I’m an avid reader of historical fiction and so it gives me great pleasure to stay in with Clare Flynn and talk about her writing today. I’ve yet to read Clare’s books so I’m excited to see which she has brought along and why!
Clare has previously featured on Linda’s Book Bag when she wrote a fabulous guest post about the North South divide when The Green Ribbons was published. You can see that post here.
If you’re an author who’d also like to stay in with me to tell me about one of your books, please click here for more details.
Staying in with Clare Flynn
Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag Clare. Thank you for agreeing to stay in with me.
Tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?
Thanks for inviting me, Linda – I always enjoy a night in with good company – I’ll bring the wine! Tonight I’m bringing my latest novel, The Alien Corn. It only came out on 3rd January so I’m still very excited about it. Although I still get excited about all my babies.
(I’m not surprised! Congratulations on your new release.)
I know you won’t make the mistake my sister made and assume I’ve written a book about alien invasions! The book is set in 1946 in the aftermath of World War 2. The title comes from a poem by Keats, Ode to a Nightingale, and I chose it as the lines perfectly reflect how my character Joan is feeling, finding herself, a war bride, in an isolated Canadian farm, thousands of miles from home in England:
Perhaps the self-same song that found a path
Through the sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home,
She stood in tears amid the alien corn;
The quote seemed even more apt as Joan spends quite a lot of time hanging around cornfields, sometimes close to tears!
By now the corn had grown so high it reached over Joan’s head. She walked along the rows between the tall maize plants, lost in the lines of vegetation, only the sky above her. The corn stalks were brown, the leaves shrivelled and dried in the sun, the weight of the plump, ripened cobs weighing them down. Joan liked to walk through the fields, invisible to anyone, alone. Lonely. It was hard not to give way to the overwhelming homesickness that often beset her. How different her life would be if she had Ethel or her mother close by. Someone to turn to, someone to raise her spirits when she felt low.
(That’s lovely. It actually reminds me of Keats’ Ode to Autumn too.)
The novel is actually a sequel to The Chalky Sea (my best-selling book so far) but I wrote it so that it works as a standalone too. You can read them in sequence or read The Alien Corn first and then go back and read The Chalky Sea.
This is the first time I’ve written a sequel. Usually by the time I’ve finished a book I want to move on – but Jim, Joan’s husband, wouldn’t go away – I’d left him in Sicily about to attack a German-occupied village. I had a lot of readers begging me to go back to him. Writing the book gave me an excuse to research the Allied campaign in Italy (often known as The Forgotten Front) – we return to the war in mainland Italy in flashbacks in The Alien Corn. I lived in Italy for three years and love it but it was the first time I had set part of a book there. I was staggered at what I found out about brutality of the Italian campaign. I was surprised at how little Italian friends know of the war there – including that Canadians fought there and lost 6000 lives – it was as if the whole country decided to put the war behind them once it was over.
(I can probably understand their reasoning Clare.)
What can we expect from an evening in with The Alien Corn?
Everyone who’s reviewed it so far says it’s a page turner you won’t want to stop reading, so you’ll need to prepared for a late night, order in a takeaway and brew up some coffee.
Here are a couple of early reviews:
“From the first chapter, I was snagged and couldn’t stop reading… Luckily I was on vacation at the time and had a lot of ‘me’ time. From beginning to end this book was a roller-coaster of emotional twists and turns.” (US 5 star review)
“I could hardly put it down to prepare a meal! It was one of those rare books that don’t come along very often, had me totally hooked me from the first page.” (UK 5 Star review)
(Ooo. The Alien Corn really does sound just my kind of book.)
What else have you brought along and why?
Well apart from the wine, coffee and the takeaway, I’ve brought a couple of maps so you can get a rough idea of where the book is set. Aldershot, London and Eastbourne in England and everywhere mentioned in Italy (apart from one small town) are all real places – but Hollowtree, in Canada is made up. It’s in Southern Ontario and about an hour’s drive from Kitchener. I usually visit the locations in my books but circumstances prevented me nipping over to Canada so I did desk research and spent a lot of time touring around the countryside on Google Earth.
(One of the joys of reading is the places we can visit without ever leaving our sofas!)
I’ll be bringing some music too – we’ll be listening to some songs from the 1940s – be prepared for Don’t Fence Me In and Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree! (very bossy, these 40s songs!) I’ll be bringing my swimsuit as I hope we might have a chance for a dip in your pool (you do have one don’t you, Linda?) – as Joan is partial to a spot of swimming. If she got her way I’d come armed with some of her favourite movies – she’s a big Joan Crawford fan. But as I want you to read the book (and I prefer Bette Davis myself) I’ll be resisting that one.
(Actually I only have a small pond filled with frogs and newts but I’m sure we can manage…)
Finally as you’re going to be up all night reading the book, I’m bringing you a takeaway and some strong coffee plus the makings of breakfast – a bottle of maple syrup along with some newly-laid eggs and some home-cured bacon all fresh from Hollowtree Farm.
I’ve really enjoyed staying in with you Clare. Thanks so much for telling us all about Alien Corn.
Thanks so much for having me over, Linda!
They faced up to the challenges of war – but can they deal with the troubles of peace?
Canadian, Jim Armstrong, married in haste during the second world war, after a one-night stand. When his wife and their small son join him in Canada it’s four years since they’ve seen each other.
War bride, Joan discovers Jim has no intention of the family returning to England. She struggles to adapt to life on a remote farm in Ontario, far from her family and cold-shouldered by Jim’s mother.
Jim, haunted by his wartime experiences in Italy, Iingering feelings for a former lover, and the demands of the farm, begins to doubt his love for Joan.
From the rolling farmland of Ontario to the ravaged landscapes of war-torn Italy, this sweeping love story is the sequel to The Chalky Sea.
Alien Corn is available for purchase here.
About Clare Flynn
Clare Flynn writes historical fiction with a strong sense of time and place and compelling characters. Her books often deal with characters who are displaced – forced out of their comfortable lives and familiar surroundings. She is a graduate of Manchester University where she read English Language and Literature.
Born in Liverpool she is the eldest of five children. After a career in international marketing, working on brands from nappies to tinned tuna and living in Paris, Milan, Brussels and Sydney, she ran her own consulting business for 15 years and now lives in Eastbourne where she writes full-time – and can look out of her window and see the sea.
When not writing and reading, Clare loves to paint with watercolours and grabs any available opportunity to travel – sometimes under the guise of research.
You’ll find all Clare’s books here.