Latest updates

The Pagoda Tree takes to the stage – one night only, 18 August in London.

Friday, 10 August 2018

Hello Unbounders!


I’ve been holding off sharing this until it became real… but the first dance performance of The Pagoda Tree is in rehearsal. I’m over the moon about it! Now I know that my book really has ‘legs’ and has a life of its own. Today I saw the first glimpses of the show called “East meets West”, currently in rehearsal. Here, you can see for yourself.…

Launch of paperback edition of The Pagoda Tree & blog tour

Friday, 27 July 2018

Hello lovely Unbounders!

It’s official. The paperback launch of The Pagoda Tree is now available in UK bookshops and on Amazon UK.  

A few of you have asked how it was funded.  

Wonderfully, I didn’t need to raise the money for this edition. The publisher, John Mitchinson, believes in the novel enough for Unbound to invest in it. Here's John and I last month next to the canal-side offices in…

Bundanon Trust Writing Retreat

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Last month, I stayed at my favourite writing retreat, Bundanon Trust on the Shoalhaven, south of Sydney, once property of the Australian artist Arthur Boyd.




I wrote the first big chunk of my second novel there three years ago (OMG - time flies!) and I'm happy to have had the chance to spend a few days there and worked all hours to get it finished. It’s getting…

The Hindu Lit for Life Festival 2018

Friday, 2 February 2018

​I had a terrific time at the The Hindu Lit for Life festival in Chennai.

My workshop on world building (of the fictional variety) was a lot of fun with an engaged group of 20-plus people. I even got a mention in The Hindu paper about it. There was a typo though and they referred to the workshop as Word-building… I’m trying to work out what that festival would look like. Scrabble on steroids…

Back in India!

Friday, 12 January 2018

Very excited to be presenting this workshop in Chennai The Hindu Lit For Life 2018. This is the first time I will be back in Chennai since I did all the research for my novel The Pagoda Tree and I am looking forward to sharing the stories with my workshop participants and Lit Fest goers.



​​Also, I will be a part of an exciting discussion this Tuesday, the…

The past year has been quite a ride!

Thursday, 21 December 2017


It’s been quite a year for me, as I’m sure for all of you. 

It’s not every week that you get two books published. In June, as you all know, The Pagoda Tree was published thanks to all you generous supporters. And within a day or so, my Mum and I indie published A Baboon in the Bedroom (now available on Amazon) about my parents amazing journey through Africa in a…

Busy November for The Pagoda Tree

Monday, 13 November 2017

It has been a very busy month with back to back events and good news for the The Pagoda Tree. 

First, I would like to thank again The Reading AgencyUnbound and all the book clubs for joining me on the live Twitter Q&A earlier this month. 

Here's just a taste of what questions were asked from the Extraordinary Book Group in Devon, another from Burley, Houghton Book Club in Leeds and the schmanzy…

Back to back events for The Pagoda Tree!

Thursday, 26 October 2017

First off, I'll be having a live Twitter Q&A on 01 November at 7 pm UK time (02 November 6am AEST) with The Reading Agency @readingagency & Unbound @unbounders. You can ask me @clairescobie anything about the book and I'll live tweet back! Go on… would love to hear from you.       


What’s your Disney?

Monday, 16 October 2017

Since The Pagoda Tree was published I’ve been making a real effort to focus on finishing my new novel. I’m excited to say it’s going well. Here’s how I’ve been able to stay on track. 


Stories that Matter

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Lots of people said nice things to me at my London book launch but the nicest thing had nothing to do with my book.

Jane Smith, a librarian from Concordia Lutheran College in Toowoomba, Australia, happened to be in London that night so I asked her to come along. I’d met Jane back in May when I went to Concordia as part of a team with the Indigenous Literacy Foundation (ILF) to create a book with…

The Pagoda Tree Goes Travelling!

Friday, 15 September 2017

You know when a book has legs, when it pops up in unexpected places.

Here’s where The Pagoda Tree has landed so far.

Please comment with a photo of you with your copy — the more exotic the locale the better! 


X Claire

Why creatives need to recommit to their creativity

Thursday, 31 August 2017

I can’t just rest on my laurels with The Pagoda Tree.

But I have to admit, promoting one book can feel like a big distraction from the real stuff… writing! I’m a great believer in immersion in a writing project to really make headway with it – especially when you’ve lost your way.

Here’s how a month in Switzerland helped me get re-inspired. 



Another lens to view British-India relations on Indian Independence Day

Friday, 18 August 2017



This week, as India celebrated 70 years of independence from the British, I've written a piece suggesting there's an alternative lens to view the history of the two nations. A history not solely defined by the Raj, but one that evolved during a window in the mid-eighteenth century before British rule became entrenched. I’d even argue that to fully understand 1947, you…

Two months since the UK Launch!

Friday, 11 August 2017

I can’t believe it’s been two months since the launch. How time flies! Since then I’ve been doing all I can to promote the book. I’ve also put together a little Facebook album from launch night. Head here to relive those amazing moments when the violinist Nandini Muthuswamy’s notes soared high, filling Daunt’s with — probably it’s first ever — experience of south Indian Carnatic music.


