The vivacious Clare Fletcher (Photo: Anna Kucera/The Walkley Foundation)
Meet my August 1st Author Stalker victim, the vivacious Clare Fletcher, whose heart-warming debut novel Five Bush Weddings hits shelves tomorrow! https://www.penguin.com.au/books/five-bush-weddings-9781761046780
Clare, who studied journalism and business at QUT in Brisbane, works in communications at the Walkley Foundation for Journalism https://www.walkleys.com/ and once played in a charity Aussie rules game against Anthony Albanese, before he was PM.
'The charity Reclink does a series of AFL games around the country where a team of musicians (in Sydney, the Walers) plays against a team of media (the Sailors). Not sure how Albo swung his way onto the Walers, maybe with his DJ credentials. But it's a really fun day out. This year's Sydney Community Cup is on September 21st.' https://reclink.org/events/reclink-community-cup
She also once quit her job, and moved to New York in search of a magazine job straight out of a rom com - 'I never found one but did meet the love of my life. I met my husband at a concert - my favourite band (My Morning Jacket) was playing five shows in a week, one album each night. The first night we'd both gone alone and we got chatting as two very tall people standing politely up the back.' (Who needs Carrie and Big! Shelley.xx)
I had the absolute pleasure of meeting Clare at fellow author Cassie Hamer's book launch in May, for her latest release, The Truth About Faking It https://www.harpercollins.com.au/9781489292995/the-truth-about-faking-it/
Clare's bubbly personality, and genuine excitement at meeting fellow Penguin author Sandie Docker, https://www.penguin.com.au/books/the-wattle-island-book-club-9781760890377 made me reach out to see if she was willing to be stalked, for my little ol' blog. Clare said yes, and two days later I was lucky enough to be holding an ARC of Five Bush Weddings in my hand.
This romantic comedy was such an uplifting read, something we could all use a bit of right now, where the characters really came to life and had me quickly turning the pages. I loved attending all the country weddings with photographer Stevie, and I must admit...I kind of fell in love with Johnno West 😍
I have always had a bit of an obsession with all things WEDDING. When I got engaged to Mr Author Stalker back in the early 1990's, I used to stop at random churches whenever I saw a wedding car pull up, just to catch a glimpse of the bride. At one stage I even considered becoming a wedding planner, but valued my weekends too much. I figured I had worked enough weekends and shift work during my nursing days, so instead I chose to live vicariously and made the female protagonist in my own WIP a wedding planner!
Five Bush Weddings takes you from outback Queensland, to the stunning Greek islands. While reading, I messaged Clare and sent her a quote from her novel:
‘Then she noticed an old woman sitting in her doorway, a million stories carved into the lines of her face…’
Asking Clare about the scene she said 'When Stevie heads to Greece, to shoot a destination wedding, she takes some time to explore the local village and take photos of everyday people, thinking about all the other kinds of stories she isn't telling in her work as a wedding photographer.'
Clare kindly gave me permission to share that line. I said that the imagery created from her words was so beautiful.
So often we see a photograph and long to know the story behind the image. And in Five Bush Weddings, Stevie (or Clare) tells us the stories behind the photos she captures, via some cute Instagram posts @StevieJeanLoveStories. Sadly the Instagram account isn't real, yes...I did check...hoping to do a little more wedding stalking.
But now, without further ado, I will hand you over to the fabulous Clare.xx
Q1: What was your inspiration for this story and how long did it take you to
write the first draft?
A: My sister married her longtime partner in an old shed on his parents' cotton farm in 2016, and her wedding photographer was a real character. I thought a wedding photographer would be a great protagonist for a rom-com -- with a front row seat to all the drama and romance and silliness of weddings -- and for setting I instinctively went back to the small towns and parties I grew up in around country Queensland. As the story took shape, I realised I was trying to tell a bigger story about how youth and love sustain small communities.
The first draft took about 18 months. I started in January 2019, preparing to do the Year of the Novel course at Writing NSW, and I finished and sent off the draft to my writing group the day before my daughter was born, in early May 2020. It’s the journalist in me - I love a hard deadline!
