Local writer a big hit in China

SBSR Claire Bowles Peebles author November 2015
SBSR Claire Bowles Peebles author November 2015

A Borders teacher says that she is “gobsmacked” after her first book became a massive bestseller in China.

Claire McFall’s young adult novel, Ferryman, was already considered a success by its author, after it won a Scottish Children’s Book Award and was shortlisted for the Grampian Children’s Book Awards.

It was also long-listed for the Branford Boase Award and the UKLA (UK Literary Association) Book Awards, and nominated for the Carnegie Medal.

But nothing prepared Claire for what happened when the book was published in China in June this year.

Released in June 2015 in China by Baihuazhou Literature and Art Press, the book features in the Fiction Bestseller lists of Amazon China, as well as Dang Dang and Jingdong – the two largest online book retailers - among others.

After achieving a gargantuan 100,000 sales within its first four months of release, the book went on to spend three out of the four weeks in October in the country’s Fiction Top 10 list .

The novel follows the story of Dylan, a Glasgow teenager, as she survives an epic journey through the afterlife.

Claire wrote Ferryman while employed as a teacher at Lesmahagow High School – the school she had attended as a pupil.

She now teaches at Peebles High School in the Scottish Borders, and has continued to write in her spare time while she teaches.

She said that while she had always enjoyed books and writing as a youngster, as an adult, a moment of envy sparked the desire t be published.

“My brother-in-law published a book,” she says, “and I thought - well, why don’t I have a go at that? So I did.”

Claire is working on a sequel to Ferryman, and says that she has been gaining an insight into the tastes of her Chinese fans through the social media site Webo (Twitter being restricted in the country).

“Quite a few of my readers have got in touch with me and told me what they liked about the book,” she said, “and it’s interesting that Chinese readers seem to enjoy different aspects of the story compared to Scottish kids.

“I can’t believe how successful Ferryman has been in China.

“It’s incredible to think that something I wrote in my tiny flat in Peebles is being read and enjoyed by people on the other side of the world!

“The reviews from China have been overwhelmingly positive, it seems to have really tapped into an aspect of their culture.

“That’s a little bit bizarre, because it’s a very Scottish story, i thought.”

Claire went on to say that she was now working on a sequel to Ferryman, although she laughed: “I’m not trying to write specifically for my new Chinese readership -although maybe I should!”

She also says that some of her pupils - she teaches teenagers English - have read the book, and let her know what they think.

Claire’s latest novel, Black Cairn Point, was released in August 2015. It is a paranormal thriller set in southern Scotland.

A group of friends go on a camping trip that goes disastrously wrong and only one survives to tell the tale… but will anyone believe her?