LIFE OF CRIME
THIS ISSUE EX-CID officer and Theakstons Prize winner CLARE MACKINTOSH
Theakstons Prize-winning author Clare Mackintosh on murder and shopping.
What’s the very first crime novel you ever remember reading?
Well, my first crime novel – if you discount The Secret Seven and their detective exploits – would have been And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie. She’s just the master of plotting, so that was a great grounding.
What’s your favourite crime novel ever and why?
Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca was my first insight into domestic suspense – that would be one that I would read again and again. It’s the characters and the sort of creeping dread that runs through the book that I love.
Who has been your role model?
I really look up to Mark Billingham and Peter James, not only because they’re enjoying such successful careers, but because they’re so incredibly generous to new authors. I think that’s a really wonderful way to be when you’ve been successful yourself.
Who or what most inspires you?
I’m attracted to settings and I like to build a world around them. The Gower Peninsula is just a beautiful place to be. I set Jenna’s sections of I Let You Go there because I find the coast both freeing and also slightly frightening. There’s something similar on the Underground [ which features in I See You] – it symbolises freedom in terms of enabling you to get around, but actually I find it quite a claustrophobic and threatening place to be.
What would you be doing now if you weren’t an author?
I don’t think I would be in the police. I think I would have stayed doing freelance journalism and copywriting. I always wanted to be a radio presenter. I think everyone has at least three careers.
What advice would you give to your 14-year-old self?
Just to believe in myself a bit more. I always loved writing and I always knew secretly, I think, that I was quite good at it. But I never quite had the confidence to do anything with it. While I might not have done that at 14, I could have perhaps done it at 18, or 24 or 30.
What’s your favourite TV crime show, past or present?
TV police shows have become much more accurate. Happy Valley is my favourite show because it’s got the whole package – the acting’s superb, it’s got humour, it’s really down to earth. Sally Wainwright’s writing is exquisite, it’s the TV equivalent of a page-turner.
As an established writer, who do you now most admire among your peers?
Sophie Hannah was a huge influence. She has this brilliant mesh of police procedural and psychological thriller, which I really enjoyed. So I find her very inspirational. And Colette Mcbeth – I really kept her in mind the whole time I was writing my second book, because while I loved her first book [ Precious Thing], her second book [ The Life I Left Behind] was even better.
What’s the best crime novel you’ve read this past year?
There’s a book called In Her Wake by Amanda Jennings. It’s not making a huge splash and I feel it should, because the writing is so good and it’s so atmospheric and the characters are so brilliantly drawn. So that’s definitely one of my books of the year.
Which fictional character do you wish you’d created?
I would secretly quite like to write funny books. So I suppose if I were to think about characters I’d like to create they would be something like in Sophie Kinsella’s Shopaholic series, that sort of thing. I don’t have any plans to write a different genre. But whenever I read those books, I think what fun they would be to create.
What’s the craziest letter you’ve ever had from a fan?
I’ve had lots. I have just had an email this morning from a lady that felt I Let You Go was very inauthentic, because Jenna was very unlikely to get a broadband signal in rural Wales. And you know, she’s probably got a point. I’m sorry that minor detail has spoiled things for her.
If you could commit a crime and get away with it, what would it be?
I think I’d probably murder someone, I’m not sure who, or how or why. But yeah – that would be great research, wouldn’t it?
I See You and I Let You Go (Sphere) are out now.