Naar aanleiding van haar bezoek aan Nederland kregen we van Uitgeverij De Fontein de gelegenheid eens te babbelen met bestseller auteur Clare Mackintosh. Haar boek ‘Mea culpa’ is een groot succes en in meer dan dertig! talen een ware hit. Wie gaat er schuil achter dit boek? Wie is deze bijzondere debutant die de wereld veroverd? We namen de uitnodiging aan en gingen met haar in gesprek.
Please tell us, who is Clare?
Hello, and thanks for interviewing me! I am a British novelist, living and working in England. I occasionally do a bit of journalism, writing articles and columns for magazines and newspapers.
You spent twelve years in the police force, including time on CID, and as a public order commander. In 2011 you left your job to work as a freelance journalist and a social media consultant, and now you write full time. What made you decide to make this step?
It was a decision that was both extremely difficult to make and extremely easy. Difficult because I loved my career, and had a promising future ahead of me. Easy because, at the time, I simply wasn’t seeing my family, and there is nothing more important than family.
Did you always wanted to become an author and if so, at what age did you came to that conclusion?
As a child I wanted to be a journalist, and had occasional desires to write books; books that were never written! As I grew older I wrote snippets of poetry, short stories, and I particularly enjoyed writing observational passages. I would sit in cafes and write pen pictures of the people I saw around me. They didn’t form part of any larger piece, but were an excellent training ground for life as a professional writer. After I had children, I started a blog, and it was the first time I’d ever had objective feedback on my writing. I began to realise that perhaps I could write something others wanted to read. That blog was the turning point for me, and I began writing fiction.
You write thrillers. Is this a conscious choice or is it obvious because of your past?
I actually started writing in a totally different genre. I wrote a romantic comedy, which attracted the attention of a literary agent, but was not ultimately published. I realised I wanted to write something darker, and crime/thriller was a natural fit for an ex police officer! It’s also a genre I have always loved to read, from Agatha Christie to Sophie Hannah.
Is your former career and experience an advantage while writing?
That’s a really interesting question. It is, of course, an advantage that I don’t have to do as much research as my author friends with no policing experience. However, it can also be restrictive. I do feel obliged to be accurate, and not to take too many liberties with the truth. I sometimes think it must be rather lovely to care less about authenticity!
Could you describe your method of writing?
It’s very simple. I sit down at my desk and start typing! It is, of course, not quite that easy. I spend a fair amount of time planning, as I like to know where my plot is going before I start writing. But once I’m ready to start a draft I write 1000 words each day, until I’m finished. That gives me a very messy draft, one I would not show to anybody! From there, I go back to the beginning and write the book all over again.
What is the main obstacle or challenge for you during this process?
The hardest bit for me is the middle. Often I know exactly how to start a book and I have a clear idea of how it will build to a climax at the end but the middle can often be hard to pin down. It’s also rather like running a marathon. At the start you’re full of energy and confidence, and at the end you can almost see the finish line sparing you on, but the middle section is just hard work!
When you finished your book, how did you get in contact with a publisher who helped you?
A friend of mine offered to send it to a literary agent she knew, and that agent liked the book enough to take me on. From there we sent it out to publishers, and I was thrilled to receive an offer of two book deal from a large British publishing firm.
Do you encourage other people to start writing?
Definitely not, I don’t want the competition!
Only joking… I am hugely supportive of aspiring authors, and remember only too well how hard the process can feel at times. I regularly meet other writers and love hearing how they work.
You have written your debut and it was an international bestseller. How did it come that “I let you go” got to be published in the Netherlands / Belgium?
I have a very dedicated and passionate rights team in England, who loved my book and made it their mission to sell to as many countries as possible! To date it will be published in 30 countries.
In Dutch the title of your book is the Latin title ‘Mea Culpa’, which means ‘my fault’. Why the difference in the English one and why didn’t you use the exact title? This is a title that can be used all over the world.
