Claire Highton-Stevenson is one of the most prolific writers in lesfic today. Her latest book, Blinded by Love was released in January. Claire has been kind enough to chat with me!
Claire, your latest book features a character who must come to terms with blindness. What inspired this story and will we see more of Hannah and Erica?
I’m never really sure where an idea comes from, initially. They just appear and start to build in my mind and before I know it, I’m writing down my thoughts. But I guess with this one, I have several readers who have sight issues, but I’ve had many conversations with Maria, who comes along to all the events I’m at, and I’m always in awe of how she is able to move around, and just gets on with it. And when the idea first formed, I thought, I can’t do it…how on earth do I write a romance about someone without using one of my senses. I wasn’t sure that I could do Hannah and Erica justice. So, I started doing things with my eyes closed. In the book, there is a swimming scene…I did that, in the pool, it was terrifying even knowing that I could open my eyes at any time.
Will they appear again? Who knows, I am known for chucking characters of one book into another now and then, so maybe!
What are you working on right now and can you give us a preview?
I’m actually working on two, one is currently with my editor. I don’t have a title for it yet, well not one that I am happy with. It’s a full-on romance. It’s basically about a woman who has been love with someone for longer than she should, and encouraged by her friends, she decides to book herself two weeks in the Bahamas, on a desert island in a luxury shipwreck experience, hoping to finally get over Jenny, her kryptonite…. however, the Universe has other ideas about that…
And then I am currently mid-way through Stranger on the shore, which again is a romance, but it’s a little darker and deals with a very serious subject: Domestic violence. Our Protagonists meet by chance…Quinn lives at the beach, and one cold morning looks out and notices this woman sitting by herself on the sand…they begin a friendship and Quinn realises quite quickly that Natasha is in danger, but she doesn’t judge, just offers a safe space…eventually, they become more than friends, but … there’s a lot more twists and turns before we finally reach a happy ending.
I think my favorite of your characters is Frankie from Love’s Witness. Which of your characters is your favorite and which do you have the most in common with?
Oh, hard one. I think between Cam, Lucy, and Whitton, you’ll find me. They’re all so different from one another but there are elements of them that are in common with me, I guess. I’m not saying which though! 😊 I’ve enjoyed writing all of them, Whitton and Dyer are fun because they really take no prisoners, but I think Lucy from escape and freedom is probably one that will always stick with me, she’s such a sad character when we meet her, and yet, she’s so brave, and she grows into this amazing woman by the end of it.
You bounce around genres effortlessly. Do you feel more comfortable in one more than another?
I was talking about this with Crystal Chard the other day at lunch, I wish that I could write just one genre, but it’s just never been something that I’ve done. I need variety in life, and work, and I need my characters to be living very different lives and viewing life through a very different lens. I can only write the story my imagination comes up with.
I really enjoyed the Detective Sophie Whitton books. Which tv detectives are your favorites and did you pattern Sophie after any of them?
So, obviously I grew up watching some really good Detectives, everything from Ms Marple, to Cagney and Lacy, Cat’s eyes, the gentle touch with Gill Gascoigne, Makepeace, The Bill…So many great female detectives. But no, Whitton isn’t based on any of them, she came from a random image I found while searching images for a different book. I kept scrolling past, and knew she wasn’t right for the character I was writing, but I couldn’t stop looking at her…Whitton was born. I always knew she would be edgy, almost unlikeable at first, she’s a grower. But she’s brilliant, and flawed, and absolutely get’s it wrong at times. There are almost two characters with her personality, she’s Whitton, but off the job, she’s very much Sophie. Which is a lot of fun to play with.
I asked one of your biggest fans to describe your writing in three words. Conny, Twitter handle @Conny_1980, described your writing as captivating, emotional and honest. How does that make you feel?
I am always humbled when anyone says anything nice about my writing. I’m quite confident, secure in myself as a person in the world but I think when you put words on paper and send them out there to entertain others, there is always a doubt lurking somewhere within. Because you learn very quickly that you can’t please everyone, there will always be a 1-star review. Always be someone who rips your book to shreds, and you prepare more for that that you ever do for the nice reviews. It’s almost a surprise when someone says, “Hey, I read your book and loved it”
You’re not just an award winning author, you are an award winning photographer as well. What photo that you’ve taken are you the most proud of?
It changes, soon as you take a good one, that becomes the best photo you ever taken. I think my favourites though are the ones that are taken with friends, family. There is nothing special about them other than who’s in them, capturing that moment for us all to look back and be like…”Oh, you remember that?”
I know you love to travel. Obviously, Covid has halted travel in the last year but, where are a few places you haven’t been that you are most looking forward to traveling to?
One of my friends is currently in Costa Rica, and that is looking like an amazing place to add to my bucket list. Now, I’m more interested in visiting a few places that I’ve already been because I didn’t get to see everything I wanted to, so Pompeii. The day we went it rained. I want to get back to LA and see my friends out there. And I really need to get back to Crete and soak up some Greek sun… My friend and I started doing day trips, which was fun, Barcelona for lunch and less than the cost of a train into London! So, more of those please Easy Jet!!
Who are some of the lesfic writers you admire the most?
So many. I got into this because of Michelle Arnold, who doesn’t get half as much recognition as she should. And since then, I’ve been really lucky to have people such as Amanda Radley, TB Markinson, and Jae reach out to help push my work, whether with advice on how to do, or not do something, or simply by pushing my books to their readers.
Now, I look around at the likes of Clare Lydon, Melissa Tereze, Lise Gold etc and am in awe at how quickly they get books out and up into the charts, staying there for weeks, building their reader groups with fantastic stories.
And of course, we have so many newer writers coming through who instantly hit the ground running, like Crystal Chard, and that’s just the UK based ones, I could keep on talking about authors because there are so many out there, who are writing really awesome stories, who don’t get half the sales or attention they should.
If you could go back and relive one day in your life, what day would it be and why?
I don’t think any. I have the memories of the fun times, I have the experience of the sad times, and good or bad, they’re all in the past. I try now to live in the present, it’s hard because I think naturally we are drawn back and pushed forward with our thoughts. I think if I could go back, it would be to experience a day that I didn’t live, something in History. Imagine being in that crowd outside Buckingham Palace when WW2 was over?
It has been great chatting with you, Claire. I appreciate you taking the time and I look forward to many more great books from you in the future!
Thanks for inviting me, it’s been fun!!