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News > Alumnae Interviews > 10 Questions with...Clare Pooley

10 Questions with...Clare Pooley

This month we talked to Clare about her incredible job as an author, how her first book helped people transform their lives, and about her most memorable moments during her time at Roedean.
6 Mar 2024
Written by Sian Ellis
Alumnae Interviews


Clare Pooley (No.4, 1983-87), is a bestselling author, speaker, and blogger. After graduating from Newnham College, Cambridge, Clare spent twenty years working in advertising and is now a full-time author. When she was at Roedean, she knew that she wanted to be an author when she grew up, and her dream of having her name on the cover of a novel came true. Clare has three published books, and a new novel coming out later this year.


1. When you were at Roedean, what did you want to be when you ‘grew-up’?

I wanted to be an author. Back then, my favourite author was Jilly Cooper, and we used to share copies of Emily, Harriet, Octavia and Riders, which we’d read under the covers late into the night, along with steamy romances like Lace and Flowers in the Attic. My dream was to have my own name on the cover of a novel.


2. What are you now you’ve grown up?

After spending twenty years in advertising, I’m now a full-time author. I’ve even met Jilly Cooper, and my name, and a quote of mine, is on the back cover of her latest novel. I wish I could tell my sixteen-year-old self that!   


3. What does your job involve?

Whenever I talk to my children about ‘my job’, they say ‘Mummy, making up stories is not a proper job!’ And they’re right – it’s far more fun than that. My job involves reading around two novels per week, and writing for around four hours each day. I also travel the country appearing at literary events, as well as doing virtual zoom events, and I spend a lot of time doing research, which sometimes involves overseas travel, sometimes meeting interesting people or going to the theatre, cinema or art galleries for inspiration. I’m also in talks with various production companies in the UK and USA about adapting my books for TV and film.


4. What have you done that you are most proud of?

My first book was a memoir. It’s called The Sober Diaries and it’s a black comedy about the first year after I quit drinking (I was a terrible alcohol addict. Not sure that I can blame Roedean for that!) It was published six years ago, but I still get messages every day from people all over the world who tell me it’s transformed their lives.


5. What are the three objects you would take with you to a desert island?

A pen. Lots of paper. And a duvet. So long as I can snuggle up and write, I’m happy.


6. What books have had a significant influence on you and why?

As well as all those steamy romances I read at school that made me want to write my own novels, I loved Emma by Jane Austen, for teaching me that flawed heroines are more interesting than perfect ones, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez for introducing me to the wonder of magical realism. But the book that has helped me most is one by Susan Jeffers called Feel the Fear and do it Anyway. I spent years being paralysed by the fear of failure. I now know that the only way to be a guaranteed failure is not to try. I hope Roedean teaches its girls that.


7. What is your favourite memory of Roedean?

I’m afraid that many of my favourite memories of Roedean involve breaking the rules and getting into terrible trouble. One of the most dramatic of these events was my final assembly, back in the summer of 1987.  We clubbed together to pay for a ‘kissogram’ to come dressed as a policeman and deliver a red rose to the Headmistress, Mrs Longley. The fake copper, however, decided to bring along a photographer from the local press! Mrs Lewis, the deputy, charged down the aisle, and wrestled the film from the photographer’s hands. Our leaver’s ball was cancelled, but it was entirely worth it!


8. What was the best piece of advice you were given whilst at School?

Don’t get caught.


9. What is on your bucket list?

I really, really, really want to see some of my characters come to life on the big screen. I dream of going to the premiere of a movie of one of my books. There are also parts of the world I’ve still not explored and would love to do so – namely Japan, Iceland, South America and the Antarctic. Other than that, I just want to see my children happy and settled.


10. If you had one year and unlimited funds, what would you do?

This is either smug or unimaginative, I’m not sure which, but actually I’d do exactly what I’m doing now: write, read, travel and spend time with my family and friends.

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