I am delighted that CLARE MACKINTOSH is joining me on my blog today. Clare's debut novel - I Let You Go - was published in paperback on 7 May 2015 by Little Brown.
So Clare, what inspired you to write a book in the first place?
I always wanted to write a book, but it took some time before I knew what type of book I wanted to write. Initially I wrote a romantic comedy, but I think I always knew I needed to write something grittier; more issues-based. The catalyst for I Let You Go was a real-life hit-and-run that killed a child in Oxford, many years ago. I Let You Go isn't that family's stories, but it tackles some of the issues an unsolved case throws up - both for the police and for the individuals involved.
Where do your ideas come from?
I'm never short of ideas! I like to write about 'what if?' questions: what if someone killed a child and just drove off? What if you realised your daughter had been switched at birth? What if someone was watching you every day? I kick them around for a bit to see if there's enough to explore to make a whole book, or if the idea is more suited for a short story. Newspaper and magazine articles are fantastic for sparking ideas - truth is definitely stranger than fiction.
Have your personal experiences influenced your writing? And if so, how?
Very much so. My son died when he was five weeks old, and my grief for him defines everything I do. My writing is very emotional, and when I write about loss - as I do in I Let You Go - I hope that my first-hand experiences make these authentic passages. Aside from that, the 12 years I spent in the police service brought me into contact with so many types of people and situations: it was phenomenal grounding for a writer.
Describe your writing style in 10 words or less?
Emotional, tense and hard-hitting with a few unexpected twists!
Do you have any strange writing habits?
A few, although they seem quite normal to me! I often write with my eyes shut, if I'm working on certain scenes. They might be particularly emotional ones, or anything very visual, like two characters physically fighting. I shut my eyes and watch the scene play out in my head, like a film, and just let my fingers type what I’m seeing inside. Actually, that does sound strange… but it’s incredibly natural, and those scenes are always very easy to write.
Do you plot out the whole book before you start or just start writing and see where it leads you?
I’m a plotter. If I don’t plan then it’s incredibly hard work and takes a very long time. That’s not to say that the plan doesn’t change, but I do like to know where all the twists and turns and reveals are going to come.
What do you consider to be the hardest part of your writing?
The first draft. I know lots of authors like that bit, but I find it hard going. Right now I'm about 55,000 words into my next book and I can already see so much wrong with it. I'm desperate to finish this draft so I can start fixing it. Editing is hard work but I find it really satisfying; like carving something out of stone and slowly watching it take shape.
Do you read? If so, who are your favourite authors?
I read widely and across all genres. I'm a big fan of Elizabeth Haynes and Sophie Hannah, both of whom plot so brilliantly, but recently I've read some amazing non-crime books, including Touch by Claire North and The Memory Book by Rowan Coleman. I don't have a favourite author, although looking at my bookshelves I have an awful lot of Jilly Cooper books! I think that's as much about nostalgia as anything - I'm not very good at getting rid of books.
Beyond all measure. Writing books is my day job, although I still do some journalism, and even when it's hard I absolutely love it. Since my book came out, it's been incredibly exciting and rather hard to focus on my next book, which I must do!
Congratulations on being chosen as a Richard and Judy Book Club summer read. I Let You Go has the best OMG moment I have read. Were you expecting it to have so much impact on the readers when you wrote the book (and in particular that twist)?
Thank you! It's a tremendous honour to be chosen as a R&J read, and I’m still pinching myself. Both Richard and Judy have said some really lovely things about I Let You Go, particularly about ‘The Twist’, which I confess I’m really proud of. It was structurally quite a complicated thing to pull off, but I knew that – if it worked – it would make for a fantastic story. I was lucky to have a great editor and together we made sure it was as tight as possible. I LOVE hearing the reaction from readers when they reach the twist – it’s honestly the best thing ever.
If you were writing a book about your life, what would be the title?
Clare Mackintosh: from crime-fighter to crime-writer
What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
Keep going. Dull, I know, but so important. It doesn't happen overnight. I'm also a firm believer in networking, which is so often looked upon as a dirty word. Every opportunity I've ever had has come about as a result of personal connection, not a job application, cold call or straightforward submission. Call it socialising instead, if that's more palatable, but DO IT! Get out and meet people; chat to agents on Twitter; go to book launches. Never do anything with an agenda, but you'll find opportunities simply arise - it's the way people work.
And lastly, why should people read I Let You Go?
I’d love people to read my book because it’s my debut, and because I’m hugely proud of it. If you enjoy psychological thrillers and you can handle some emotional punch, I think you’ll enjoy I Let You Go. As for the twist… well, let me know what you think!
About Clare Mackintosh
Clare Mackintosh is an author, feature writer and columnist. She has written for the Guardian, Sainsbury's Magazine, the Daily Mail and many other national publications, and is columnist for Cotswold Life and Writing Magazine.
Clare spent 12 years in the police force, working on CID, in custody and as a public order commander, and has drawn on her experiences for her debut psychological thriller I Let You Go. She is currently writing her second novel.
Find Clare Mackintosh on her official Facebook page and follow Clare on Twitter - @claremackint0sh
I Let You Go
Published by Little Brown in paperback (7 May 2015)
A tragic accident. It all happened so quickly. She couldn't have prevented it. Could she?
In a split second, Jenna Gray's world is shattered. Her only hope of moving on is to walk away from everything she knows to start afresh. Desperate to escape her past, Jenna moves to a remote cottage on the Welsh coast, but she is haunted by her fears, her grief and her memories of the cruel November night that changed her life forever.
DI Ray Stevens is tasked with seeking justice for a mother who is living every parent's worst nightmare. Determined to get to the bottom of the case, it begins to consume him as he puts both his professional and personal life on the line.
As Ray and his team seek to uncover the truth, Jenna, slowly, begins to glimpse the potential for happiness in her future. But her past is about to catch up with her, and the consequences will be devastating...
'Wow - what a roller coaster read. If you haven't already read I let You Go, what are you waiting for… BUY IT NOW!'
Read my full review of I Let You Go here