Good morning Clare, lovely to meet you. Please make yourself at home. The tea is brewing and the cup cakes are waiting to be tried out!
Morning, Jan and thanks so much for having me. My stomach’s rumbling at the thought of the refreshments!
I have not interviewed a best selling ‘women sleuth mystery’ author before so am intrigued to find out some more about you!
Ah, yes, sub-genres in fiction are always interesting! My books get listed under the ‘women sleuths’ mystery category on Amazon. (Funnily enough, there’s no ‘men sleuths’ equivalent!) But I think my novels are really classic whodunnits, albeit set in the 21st Century.
You have written three novels to date, Can you begin by telling us a bit about each one please and if they are a sequel or stand alone books?
Certainly. My debut novel was You Think You Know Me. It’s set in the arts world, mostly in London, but with a denouement in the Lake District. The story opens when Anna Morris attends a private view at a smart London gallery and meets the man who calls himself Max. She falls for him on sight, but within hours it’s clear he’s given her a false name. Torn between backing off and allowing him to explain, she gets drawn in. Her search for the truth seals her fate as the target of a ruthless killer with everything to lose. It’s a stand-alone novel but is the first of an ongoing series of mysteries set in London and Cambridge.
My second book – just out in paperback – is A Stranger’s House, which is set in Cambridge. It opens when the heroine Ruby walks out on her unfaithful partner and takes up a house-sitting job in beautiful surroundings. It seems like a perfect opportunity – a chance to escape the gossips in her village and earn some money whilst she licks her wounds. But River House is far from the haven she’d imagined. Everything she sees there rings alarm bells, from the blood on the drawing room carpet to the disturbing pictures on the absent house-owner’s walls. It’s clear that his relationships are dysfunctional and it’s not long before violent repercussions unfold, with Ruby caught in the crossfire. Ex-PI Nate, who owns the house-sitting business, gets involved too, but he’s also keeping a secret. When Ruby discovers it, it knocks her for six. Again, this is a stand-alone mystery, but the same characters return in my third novel.
Book number three is One Dark Lie, and Ruby and Nate are back to solve another mystery. When her work dries up, Ruby finds herself accepting a job researching and writing about Diana Patrick-John, a colourful and enigmatic Cambridge academic. Simple enough. But then there’s the small fact that Diana was found dead in suspicious circumstances in her home – the very place where Ruby has now been invited to stay. As she begins to uncover Diana’s secret life, Ruby’s sleuthing instinct kicks in, leaving her open to danger and retribution. But can she rely on Nate to support her once again? Especially when his behaviour has become increasingly distant and strange. One Dark Lie can be read as a stand-alone, in that it follows a unique mystery from start to finish. However, it does carry on Ruby and Nate’s story as a couple.
Has writing always been your first love?
Yes. I’ve wanted to write for as long as I can remember and every so often I find snippets of mystery and adventure stories I drafted as a child. They were very melodramatic! I fell in love with books that keep you in suspense at a young age, when I first got my hands on Herge’s Adventures of Tintin!
Were you inquisitive as a child?
Like most children I was, and it occasionally got me into trouble. When I was about six I remember my friends and I dared each other to sneak into the garden of the big house at the end of our road. I found the house fascinating. It had so many windows that I was convinced it must contain at least a hundred rooms. I guessed that the garden would be full of sundials, statues and bird baths. Understandably, the owner wasn’t terribly pleased to find us there. I still remember the telling off I got; the shame has stayed with me to this day. Now, when I’m trying to conjure up an idea of what a particular back garden might look like I use Google Earth!
On leaving school did you go to university or straight into employment?
I went to London University to read English. After that – somewhat unusually – I got a job that was related to my degree, at the local bit of the Arts Council in the department that funded publishers and live literature events.
Was the road from writing through to publication a difficult one?
Put it this way, I found Mia’s knock backs in La La Land very relatable! On the upside, I discovered quite quickly from writer friends that initial rejections are common, and the experience got me into the habit of keeping on going. Each time I got any encouragement, feedback or suggestions from an agent, I’d take note, then get back to my laptop. I also entered contests. Getting shortlisted in Novelicious’ Undiscovered competition in 2012 boosted my confidence.
Do you have a regular routine for a typical day’s writing?
Honestly, no. I just cram writing (or planning, editing etc) in whenever I can.
How long does the researching for each book take on average?
That’s a good question but actually quite hard to answer. I’m not very disciplined and often go off on a research tangent in the middle of writing, which means it just blends into the overall length of time it takes to write the book. I’ve been lucky enough to be able to gather quite a lot of the information I’ve used just through living and working in Cambridge (including a period of time working at the University). And my mother and brother are both artists, which helped with the background knowledge for my first book.
What hobbies do you enjoy?
I love reading other people’s books, of course, and going to author events. I’m also interested in art and architecture, so visiting galleries and exploring new cities are amongst my favourite pastimes.
Are you able to switch off easily?
Not always, but if my mind’s ticking over late at night I listen to Radio 4 comedy podcasts to unwind!
FIVE ONE WORD ANSWERS PLEASE!
Winter or Summer - Summer
Bustling crowds or solitude? - Crowds
TV or theatre? – Depends!
Sudoku or crosswords? - Sudoku
Are you a lark or an owl? - Owl
Many thanks Clare for your time and all the best for the future. I am delighted that Clare will be donating a signed copy of A Stranger’s House. Details are on the website now!
Thanks again for having me!
Clare can be contacted via the following links:-