The Metropolis

In depth interview: Writer Clare Fisher on creating a fictional map of London

Mike Pollitt | Wednesday 13 March, 2013 11:00

What: The City in my Head, a series of short fictions by Clare Fisher set in contemporary London
When: Ongoing, with four stories published as of this interview
Where: At online fiction magazine Notes from the Underground. The stories are

  1. Marylebone: Q&A
  2. Waterloo Bridge: When I’m not talking
  3. Kilburn: All sorts
  4. Journey Planner: from wherever you are to Peckham

We asked Clare about the stories which make up her fictional map, and why you should take the time to read them

Snipe: You are embarking on a fictional map of London, called The City in my Head. What attracts you to this project? And what parts of the city will you be focussing on?

Clare: The project emerged when I took a step back from the stories I was scribbling and realised that they were all set in a specific area of London, and all explored the relationship between the character and the area. I asked myself just what exactly it was I was trying to do… The answer was a fictional map of the city. The idea was huge and terrifying but that attracted me to it even more. 
When you’re thinking of a “London story”, are you inspired by physical places, by people, by a mood, by your own memories? How does a story start for you?
I’d say that it’s a combination of the above. It has to be a place that I have at least been to, but tends, more often, to be somewhere I know well. We are all the time making up stories about strangers as we walk around the city; I suppose that my project is a way of finding out just what it is that I make up, and what I make up will of course be influenced by my own mood and memories, etc, hence the subtitle, ‘City in my Head.’

“They must’ve been real Marylebone people, so used to eating £15 meals off slabs of wood that they could no longer taste the splinters.”

Your first story, Marylebone: Q&A, is about a couple of people who move to London from the north to find their first jobs, and how they adjust to living in the city. It will ring true with a lot of people. Why did you want to tell it?

Because although it is not my experience (I grew up in London) I know that it is, as you say, a common experience, and I thought it was worth exploring.  

Is London a setting in this story, or is it an active participant? And away from the story, in life, do you think London changes people, or does it just give them a place to change themselves?

An active participant! I suppose each story asks these questions in a different way. There is such a ridiculously overwhelming variety of experience in London that I don’t think it’s possible to say that it’s one way or another for most people. I think people are changed by their environment, wherever that may be. 

What’s life like at the moment for a writer trying to make a career? You’re using online magazines as a platform for your work – can you talk about the opportunities and limitations of that?

Online magazines just mean that there are more platforms where you can share your work. I don’t think there’s a hard and fast distinction between magazines that are online and those that are offline; the main thing is to choose ones that carefully sort their submissions and have a style, slant etc that suits your work. But I think that starting out as a writer and keeping going despite rejections and set-backs has always and always will be hard. 

What should we expect from you next?

I’m going to be continuing with the map for the next few months at least. I’ll also be releasing a connected pamphlet with Annexe press.  

Previous in-depth interviews

Actor Steffan Donnelly tells us about performing a Welsh play, in Welsh, on the London stage
Flash fiction publisher Holly Clarke explains how a 60-word story can still mean something
Helen Babbs on creating a new generation of urban nature writers
Photographer Mike Tsang on the blessing and the curse of growing up a Chinese Londoner
Kate Flowers of CoOperaCo on her mutualised operatic finishing school
Stratford filmmaker Winstan Whitter on what got lost when Dalston changed

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