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Claire Duffy, Fikabooks, Scotland

Hello, I'm Claire



Meet the team

It is entirely appropriate that the story of Fika Books starts with a bad date.

I've never really been one for online dating, but it was summer in Stockholm and when in Rome. We met at the open-air terrace at Söder Teatern and overlooking the crooked, pastel-coloured Grimm's fairytale buildings of Gamla Stan. The waters of Stockholm Harbour twinkled in the late-evening sun as I chugged my beer and frantically tried to keep the conversation going.

My date was absurdly beautiful but the type to talk as though he'd be charged by the word someday, (Moving to Scandinavia is an extreme way to discover there is more to male attractiveness than height, but I digress.) Question. Answer. Comment. Response. I was busy leaping with manic abandon from story to wilder story, when, finally, he jumped in with an anecdote of his own.

It seemed that his workplace was embroiled in a mystery.

Claire Duffy, Fikabooks, Glasgow

For several weeks over the winter months, somebody had cycled past their office on Östra Järnvägsgatan (you know the one, it runs behind Centralen heading up towards Vasastan), giving it the finger. With an average temperature of -10ºC, often snowing heavily, the person wore a ski suit, goggles, and cycling helmet. Yet they never failed to take a mitten off to express their opinion with digital clarity.

Nobody could work out who this hater-on-wheels was. An ex-employee? Disgruntled client? 

Reader, the bird-flipping-cyclist was me.

The previous autumn, I had a project in development with one of the leading production companies in Sweden. If you've watched any Scandi-noir crime mysteries, there's a good chance they made it. I was thrilled - they were a hot company and they seemed to love my stuff. Finally, after years and years of circling success in the film industry, my break was so close I could smell it.

After working on a pitch for several weeks, I had a final meeting with the producer championing me. He told me everyone in the office was excited about the film and already busy discussing directors and casting. He would pitch it the following week and then all my dreams would come true.

I never heard from him again.

Claire Duffy, Fikabook, sittin on a bench in Glasgow

I gave it a couple of weeks, but when the third rolled around, I sent a quick email asking how it was going. Nothing. Followed up a week or two later. No response. Weeks went by. I emailed, texted, left messages at the office. Nada. Or, more appropriately, ingenting. Several more weeks passed, and I received a stock email confirming they would not renew the option and were dropping the project.

I appreciate that production companies are busy, but I have never understood why there is a determined refusal right the way across the industry to treat writers with even a modicum of professional courtesy. The stories I could tell you of producers lecturing me for expecting money, casual refusal to follow through on agreed payment, negotiations abruptly dropped, writers brought in over my head with no discussion - the list goes on. We all know it's highly competitive, but I do not and will never get why they act like we've got a cheek for existing.

The worst bit is that I didn't even have it all that bad. I was one of the lucky ones, managing to eke a bit of a living for several years. I've heard many worse stories. 

Actually, no. 

The worst bit is that my date didn't work for the production company.

He was an architect. 

The production company had moved offices. For weeks, I'd risked frostbite to flip off a load of random architects. Somehow, this story perfectly sums up me and the film industry.

The weekend I finally realised the producer was actually ghosting me, I had a few girlfriends for brunch. I poured out my tale of woe over pancakes, and as my friends sympathised, it hit me that I couldn't live like this any more. I felt as though I was treading water in mud. I didn't even know what had gone wrong on this project (still don't) - how could I trust it wouldn't happen every time I got that close? (I couldn't)


I was 35 years old and had no idea what I was going to be when I grew up.

One of my friends worked at a daycare, and as I geared up for another verse of whhyyy meeee, mentioned they urgently needed a substitute teacher that week. My options were to a) mope around my flat plotting violent and dramatic revenge on the film industry or b) spend a few days singing The Wheels on the Bus in Swedish. (Hjulena på bussen, de går runt, runt, runt… if you’re interested.) I chose the latter, ended up working there for a year and wrote my first novel while my class of one-year-olds napped.

about me- mid image.png

I didn't even know I was writing a novel. I lasted a couple of weeks without writing, busy discovering I'm a finger-painting maverick and a dab hand at connecting with toddlers on an intellectual level. But one evening while cycling home, I started thinking about the story the production company dropped, and I got angry. Not for me and my career this time, but for the story itself. The characters deserved better. They deserved to live!

The film was about an American woman who moves to Sweden to be with her Swedish boyfriend. As she is struggling to settle in, one of his best friends is murdered and the police are clearly circling him. She has to negotiate the minefield of a strange country where she knows no one - and a partner she doesn't know whether or not she can trust. (The eagle-eyed amongst you will recognise this became the basis of my Scandi noir crime fiction series Behind Blue Eyes). I came up with the mad idea of starting a blog as the main character.

It sounds naive in retrospect, but I didn't think about catfishing at the time. It was just a writing exercise to scratch that creative itch between play-dough sessions. It was so apparent to me that it was fiction I figured it would be to everyone else.


But of course it wasn't. For a mad summer, Life is Swede garnered readers from all over the world. Many were fellow immigrants who could identify with Regan's ups and downs wrestling with an unfamiliar culture. I even got several emails from Americans in Stockholm offering to meet her and offer advice on dealing with her increasingly troubled Swedish life.

And this is where I had to confront the fact that writers aren't necessarily the nicest people. While I did have a bit of guilt that people thought Regan was real and were concerned about her…

…I was also thrilled she meant so much to them.

Forget complicated plots and unpredictable twists, at its core, writing is about character. If you can create characters people care about, you can do anything!

In a few short weeks, more people were following Regan's blog than had read the sum total of every screenplay I'd ever written. I posted each weekday morning and then spent the day reading comments, absolutely beside myself as readers advised her, supported her and debated amongst themselves what secrets her boyfriend Anders might be hiding. It was one of my most joyful experiences as a writer to date.

Eventually - when the murders started! - I had to come clean. A handful of readers weren't best pleased, but the majority were chuffed to find themselves unwittingly drawn into a murder mystery. The blog grew from there and attracted thousands of readers a day by the time it reached its climax.

A few days after I posted the final chapter, a reader got in touch to ask if there was a way she could re-read from the beginning on her Kindle. I didn't have a clue (didn't even have one myself yet!), so I Googled "put book on Kindle." and the rest is history. I stumbled across self-publishing, then in its infancy, worked out how to upload Life is Swede (unedited, with a cover I think I made in Google paint!)

... and it started to sell.

And now here we are, a decade and thirteen novels later! It's been a wild journey with a death-defying learning curve - and we're just getting started. Despite all the aforementioned drama, I've had one toe in the industry on and off over the years. Some of my books have been optioned for screen, and I wrote a three-part audio original for Storytel which is currently being adapted for TV.

I completed the third season of that trilogy last year, so this year, for the first time in a long time, I am on my own. No screenwriting contracts, no publishing deals - it's just me, my stories and a determination to make Fika Books a thriving business. 2024 is the year - bring it on!

Follow my diary to see how it's going...


Thanks for submitting! I'll be in touch soon

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