CLAIRE WHILES – AUTHOR OF DRAWN TO DORSET
SB: Can you describe a little about yourself and your background Claire and how that led you to where you are today?
CW: My interest in history and culture began as a child, growing up in the Roman town of Dorchester. My late father had a huge book collection and I loved to read about Tutankhamen, The Romans, Bruegel, Bosch to name but a few. I would spend hours looking through his vast coin collection from his travels in the Royal Navy. We would walk on Poundbury Hillfort and Bockhampton path with our dogs. Visit ancient sites like Avebury and historic houses such as Wilton House as a family in school holidays. For as long as I can remember though, I had always felt things were never quite as we were led to believe, so I read widely on all things deemed “alternative”. I had also always believed in the transmigration of souls, reincarnation.
A grammar school education for a not so academic, rather alternative thinking, young person did not sit well in the late 70s with me, or the school, and I left as soon as I could with very poor “O”level results. I became a hairdresser, then within a short space of time, a training consultant, lecturer and salon owner. I loved being with people, talking, learning from them, and having the most amazing discussions at times! The book entitled “The Celestine Phrophecy” tells us we never have a conversation we aren’t meant to have, and my goodness that has proved so true over the years with extraordinary findings as a result! My passion for helping women in particular gave rise to training as a naturopathic nutritionist when I was 30, a single working mum with 2 little boys, which was incredibly hard work but so rewarding. I was in practice for 15 years, lectured in alternative health, ran a training company “Nutritrain Southwest” and a complimentary health centre and, with a friend Duncan Smith, The Light and Energy Channel TV show.
Life sometimes throws you, what might be called a curve ball, and at the age of 47 I gave up yet another career and retrained as an engraver, and now have my own business in Weymouth. My love of art (the only thing I was good at, at school) could finally become my living. I engrave wood, glass, metals and get such pleasure form being creative on a daily basis.
Pretty much all of my free time is spent out on the landscape walking and researching the wonderful county of Dorset. I share my photos and findings on my blog on the Drawn to Dorset website and take guided walks to show the history and landscape to others. I have many hobbies including Djembe drumming, earth energies and dowsing and a no of spiritual related groups to which I either run myself or belong to.
I live with my partner Robin, one of my sons, the other lives in Australia, my two black cats and completely bonkers Labrador Olive.
SB: Tell us about your book Drawn To Dorset, and how that came about.
CW: When I decided I would like to tell my story of the memories I had of a previous life and the passion to discover, not only my past, but the history of Dorset the idea of writing a book seemed wonderful. I thought “I have been researching for years in a haphazard intuitive way and I’ll just collate what I know”. How naïve was I about the process of writing a book! Like most things though, when it is the right time everything falls into place easily. The title came into my mind instantly and before I knew it I was sorting through photographs, trawling through notes and trying my best to write in an interesting way! I think the landscape speaks to you too, and I spent many hours on my favourite hill at Ashley Chase thinking about how I wanted the book to be. Words and descriptions just came into my mind, so always armed with a notebook and pen, I would scrawl them down to include in my writings later.
I thought about the wonderful people I had met, who too had incredible experiences to share, or who had a draw to a particular time in history resulting in amazing research. I approached them about sharing their stories and to my delight and huge appreciation Josephine Sellers, Mark Vine, Susan James, Rob Oliver, Jonathon Harwood, Elise L.James all said YES! So I added their stories to my own and my research of Dorset. The cover brought the idea fully to life, designed by the wonderful Semirani Vine who seemed to read my mind with her design. Then over to you amazing people at Sazmick to work your magic and bring the concept together and create the actual publication! Drawn to Dorset was born.
SB: Do you have any personal favourites amongst the compilation of stories in the book?
CW: Each and every contributor is passionate about their research, and this is what I find so compelling. I don’t have a particular favourite as they are all so different, so unique and so honest and heartfelt in their approach to telling of their stories. Each has a different time and place and a fascinating insight into Dorset. There is so much to tell about Dorset that I decided to include the little in between chapters sharing things like the poem by William Barnes for example and some ghost stories too which were such fun to research.