Q2: You are hosting a spectacular dinner party. Name four dream guests you would love to have seated around your table, and what would they be dining on and drinking?
A: I'd try to crack the code of the perfect rom-com with my idols of the genre: Mhairi McFarlane, Dolly Alderton, Emily Henry and Phoebe Waller-Bridge. The chat would be rambunctious but I think I could earn an awed silence with some lovely fresh seafood from the Sydney Fish Market (Pacific oysters, prawns, scallops and maybe a whole fish cooked with chilli and shallots and lime), lots of cheese to nibble on, and then a swag of chilled mangoes from my dad's tree in St George, chopped over a pavlova with passionfruit and kiwis. Served with lots of bubbles of course!
Q3: What is your favourite book of all time and why?
A: Can I say Bridget Jones' Diary AND Pride and Prejudice, since they're kind of the same book in some ways? I was a terrible romantic even as a kid, and the 1995 BBC adaptation of P&P completely took over my life. My sister and I would act out scenes with our Barbie’s, and can still quote the entire screenplay to this day. Bridget was passed to me in my Year 12 English classroom and I think it took me a day to finish it. It remains so funny and joyful and real.
Q4: If you could travel anywhere in the world to write for a year, where
would we find you?
A: I would love to go back to New York City, where I had some very special years in my mid-20s with my now-husband. We could get another flat in Brooklyn, and instead of pouring drinks and baking in various cafes I could spend my days bashing out a rom-com with all the energy and adventure of the city. It's a place that feels alive with stories, every bar and museum and subway stop full of characters, romance and heartbreak ingrained in every park and pavement.
When we lived there I'd often ride my bike across Prospect Park to the beautiful Brooklyn Public Library and spend my spare days writing there - it would be so sweet to do that again, and also take our daughter around all our favourite old spots.
'We visited New Orleans before getting married in New York a few years ago, and a chap called Cubs the Poet typed this poem for us on the spot on Frenchmen Street. It’s so simple but a special memory of a fun (long) night you could only have in that magical city.'
Q5: Describe your go-to reading spot at home and what book/s would I
currently find there?
A: Someday I'd love to have a library and a designated reading chair but for now I read wherever I can - in bed at night, in bed in the morning before my daughter wakes up, on the train, at the breakfast table, etc.
The stack on my bedside table is currently:
Yvonne Weldon's Sixty Seven Days https://www.penguin.com.au/books/sixty-seven-days-9780143777144
The First Nations spec-fic anthology This All Come Back Now https://www.uqp.com.au/books/this-all-come-back-now and Trent Dalton's Love Stories https://www.harpercollins.com.au/9781460760932/love-stories/
Everything will get bumped down the list when Victoria Hannan's Marshmallow https://www.hachette.com.au/victoria-hannan/marshmallow
comes out (I adored her debut Kokomo).
Q6: Tell us a bit about a typical writing day…
A: This year my very understanding boss let me go down to two days a week in my day job (communications at the Walkley Foundation for Journalism) and I have the great privilege of another two days of childcare each week for writing. Fighting my tendency to procrastinate (through laundry, cleaning, cooking, exercise, social media, and writing short stories) is a constant battle but once I sit at the desk I aim to write at least 750 words.
I’m more of a plotter than a pantser, though I usually have to redo the plan a few times before the story is done, and I have a list of scenes to check off in my Scrivener draft.
I’ve finally set up a nice writing station at home, but sometimes I need to take myself out of the house to focus - I like the Ashfield or Haberfield Library or, even better, a cafe or bar with a friend who’s also writing. Something about the shame of being next to someone furiously typing away is really motivating. Eventually I’m rushing back to daycare pickup, then the wilderness hours of toddler dinner, bath and bed, and some late night writing on the couch if I haven’t met my target yet...
'I finally set up a writing space (tucked in the corner of our bedroom) but my husband has started studying three nights a week, so it doesn’t look this cute now I’m sharing it!'
