Welcome to Clare Blanchard books!
I am a crime fiction author published by Fahrenheit Press.
I write crime mystery books, crime fiction short stories and, perhaps less obviously, urban fantasy.
Click on the Books page of my website.
So who am I and why do I write?
I was born on the North Yorkshire coast in a town called Scarborough, a popular English seaside tourist town. My mother was a professional soprano, and my father was a local businessman who loved reading, music and travelling in Europe. He was chronically ill for most of my childhood, and died when I was fourteen. I got my love of reading from him, and used to read aloud to him when I was a child. Even in those days this was considered nerdy and a bit Dickensian! But there we are, when we are children, we accept everything as normal and wonderful at the same time. As I write I am sitting at my desk with a line of his hardback books looking down at me from the bookshelf.
It’s a commonplace that writers are often people who grew up feeling like outsiders in the world they grew up in. I certainly fit the bill. Introverted and rather dated and out of place as a child, I lived in a world that other people could not see. One of the most powerful memories of my childhood is standing on the Esplanade in Scarborough, looking out across the North Sea and sensing that my future life lay on the other side of it.
I wasn’t wrong. In 1984 I married a Czech and went to live in a small rural town called Kyjov in the wine-growing region of southern Moravia, which shares a border with the Austrian Weinviertel in Lower Austria.
What makes crime fiction so popular?
I’m a writer who reads crime fiction, and a couple of years ago I decided to take the NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) challenge and try to write a novel (well, the first draft of a novel!) in a month. A crime mystery, to be precise.
One of the things that makes crime fiction so popular, I think, is its particularly appealing kind of storytelling. We seem to have storytelling hard-wired into our brains. Life is drama, although sometimes comedy, but it’s always about the story. And in my opinion, story is all about character. All the best dramas and comedies are character-driven – this is why we love sitcoms and soaps so much.
The special appeal of the murder mystery of the crime fiction novel, I think, is the added puzzle of solving the murder itself.
And we do this by deciphering the characters. The attraction of solving a character-driven crime drama is almost irresistible. This is doubly so with crime drama, because in addition to the drama that led to the crime itself, you also have the drama of character clashes among the investigating officers.
Another appeal of crime fiction is that the murder mystery allows us to sail in some very dangerous waters while staying completely safe. It’s only a story, after all.
So what about my crime novels? The first in my series,
The Tainted Vintage, is set in the wine-growing region of my new home, in a fictitious town called Vinice, which means Vineyard in Czech. The mayor of the small town is found dead in his wine cellar (almost every family owns one in that part of the world) on his 57th birthday. He was a complex, powerful and not particularly likeable character, and the local authorities are not keen to delve too deep into the death.
As a lover of Nordic noir, I loved the way the landscape and climate of Scandinavia seemed to be part of the fabric of the storyline – almost as if they were non-human characters in the murder mystery. I try to achieve this in all my books by creating a strong sense of place in all of them. The layout of the towns, the cobbled streets, the forests, the hills, the food people eat and the wine and beer they drink, are all part of the substance of the story. I wanted readers who had never been there to live and breathe that substance.
Finally, because of the location of my murder mystery in the Czech lands, the history of the country is an inescapable part of any story based in it. The Czech lands were under direct Nazi rule from 1939-45, and then under Communist rule from 1948-1989. I lived through the transition of the Czech Republic to a democratic society in 1989, and my parents-in-law lived through the Nazi era, the Communist era and the Velvet Revolution of 1989. These are real events that happened in real people’s lives, and they have to be part of the stories we tell about them.
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Happy reading, and do join me for another blog post soon!
A Moravian wine village, made of wine cellars.