Today we are chatting with Claire McFall, author of


Read on for more about Claire, her book, and a giveaway!



Meet Claire McFall!

Claire McFall Photo by Nick Mailer

Claire McFall is a former English teacher whose first book, Ferryman, won the Scottish Children's Book Award and was long-listed for both the Branford Boase Award and the Carnegie Medal. She is also the author of Black Cairn Point (published in the US as The Last Witness), which won the inaugural Scottish Teenage Book Prize. Claire McFall is from Scotland and now lives in Colorado.


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About Ferryman:


When Dylan wakes up after her train has crashed, she thinks she has survived unscathed. But she couldn’t be more mistaken: the bleak landscape around her isn't Scotland, it’s a wasteland—a terrain somehow shaped by her own feelings and fears, a border to whatever awaits her in the afterlife. And the stranger sitting by the train track isn't an ordinary teenage boy. Tristan is a Ferryman, tasked with guiding Dylan’s soul safely across the treacherous landscape, a journey he has made a thousand times before. Only this time, something's different. The crossing, as ever, is perilous, with ravenous wraiths hounding the two at each day’s end, hungry for Dylan’s soul. But as Dylan focuses her strength on survival, with Tristan as protector, challenger, and confidant, she begins to wonder where she is truly meant to be—and what she must risk to get there. An international bestseller with a phenomenal following, the award-winning Ferryman (with its sequels Trespassers and Outcasts) is in development to be a major motion picture.


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~Author Chat~

YABC: What gave you the inspiration to write this book?

Oh, I hate confessing this, but the idea came to me in a dream. I know, cliché. It did, though. I had a dream that I woke up alone on a train that had been crowded with people. It was pretty unnerving, honestly. When I woke up (in real life), I kept thinking about it, and it came to me (slightly morbidly) that if I was the only person whatever it was had happened to, then it was probably bad. And I was probably dead. I’m not going to examine in too much detail why my mind went there lol but then I had the sudden inspiration – which just popped up out of nowhere, as the best ideas do – to tell the story of the ferryman, Charon, whose job was to ferry souls across the river so they could reach the afterlife. If you’ve heard of putting a penny on the eyes of a dead man to pay the ferryman, then you’ve heard of Charon.


YABC:  Who is your favorite character in the book?

I based a lot of Dylan on teenage me (write what you know, after all), so it would be a little narcissistic to say me. I’m not going to say Tristan, either. I think my favorite characters are the wraiths. The idea for the creatures came from the film Ghost. It came out in 1990 – it’s the one with Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore and the pottery scene. Yup, that one! There’s a bit where the baddy Carl is killed. You hear this awful moaning, and these flickering black creatures melt out of the floor and drag him back down with them. The CGI doesn’t really hold up to today’s standards, but when I first saw the movie at ten years old, they were terrifying. I also feel desperately sorry for them, though. As you read the books, you find out what the wraiths are (no spoilers), and they’re quite tragic creatures.


YABC:  Which came first, the title or the novel?

The title seemed quite self-evident to me once I started writing. I created the storyline first and then (terrible confession) I did very little planning. I was too excited to get started, so I just jumped right in. I put Ferryman down as a provisional title, but I never really considered changing it. Which is great, because sometimes I have real trouble working out what a book should be called. The other two books in the trilogy were *much* harder to name.


YABC: What scene in the book are you most proud of, and why?

I really enjoy the part just beyond the wasteland, where Dylan is first met by the being Caeli and visits the Records Room, and then afterwards as she is working out how the doors work in the afterlife. Originally, the book finished right at the point where she crosses the line… and one of the reasons for that was because I couldn’t work out how it should all look. My agent told me that wasn’t allowed (meanie), so I had to get creative. I’m really pleased with the way it’s turned out.


YABC: Thinking way back to the beginning, what’s the most important thing you've learned as a writer from then to now?

I would really like to say I’ve learned how to plan properly and that now I take detailed notes and never have to trawl through a 70,000-word manuscript looking for whatever last name I gave a character, but that would be a lie. I’m still a massive pantser. And that’s ok, I’ve decided. It works for me.

What I have learned, I hope, is the feel of a narrative arc. I’ve written more than twenty manuscripts now and published seven novels, and when I’m writing I’ve developed an instinct for pacing and plot development which means, even though I’m not a planner, I usually end up at the length of manuscript I’m aiming for. When I first wrote Ferryman, the first draft was only 43,000 words and I remember thinking oh dear, that’s not enough for a book.

The second thing I think I’ve learned, is about how to deal with writer’s block. The key there is not to aim for perfection, I’ve found. If you can’t think of the perfect opening chapter for your novel, just start somewhere you’re comfortable. Get going and let the story unfold. That more interesting, more suitable way to start will present itself to you in time (usually when you’re in the shower).


YABC:  What new release book are you looking most forward to in 2022?

I was at the MPIBA fall conference this month, and I was lucky enough to hear Crystal Maldonado talking about her new book, No Filter and Other Lies. It’s about catfishing and how small decisions can get away from you and lead you into trouble. It’s an important sort of story just now, but it also sounded really funny, too. I was very grumpy that I was too slow to get a signed copy, but I’m going to snag it as soon as it comes out.


YABC:  What was your favorite book in 2021?

I’ve spent 2021 reading hidden gems that I missed when they were first released. I’ve been very into YA fantasy (surprise, surprise) and I absolutely devoured the Queen of the Tearling series by Erika Johansen. I know, I know, how did I miss it? She did release Beneath the Keep: A Novel of the Tearling in 2021, though, so I reckon it counts.


YABC: Which part of the writing process do you enjoy more: Drafting or Revising?

Absolutely, definitely, 100% drafting. Because I’m a loose planner, I get to discover the story almost in the same way as the reader does reading when I’m writing it. I basically come up with a concept, create my characters and then fling them into the situation and see where they go. I do have a vague direction that I want them to head but sometimes they won’t. That’s the joy of writing to me.

Revising is a vile process that’s obviously necessary, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. The trouble with revising is, you make one teeny, tiny seeming insignificant little change, and then you have to go chasing the ramifications all the way through the story.


YABC:  Is there anything that you would like to add?

I’m a little nervous about releasing Ferryman in the US. I hope readers will like Dylan, and I hope they’ll enjoy the little slice of Scotland I offer (in the real world and the way it bleeds into the wasteland) because that’s my home. I absolutely love to here from readers who have enjoyed Ferryman, so please do feel free to come find me and chat. I’m on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook (just look up Claire McFall and you’ll see my face!) and I have a website: www.clairemcfall.co.uk.

My favorite comment ever about Ferryman came from a reader in China. They said, “Tristan seems at first to be Dylan’s ferryman, but really, I think she is his.” You’ll have to read the story for that to make any sense, but it really resonated with me.



Author: Claire McFall

Publisher: Walker Books US

Release Date: October 12, 2021






 Five winners will receive a finished hardcover copy of Ferryman with a bookplate signed by Claire McFall (Claire McFall) ~US Only

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