I Let You Go has been one of the year’s big publishing hits so we found out how life has changed for its author, Chipping Norton’s Clare Mackintosh.
1. With the current talk about police cuts and serving officers possibly looking for new career options, tell us how you went from serving with Thames Valley Police to writing for a living ...
‘I’m not sure I’d advise anyone to give up a career to write books – it’s not the most sensible plan! I’m very lucky that it’s worked for me, although I spent a couple of years freelancing for magazines and newspapers before I started writing novels full-time.
‘I loved my job, but I hardly saw my children (then 4, 3 and 3) and I couldn’t see how I could continue my career once they started school. I decided to take a career break, but even without paying for childcare I still needed to earn an income.
‘The only thing I knew how to do was write, so I started pitching to magazines. I placed a couple of features and decided that’s what I would do. It was tough, but it worked. At the same time I started writing I Let You Go, and in June 2013, a month before I was due back to work, I got a two book publishing deal.’
2. Where did the idea of doing a book come from?
‘I’ve always written, and at school wanted to be a journalist but one of my teachers dissuaded me. I carried on writing, but never showed anything to anyone until I had children and started a blog.
‘It was the first time anything I’d written had been read by strangers, and the first time I’d ever received feedback from anyone other than a teacher. The response gave me enormous confidence, and so I started writing fiction.’
3. How long did it take to write? How did it fit around family life and your many other activities like ChipLit Fest?
‘I Let You Go took me six months to write, but it was another 18 months before it was ready for publication. There was a lot of juggling: my children (now 8, 7 and 7) still need lots of attention, and I have lots of other commitments that pull on my time. Organising ChipLitFest took up a huge amount of time, but it’s such a brilliant community project I didn’t resent it. I’m so proud of what the festival has achieved.’
4. Describe the moment you got a copy in your hands...
‘I went to watch my paperback being printed, and it was the most emotional and extraordinary experience ever! I cried lots, much to the bemusement of many of the staff working there, but I loved every second of it.’
5. Describe how it felt as you realised the book was becoming incredibly popular and how life has changed...
‘My paperback came out in May. Since then I’ve been on the BBC Breakfast sofa, and my book has appeared on The One Show and in countless magazines and newspapers. It’s been in the Sunday Times top ten for eleven weeks, and hit the number one spot on Amazon books and Kindle.
‘It’s been an extraordinary experience and I feel incredibly grateful that I Let You Go has been so well received. Lots about my life has changed, but I’m still doing the school run, making packed lunches, putting the bins out...’
6. What do your children think about you being famous?
They’re hugely excited for me, and are learning lots about the publishing industry! It’s been good for them to see the rough along with the smooth: now when they have to redo a piece of work at school they don’t feel so bad about it, because they see me taking feedback from my editor and reworking entire chapters of my books.’
7. And book number two?
‘My next book will be out in e-book next summer, and in paperback a few months later. It’s another psychological thriller, this time about women who are stalked on the London Underground. I loved writing it, and can’t wait for it to come out!’