The Pagoda Tree has landed!

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

So, here it is, the big reveal! The book that you all funded and helped made real now exists, it’s real, it’s gorgeous and the rich red-wine cover invites you in. Thank you so much for your patience and support.

I spent yesterday afternoon signing books at the Unbound offices in London and they will be on their way to you very soon. I can't wait to hear what you think. And by the way, they look…

Only 1 week to The Pagoda Tree Launch - 07 June at Daunt Books

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

I'm getting very excited ahead of the UK launch of The Pagoda Tree. In fact, I bought my launch frock today – so now I'm officially ready. 

Just in case any of you don't still know, it's going to be at:

Daunt Books

83 Marylebone High Street, London W1U 4QW

From: 6.30 – 8.00 p.m. Wednesday, 7 June

There will be a very special performance by Indian virtuoso violinist, NANDINI MUTHUSWAMY on…

Indian courtesans were once trailblazers in Bollywood

Friday, 14 October 2016

In The Pagoda Tree my main character Maya is born into the world of higher caste Indian courtesans. Little did I know that in the early 19th century they were trailblazers in the new world of cinema. Read on to learn more...



While you're waiting for The Pagoda Tree to arrive...

Friday, 14 October 2016

... Here’s a review I did for the Sydney Morning Herald about The Memory Artist by Katherine Brabon. This is a profound novel about post-Glasnost Russia.



Why fear stops us writing

Friday, 14 October 2016

There are lots of things that stop us writing. A common one is fear. I remember hearing Cheryl Strayed talk about her work and the issue of self-censorship. Her novel ‘Wild’ is about how she walked 1,770 km along the Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada in 1995; her mother had died and Strayed’s life was imploding. When it was published in 2012, ‘Wild’ quickly went on to The New York Times Best…

What I’ve learned during my Unbound crowdfunding campaign is the value of my community

Friday, 14 October 2016

A book can take a long time to write, so it’s important to have the right people around you. The difference between success and failure is making sure you have a supportive team. Here are my top 5 allies.

1. My writing buddy. This is the person who reads my work & gives me constructive feedback. She also sometimes gives me a proverbial kick when I’ve slackened off.

2. My family. They put up with…

Final deadline to pledge: 21 November. Please share with friends!

Monday, 14 November 2016

Drum roll… The UK crowdfunded edition of 'The Pagoda Tree' is now slated for release on June 8, 2017. Woo hoo! The final deadline to pledge and have your name featured in the book is midnight GMT (London time) on November 21, that's a week today.

Thank you so much to everyone who has already pledged. If you know any fellow book lovers who you think would like their names included in the back of…

In the words of Margaret Atwood

Friday, 14 October 2016

Here the great doyenne of writing speaketh. Need I say more.

The unexpected gifts of writing a book

Friday, 14 October 2016

My first book Last Seen in Lhasa took 9 years to write, involved seven trips to Tibet and untold hours revising the manuscript. Ten years on, it’s hard to believe my award-winning memoir is celebrating its 10th birthday. I still get emails from readers who’ve read — and loved — it and who ask about the other main character in the book: Ani, the Tibetan nun.

When I recently announced the book’s…

The Pagoda Tree is now in pre-production

Friday, 14 October 2016

Hello lovely Unbounders! Exciting news. The Pagoda Tree is now in pre-production. This means the team is working on new artwork for the novel and I’m currently re-reading it. Normally I never re-read the books I write. I know some authors do. The travel writer Walter Mason (Destination Saigon) told me he likes re-reading his books and still laughs at his own jokes! David Malouf on the other hand says…

Thank you -- together WE did it!

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Time for another big thank you to all the generous supporters who’ve helped me get ‘The Pagoda Tree’ over the line by my 30 June deadline. Woo hoo! Sending you all virtual hugs and thumbs up and arm waving jiggy dances and lots of namastes. Together WE did it! Look forward to seeing all these new names of supporters at the back – with more to come. Stuart Reid, Robert Bluck, Joel Victoria, Jimmy Anderson…


Friday, 10 June 2016

During April, I headed to Varuna the Writers' House in the Blue Mountains outside of Sydney to knuckle down for two weeks and work on the first draft of my new novel set in France (sorry, not sharing any more details than that at the moment!). I knew I’d arrived at a serious writing retreat when I saw this sign. All of us need one of these, don’t we?! Varuna is quite strict. No phone calls between…

The end is in sight...

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Today 'The Pagoda Tree' hit 78% funding. Still three weeks to go, so fingers and toes crossed I'll get over the line. I'm asking my supporters to give one more push and spread the word to their networks. Let's get this thing published!

Thank you to the latest supporters: Mary Hickson, B Khano, Chris Doucas, Ruth Kennedy, writer Kathryn Heyman, an anonymous donor, Katrina Edwards, Diana Yeldham…

Fame at last!