Q7: As a lover of words, is there a special quote you would like to share with us?
A: Recently I read Madeleine Dore's book about productivity guilt, I Didn't Do the Thing Today https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/678212/i-didnt-do-the-thing-today-by-madeleine-dore/
While unfortunately it didn't fix my issues with procrastination, I did find a very comforting gem. It's a quote from Nick Cave about how even when your story isn't flowing, your brain is working on it: "If it's not coming, it's coming." I'd been going through a long period of struggling to get back into my second manuscript and I found this so soothing!
Q8: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
A: Hanging out with my daughter, watching her personality develop and her vocabulary expanding, is so fascinating! Movement has become really important for me - walking, biking, pilates and swimming all keep my anxious brain at bay so I try to do something every day. Team sports are something we often neglect as adults and they can bring so much joy - I’m not playing footy at the moment but it’s something I’d love to return to one day. Any other spare time I’m reading, cooking or vegging on the couch with my husband and a comedy series or a rugby league game.
L to R: 'My precious daughter Dot - standing in front of The wall of Ladies, which are all painted by my husband's beautiful stepmother Rebeca Dewey, at their home in Pound Ridge, upstate New York, when we were there at Christmas - visiting Better Reading.'
Q9: Any advice for aspiring authors?
A: Just start! You don’t need a writing course, you don’t need anyone’s permission, you don’t need the perfect idea or the perfect plan. Little bits of work done consistently over time will add up, and every time you write you’re getting better.
Q10: In a few lines, which debut/emerging Aussie author should we look out for?
A: My two favourite books this year are by Aussie debut authors.
A Great Hope https://www.panmacmillan.com.au/9781760985578/ by Jessica Stanley covers a sprawling world and a big cast of beautifully-fleshed-out characters, but it's tight and suspenseful.
I bloody adored Genevieve Novak's No Hard Feelings https://www.harpercollins.com/products/no-hard-feelings-genevieve-novak?variant=39721816064034 - it's so smart and sharp and very funny, with a truly gorgeous love interest.
If there's any justice both these books will make sexy, Melbourne-set prestige TV series, so get in on them now!
If I can squeak in a couple more: I’m looking forward to my friend Karina May’s debut rom-com coming September 1, Under the Influence https://www.harpercollins.com.au/9781867258155/under-the-influence/
And my release date twins: Miranda Luby's young adult debut Sadie Starr's Guide to Starting Over https://www.textpublishing.com.au/events/book-launch-sadie-starr-s-guide-to-starting-over-by-miranda-luby and the brilliant photojournalist Andrew Quilty’s August in Kabul https://www.mup.com.au/books/august-in-kabul-paperback-softback
I'm also reading an early copy of a book coming out next year, Kate Scott's Compulsion https://www.penguin.com.au/authors/kate-scott Kate was my first editor when I was a baby writer reviewing gigs and interviewing musicians for Rave Magazine in Brisbane, when she was only in her early 20s herself, and I have a feeling this book will be huge.
As a photographer, Stevie’s been to enough bush weddings to last a lifetime. When’s it going to be all about her?
With her ex soon to be married, her mum back on the dating scene, and her best friend threatening to settle down with the Most Boring Man Alive, Stevie is feeling left behind.
To top it off, her old uni mate Johnno West, whom she hasn’t seen for years, keeps turning up as best man at Stevie’s jobs. And he is looking so good.
Perhaps their youthful pact – that if they were both still single in their early thirties they’d get together – is not so crazy after all?
Then the enigmatic Charlie Jones walks into the frame …
Capturing the heartbeat of rural Australia, Five Bush Weddings is an uplifting romantic comedy about looking for love, second chances, and what really matters when the bouquet has been thrown, the swag’s been rolled up and the party’s over.
Thank you Clare for being my August 1st Author Stalker victim. xx
Five Bush Weddings is hits shelves tomorrow and is available through bookstores and online.
If you would like to find out more about Clare, you can find her here: