BBC Radio Oxford: The Oxford Book Club

29 Apr 2016

Last time on ‘Prever’s Page Turners’ I was talking about the shortlist for the 2016 Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction, and, to tie-in with the Charlotte Bronte bicentennial, I discussed Claire Harman’s biography, Charlotte Bronte: A Life, and a story collection put together by Tracy Chevalier, with stories from some of our best contemporary women writers, each inspired by that famous line in Jane Eyre Reader, I Married Him. I also discussed a new Le Carresque thriller A Dying Breed by debut author and BBC journalist Peter Hanington.

Listen to the BBC clip here

BBC Radio Oxford's David Prever BBC Radio Oxford’s David Prever

The importance of getting out (& a handbag of snails)

25 Apr 2016

liar, liar chip lit 2016 With Amanda Jennings, C.L. Taylor and Hannah Beckerman

One of the unexpected pleasures of the last couple of years has been getting to know other writers and meeting many readers.

These days I’m spending very long hours alone in my shed in trackie bottoms thinking about lies and dung beetles. It’s easy to become (even more) misanthropic and mad so getting out, once in a while, putting on real clothes and talking to book lovers is probably essential. So here’s a silly snap from this weekend’s Chipping Norton Literary Festival where I was lucky to be on a panel with writers Amanda Jennings, C.L. Taylor, and Hannah Beckerman.

I was talking about one of my favourite books, The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith.  Highsmith – a somewhat complicated woman – once showed up at a literary cocktail party with a large handbag containing a head of lettuce and one hundred snails. These, she said, were ‘my company for the evening’. See. I could be much worse.

 

Spookier than a Hallowe’en Ghoul

28 Oct 2015

nerocardSo today I had to perform a Random Act of Kindness for Psychologies Magazine.

I smugly decided it would be a bookish act of kindness. I’d slip a £5 voucher for my favourite café into a book in the local library. But my favourite café, it turns out, does not do vouchers. Four cafés later, still no voucher, and I’d become pretty irritated. I tried my favourite cookie shop instead but no vouchers there either. Finally I found Café Nero: they do vouchers but only £10 not £5 ones. Gritting my teeth, I bought the £10 voucher. ‘Sometimes, there’s nothing better than sitting in a café with a good book’. I wrote, grimly. I’d decided it was too self-serving to put the voucher into one of my own novels, so I’d planned to put it into The Kindness, by Polly Samson, a brilliant book. But that was out on loan. So were both my novels (I cheered up a bit at that). Then I remembered that it was the poet Sylvia Plath’s birthday yesterday. Her angry poems seemed to suit my mood so I went and found her collection Ariel and opened it – no, I am not kidding – right at her bitter, despairing, furious, double-edged poem Kindness.

 

Kindness glides about my house.

Dame Kindness, she is so nice!

 

I slipped my voucher into the page. As an afterthought, I added: ‘Sometimes, kindness can be genuine and uncomplicated’.

 

I loitered a bit, hoping to see someone find my note, but the poetry section is pretty quiet and nobody went anywhere near Plath. But poetry happens to be next to the history section and as I left I found two books on Victorian women that I need for my current research. I glided out of the library feeling a buoyant peacefulness, a sense of productivity and calm, and a flicker of excitement at the thought that someone, maybe someone betrayed and in despair, would open Plath’s poems and find my gift.

 

Kindness

Why are we all reading psychological suspense novels?

3 Jul 2015

I’ve done a Psychologies Magazine’s Life Labs post: why are Summer Reads lists packed with gripping Psychological Suspense books, such as Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train, Claire Kendal’s The Book of You, or Clare Mackintosh’s I Let You Go? (and why I love writing in this genre).

Take a look here:  Life labs

 

Launch party for The Other Child

8 Jun 2015

The Entrance The Entrance

Saturday’s launch party at The Story Museum (www.storymuseum.org.uk) was amazing: over 100 people showed up, drank Kir cocktails (a lot), ate red velvet cupcakes & generally caroused. My whole world was in the room – family (my parents, via Facetime!), friends and neighbours, book groupers, fellow writers – I felt completely overwhelmed by the enthusiasm and support. Huge thank you to everybody who made it such a great evening.

My brilliant husband, who made sure it all went to plan My brilliant husband, who made sure it all went to plan

launch courtyard

DSCF5329 With Hannah Robinson from Quercus, just before giving our speeches booklaunch signing signing lots of books

Publication Day

4 Jun 2015

First: yes, god yepub day chocss, I am so grateful and delighted that The Other Child is published today (and particularly grateful that this means not one but two MASSIVE boxes of chocolates arrived).

And now…. for some thoughts I recorded for Psychologies magazine’s Life Labs, about what happens when you achieve your heart’s desire:

https://lifelabs.psychologies.co.uk/users/900-lucy-atkins/webcam_videos/2125-will-getting-your-heart-s-desire-make-you-happy

 

One week to go….

27 May 2015

 

Twitter Card 1

 

 

 

 

 

and the books arrived, very handily matching my flowers:

The Other Child book stack

The finished copies are in

13 May 2015

finished copies TOCThis morning I ripped open a package: the finished copies of The Other Child. Am now trying not to look to see if there are any remaining typos and – even worse – to read any of it as I will want to change it all. So, it’s less than a month till pub day (4th June) and the book launch party at the Story Museum (6th June). I know how very lucky I am to be holding this book in my hand – and how easily things could have turned out different.

