This week we want to introduce you to another fabulous book – “The Authenticity Project” by Clare Pooley. This is a perfect read for the current times, as it is a story of hope, kindness and community. It starts with a lonely old man who writes about his lonely life in a green notebook and leaves it on a table in a local café. The notebook is picked up by others, who add their own chapters to it, writing their stories. Soon, six strangers begin to discover how acts of honesty can change their lives completely.
This is a book about connections, communities, hiding true self from others and about kindness. It has been recently picked up by The Radio 2 Book Club, and Woman & Home magazine called it a “feel-good story, full of hope, that we all need to read right now”. Our Librarian, Kate, had a chance to interview Clare Pooley about “The Authenticity Project”.
Hi Clare, thank you for agreeing to this chat! Could you please let our customers know a bit about your book and the idea behind it? How did you get this idea and how your publication journey looked like?
"The Authenticity Project was inspired by my own life. Five years ago, if you’d looked at my social media feeds, you’d have assumed that my life was pretty perfect. The truth was very different. I was horribly addicted to alcohol, and was barely keeping it together. I decided to tell my story in a blog, which I called Mummy was a Secret Drinker. Writing that blog transformed my life, and the lives of thousands of people who read it. That experience made me wonder how many other people were living lives that were very different from how they appeared, and what would happen if they decided to tell their truths too.
I was astounded at the reaction to my story, which went to auction in the UK and USA, and has been sold to publishers in 29 territories. I still have to pinch myself."
Your book is written in chapters, told by different characters. It reminded me of Russian matryoshkas, so we are introduced to the new characters throughout the book. How did the idea behind the format of the book come about?
"The format of the book really came from the key idea. The story revolves around a little green notebook, in which six complete strangers share their truths. As the book is passed from one person to the next, so the story is told from the perspective of those different people."
The characters in your book deal with a hefty load of issues: addiction, loneliness (not only in old age), being a new parent… Do you think there are autobiographical moments in this book?
"You know what? When I’d finished writing the book, I gave it to my eldest child to read. She’s sixteen. She said when she’d finished “Mummy, you do realise that all of these characters are different aspects of you, don’t you?” I hadn’t realised that at all, but she was right.
Julian, one of the main characters, encourages people to show others their true selves. How authentic do you think are we really? What role does social media play in this, are we less authentic there, despite calling ourselves real? (ie slummy mummy, tells it like it is types?)
I think that we’ve always been tempted to show our very best faces to the world, and social media with the ability to curate and filter accentuates that hugely. So we post the best version of ourselves, then we look at our friends’ social media feeds and feel inadequate and miserable."
One thing (ok two things) made me think a lot in your book – the fascination with insta mums, their glamorous lives and the drinking culture amongst mothers, especially mothers of young children that seem to be gaining momentum… How important was that part of the book for you?
"I thought this was an important story to tell. Motherhood is hard, and we’re encouraged to think that the best reward at the end of the day is a large glass of wine. I totally bought into the ‘wine o’clock’ culture when I was a new mum, and it landed me in a whole load of trouble!"
Who is your favourite character from the book (or maybe the one you feel the most connection with)?
"Hazard, because he – like me – is an addict, and his journey through the book is very similar to my own. Without giving away any spoilers, I found the wedding scene a very, very difficult one to write."
Who was the most difficult person to write? Was it Julian? Or maybe Hazard? (Btw, where did the name Hazard came from?!)
"The most difficult character to write was Riley, because he’s so perfect! I find flaws much more interesting and inspiring than perfection.
I met a man called Hazard (although I later discovered he spells is Hassard) about twenty years ago and immediately thought that if I ever wrote a novel I’d want to hero to be called Hazard."
I love the fact that your book is set in your local neighbourhood, mentioning real landmarks – why did you choose to write about this part of London?
"I loved writing a novel set in my own neighbourhood, because it meant that as I walked the streets I could see my characters there. It made them feel more real to me."
Your books is one of the type of novels that the publishers call uplit – these are books that show the importance of empathy, community spirit and friendship – and I think these types of books are very important these days. What do you read when you feel stressed or need to escape? Any book recommendations for our readers?
"I read all genres of literature, and I love audio books as well as physical books. My recent favourites are My Dark Vanessa (not uplit!), Saving Missy and The Girl With the Louding Voice."
What does your work on a book look like? Do you work from home? Do you have a routine?
"I write from my kitchen table, very early in the morning. I usually write new material between 5am and 8am, and I use any time I have later in the day for editing and admin."
Are you working on something now?
"I’ve just finished the first draft of my next novel – working title Seven Messengers."
Where is the best place to follow/meet you online? Do you have any events planned?
"I’m on Twitter @cpooleywriter and Instagram @clare_pooley. Yiu can also find out more about me, and contact me, via my website www.clarepooley.com
Sadly all my planned events were cancelled due to coronavirus, but I am doing a number of online events, details of which I’ll announce on my social media!"
Thank you Clare for agreeing to talk to us and we wish you very best with your new book!
Hopefully you enjoyed this interview – make sure that you pick up the book, which is available on our Overdrive and Libby app: https://glllibraries.overdrive.com/media/5016979