Welcome to my weekly Author Spotlight. I’ve asked a bunch of my author friends to answer a set of interview questions, and to share their latest work.
Today, SI CLARKE – SI CLARKE is a Canadian misanthrope who lives in Deptford, sarf ees London. She shares her home with her partner and an assortment of waifs and strays. When not writing convoluted, inefficient stories, she spends her time telling financial services firms to behave more efficiently. When not doing either of those things, she can be found in the pub or shouting at people online – occasionally practising efficiency by doing both at once.
As someone who’s neurodivergent, an immigrant, and the proud owner of an invisible disability, she strives to present a diverse array of characters in her stories.
Thanks so much, SI, for joining me!
JSC: When did you know you wanted to write, and when did you discover that you were good at it?
SI CLARKE: You mean this latest book or in general?
JSC: [Sits and silently observes his subject, pen in hand – its feathered bobble dangling menacingly]
sic: Jeez, all right. Fine. I knew I wanted to write [She returns Scott’s unblinking stare] this particular book in October 2020. I sat down to write a third novel in my White Hart series. But I just could not face the idea of writing another serious novel about serious people dealing with serious problems. You know?
JSC: [Watches his subject for a few more moments before languidly turning his head to the paper in front of himself. He hunches over his work, hiding the paper with one hand while scribbling furiously with the other.]
If you could sit down with one other writer, living or dead, who would you choose, and what would you ask them?
sic: You want to know if I talk to the dead. Or, if I think I can talk to the dead. That’s what you’re really asking isn’t it?
JSC: [Lifts his pen from the page and arches a single eyebrow]
sic: I can’t talk to the dead, all right. I’m not crazy, okay?
JSC: [Looks awa y. It’s possible he rolls eyes. Maybe.]
What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever done in the name of research?
sic: That’s what this is about? That’s why you brought me here, isn’t it?
JSC: [Without taking his eyes from his subject, he tilts his head from one side to the other. A casual observer might assume he enjoys watching her squirm.]
sic: Look, I told you – it was research. For a story, yeah? I’m a writer. I was never gonna— Look, can I go back to my room now?
JSC: Have you ever taken a trip to research a story? Tell me about it.
sic: How many times do I have to tell you? I wasn’t there. It wasn’t me.
JSC: [Closes his notebook and removes a rainbow-striped file folder from beneath it. Slowly, he begins to open the folder.]
sic: [Leaps across the table to slam the folder shut] I’ve seen it already. You’ve shown me a thousand times. It’s disgusting. But it wasn’t me. I don’t even know how they got past your security. Why won’t you believe me?
JSC: Do you use a pseudonym? If so, why? If not, why not?
sic: Do you?
JSC: [Taps out a rhythm on the table using a single finger]
Do you ever base your characters on real people? If so, what are the pitfalls you’ve run into doing so?
sic: [Presses her fingers to her temples] Mate, I don’t know how many more times I can tell you this – that character wasn’t based on you. You’re not in my book. Your buddy with the ridiculous hair … he’s not in the book. This place … also not in the book. Not in any of the books. None of it is about you or whatever it is you do here. It just isn’t, okay?
JSC: [Without looking down, he scribbles a few words in his notebook]
Tell me one thing hardly anyone knows about you.
sic: No. [Crosses her arms over her chest] Next question.
JSC: Do you have any strange writing habits or superstitions?
sic: You mean do I… [She lets her words trail off, unwilling to finish her own question]
JSC: [He makes an almost imperceptible nod]
sic: [She breathes out heavily and slumps forwards, her shoulders sagging] No, I don’t.
JSC: How does the world end?
Sic: [Shakes her head – perhaps she’s sick of this one question more than all the others] Look, just because I wrote about the world ending in a pandemic … and just because I published that novel weeks before the current pandemic…
[She crosses her arms over her chest again] I wrote a story, okay. I tried to make it as feasible as possible. I wanted it to be believable. But I did not— [She forms tight little circles with her fingers] I did not actually cause the pandemic. I did not enact the scenes I wrote. I didn’t. [She lets her head fall to the table in front of her with a dull thump] I didn’t.
JSC: What meds are you supposed to be taking? [He slides a little paper cup towards her then pours her a glass of water from the unbreakable jug on the table]
sic: You know what? I don’t even care. [She tosses the pills into her mouth – all eight of them in one go – and takes long, thirsty gulps of the water]
JSC: [Stands up from the table and turns to leave the room. The camera zooms in on the little cotton puff tail poking out from his trousers. The scene fades to black.]
Editor’s note: It’s not a cotton tail. It’s a rainbow tail. You may have seen it at GRL… 😉
And now for SI’s new book: The Left Hand of Dog:
Escaping intergalactic kidnappers has never been quite so ridiculous.
When Lem and her faithful dog, Spock, retreat from the city for a few days of hiking in Algonquin Park, the last thing they expect is to be kidnapped by aliens. No, scratch that. The last thing they expect is to be kidnapped by a bunch of strangely adorable intergalactic bounty hunters aboard a ship called the Teapot.
After Lem falls in with an unlikely group of allies – including a talking horse, a sarcastic robot, an overly anxious giant parrot, and a cloud of sentient glitter gas – the gang must devise a cunning plan to escape their captors and make it back home safely.
But things won’t be as easy as they first seem. Lost in deep space and running out of fuel, this chaotic crew are faced with the daunting task of navigating an alien planet, breaking into a space station, and discovering the real reason they’re all there…
Packed with preposterous scenarios, quirky characters, and oodles of humour, The Left Hand of Dog tackles complex subjects such as gender, the need to belong, and the importance of honest communication. Perfect for fans of Charlie Jane Anders’ Victories Greater than Death – especially ones who enjoy endless references to Red Dwarf, Star Trek, and Doctor Who. This book will show you that the universe is a very strange place indeed.
‘Would someone please tell me what the bollocking pufferfish is going on here?’ I demanded. Okay, not demanded. Requested. Well, pleaded. Whined, maybe. Whatever verb it was I verbed, no one paid me any heed.
The bunnyboos of my strange hallucination were too deeply engrossed in their silent conversation with my very real dog to spare me any of their attention. It was like watching a TV on mute – except I could hear movements and breathing and the sound of my heart beating a drum on the inside of my chest.
After a few further moments of this bizarre fever dream, Spock leapt down out of the coffin and turned to face me. She sat on her haunches and looked me in the eye. Then she lifted one paw at me in a clear imitation of the ‘stay’ command I used with her.
A bunnyboo with heather purple fur lowered a rope lead over Spock’s head. Spock stood and followed them from the room.
‘Where are you taking my dog, you fluffy bastards?’ I clambered out of the coffin-bed and scrabbled after them as fast as my besocked feet would carry me. But the thick metal door slid shut seconds before I got to it.