Q&A: Clare Mackintosh, Author of LET ME LIE
Berkley; March 13, 2018
Clare Mackintosh’s books have been a staple of Crime by the Book ever since I first started this blog - I tell this story every single time I mention Clare, but her debut novel I LET YOU GO was actually one of the first books I ever received for review on CBTB! I can always count on Clare's writing to deliver the interpersonal suspense and addictive pacing that I look for in a psychological thriller—plus, Clare is one of those rare authors who is able to successfully reinvent herself with each new novel - a trait I admire so completely. I can’t help but be in a constant state of looking forward to the next Mackintosh release - and this week, the wait is over... at least for the time being! Clare’s newest book LET ME LIE releases in the US this week, and today I’m delighted to share a Q&A with Clare herself to discuss her new book, her career as a police officer (!!), and a whole lot more.
Before we dive into this Q&A: you can catch my full review of LET ME LIE here. Many thanks to Clare for taking the time to answer my questions so thoughtfully, and to her publisher for facilitating this Q&A!
About LET ME LIE:
The police say it was suicide.
Anna says it was murder.
They're both wrong.
Last year, Tom and Caroline Johnson chose to end their lives, one seemingly unable to live without the other. Their daughter, Anna, is struggling to come to terms with her parents' deaths, unwilling to accept the verdict of suicide.
Now with a baby herself, Anna feels her mother's absence keenly and is determined to find out what really happened to her parents. But as she digs up the past, someone is trying to stop her.
Sometimes it's safer to let things lie....
Author Q&A: Clare Mackintosh
Crime by the Book: First of all - thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me about LET ME LIE! I’m such a fan of your work, and am thrilled to share this Q&A with Crime by the Book readers. To kick things off: could you tell us just a bit about LET ME LIE?
Clare Mackintosh: Hello! Thanks so much for having me back. My new book, LET ME LIE, is a psychological thriller about a new mother searching for the truth behind her parents’ suicides. It features a retired detective I’m a little bit in love with.
CBTB: If you had to describe LET ME LIE in three adjectives, which would you choose?
CM: Twisty, emotional, unpredictable.
CBTB: One of my personal favorite things about your work is how you never seem to “write the same book twice.” Every one of your releases has been totally unique - and totally fantastic! Is this a conscious decision on your part, to clearly differentiate each of your books from the others? Or are these just the ideas you happen to have?
CM: A little bit of both! Because I write standalone books I don’t have to conform to a particular style or shape of story, as I might if I wrote a series. The characters and plot dictate how the book turns out: I SEE YOU, for example, picks up pace very early on, because there are numerous crimes being committed, and a clear drive for the central characters to find out who’s behind them. In LET ME LIE Anna is trying to convince her partner and the police that her parents were murdered, so the suspense builds more slowly. In each of my books the twists are in different places, and that’s partly down to the natural arc of the story, but also so they aren’t too predictable for my readers!
CBTB: Could you share with us the moment when you first had the idea that later became LET ME LIE? (Or, if there wasn’t just one moment where the idea came to you, how did this idea develop?)
CM: Sadly I can’t share the inspiration behind the book, because it would be a very big spoiler! The idea arrived pretty much in one go, though, as I travelled home after a meeting with my editor in which I’d decided to ditch the 60,000 words I’d written of what I’d thought was going to be my next book. At the start of the journey I was feeling rather blue, but by the time I got home I was fired up with the idea for LET ME LIE, and itching to get going!
CBTB: LET ME LIE follows a young woman named Anna whose life is in a period of upheaval. She’s a new mother, and she is also mourning the loss of her parents. One of the things readers will love about Anna is that she feels relatable - she’s just an ordinary person whose life takes a very strange and sinister turn. Do you recognize pieces of yourself in Anna? Is she inspired by anyone in particular?
CM: I’m a big fan of ordinary people in fiction – and I say that both as a reader and as a writer. Personally I’m not interested in superheroes, or characters with expert survival or combat skills. The odds are stacked too high in their favour from the outset for me to ever believe they might lose. In contrast, ordinary people – and ordinary women, in particular – are fascinating. Most of us don’t believe we’re strong until we’re put to the test and we discover enormous reserves of courage. Those are the sorts of women I write about, including Anna in LET ME LIE. She isn’t based on any one person in my life, but on many, many women I speak to or read about.
"Most of us don't believe we're strong until we're put to the test and we discover enormous reserves of courage. Those are the sorts of women I write about..."
CBTB: Along with the interpersonal drama of LET ME LIE, this book also delves into the details of policework through the character of Murray, a retired detective. Readers might not know that you yourself worked as a police officer for a period of time before turning to crime writing! How influenced is your writing by your own experiences as a police officer?
CM: Yes, I was a police officer for 12 years and enjoyed it very much. As a detective, my job was to find the story: to speak to victims, witnesses and offenders, to interrogate phone data and CCTV, to interpret forensic results. Once every stone had been unturned, I would present that story in the most compelling way I could, to a court. Nowadays my stories are fiction, not fact; and my audience are readers, not judge and jury, but it isn’t so different. I based Murray on some of the amazing people I worked with who had retired from the force then returned to a civilian desk job. They had a wealth of experience, yet were so often overlooked.
CBTB: You are (rightfully!) known for writing absolutely stellar plot twists; the twist in your debut I LET YOU GO is one that I still talk about! LET ME LIE includes a number of great reveals of its own—when you’re writing these twists, do they come as surprises to you? Or are these reveals planned from the moment you start writing?
CM: Generally I know what the big twists are before I start, although there are always a few more that take me by surprise!
CBTB: Speaking of writing - could you share with us a bit about your writing process? Do you have any particular writing habits or processes that you always adhere to?
CM: I travel a lot, so have to stay flexible. I write really well on trains and planes, and in anonymous hotel rooms, which is lucky, otherwise I’d never get to the end of a book! I listen to the same music while I’m writing – a meditation album I hardly notice any more – and it helps me get instantly in the zone, and block out distractions.
CBTB: When you’re not writing crime books, do you also read crime books? If so, could you share a few crime books that you’ve recently read and enjoyed? (Or, if not, what kinds of books do you read in your free time?)
CM: I read one or two books a week, and although I read lots of crime and thrillers I also read outside the genre. Recently I’ve loved Our House, by Louise Candlish, and Did You See Melody? by Sophie Hannah, both of which are really original reads.
CBTB: What are you working on next?
CM: I’m writing the first draft of what I hope will be book four, but it’s early days and I’m superstitious, so you’ll have to wait!
Hardcover: 400 pages
Publisher: Berkley (March 13, 2018)
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