Monday 11 June 2012

Interview with Claire Merle author of The Glimpse

Claire Merle wrote her first paranormal screenplay at the age of thirteen and named it after a road sign. Even though DANGER ALIVE never made it to the big screen, she continued to write and daydream and her first novel,The Glimpse is out this month. She has been kind enough to include Demention in her blog tour. 

Claire Merle

Firstly, many thanks for including the Demention blog in your blog tour. (For a full list of the dates of Claire's blog tour scroll down to the end of the interview.)

Well, I'm very excited you guys could participate!

Your main character, Ana, is shaken from her privileged life very early in the book, and the theme of her realising how sheltered she was from the experiences of the majority is a thread that runs throughout the story.  How important was this thread to you when you were writing the book?  Was it your intention to include it from the start or did it develop along with Ana’s personality?

I was definitely conscious early on as I was drafting, that Ana's internal conflict would come from the way she's been taught to think about society, versus the things she actually sees and experiences for herself once she's out 'in the real world'.  In my late teens, I had a rocky experience along these lines and I knew I wanted to use this as an emotional anchor to explore what Ana goes through. She is raised in a very closed-minded environment, and once she leaves it she's suddenly faced with variety, difference, people who are more free to 'think for themselves' and don't all perceive things in the same way. I also think it's fascinating to see how much our environment shapes and conditions the way we think.

The Glimpse
In your dystopia, society is divided along mental health lines - those who are ‘Pure’ and the ‘Crazies’, people at risk of, or in various stages of mental illness.  I found this a very thought-provoking take on the theme of them-and-us.  What inspired you to go down that route?

Mmm, wow, there are so many things I think that feed into this, my answer will probably only scratch the surface - but I'll try. It began when I went to a talk a number of years ago on mental health, children and childhood disorders, particularly ADHD. I think there's an important difference between a child being diagnosed with a metal illness and an adult: a child is often being diagnosed because others feel there's something wrong with them; an adult usually seeks treatment because they themselves feel there's something wrong. To me, there's an inherent problem in labeling a child with something that automatically has negative connotations -  'disorder'. There are those who argue that in days-gone-by a child with ADHD would have been labelled 'bad', and now it's better because they're being labeled as having a disorder and thus getting the necessary help and understanding that goes with that. Personally, I'm concerned that when you put this sort of 'identification' on a child, you are telling them as well as their teachers, their parents and their friends that there is something inherently wrong with them - something they may grow out of, or something they may have for life. You've made them 'other'. Now the weird thing is, according to psychologists like Dabrowski, gifted childen are often 'misdiagnosed' with ADHD since a certain 'type' of gifted child may have characteristics that are similar to those listed as symptoms of ADHD. OK, so the brain of a 'ADHD' child might be responding to their environment differently to the brain of a 'normal' child, just like the brain of a 'gifted' child is responding differently. Does that make the child mentally ill? Does that mean we should teach them to think of themselves as having something wrong with them? Does that mean we should start attempting to rebalance these differences with drugs?

English creativity expert, Sir Ken Robinson, gives a wonderful talk on 'Changing Education Paradigms' and goes some way to explaining western society's tendency to try and fit everyone into a mold, particularly in school. (He likens it to the industrial factory line.) The symptoms defined by ADHD actually seem to be strongly linked to creativity, ability to think-out-of-the-box and good leadership skills. I'd love to see those positive qualities embraced, nurtured and catered for in children and schools, rather than trying to fit the square peg in a round hole and saying the square peg is not correctly formed and if we just alter it a bit, it'll fit. (Please note: this is not to say I don't think there are issues that need to be addressed for maximum benefit to the 'ADHD' child, such as medical testing to check for allergies to metals & chemicals, difficult home environment, nutritional deficiencies, shock or trauma therapy, and a school environment that is more adapted to individual learning. I am also not a doctor! This is my personal opinion.)

Blog Tour Dates
I know you now live in France, but the setting you chose for the book - an extremely well-structured London of the near future - really felt like it was familiar to you.  Have you spent much time in London and did it take a lot of research to decide which parts of the future city should be segregated?

I grew up in Highgate, (a suburb in north London). It's an important part of my past and my memories so when I began working on The Glimpse I didn't even question my impulse to use the area as the central setting.  I lived in north London for twenty-two years - it didn't take a lot of research to be able to revisit these places in the story!

The Glimpse is set in the very near future and despite the deprivation in the city, the fact that everyone has access to their own personal entertainment/communication devices that also serve as trackers for the government is quite a bleak view of future technology.  Do you worry that technology is becoming all pervading?

The fact that everyone has access to their own personal entertainment/communication devices was partly inspired by a documentary I saw where the filmmakers were traveling around Africa visiting places where people were living in very basic conditions, and yet they still had mobile phones. For me, scientific developments create this strange dichotomy of 'good' and 'bad'. Take something as simple as television. What's not to love about television? And yet, on a deeper level, yes, I do find it worrying. How many hours have my kids spent in front of the television this week? How many people go home and spend every evening after work watching TV? How influenced are we as a society by what the media chooses to show us and not to show us? Deep down I guess a part of me is concerned that we're being 'conditioned' and 'entertained' at the detriment of being able to think.

The Glimpse is released this month.  Can you tell me a little about your future projects?

There will be a second and final part to The Glimpse duet out this time next year. I'm also working on a YA contemporary with a fantasy twist.

Claire, thanks for answering my questions.

Thanks for interviewing me!

For more information about Claire Merle visit her website.

Julienne's review of The Glimpse by Claire Merle

Claire Merle’s first novel The Glimpse is a twisting, slow-burning thriller full of complex themes.

Set in a dark challenging vision of near-future Britain where society is divided into ‘Pures’ - those with no genetic predisposition towards mental health issues, and ‘Crazies’ - those that do, it follows Ariana 'Ana' Barber daughter of the scientist who developed the purity tests as she struggles to cope with the knowledge that she herself isn’t Pure.

The Glimpse paints a bleak, thought-provoking picture of human nature, society and technology in a story dotted with flashes of humanity, realisation and romance.  Sometimes warm and at other times disturbingly harsh, the well-drawn settings and building intrigue will keep you reading to the tantalising climax.

I can’t wait for book two!


  1. This website has so many interesting books, I just can't wait to read all of them! The Glimpse looks really exciting, I'm definitely buying myself a copy asap. :) Keep up the awesome blog!

    1. Thanks for following us and do keep popping back - there will be some more giveaways coming up in the next month. Julienne :)