I love the Dutch title for I let you go, and think it works exceptionally well. Titles work differently in every country, and it can be tricky to find something which gives the same double meaning as a title does in its original language.
‘I let you go’ has been translated in almost 30 languages. It has sold more than 500,000 copies to this date. A dream come true?
This book turned out to be a great success here in the Netherlands/Belgium also, will others follow? If so, can you tell us something about it?
It has been an astonishing period in my life. Far beyond my wildest imagination. I have now written my second book, which will be published in the UK in July, and next year for most other countries. My second book is called I see you. It’s another psychological thriller, this time set in London, and it is very dark, and very frightening! It begins with a woman who finds her own photograph in an advert in the back of a free newspaper, and sets out to find out why it’s there.
You have an idea for a new book. How do you get started and do you
have a fixed writing ritual?
So, right now I’m starting to think about my third book. I have a very vague idea of what it will be about, but over the next two or three weeks I will shape that into a story. At the same time I will create my cast in my head. When the story and the characters are clear in my head, I will start writing. I don’t have a particular ritual, as such, but I have a routine that is largely determined by the school day! I take the children to school and walk the dog, and while I walk the dog I’m either writing in my head or catching up with admin by dictating into my phone (this interview is entirely dictated whilst walking the dog!) I’m back at my desk by 10 AM, when I start work.
Do you read a lot and what do you read? Or do you prefer watching movies?
I read voraciously, particularly crime and thrillers. Every now and then I like to read something different, perhaps a romantic comedy, or some non-fiction. I do watch films, but I particularly enjoy watching TV series, such as The Bridge, or Orange is the New Black.
Would you like to see your book as a movie?
I’d definitely like to see I Let You Go on the screen, but whether that’s as a film or a TV drama, I’m not sure.
Have other authors read your book and if so do they tell you if they like it or not? What is the most memorable compliment you received about your book?
I have been so lucky, and received so much amazing feedback from other authors. I’m particularly grateful for the authors who gave testimonials that encouraged readers to pick it up off the shelf. There is huge generosity within the crime writing community. Mark Billingham said the twist in my book made him “green with envy”, which was amazing!
How do you think about social media such as Twitter, Facebook,
How important is the contact between you and your readers? And how do you experience that?Hugely important to me. I love to connect with readers on social media, and regularly join book club discussions around the world via Skype or FaceTime, which I really enjoy. I attend many literary festivals and events, and find them hugely rewarding.
Do you find it important what people think about your book? Do you read reviews?
Of course I want people to enjoy my books, but it’s impossible to please everyone! I read my reviews – both good and bad – but don’t get upset by criticism. The world would be a dull place if we all agreed on what made a great book.
What do you do in your spare time? That is, if you have time.
I have three children, who all have lots of clubs and activities, so that keeps me busy, and I have a dog to walk every day. I like crafting, so occasional pick up some crochet or make some cards, but mostly I read or write.
Thanks you Clare for this interview! Much appreciated and good luck!
My pleasure! Thanks for having me, and thank you to all the readers in the Netherlands who have bought Mea Culpa.
Op de bovenstaande foto zie je Clare hard aan het werk om een ‘paar’ exemplaren van ‘Mea culpa’ te signeren. Wij mogen er twee verloten onder onze leden! Wil jij kans maken? Dan mag je twee dingen doen:
1.Deel de link van dit interview op je tijdlijn en laat ons dat weten op onze Facebookgroep.
2.Mail ons minstens twee namen van auteurs die lovend zijn over het boek van Clare. (Vergeet daarbij niet je gebruikersnaam op Facebook te vermelden!)
email@example.com Doe dit voor a.s. zondagnacht 24.00 uur!
Ben je nog geen lid? Dat is zo gepiept! Klik hier en meld je aan bij de winactie van ‘Mea culpa’.
Deze winactie loopt t/m vrijdag 22 april. We maken de winnaars maandag 25 april bekend op de Facebookgroep.
Eerder verschenen op Perfecte Buren.