Clare Mackintosh is the author of the chilling but humane and deeply touching I Let You Go, a psychological thriller which is taking the literary world by storm. It’s been a Sunday Times Bestseller for weeks and was shortlisted for Richard and Judy’s Summer Book Club. I defy not to feel completely hooked after reading the first page. As a new mummy, reading those opening words made me fall apart – which just shows what a great writer Clare is.
Clare also founded The Chipping Norton Literary Festival, now in its fifth year. It’s a gem of an event tucked into the beautiful Costswolds near where I grew up. In a previous incarnation, Clare was a police officer, and experience which informed her writing of I Let You Go. She is currently work on her second psychological thriller set in London.
What three words would you use to describe yourself?
Ambitious. Emotional. Absent-minded.
What do you love most about writing?
Aside from the flexibility of writing as self-employment, I love being able to express myself through the written word in a way I can’t always do when I’m talking to people.
What do you find hardest about writing?
I’m constantly striving to be better, and frustrated when that seems impossible.
Tell us a bit about the inspiration behind your latest novel.
When I was a police officer I was profoundly affected by a hit and run which killed a child. I kept wondering what kind of person could kill someone and never face up to it, and I couldn’t imagine how a mother could carry on after losing a child. Many years later I lost my own son, in very different circumstances, and I realised the impact grief and trauma can have on one’s life. I Let You Go isn’t about either of these two real-life situations, but it does explore the same issues.
What kind of child were you?
A drama queen! I loved acting and performance, and was terribly melodramatic at school and at home.
Where’s your favourite place in the whole world?
I have so many! I love Dartmouth, in Devon, and I feel very at home in France, where I spent a couple of years. But actually I love being in my little office at home, when everyone is out and I can write in peace.
If you could choose a superpower, what would it be?
The ability to turn back time. So many people I’d like to see just one more time…
Which fictional character would you most like to meet?
Richmal Crompton’s Just William.
I think he’d drive me mad if he were my son, but when I was a child I desperately wanted to be an Outlaw.
What book do you wish you’d written?
Do you have any writing tics that you’re forever editing out?
I use the word ‘just’ far too often, so I have to do a ‘find and replace’ at the end of every draft.
What’s your greatest fear?
Losing my mind. I had severe post-natal depression after my second set of twins was born. It was terrifying and I never want to return to that place.
What are you reading at the moment?
First One Missing, by Tammy Cohen
What’s your favourite word?
What’s the most important lesson life has taught you?
That life is terribly, painfully short, and that we owe it to those no longer here, to make the most of it.
Which writer do you most admire?
Sophie Hannah, for her twisty plots.
What song or piece of music would you choose as the theme tune to your life?
Life is far too big to sum up with a single piece of music. I’m currently addicted to Melissa Etheridge and have had it on a loop for the last fortnight.
Where do you write?
In the box room at home. It’s a tiny room but it really is ‘a room of my own’, and the only place I’ve been able to decorate and furnish exactly the way I want. I love it.
What do you do when you’re not writing?
Parent, mostly! I have three children, aged 8, 7 and 7, and their lives are far busier than mine. I also have a dog to walk and all the dull domestic chores that keep our feet on the ground.
When were you happiest?
I’m often happy, but my happiest moment? I don’t think it’s happened yet.
What three tips would you give aspiring novelists?
- Finish the book.
- Read anything and everything.
- And don’t call yourself ‘aspiring’ – you’re either a novelist or you’re not.