SB: Is there a particular message or thing you would most like people to take away from Drawn To Dorset?
CW: I would hope that people would take away how wonderful and diverse in its history the county of Dorset is but more than that I would hope that the stories inspire them to find their passion in life, their raison d’etre, what makes their heart sing and brightens even the dullest of days. Explore it and do as much of that as they possibly can, just as myself and my fellow contributors have done.
SB: Is there a particular part of the book or message that strikes you the most personally?
CW: Sometimes, when you are researching, you discover more than you ever imagined. The most extraordinary, wonderful but sometimes sad events or people lead you to investigate further than you first thought. I believe the past calls you, in an unmistakeably loud voice, and you just have to listen! And I am sure that goes for all the contributors too!
SB: Before you published your book with us in 2018 we met on the set of Edge Media TV which was great. You also had your own TV show and have been involved in the media quite a bit. What can you tell us about this and is any of it in any way related to your book?
CW: Synchronicities, right place, right time, conversations, just as in the book, played a part in being on the set of Edge Media. My friend Duncan, who worked in multi media, approached me when I had my complimentary health centre about doing an online TV show – it was the up and coming thing he said. So we created The Light and Energy Channel with its website for people to watch the shows. We filmed out on the Dorset landscape – shows about history, and also more alternative shows interviewing authors and interesting people about esoteric subjects. Also of course as a nutritional therapist shows on food and health. Duncan mentioned he had seen something on Facebook about On The Edge Sky 200 which I watched already on TV, so I contacted them and subsequently appeared on both Alex Gearn’s show and Nick Ashron’s show talking about nutrition and things like the horrendous aspartame. Because we had shows already filmed that were TV transferable and at the time Edge Media were happy to receive content, we supplied our shows to them to air. This was how they came to be on a Friday night 8pm slot, which was very exciting but very costly sadly and unsustainable as we funded all this ourselves.
The best part was meeting others on the show and discovering their work and research especially Michael Feeley.
SB: What other projects are you currently working on?
CW: At the moment I am working on researching The Knights Templar in Dorset, again with Duncan, on a project entitled The Lost Templars. I am also involved in the campaign for an archaeological dig in Weymouth on the site of the old council offices and recently presented a short film made by ZZipp Media to send to Dan Snow The History Guy about this. And of course I am doing the usual round of talks and presentations about Drawn to Dorset which is great fun. The books profits are in aid of local charities and I have had the pleasure of donating 3 x £100 already which is so rewarding!
SB: What is your favourite quote?
CW: My favourite quote has to be from the great Dorset author Thomas Hardy – I love this because there is so much more to this world than meets the eye!
“Though a good deal is too strange to be believed, nothing is too strange to have happened.”
SB: What advice would you give to others looking to get their work published or ready for publication?
CW: I would say definitely just do it! You, Sazmick, were so helpful, so reassuring and made it so easy that there is nothing to be scared of. The reward of actually seeing and holding YOUR book is so exciting . Pay extra for an editing package if you aren’t too sure about your English Grammar (as I wasn’t, I think I had completely forgotten what a comma was for!!) Also think about marketing, in advance of publication, to create an interest in your product. Social media is great for this.
SB: Is there anything else you’d like to leave readers with?
CW: I mentioned before about finding your passion but I would also say learn from our past, protect our future and enjoy the present!
SB: And finally, if you could have dinner with any famous person living or otherwise, who would it be and why?!
CW: Can I have a dinner party? I would like to invite both George Orwell and Arthur C Clarke!
I grew up reading Arthur C Clarke’s Mysterious World Magazine that my father subscribed to and would love to discuss life on other planets with him amongst other things. George Orwell was a great influence on me in my teens when I was reading all I could on socialism and passionate about injustice of the people. Strangely enough, I only recently discovered his great great grandfather was a wealthy Dorset gentleman too. I think the conversation would be so fascinating with these two gentlemen, although I would think I would sit and listen in awe rather than contribute!
Thank you Claire!