FEATURE1 March 2009

Double Lives – Claire Peate

Researchers reveal how their out-of-hours pursuits influence the 9 to 5. This month we meet Claire Peate, who is an associate director at Beaufort Research… and a published novelist

?Tell us about your day job
I’m an associate director for Beaufort Research, handling ad hoc quant projects and quality management, dealing with quite a broad range of public and private clients. I started out at NOP, then worked for TNS, and I’ve been here for two years.

Tell us about your other life
I started writing about eight years ago. My husband worked nights so it gave me something to do in the evening. I assumed I’d write a novel and have it published and live off that for the rest of my life… and I’m still hoping that might happen with my third book, Headhunters, which is out this month. It’s about a forensic facial reconstruction artist who’s gone AWOL and is creating her own Madame Tussauds. It’s a bit more of a thriller than my first two.

Which came first?
I was a researcher first – I started on the graduate training scheme with NOP in 1995. But I’ve always been writing. At school the careers adviser said I was either going to be a journalist or a prison warden.

How do you fit the two around each other?
I work part-time and I freelanced for a bit before that. On the grad scheme they put you on a billion courses, and one of them is a time management course, which was very useful. I’ve got a young family too, so I have to say, ‘This is my work time, this is my writing time, this is my family time.’ But I’m always having ideas, so I have a pad with me at all times.

Are you tempted to take up writing full-time?
Yes, of course. But it happens to so few people, you have to be realistic about it. Perhaps in future. I’ve just bought a Victorian house which is falling apart so that’s taking a lot of my attention at the moment.

What does writing offer you that research doesn’t?
It’s the chance to entertain. When you’re writing a research report it’s quite factual, it’s quite down to earth, quite measured and sensible. Writing a novel allows you to entertain someone and them to escape and have a good time. It’s nice to know your work is being read – when I go to archive rooms in research firms I wonder how many of the reports have actually been read.

What does research offer you that writing doesn’t?
Meeting people and getting out and about. As a writer you spend a lot of time in your house in your pyjamas. A lot of the skills I use as a writer came from market research – the ability to plan, to shape a story, to write and to present. You do employ qualitative tactics in researching a novel – I had to interview an archaeologist at Winchester Cathedral to find out about the state of decay of Jane Austen, which was quite horrific, actually. And you have to do signings and readings and so on, but with no presentation to back you up.

What do your research colleagues say when you tell them about your other life?
They like the books. Some of my clients and colleagues have been to my launches and they ask me to sign their executive reports because they think they’ll be worth something one day.

What do your readers say when you tell them you’re really a researcher?
They don’t really understand market research. They go, ‘Do you get cold standing there on the street with a clipboard?’ That’s what I get all the time. But generally they tend to just talk about the novels because the day job’s not so interesting to them.

If you had to give up one of your two lives which would it be?
I’d have to say it would be the novel writing because the roof is coming off my house and I need that guaranteed income. It’s the winner in terms of keeping a roof over my head – literally.

Claire’s latest novel Headhunters is out now, published by Honno.

If you have an exciting double life you’d like to share with us, send an email to robertb@researchmagazine.co.uk