Dreamer | Yawn meets Claire Daverley

Dreamer | Yawn meets Claire Daverley

By Alice Whiteley

Dreamer | Yawn meets Claire Daverley

What a treat for Yawn to interview Claire Daverley, bestselling debut author of 'Talking At Night', the romantic novel that is already a Christmas hit. As Jo Jo Moyes said, Claire has written "A beautifully observed, tender love story." We find out more about what inspires Claire - and how she likes to relax.

What did you think you wanted to be when you were younger?

A writer. That was it, from the very off! I just loved books, the feel of them, the smell of them, the possibilities; books were my first love, and telling stories was all I ever wanted to do. I just loved making things up, conjuring people and scenes out of nothing and putting It all down on paper. I still have all the notebooks filled with my childhood stories, (badly) illustrated and with blurbs and bar codes drawn on the back. As I grew older, of course I came to realise that writing would more likely remain a secret passion, or private pastime alongside a more regular job, so to have achieved that childhood dream is nothing short of miraculous. I still can’t believe it!


When did you start writing fiction and what was your route to getting published?

I’ve been writing ever since I was little, and all through my teenage years and university, too. I started writing seriously – as in, full length novels, with a view to landing an agent – as soon as I graduated, usually writing at weekends and on the commute to and from work. It took a lot of years to finally break through. Two novels that didn’t quite make it, one course at the Faber Academy, tons of agent rejections and dust-downs later, and one literary agent, who saw something in me, and asked me to keep in touch. Are you working on anything new, she asked me, after she’d (very kindly) rejected one of my previous projects. Oh, I said, yes, a love story. Send me fifty pages, she said. Those were the opening pages of Talking at Night. She signed me immediately after reading them, so I went away and finished it, and then she sent it out on submission. It was pre-empted overnight by several editors across the industry, which was the most mind-boggling outcome, for me. For years I’d hoped just one person would want to read what I’d written, let alone so many publishers. From there, it sold in America and in several countries across Europe within the space of a couple of days, and we sold the TV option, as well. It was the most surreal, magical week of my life.


What has been the most exciting moment for you since your book has been published?

The book launch party was quite the momentous night! To have all the people who have supported my writing journey, either behind the scenes or as my publishing team, in one room, was very special. It was such a wonderful celebration not just of the novel itself, but all the people who worked so hard to take it from my manuscript to the book you see on the shelves. Also I got to wear a silk yellow dress with a cape … need I say more?

Aside from that, Talking at Night was chosen for Fearne Cotton’s Happy Place Book Club, which meant Fearne herself (a true heroine of mine) interviewed me on stage at her Happy Place Festival, just a week after publication. That was a wondrous experience, and something I’d never even dreamed would be on the cards.

What is the most challenging aspect of being an author?

The self-doubt, I think. Writing, to me, seems to be an odd balance of crippling self-doubt – why am I doing this? Is it any good? Do I have anything remotely interesting to say? Who would want to read this?  – and a steady, quiet, low-level current of self-belief. The self-doubt and the critical voices can be huge blockers, but after reading a lot about writing over the years, and looking up to a lot of writers I admire, I’ve tried to see it’s all part of the process. Elizabeth Day said you have to be thin-skinned to let the world in, and I think that’s very true. All the worry and fear that I let in seems to be necessary, to make good work, in the end. It makes a lot of bad work, too, a lot of the time. I have been known to cut tens of thousands of words in one go, because I know it’s just not working. So that critical eye can help, as well as hinder. It’s like walking a tight rope of fear, doubt and confidence!

Which women most inspire you and why?

Elizabeth Gilbert is always my first answer to this question. She’s an incredible writer, speaker and creativity advocate – her philosophies on writing (and living) truly transformed the way I think, and she carries herself with such lightness and joy; if ever I’m stuck or uncertain, it is Liz I turn to, every time.

