We caught up with author Clare Weze to talk about her debut novel, The Lightning Catcher, in the latest issue of PaperBound Magazine.
Could you tell us a little bit about your novel, The Lightning Catcher?
The Lightning Catcher is an adventure story featuring Alfie, who’s been transplanted from the city to a small village in the countryside because of problems his sister’s been having. He isn’t used to village life and doesn’t yet realise that whatever you do there tends to be SEEN! There are mysterious weather anomalies, including isolated icicles in July, whirlwinds in buckets and shoes icing up for no apparent reason. Alfie and his new best friend Sam decide to investigate, but Alfie is fearless (and reckless) and doesn’t understand that certain places are no-go areas. He accidentally releases something from a box while trespassing, and whatever it is unleashes yet more meteorological mayhem. The adventure blows up in Alfie’s face. Friendships are tested, new and special ones created, and there’s some extremely unfair scapegoating.
The Lightning Catcher is full of sci-fi adventure, whiplash humour and mysterious goings-on. Where did the idea come from?
It grew out of the setting and main character, but my love of weather and biology probably sparked the idea for Whizzy. The book is a consolidation of all my interests, and they spiral around a character with a burning curiosity, someone who just has to find out WHY? I’ve always liked the idea of mysterious no-go areas, and people who attract labels and become outsiders, so once I had my strange and lonely house, I wondered why it was dilapidated and full of junk. What sort of person would let that happen, and why? So Mr Clemm, another important character, grew out of that setting.
This book has been affectionately described as Skellig meets Stranger Things. What do you think of this comparison, and were you inspired by any other film/TV/books when writing it?
Skellig and David Almond’s other books have been a huge influence on me, so I love the comparison. Finding someone or something in odd, dark places has always sparked my imagination, and I love the general tone of Skellig. Until this year I hadn’t watched Stranger Things, but I can see what people mean: boys on bikes making discoveries. There’s no horror in The Lightning Catcher though, so I think that’s where the similarity ends. I was inspired by John Gordon’s The Giant Under the Snow for that sense of an escalating, race-against-time adventure. And I loved the cheeky interplay between the siblings of Millions by Frank Cottrell Boyce.
Can you tell us anything about your writing journey so far, and what you’ve learned from it?
It’s been a long journey, but one of the main things I’ve learned is to have a bit of everything ready to suit all opportunities. There are openings popping up all over the place, so it’s best to join every writing-related organisation you see advertised so that you’ll hear about them. Some places are looking for short stories, others for flash fiction, and agents in particular are often looking for novels. It’s great if you can have something finished to submit. Watching the process of building a book from start to finish has also been fascinating. And meeting some of the people required to make the finished product – many more than you would think – has been very special. Seeing Paddy Donnelly’s illustration for The Lightning Catcher for the first time was also a huge highlight. It’s so beautiful. From those aspects of the journey, I’ve found out what a difference each person’s contribution can make, and seen the book and its concepts grow and change, which has been really exciting.
If you could choose 1 tip for an aspiring writer, what would it be?
There are lots of openings for very short fiction in online magazines these days, so trying your hand at flash fiction is a good idea. It helps to get your name out there and boosts your confidence.
What would you say is the most challenging thing when it comes to writing?
For me, keeping the momentum going while plotting is quite difficult. I find setting up the events and characters straightforward, and often know where I want them to end up, but keeping the engine of the book thrusting forwards is trickier.
What other middle grade books have you enjoyed reading recently?
Lenny’s Book of Everything by Karen Foxlee is fantastic. I read it last year and although there’s a rare medical condition at the centre of it, there’s so much heart and love, and city life is brilliantly painted through the eyes of a child. The Space We’re In by Katya Balen is lovely. It has a really different pace: quiet in the day-to-day, but in the background, there’s a huge and life-changing event ticking away.
How would you sum up your novel in three words?
Stormy, heart-warming, surprising
Clare Weze grew up in London and Yorkshire and has British and Nigerian heritage. She is the author of The Lightning Catcher (Bloomsbury) and a story called ‘Once’ in the forthcoming anthology Happy Here (Knights Of and BookTrust).
The Lightning Catcher was released on 13th May 2021 and is published by Bloomsbury.
Don’t forget you can catch up with the latest issues of PaperBound Magazine here – and they’re all completely free!