Hello everyone, and welcome back to The Bookworm’s Fantasy! I hope you’re all doing well. Today I’m really excited to be posting an exclusive interview with Clare Mackintosh! Those of you who read my blog regularly will know that Clare Mackintosh is one of my favourite authors and I love her books! You can find my review for ‘I Let You Go’ here and ‘I See You’ here. I also have a review of her latest novel, ‘Let Me Lie’, coming soon on my blog – so keep your eyes peeled for that! Thanks so much to Clare for answering my questions! So, here goes…
Clare Mackintosh is the author of three Psychological Thriller novels: ‘I Let You Go’ (2015), ‘I See You’ (2017) and ‘Let Me Lie’ (8th March 2018). In the past, she spent twelve years working on the police force, and has written for various newspapers and magazines. She lives in North Wales with her family.
1) How would you describe your first two novels using only three words (I Let You Go and I See You)?
I LET YOU GO: Dark, emotional, surprising
I SEE YOU: Twisty, relatable, plausible
2) I’m currently reading your latest novel which came out earlier this month (Let Me Lie). Could you tell us a bit about this book and the inspiration behind it?
It’s actually inspired by a real life story, but if I told you what it was it would spoil at least one of the twists! The story is narrated by Anna, whose parents took their own lives at Beachy Head the previous year. When an anonymous note suggests the deaths were not as straightforward as they seemed, Anna approaches Murray Mackenzie, a retired detective now working as a civilian at her local police station, to investigate their murders.
3) There’s a big market out there currently for Crime/Thriller novels. What would you say sets you apart from other writers of the genre? Is there anything particular you try to achieve in your writing?
I spent twelve years in the police, which not only gives me in the inside track in terms of how investigations unfold, but was the perfect opportunity to ‘people watch’. I don’t write straight-forward crime novels – mine are psychological thrillers, which focus more on relationships and the impact of crime, than on the crime itself.
4) Could you tell us a bit about your writing journey and how you managed to get published?
I left the police in 2011 and began writing for newspapers and magazines, as well as copywriting for a variety of businesses. I wrote I LET YOU GO in 2012 and was lucky enough to be introduced to an agent who thought it had potential. We worked on the manuscript together, and in 2013 found a home with Sphere, an imprint of Little, Brown Book Group. I LET YOU GO was published in ebook in November 2014, and in paperback the following spring, when it was picked as a Richard & Judy book club read.
Did you receive rejections? How did you bounce back from these?
My publishing experience has been very straightforward, and I’m always conscious of how lucky I’ve been. I didn’t submit to agents, so haven’t experienced the frustrations of rejections from that quarter. That said, we didn’t sell I LET YOU GO instantly – it was rejected by several editors who couldn’t see how to publish it, or didn’t feel it had potential. I was grateful for those rejections that gave a reason for saying no – personal choice, or because it was too similar to something else on their list – as they are easier to handle than a flat ‘no’.
5) How would you describe your writing process, from start to finish? How long does it usually take you to write a novel?
Each book is slightly different, but I’m gradually finding what works for me. I don’t start a book until the last one is completely finished, as I find it difficult to find the voice of a new cast of characters, when I’m still listening to the last set. I plot my books first, in a very low-tech way (paper and post-it notes), to make sure I know roughly where the key scenes will happen, and then I start writing. The first draft takes me around five months, and a second draft around three – often using very little material from the first draft.
6) Are there times when you struggle with finding inspiration or generating ideas for your writing? What do you do when this happens?
Writing is like any other job – some days are harder than others. I rarely struggle for ideas (although ask me again in twenty years and I might have a different answer!) but I often feel as though I’m lost in the plot and can’t find my way out. Mostly I push on through, writing scenes I know I will end up deleting, but which are necessary to take me to the next stage in the book. I start every day with a dog walk by the river, and use this time to plan the next scene I’ll be writing.
7) Which books have you read recently that you’d recommend to others?
The Lido, by Libby Page; Our House, by Louise Candlish; Love Will Tear Us Apart, by Holly Seddon. All very different, but all brilliant.
8) What have you been working on recently? Is there a book 4 in the making?
I’m around 50,000 words into the first draft of book four, but I can’t tell you anything about it, because I’m very superstitious.
9) Tell me a bit more about yourself! What do you like to do in your spare time?
What spare time…? I travel a lot, and although it’s work-related, I get great pleasure from it. I love visiting cities and try to make time to do at least one thing (usually a trip to a gallery or museum) while I’m there. If I can’t do that I go for a run, to see as much of the city as I can.
At home I swim in the lake in the town where we live in Snowdonia, North Wales, and go to the theatre as often as I can. I love musical theatre, but will see absolutely anything. I have three children (aged 11, 10 and 10), so family life is pretty busy too, with lots of football, rugby and gymnastics.
10) And finally, what tips or pieces of advice would you give to other budding authors?
Finish the book! Despite every writing website and book ever written giving very clear advice about finishing a book before submitting to an agent, I’m astonished by how many aspiring authors send off three chapters long before they reach the end. Finish the book and then edit edit edit. Then submit. Good luck!