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

During one of the early trips I made to Thanjavur in India while I was researching my novel, ‘The Pagoda Tree’, I went during Pongal – the spring festival. I found myself on the back of a bullock cart along a rutted road heading out to a remote village. The next day, I got a call from a friend who lives there, saying that my picture was in ‘The Hindu newspaper’, and "Madam, you are there, most elegant…

It’s the final countdown!

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

There are just 4 weeks left to crowdfund my novel, 'The Pagoda Tree'. I've set my target to get fully funded by the end of June. I’m already at 58%, so over halfway -- thanks to all your lovely supporters. Now's the time to spread the word among your friends and book lover networks. When I tell people about Unbound, I like to say that their  exciting new publishing model has a distinguished past.…

Finding that untold story... and telling it

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

My novel, ‘The Pagoda Tree’, opens in 1765 when India is on the cusp of change. This little known period was a time of incredible beauty, discovery, and brutality. But what really fascinated me was that there was a possibility of exchange between cultures, one which vanished during the later Victorian, or Raj, era. Many accounts exist of British men having sexual liaisons with Indian women, some of…

All in the name of research...

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

You never know what you’re going to end up doing to research a novel. When it came to writing ‘The Pagoda Tree’, I’ve shared my hotel room with a rat, ridden on a bullock cart, met a prince, and driven all night from Delhi to Pushkar in search of the perfect crumbling palace. I’ve trespassed and been chased by a fist-waving security guard; had my breast groped, once; had a parrot read my fortune,…

How an author gets closer to her characters

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

While researching my novel, ‘The Pagoda Tree’, I made four research trips to India, starting with a visit to Thanjavur in the south. On the exterior walls of the 11th Century ‘Big temple’, the names and addresses of 400 devadasis (temple dancers) are inscribed – the novel’s main character, Maya, is one of these dancers. My guide, Mr Rajah – a slight man with grey hair, his buckteeth blackened from…

How to chose a title for your novel

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

The title of my novel, ‘The Pagoda Tree’ is inspired by a phrase popular among the English in India during the 18th Century when my the novel is set - ‘shaking the pagoda tree’. ‘Pagoda’ had a double meaning – both a temple and a gold coin. When Englishmen went to India, they went to make their fortune - to literally shake this tree of money. My novel is set at the start of global capitalism and the…

Taking the leap

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Even 10 years ago, it was enough to write a good book and the publisher would then sell, distribute and market that book. Today, you need to be prepared to ‘package’ what you do, and become an expert in your chosen area. Recently, a Sydney-based publisher told me, ‘It’s not enough for authors to write a book and expect us to promote it. They need to do everything they can to make sure it sells. We…

Why I wrote my novel 'The Pagoda Tree'

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

People often ask me why I wrote my novel ‘The Pagoda Tree’. After writing my first book, ‘Last Seen in Lhasa’ about my seven journeys to Tibet, I had that classic second book syndrome – I couldn’t repeat the incredible experiences that lead to that first book, a travel memoir, but I had always been fascinated by India, where I used to live and work as a journalist. Then I read a story in ‘The Sydney…

What sort of reader are you?

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

I'm fascinated hearing how other people read. It's such an idiosyncratic thing. Recently a friend was telling me that she's recently read three modern novels, "all awful", about characters who depressed her. "But I always want to give the author the benefit of the doubt and always read the number of pages equal to my age. As I'm 74 I read each book up to the 74th page." She sighed with a quiet smile…

It's the journey that counts

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Looking back through some of my earlier blog posts about writing, I came across a reference to Unbound back in   March 2012. This is what I said: “This intriguing British company allows authors and readers to ‘decide which books get published.’ This is how it works. You submit your book idea to the site. Then readers will pledge support (i.e money) to ‘make the book happen.’ As a sponsor, you…

What it takes to write and get a book published

Saturday, 5 March 2016

A big thank you to all who have pledged so far to get ‘The Pagoda Tree’ published in the UK. A dear friend of mine told me that crowdfunding can be a rollercoaster. I wasn't sure what to expect but I definitely believe her. Last night, I was amazed at how emotional I felt when I saw more names of supporters on the site. Dear friends, old friends, loving family (thanks Mum!), writers who I’ve mentored…

Why authors need to be good sleuths

Thursday, 3 March 2016

In my novel 'The Pagoda Tree', the main character, Maya, is a temple dancer in India. While these temple dancers, or ‘devadasis’, have been compared to the geishas of Japan, it is their connection to the temples that make them unique. I was fascinated by their role in 18th Century Indian society, when my novel is set. They seemed to operate between the worlds of sacredness, culture and sensuality…

Keep Calm and Put the Kettle On

Monday, 29 February 2016


It feels very auspicious that today is Lucky Leap Year day and it's the launch of my Unbound campaign to get my first novel, 'The Pagoda Tree', published in the UK. I’m excited and nervous as it’s new territory for me. But thank you so much to everyone who has already supported me. That makes the butterflies in my tummy slightly calmer... It…

Publication date: June 2017
105% funded
161 backers