I’m author of Last Seen in Lhasa and The Pagoda Tree, chosen by Good Reading magazine as one of their Best Fiction Reads 2013. I’ve lived and worked in the UK, India and now Sydney.
For 10 years I’ve run creative writing workshops across Australia and Asia. I’m a regular presenter at the Australian Writers’ Centre and a trainer at the Walkley Foundation. I also mentor a limited number of writers. As a journalist for 20 years, I’ve written for numerous publications, including London’s Daily Telegraph, Destinasian, The Bulletin, Sunday Life and I contribute to the Sydney Morning Herald. After studying history at Cambridge University, I started my career at the Telegraph Magazine, winning a national award as Best Young Woman Journalist of the Year in 1997.
I am now taking my writing and storytelling skills into a new market. I’ve partnered up with a Melbourne company, Anecdote, and present Storytelling for Leaders workshops for businesses. I’m really excited about how storytelling can be used to bring positive change in companies – and the power of storytelling to change lives.
I’ve always loved travelling. It’s a gene I inherited from my parents who drove from London to Cape Town in a Land Rover called Stan. It’s such a good story that my Mum and I are working together on a family memoir about it. I’m also working on my next novel.
What was the moment you realised you wanted to be an author?
From a young age I always knew I wanted to write. I started a daily diary aged nine and kept that up for over a decade. I printed a local magazine when I was about 12… I first started writing as a journalist and in my twenties, I dreamed of writing a book.
What are your biggest achievements in writing? Either personal or actual awards?
My travel memoir Last Seen in Lhasa, about my 7 journeys to Tibet & friendship with a wandering Tibetan nun, won the 2007 Dolman Best Travel Book Award. I was also thrilled to be awarded Doctorate of Creative Arts at the University of Western Sydney in 2013, so officially I am now Doctor Claire…
What is it that you like about writing and being an author?
When it’s working well, there’s nothing like it. I love the challenge of translating ideas, experiences and feelings from ‘real’ life on to the page. When my books touch people and they tell me they’ve been changed in some way, it’s very satisfying.
What inspires the stories that you write? How do you come up with ideas?
Travel, life around me, conversations, newspaper articles, other books and stories, history, nature…
How do you go about writing your books? And, what struggles do you generally face in doing so?
I tend to mull over ideas for a while before I put anything to paper. I have various ways of collecting ideas – folders, Evernote, my Moleskin notebooks. I start squirreling ideas and when they coalesce into something workable, then I start writing stuff. Once I know what the book is about, I use all sorts of tools – mindmaps, index cards, and the writing software Scrivener to write the book. My main struggle is juggling writing with all the other things you need to do to make a living as a writer.
What is the best piece of writing advice you have been given? Or/and what tis the worst?
‘Take the reader by the hand,’ from Mick Brown, author and journalist. He was one of my first mentors. I can’t think of a bad piece of advice, I’ve probably forgotten it. Another good one was from Peter Bishop, former director of Varuna, ‘pared back writing is good writing.’
What are the harsh realities about being an author? What are the unknown perks?
It is increasingly hard to make a living out of being a full-time writer. It’s always been a struggle but with decreasing sales, lowering advances, bookshops closing down etc, it is a tough industry to be in at the moment. That said, there are lots of opportunities especially if you are entrepreneurial in what you do. E-books, the internet, e-courses are all good avenues that writers can pursue for other forms of income. When I published my first book I was amazed at how it changed people’s perception of me. It’s true that a book has ‘thud value’ and that having an author’s platform opens doors for you.
What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Do it because you love it, not because you want to get rich. Follow your intuition, not the crowd. Persist, persist, persist.
If you would like to know more about the wonderful Claire Scobie you can follow her:
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Claire Scobie's Works
Last Seen in Lhasa (Random House)
Some go to Tibet seeking inspiration, others for adventure. The award-winning journalist, Claire Scobie, found both when she left her ordinary life in London and went to the Himalayas in search of a rare red lily. Her journey took her to Pemako, where few Westerners have set foot and where the myth of Shangri-la was born. It was here she became friends with Ani, an unusual Tibetan nun who was to change her life. ‘A wonderful book: warm and sincere about this extraordinary friendship, alive and honest about the changes being wrought in Tibet…(It) stayed with me for weeks.’ The Australian
The Pagoda Tree (Penguin)
The Pagoda Tree is an epic, sensual novel set in 18th century India. It begins in 1765 in the beautiful temple city of Tanjore, and traces the story of Maya, a young girl destined from birth to be a temple dancer, or devadasi.
‘This is a novel to be savoured … Its layering, the unravelling of the story, the subtext of the fortunes made and lost on cotton and silk, the evocative descriptions of saris themselves are all part of [its] tapestry.’ Candida Baker in the Sydney Morning Herald