Interview with the author of Clueless Clarence

Monday, August 16th, 2021

Interview with The Oxford Editors


Zoe, thank you for agreeing to talk to us today.

Thank you very much for asking me.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

I’ve always love listening to the radio, and about twenty years ago I was in the kitchen and this rap song came on, and as I’m not a fan I thought to myself, “Hmm… I wonder if I could have a try at writing a song?” That’s when I started writing A Difference in your Life, and I liked writing so much that I then started collaborating with two friends, Les and Jack. Over the next three years we’d written over fifty songs together. Five years later, my son was diagnosed with autism, and this gave me the idea of writing Clueless Clarence, and I asked Les if could help me. Les sadly passed away in July 2014, but the first edition of the book was finally published in December 2015.

How long did it take you to write the book?

Clarence took a little more than a year to write. Les liked history, so he worked out all the anniversary dates and most of Clarence’s subsequent comments. I mainly did the diary entries, and the poems were a joint effort.

What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?

I usually write in the morning. I will most probably start at about 9am and could keep going for a couple of hours or so.

What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

Let me give you two characters in reply to that question. They are Clarence Upton-Smythe, who is my main character, and Mr Arthur Willis, a retired piano teacher and choir master.

Clarence, a teenager with mild autism, is fixated on time so he can’t stand it if other people or things make him late for anything. He also hates waste, untidiness, disorganisation, being in small confined spaces and only has a few close friends.

Arthur, a scatterbrain, is a widower who lives on his own. Actually, in my mind, I can see Sir David Jason playing this character.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your book?

Well, all the drawings and most of the poems were done many years before I started the book, and I thought, “Hey, I know, why don’t I just add them into the story? So I did.”

As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?

I wanted to be a tennis star, or an actress, or to sing in a pop band of some kind.

Do you have any suggestions to help people become a better writer?

Find the style that suits you. It’s always best to start with what you know. When I’m writing I like listening to classical music because it helps me to concentrate a lot.


What do you like to do when you’re not working?

I like reading books especially autobiographies, Cathy Glass, Tory Hayden, Dirk Bogarde, Sir David Jason, Brian Blessed, Tony Hadley, Paul O’Grady, I recently read Camp David by David Walliams and now I’m reading Just A Boy by Richard McCann. I also enjoy playing boardgames – especially Cluedo (the Harry Potter’s version), piano, violin, singing, tennis and badminton. I love watching Coronation Street, Loose Women, Escape to the Country, Disney cartoons, The Hit List, comedy/police dramas/films, Countryfile and Sir David Attenborough programmes.

What does your family think of you writing?

Well, actually my sister Sally Hunter is a writer too. She created characters like Humphry’s Corner and Digby the Dragon which is currently showing on TV.

What do you think makes a good story?

I like stories to have a little quirkiness about them just like how Sue Townsend writes. That is why I decided to have my very own Adrian Mole type story, but with a few extras.

I am sure that will all be very helpful to new writers. Good luck with the second edition.

Thank you, and bye for now.

Visit Zoe’s Twitter page.


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