Her father’s death inspired Claire to invent a miniature world – partly based on Stoke-on-Trent!

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Author Claire Williams says the decision to send her father to a nursing home will haunt her for the rest of her life.

His father, Andrew Mason, had lost a leg due to complications from diabetes, which also robbed him of his sight and mental ability.

He spent 12 months in hospital before finding a place in a care home – at New Park House in Trentham, which was later closed by the Care Quality Commission for safety concerns in 2017.

Claire’s father died shortly after being moved to a new care home, and she channeled her grief into writing a fantastic book called Smailholm, which draws heavily on her upbringing in Stoke-on. -Trent, as well as his love for Tolkien and the Scottish borders. .

Unusually for a children’s book, it also deals with her father’s mental decline through a character who experiences a similar descent into what, in the world of her novel, Claire describes as “madness.”



Claire on her wedding day, with her father, Andrew Mason

Claire, 44, of Congleton – who also lost her mom, June Mason, – said: “My dad has deteriorated over the years. He lost his eyesight, his gangrenous legs, his mind, his dignity, every ounce of fat on his body, pretty much everything he had to lose.

“He was hospitalized for 12 months, but we couldn’t get him out because of the health care system. He had nowhere to go. Finally, we brought him into the Trentham nursing home.

“Then I got a call from the Care Quality Commission, telling me that they were shutting it down and moving him to another care home. He died shortly after.

“Looking back, I could have taken him home to take care of him, but I had a job, two kids and a lot of other responsibilities. This decision will haunt me forever.

“The hospital wards are full of old people. The social protection system in this country is fundamentally broken.

“So when I came to write Smailholm, I wanted to say something about it.”



Claire as a child, photographed with her father

Smailholm – who is described in “Borrowers Meet The Hobbit” – is told from two perspectives. One is that of a 13-year-old girl called Wynn and the other is an older protagonist called Deablin, who is heavily based on Claire’s father’s illness.

“In the end, my dad lost his mind, and there’s a character in the book who’s losing his mind,” she said.

“Deablin is basically my father. It is to return to these experiences that he had to lose his mind. It was cathartic to write – I needed to get it out.

“You can tell it’s a good subject for children’s books, but my kids must have walked these hallways with me. As much as I tried to protect them from it, they saw their grandfather’s decline. Children are much more perceptive than you might think.

“Smailholm is not about my father, but he is. The loss of my father prompted me to start writing the book that I had always wanted to write but never believed I could. “



Smailholm Tower in Scotland, pictured with Vargo the dog, who appears as a character in CL Williams’ novel, Smailholm

Smailholm, illustrated by artist David Rolls, is set in medieval Britain. Smailholm Tower is a real place on the Scottish border that Claire has visited with her family – her husband Howard, 34, and children Ava, 12 and Henry, 6 – on several occasions.

In the novel, 13-year-old Wynn Hoppringle discovers a miniature village hidden near his family home in the Smailholm Tower, where all the inhabitants have been reduced by a curse. When news of the border raiders reaches the tiny villagers, they realize that they must remedy their predicament if they are to survive.

Accompanied by Wynn, they set off on an adventure to uncover the source of their woes – and head to Rubers Law, a real mountain in Scotland where Claire has based a village of fantastic creatures called the quogs, in a village that relies on strongly on Stoke the mining heritage of -on-Trent.

Claire – who is proud to call herself a ‘clayey’ and who grew up in Blythe Bridge and Joiners Square – said: ‘She is based in Scotland. We have friends on the Scottish Borders and we go to Swailand Tower, which is a weird tower in the middle of nowhere. We went there when I was in mourning and I thought, “I’m going to write a book on this.”



“Scottish folklore is miniature beings in their own right, and when I was with my father on vacation we always went to see miniature villages. So I thought it was a nice tribute to him.

“I wanted to bring Stoke-on-Trent in there because I’m proud of where I’m from. My family was made up of miners and potters. Quogs are miners and they are based on the Stoke-on-Trent miners.

Claire, who writes as CL Williams, is an Instagram book influencer and runs her own business as a digital consultant. She has worked with other bloggers and influencers around the world, and her book has reached readers as far as the United States, Canada, India, and the Philippines.

With an audiobook narrated by actress Rosie Jones available, Smailholm is also one of the few books in the world to use new augmented reality technology, with a game that brings the characters to life on the cover of the book available for free on the web. ‘Apple App Store.

Smailholm is available in bookstores and online. For more information, see the website, www.clwilliamsauthor.com.


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