I am a Canadian, born in Ontario, but by upbringing and choice a Westerner. I spent my childhood in various oil towns from Alaska to Newfoundland, but eventually stopped moving when my family settled down in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
I studied medieval history at various universities, ending up at Oxford University, where I graduated with a D. Phil. from Oxford University, a fantastic experience, as I got to study in one of the most beautiful reading rooms on earth.
I moved to London to work in feminist publishing, then worked for various small publishers, in a bookshop, as a carpenter, a minder (bodyguard), a freelance editor, finally moving into website design and development, and worked for huge global financial services companies in the City of London for the final chunk of my career. I kept "retiring" to write full-time, and now I have done so for real.
I live in a flat in Little Venice, in west London, England with my spouse Fiona. We travel a lot, but we also just enjoy London.
My other novels, publications and my writing advice columns, which I have been doing for some time now, having been asked to guest-write at a novel-writing advice website, now sadly dead, and just kept going. My main website is: www.caroclarke.com
I would like to thank the official historian of the Ritz Hotel in paris for answering my questions, especially about the name of its general manager during WWII.
The photograph of the train used on the cover of the book and on this website is © Jean-Marc Frybourg.
The cover of the new, second edition is a homage to the excellent cover of the first edition, designed by Nightwood for Firebrand Books.
My logo is the representation of a chaotic attractor. It was created by Valery Tenyotkin, who owns the copyright (I have paid for the use of it).
Why did I choose a chaotic attractor to represent my writing? The process of inspiration can seem without reason, a chance thing, randomly striking yet, like the universe, it has an underlying structure. In the case of human creativity, it also has an end-point, which is to enhance our lives. In the same way, chaos only seems random, but it is not. Chaos, in its scientific meaning, are combined behaviours that have an underlying order, which I find both comforting and mysterious.
Chaos, or rather chaotic systems, are unpredictable, but all of them have an end-point. This end-point is called the "attractor". The initial conditions completely determine how all the behaviours in a chaotic system will travel toward the attractor. The usual example, the flap of a butterfly's wings, never leads to unorganised nothingness, but to something also organised, such as a hurricane. It is the initial conditions that determine whether the butterfly's flap leads to the hurricane or a century of mild summers or you dropping that coffee cup.
All the changes of behaviour in a chaotic system can be mapped as dynamic x and y variables on a graph. If we draw lines between every mapped dot on the coordinates, we can follow the movement of the behaviours. The journeys these lines make might seem random, sometimes looping back again and again, densely filling in one section of the chart, something leaving whole sections alone, but nevertheless they all end up at the attractor their initial conditions dictated, or to say it another way, the ending the initial conditions created as soon as they came into being.
To me, this iron law of arrival is the essence of the the initial inspiration. To have an opening scene flash upon your inner eye is to inescapably know, have already delivered the entire story to its ending. My task, once I have been hit with that first lightning, is to work and work until I have uncovered every point of every journey of every part of the story: each character, the underlying themes, the connections that demand cohesion, the best words, in short until I have charted the story I did not at first fully understand or even grasp. It is the story's inescapable, powerful attractor that drives me forward until I must, until I finally do, reveal its true and full self.