Helen McClory: 'Money, fame and enduring works – don't believe they will happen; believe in writing a lot and reading more'
- Lynsey May
- 4 September 2019
Novelist and short story writer chats about her route to writing and why it took her a while to realise being an author was an option
She might've been a keen reader and writer when she was small, but author Helen McClory didn't always believe writing was a possible career choice. 'I briefly wanted to be a vet – I love animals, but I quickly realised I'd have to see a lot of the inside of animals with that job. I don't think I could have coped with all the death, even alongside all the happy moments that I'm sure come with the job.'
Happily, encouragement from her parents and a school teacher changed her perspective and McClory is now an award-winning author with a number of publications to her name, including short story collections with Edinburgh publisher 404 Ink. Her witty Jeff Goldblum Variations has recently been picked up by Penguin Random House for American release and she's currently working on a novel about castrati called The Little Knife, co-authored with the brilliant Camilla Grudova, author of The Doll's Alphabet.
That's not to say that her journey here was without mishaps. Writing is a notoriously unpredictable career and a certain tenacity is a necessity. For example, things took an entirely unexpected turn when McClory's first novel, The Flesh of the Peach, was on the verge of publication. She says 'the worst [writing career] moment would have to be the spectacularly bad timing of Freight Press announcing it was going under right as my debut novel was coming out. That was rough.'
The Glasgow publisher folded suddenly to the utter surprise of many of its authors and supporters. The news caused shockwaves throughout Scottish publishing but McClory, like many other Freight authors, is still here, still writing and finding success despite the setback.
So what does McClory suggest if you're dreaming of sharing your words with the world? On the practical side, she recommends looking into how publishing and lit journals work by volunteering as a reader or intern (ideally, in a paid position). On the personal side, she says 'nothing happens overnight in this strange business, the world will not care one bit for the longest time (or ever) so you must just be willing to write for your own sake.
'Money and fame and enduring works – don't believe they will happen; believe in writing a lot and reading more.'