Two online yoga instructors, Adriene (as in, the Yoga Youtuber) and Jackie Mills of Les Mills, have had a huge impact on me (mainly because I spend a lot of time with them, on screen!) They both exude such a calm, positive energy, and radiate with love, humour and joy that’s so infectious, and reminds me to make time and space for my physical and mental health.

Same to Elizabeth Day, Fearne Cotton and Nora McInerny, whose podcasts have deepened my understanding of the wellbeing space, and who somehow tackle such tough subjects whilst also making those topics hugely digestible and entertaining. And finally, I will forever look up to the authors Elizabeth Strout, Donna Tartt and Miriam Toews, whose backlist of novels have moved me, so deeply, and inspire me to strive for better when writing. 

How do you switch off and what are the tools and techniques that have helped you?

I am not great at switching off, as my default is set to being productive. In recent years, though, I’ve realised that time for rest is just as important as exercise, or work, or socialising, if I’m to get the best out of myself (and my writing!) My immediate go to would be a a long, hot bubble bath, with candles and a good book, or a movie night where I’m cosied up with my spaniel under a blanket. I find journaling really soothing, too. It flexes a different kind of writing muscle that’s much more personal and restorative. And I’ve always been drawn to pretty stationery, it brings me a lot of joy.

Being gently active, as opposed to ‘working out’ is also a great way for me to switch off: I love going for long, mindful runs, or doing a little bit of yoga, or paddle boarding, or hiking in the hills: being out in nature is a cliché, perhaps, but it definitely helps clear my mind and is one of the reasons I moved to Scotland. Finally, it would be remiss of me not to mention wild swimming, which is my go-to ritual (not every day, but as regularly as I can). There’s something soul cleansing about getting in cold water, with the mountains or trees surrounding me, and only the birds for company. And then when I get out, I feel as if I’m sparkling all over! It does wonders for my mind and my mood.

When and where are you at your most relaxed and happy?

On holiday with my husband. There’s something about escaping routine – putting on an ‘out of office’, abandoning my laptop, and getting on a plane or a boat, that means I can lean into a more adventurous, spontaneous side of myself. Put me in a campervan, or up a mountainside, or on a white-sand beach, or in a kayak or on a moped somewhere new, with new food and experiences and sights, and I’m the best version of myself. Anything where it’s just me and my partner with a camera round my neck and a notebook in my pocket. But also, another simpler answer would be: by the ocean. That’s always been my happy place. 

What is your bedtime routine?

I have a self-care ritual before bed, as I struggled with insomnia for many years so try to keep the bedroom a clear, calm space with no screens or stress. I’ll put on my night cream, my hand cream, and spritz my pillow with a sleep spray, before reading a few chapters of a book. Then when we turn out the light, it’s silk eye mask on, and earplugs in! If I’m struggling to sleep, I’ll listen to a gorgeous meditation on an app called Aura, which has truly changed my life over the last couple of years.


Quick fire:

  • Top book on your reading list?
    I have such a huge pile of books to get through, but one that’s burning a hole in my shelf, so to speak, is Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver.
  • Favourite song to relax to?
    Build A Home by The Cinematic Orchestra, featuring Patrick Watson.
  • Favourite podcast?
    How to Fail by Elizabeth Day, or Sentimental Garbage, or Off Menu, or Happy Place… I love a good podcast!
  • Pyjamas or nightshirt or nightdress?
    Pyjamas in winter, and a nightdress in summer.
  • What is your favourite Yawn print and why?
    Don’t make me choose! My new Night Time print, or my beloved set from a few years ago in a gorgeous sage green (the name of which I’ve sadly forgotten), with a dainty wave print that could be either the mountains or the sea.
  • Night cap or night cream?
    Night cream, every time. Caudalie, which feels like silk on my face. Or the Neal’s Yard cleansing wild rose balm, which I’ve only ever had as a tester sachet – one of these days, I’ll treat myself to an actual pot!

Claire Daverley