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Horatio Clare

The inaugural Crickhowell Literary Festival welcomes author Horatio Clare to its programme of events this year. Launching his first children’s book, Aubrey and the Terrible Yoot, Horatio will be presenting classics and gems of children’s writing, celebrating the legacy of books about beasts. The Focus caught up with him ahead of the festival to ask him all about books, writing and his inspiration…


Why did you decide to become a writer?
As soon as I knew you could be one I wanted to be one. Growing up in Wales with a wonderful storytelling mother and many, many children’s books made it easy.

How has the experience of writing a children’s book differed from writing your previous books? Are there any similarities?
I am not great at adult fiction yet, though I have not given up at all. But I find writing for children completely, wonderfully enjoyable and thrilling. Really. They have such imaginations and minds that there are no limits or hang-ups at all. You just tell the absolute best story you can, with all your heart. I love it. That should be the same for all books, but you just know adults have angles and eyes that children don’t, so that slightly cramps you, if you’re not careful.

Has the shift from memoirs and factual writing to writing for children been a smooth or difficult transition?
It felt natural. My son was born. I wanted to write to him. Bingo.

Of all the work you have published to date, which is your favourite and why?
Running for the Hills sort of took me into the profession, and I feel quite deeply about it, not entirely positively, but mostly.
A Single Swallow changed my life completely – there was no going back after that. Down to the Sea in Ships which I thought would fail has just been amazing – thanks to the subject matter and the seafaring community, not me. The Yoot is rather exciting at the moment! But Truant, my second book which bombed, and The Prince’s Pen are personal favourites. They are uncalculated and true, though The Prince’s Pen is a novella. Of course my favourite is my next book – “Shanghai, Shanghai’, part novel, part non fiction.

Who is your favourite children’s author and why?
His pen name is ‘BB’ : Denys Watkins Pitchford. He writes about birds, foxes, little grey men, nature, boys who run away to live in the forest. There is no one to touch him. Any parent of 9-18 year olds should get him, especially for children who love the outdoors.

Give us an insight into what you’ll be talking about at the Crickhowell Literary Festival
Ah! I am going to talk about BB, Dahl, Rosemary Sutcliffe, Nina Bawden, Alice Thomas Ellis, Robert Westall; the relationship between children’s writers, nature and children. It should be brilliant, if only because the readings will make you laugh, cry and dream…

Do you have any advice for would-be writers?
So much, of course! I teach writing at Liverpool John Moores and on many courses. Main thing: It’s a job. You need to finish stuff or you miss the point. It doesn’t matter who reads it. Print it out and pass it round – ebooks aren’t books. They are computer files. Stuff all that. Something with an end that sounds right when you read it aloud to yourself, which exists in the world on paper, that is something you should be proud to make. Tell the truth, any dark and twisted way you need to. Give it both barrels, even very subtly. Read ‘Any Human Heart’ by William Boyd. And Shakespeare. And anything you like. No writer ever lived who did not read a lot.

You can see Horatio Clare speak at the Crickhowell Literary Festival on 9th October, from 6-7.30pm at the Parish Hall, Crickhowell. Tickets are available online from

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