Monday 23 April 2018

Unscripted by Claire Handscombe Blog Tour @clairelyman @unbounders #RandomThingsTours #UnscriptedNovel

No-one is a bigger fan of actor Thomas Cassidy than Libby. No-one. That's why she's totally going to marry him 

She is going to write a novel, name the main character after Thom, and find a way to get it to him. Intrigued and flattered, he will read it, fall in love with her prose, write to her and ask to turn it into a movie. She will pretend to think about it for a week or so, then say, sure, but can I work on it with you? Their eyes will meet over the script, and fade to black. It is a fail-proof plan.
Except for the fact that he is a Hollywood star – not A list, perhaps not B list, but certainly C+ – and she is, well, not. Except for the fact that he lives in America. Except, too, for the teeny tiny age gap. Not even twenty years! Totally overcomable. All of the obstacles are totally overcomable. It's all about determination.

Welcome to the Random Things Tours Blog Tour for Unscripted by Claire Handscombe
Claire Handscombe’s novel Unscripted is forthcoming from Unbound.
Unbound are an innovative, crowdfunding-based publisher who’ve produced best-sellers and award-winning books, like The Good Immigrant by Nikesh Shukla. Their model is based on Kickstarter-style pledges, and when a book reaches 100% of their funding, they kick in as a more-or-less traditional publisher. So when you pre-order a book, you’re actually helping to make it happen. You get thanked in the back for being part of the journey, and you can also get various rewards at different pledge levels. So if you like the sound of Unscripted, please consider supporting the book by pre-ordering it at Unbound. 

I'm delighted to welcome author Claire Handscombe to Random Things today, she's talking about the books that are special to her in My Life In Books

My Life in Books - Claire Handscombe

One of the first books I remember reading over and over again was Treasures of the Snow by Patricia St John. It’s a novel about a boy and girl in Switzerland, who learn about forgiveness the hard way. I remember there being all kinds of adventures and interesting things to learn about – wood sculpting, skiing through mountain passes in a blizzard – as well as more important lessons in life and the Christian faith.

I grew up speaking French, and it was my first language and, as a child, the language I wrote in. I fell in love with poetry when I was around ten, and much of mine, which actually wasn’t terrible, was inspired by Jacques Prévert – his style really unlocked something in me and showed me what was possible with language. His most iconic collection is Paroles, and some of my favourites are in that collection, including some that, much later, I translated for a class during my MFA in Creative Writing.

I can’t imagine my adolescence without Judy Blume. I picked up Are You There God? It’s me, Margaret at a school jumble sale – I think I paid the equivalent of 20p for it – and neither life nor reading were ever the same again.

Okay, this one’s cheating, because it’s really a TV series and not a book, but if there’s any one work of art – work of words, really – that’s had a deep impact on my writing and on my life more generally, it’s The West Wing. Aaron Sorkin’s writing showed me how beautiful and elegant English can be, just as Jacques Prévert’s once had for French, and that started off my writing journey as an adult.

I even wrote a book about it!  Walk With Us: How the West Wing Changed Our Lives

By a circuitous route involving the celebrity crush which inspired Unscripted, I came across the beautiful memoir Come the Edge, by Christina Haag. It’s about her friendship and love affair with John Kennedy, Jr, but also with New York City and with acting and with her faith, and the writing is elegant and thoughtful. The Washington Post said that it “lyrically and precisely recaptures the frenetic energy of youthful love”, and I agree whole-heartedly.

As I was starting to devour not just good novels but good books about writing and good podcasts about books, I heard an interview of Colum McCann on Mariella Frostrup’s Books and Authors around the time that Let The Great World Spin was published, and bought it as a result. It’s about characters from different backgrounds but with intersecting lives in New York City around the time of Emmauel Petit’s tightrope walk between the Twin Towers in 1974. The poetry of the writing took my breath away. “Those who saw him hushed. On Church Street. Liberty. Cortlandt. West Street. Fulton. Vesey. It was a silence that heard itself, awful and beautiful.” I was hooked from those first lines.

I can’t remember how I came across The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger, but I read it around the time I was writing my first novel, and it captured something of the spirit that I was trying to put on the page. The plots of that novel and mine were completely different, but there’s a wistfulness and a heartbreak to both, and they both explore the age-old question of whether love is worth the pain it eventually causes when it is lost. I had my charater read The Time Traveller’s Wife, and ask herself, too: “Why is love intensified by absence?”

The same novel I was writing had a musician character, so I asked in an online forum if anyone knew any good books with music as their theme, and someone suggested The Song Is You, by Arthur Phillips. I loved it. The author makes poetry out of daily routines like the clicking of an
iPod wheel, and explores loss and grief and the pursuit of obsessive, impossible love, in ways that spoke and still speak to me deeply.

Whenever I think about the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer, I remember waking up one morning and my first thought being about what would happen next, and my first action to pick up the book to find out. It was before I had a smartphone, and long before grabbing it as soon as I opened my eyes had become a reflex. I lived in Guernsey when I was 18, and it was one of my happiest years. I also love epistolary novels and the insight they give into the intricacies of relationships, and I’d be surprised if there wasn’t one in my own writing future. So this book is special to me.

During my MFA in Creative Writing, we were set a short novel to read, called The Buddha in The Attic, by Julie Otsuka. My goodness, the writing. This book about picture brides sent from Japan to America at the turn of the twentieth century showed me the power of anaphora and also of the collective “we” as a narrative voice. I went on to write a couple of pieces in a similar kind of voice, including one of my favourite things I’ve written about one of the most formative, most idyllic times of my younger life, at summer camp.

Claire Handscombe - April 2018

Claire Handscombe is a British writer who moved to Washington, DC in 2012, ostensibly to study for an MFA, but actually, let's be honest, because of an obsession with The West Wing. (Like her main character Libby, she knows a thing or two about celebrity crushes and the life-changing power of a television series.) She was recently longlisted for the Bath Novel Award, and her journalism, poetry, and essays have appeared in a wide variety of publications, including BustleBook Riot, Writers' Forum, and the Washington Post. She is the host of the Brit Lit Podcast, a fortnightly show about news and views from British books and publishing.

Twitter -- @clairelyman
Blog --
My other book, Walk With Us: How The West Wing Changed Our Lives can be found at

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