All The Good Things, by Clare Fisher. Published by Viking, 1 June 2017.
I first met Clare when we were both shortlisted for the Ideastap / Writers' Centre Inspires mentoring programme almost three years ago exactly. Neither of us knew a soul at the masterclass we were invited to, but we – along with another member of the group, Alice – gravitated towards each other and have stayed in touch ever since. In fact, it's been more than a case of staying in touch: the three of us have become firm friends, meeting regularly for dinner or writer talks and, crucially, swapping work.
I wasn't at all surprised when Clare told me she'd signed with one of the longest established, high profile literary agencies in the business, nor when she added that her first novel would be published by Viking, a subsidiary of Penguin. Clare is one of those people who sets out to achieve and when she has her mind on something, when she is captivated by something, she does it. Reading, writing, teaching, running, Clare sets the bar high and goes for it. The short stories I read of hers zip along with a voice that feels funny and wry and shrewd, and most definitely hers. She reads widely, she writes prolifically. She suffers from the what-a-load-of-shite days that we all do, but she tries again, reads something else, tries again.
I couldn't wait to read All The Good Things. I decided to wait until publication day to get my hands on a copy, rather than badger her for sneak previews, and I'm glad I did. Alice and I went along to the launch party at Waterstones, Leeds, and enjoyed her in her element, answering questions with insight, humility and humour and signing the stacks of books before her. We took away a copy each, I started it on the train home – sorry Elizabeth Gaskell, I'll come back to you now, I promise! – and I've already finished it because I couldn't put it down. Of course, I have vested interest – I enjoyed pinpointing elements of Clare-the-human in Clare-the-writer's writing, for example – but I can honestly say that it's a fantastic debut. The writing pops and crackles with new ways of saying and being; the voice is as strong as any of the short stories of Clare's I'd read earlier; the empathy and compassion for the characters and their circumstances is particularly welcome at this time.
And then I reached the acknowledgements...
I'm so thrilled! My first, proper acknowledgement! Thanks, Clare, and massive congratulations.