Working with Words: Claire Zorn

Claire Zorn is a writer based in New South Wales. She spoke with us about fashion design, cutting back on adverbs and Wombles fan-fiction.

What was the first piece of writing that made you laugh or cry?

Photograph of Claire Zorn

Anne M Martin, critically acclaimed* author of the Baby-Sitters Club series, wrote a book called With You and Without You about a girl whose father dies. When you consider the emotional weight of Martin’s body of work, you can only imagine the effect it had on me as an eight-year-old.

* This is a point of much dispute in literary circles, but preteen girls of the eighties remain unanimous in this assertion. 

Did you write during your childhood and during your teenage years? What did you write about?

During childhood I indulged in fan-fiction about the Wombles. In my opinion, there was not enough romance or magic in the original work and I sought to rectify this myself. When I was 14 I wrote a very melodramatic novella about a 20-year-old woman who inherits a mansion from a mysterious aunt. Of course.

What day jobs have you held throughout your life, and how have those experiences influenced your writing?

I worked in retail for a long time. The Protected has a scene in a shoe shop which is directly taken from my experience working at a Williams store in Penrith (an outer suburb of western Sydney).

During childhood I indulged in fan-fiction about the Wombles. In my opinion there was not enough romance or magic in the original work and I sought to rectify this myself.

If you weren’t writing, what do you think you’d be doing instead?

I did a semester of a fashion design degree. I liked to think I could have been the next Miuccia Prada but I probably would have ended up starting a little business making cute frocks.

What’s the best (or worst) advice you’ve received about writing?

You don’t need all of those adverbs.

Have you ever kept a diary? Do you keep one now?

I kept one in Year 12 and at uni. Then I decided I preferred making stuff up.

Which classic book do you consider overrated? Or which obscure, unsung gem do you think is underrated?

I liked to think I could have been the next Miuccia Prada but I probably would have ended up starting a little business making cute frocks.

If I say anything about hobbits here I will probably start receiving hate mail. As far as books which deserve more attention go, The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet by Reif Larsen is an extraordinary book.

Do you have any strange writing habits, customs or superstitions?

I like to eat peanut butter toast and drink Diet Coke during long writing slogs.

Have you written or published anything in the past that you now wish you could go back and change?

There is a small obscure detail about surfing technique I got wrong in One Would Think the Deep. It still bothers me. 

Which artist, author or fictional character would you most like to have dinner with?

I would very much like to have gone to Truman Capote’s Black and White masquerade ball in 1966. (Do balls count?) It would have been fun to people-watch with him and talk about other people’s outfits.

As far as fictional characters go, I would like to have an omelette with Nessa from Gavin and Stacey. (Do TV characters count? I’m having trouble sticking to the criteria.) I would like to discuss her romantic relationships with John Prescott, Tom Jones and Prince.

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