At The Bar With: Clare MacKintosh & Ruth Ware

Claire & Ruth give us insight on planning, lockdown and the key to a good novel..

Left Bank Books hosts on Facebook Live

BPR wants to introduce you to Left Bank Books, an independent book store based St. Lois, Missouri. The store was set up by Washington University graduates in 1969 and stands as the oldest bookstore in St Louis. The aims of the store were “to spark public conversation by curating an intelligent, relevant, culturally diverse selection of books” which is something they followed up with on tonight’s webchat featuring Clare Mackintosh and Ruth Ware. BPR wants to thank the bookstore and Shane (the host) for hosting the evening (Facebook on 16 June 2020).

Clare Mackintosh is New York Times and Number One International Best Seller of I let You Go. I Let You Go follows Jenna Gray as she moves to a cottage on the remote Welsh coast, trying to escape the memory of the car accident. She’s desperate to heal from the loss of her child. The novel tracks the pair of Bristol police investigators trying to get to the bottom of this hit-and-run. As they chase down one hopeless lead after another, they find themselves as drawn to each other as they are to the frustrating, twist-filled case before them. It was translated into more than 35 languages and sold over two million copies worldwide. She is also the founder of Chipping Norton Literary Festival!

Ruth Ware is also a Best Seller of The Turn of The Key. She has been storming through the literary blog world having appeared on Crimesbythebook (Instagram), Virtual Noir At The Bar and other platforms over lockdown. Her book is based on a live-in nanny, everything was too good to be true on this job advert. When Rowan arrives at Heatherbrae House, she is smitten by the luxurious ‘smart’ home fitted out with all modern conveniences. The house is situated in the beautiful Scottish Highlands inhabited by a picture perfect-family. However, every family has their secrets and every child is not always well behaved. This particular family drives her into a cell awaiting a trial for murder of a child from her new family. Pleading to be not guilty, she is convinced someone else is. The book is a very suspenseful, scary and enticing thriller that everyone can sort of relate to – in terms of technology.

Now we turn to their conversation about their writing process. It was lovely to watch the two authors bounce off of each other and they are so on the same page! We could watch them all day…

Clare To Ruth: What should you be doing now?

Ruth: This precise day is what I normally would be doing like pottering around, making supper and winding down. This summer has not turned out the way I planned it. The one event that was supposed to be happening was that I would have been speaking at Iga Christ’s home in Greenway. You get to stay there and visit her house where she lives.

C: I should be in Sweden this week (16, June). I had a little Scandinavian tour booked and I was moving on to Hong Kong next week. Instead, I am at home sorting the children out and home schooling. It was a shock to be home schooling but then I change to this (holding up a wine glass) in the evening.

R: Cheers (holding up her own) Just to let you know, it is 7pm here in the UK and we are not lunch time drinking. [We have to admit there has been one or two occasions for us in the BookPub bar!]

C: although, I wouldn’t judge anyone if they had decided to because we are currently living in a strange new world with unprecedented times! So have you actually charged on with any writing?

R: Yes, I have caught up with the last of my editing for my next novel called One By One which will be released in the Autumn. That was nice an easy for me to do in Lockdown because I enjoy editing. I don’t know about you. It is all the right brain sort of thinking and solving, or is it left brain. It’s not creative but it’s just something to get the brain going a little which was easy to focus on. Now, I have finished. It’s the time where I would have to think creative again for ideas on the next novel. It has been really tough.

C: Me too. I have a thriller out next year and I managed to finish it today. I should be starting the next book but I’ve got an idea for a short story so I am hoping it’s like a gentle jog before you head out for a bigger run. I can’t do flash fiction, you know the short stories that have been written cleverly, short, twisty, with inner meanings. I wrote the novella a couple of months ago which was so much fun. I didn’t manage to get in the sub-plots into it and it was a lengthy piece of writing but I did enjoy it.

R: I find short stories harder to write. I’m not sure if that’s just my imagination because when I attempt them I find my writing comes out in 90,000 word jumps. These short stories for my website was supposed to be short and sweet but they bloom into these 13,000 monsters. It’s hard because you have to create a background, a character and to solve their problem within a small word count. It’s ten times harder! Do you plan your writing?

C: Yes. It sounds crazy but I plan on spreadsheets. It sounds horrible just it’s a way I do my chapter breakdowns. So After The End, I had a plot from two points of view. I charted Max’s story with everything that happened and I did the same for Pip. Once I planned it out, I actually started to write it. There will be changed throughout to help make the story fit. Lee Child is famously known for just sitting down on the first September where he would write the first line of his book and start off from there.

R: With The Turn Of The Key, it was more about unravelling the plot from the beginning. She sees an advert which is too good to be true and I wanted to figure it out. I usually know the setting when I start writing as this is important to me. The house was based around the process of me setting up questions and answering them. It is so smart like coffee machines ran by an app and lights that come on when you clap. I always worried that if I knew everything, the book would become boring and uneventful. The latest book you write had a very different premise in style of writing compared to you other novels. Can you describe to me what provked this?

C: I thought it was time for challenge or a change. It was something very different, not a psychological thriller, but something you and I do on a regular basis which is putting ordinary people in an extreme situation. This is where we begin to unravel the plot and how each character gets out of it. From the readers point of view, they can relate to it. There’s a poem I love by Robert Frost about a yellow woods. This is an influence to me because I take my plot and look down each path, making the decision to see which fits best and what path the characters take.

Shane: Do either of you have a visual idea on what your characters look like before you start writing?

C: I actually sat on the tube all day one day. I had a note pad and I would write the description of people that sat in front of me and got a build up that way. One day a lady was reading what I was writing over my shoulder, looking worried. I had to write on the top of the page “I am a writer” so she understood what I was doing, fearing she wouldn’t get me kicked off the train.

R: I physically don’t vision what they look like often because I like to write the narrative. I’m often consumed what the character is thinking in their head. I’ve spent so much time on bloody Zoom looking at myself lately so its been hard to get out. There is the occasional inspiration where someone’s sense of humour or quirk would strike me to want to write and then I would take a series of these qualities, stitching them together.

Once we’ve read their books, we will be posting a review on our Book Review page. If you want to check out the full chat, see Left Bank Books Facebook Page now! You can order them from all bookstores too!

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