fabulous. I also like to bake – I normally only make the time to do it on special occasions so my family always get homemade birthday/anniversary cakes from me – whether they like it or not. And – just to balance the gardening and baking – I love DIY. Give me a power-tool and I’m a happy woman 😊
What advice would you give to other writers?
I have two! The first is – WRITE IT. WRITE IT. WRITE IT. WRITE IT. Seriously – write it. Frank Cottrell-Boyce has this great piece of advice where he says that when you are writing a first draft you should just ‘slap it down.’ And he is right – slap that first draft down – don’t expect it to be perfect, don’t even expect it to be good – slap it down and worry about it later. You can’t edit a blank page (also not my pearl of wisdom, but a very good one.) Write it and then make it good later. You can’t make it better if you haven’t written it in the first place.
The second piece of advice is – practice your art. We don’t tell stories to each other anymore, we don’t lounge around the campfire, we don’t sit round the dinner table, we don’t even make up stories to tell our kids. So you need to practice your art – learn to tell a good story – to a live audience. Don’t write it down, tell it. Tell stories to people – about your day, about your life, about something that happened at Asda. Learn how to entertain with your storytelling. You’ll soon discover where your strengths are and where you lose your audience and need to improve. Become a raconteur – it is quick and it is easy and it is free and it will make you a brilliant storyteller which, after all, is what we are all trying to be 😊
That’s brlliant advice. Thanks so much for dropping by to talk to us today, Bethany. Wishing you lots of success with your book, and future writing.
Bethany Clift is a graduate of the Northern Film School, the producer of low-budget British horror film Heretic, and the Director of her own production company, Saber Productions. Her debut novel, Last One at the Party, was published by Hodder & Stoughton in 2021 and the television rights have been optioned by Scott Free Films. Her second novel, Love and Other Human Errors, will be published in August 2022 and she is currently working on her third novel as well as a two television series.
Twitter – @beth_clift
Karen King – Writing about the light and dark of relationships.
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Karen-King/e/B0034P6W7I