Writer Clare Mackintosh talks about writing I Let You Go

8 Apr 2015

I ‘met’ Clare on TILetYouGo_Bwitter and then devoured her debut novel, I Let You Go. It is a fantastic thriller, impossible to put down, about what happens when your past catches up on you. Here, Clare shares her tips for anyone who is currently writing a novel, looking for an agent or trying to get a publishing deal…

Tell me about the process of writing I Let You Go, was it smooth?

Looking back it does feel as though it was relatively straightforward, but I think writing is a bit like childbirth, in that respect. It’s hard to remember the days when I wept in front of a blank page or pressed delete on whole chapters of work, because the end result is something I’m very proud of. The first draft – plus a bit of editing – took me a year, and then I spent another year working on the manuscript with my agent and editor. In total I wrote eight drafts of I Let You Go before I was happy with it. It seems an extraordinary number now, but each one took me closer to where I wanted the book to be.

What tips would you give to people who are trying to write a novel? 

Keep going! Easy to say, but far less easy to do, especially with real life getting in the way. But unless you type The End you’ll never have a manuscript to work with, so it’s pointless even thinking about submitting to agents and editors. Most writers, when they start, have day jobs to prioritise, and I do understand how hard it is to juggle a job with writing a book and running a family. But it is possible. You need to carve out time for yourself, even if that means giving something up: a Sunday morning lie-in, a Coronation Street habit, a night out with your mates. Write 500 words a day – less than this blog post – and you’ll have a first draft in six months.

What did you do to find an agent? 

 I’m very lucky, and have never been through the long process of submitting cold and wondering if I’m languishing in a slushpile somewhere. I had been working for a while on a romantic comedy, with the help of an agent a friend had put me in touch with, but I hadn’t been offered representation and I was starting to wonder if my writing simply wasn’t up to it. I had nearly finished I Let You Go when I met with someone who worked in publishing, to discuss the literary festival I had founded. We moved on to talk about my writing, and I explained my predicament. ‘Why don’t I give it to a different literary agent,’ she said, ‘for an objective opinion on whether the book has legs?’ That agent turned out to be Sheila Crowley, at Curtis Brown, who offered me representation shortly afterwards. 

What advice do you have for writers seeking representation? 

 Do all the things the books tell you: finish your book; edit, edit and edit some more; research the right agent; write a great cover letter and so on… But there’s a lot of luck involved in finding representation, and I think you have to do more than that. Think early on about building your platform: do you have an online presence? Where will your audience come from? Could you start a mailing list? People dismiss networking as a dirty word, but replace it with ‘socialising’ and suddenly it’s not so bad! Talk to people; make sure they know you’re a writer. Don’t bore the hind legs off them, but if no one knows you’re writing a book, you’ll never feel the benefit of that beautifully serendipitous moment when the guy who fixes the photocopier at work turns out to be the son-in-law of a top literary agent…

Tell me about what happened when your agent sent your book out? 

 The book still needed work. My agent knew that, and I knew that, and so the decision to put it out on submission was always a gamble. I should prepare myself for disappointment, I was told. And so I did. A few editors turned it down, but a couple wanted to speak to me. I had a chat on the phone with one, and went to London to meet Lucy Malagoni from Sphere, an imprint of Little, Brown Book Group. Lucy and I hit it off straight away, and there was an offer on the table a few days later.

What role does your editor play? Is she or he ‘hands on’? Do they get involved creatively? 

 Lucy is brilliant, and I consider myself incredibly lucky to have such a talented and tactful editor. She’s very good at seeing the bigger picture, and suggesting where a story needs more light; more shade; more tension; more emotional depth. Mostly, that’s where her role stops: my job is to take her advice and implement it. But if I struggle with that – if I can’t see HOW to achieve what she’s so perceptively identified – she’ll take me a step further.

What are you working on now? 

I’m writing my second novel, another psychological thriller, which is currently untitled. I wrote a different book that wasn’t quite right, and it didn’t feel as though it ever would be, so I put it away and have started again. This time the words are flowing and I’m excited about the way the story is shaping up. It’s about female commuters who are followed on the London Underground, so I have a huge Tube map on my wall at the moment, as well

I Let You Go is published by Sphere.

Learn more about Clare: claremackintosh.com

Follow Clare on Twitter @claremackint0sh

The Birthplace of The Missing One

19 Jan 2015

The Missing One USA hardback The Missing One USA hardback

 

I keep remembering what it was like to guiltily work on a book I was sure would never be published. I wrote The Missing One while living in a suburb of Boston, USA. I’d sit in Lincoln Street Coffee (now closed – perhaps too many customers stayed 3 hours with one Americano?) or the tiny George Howell Coffee near our house George Howell Coffee   or  – frequently – the beautiful Newton Free Library  feeling really guilty (I had other things, paid things, to work on) and wondering what on earth I was doing this for.  And now, a year after it’s UK publication,The Missing One is about to hit the shelves back in its birthplace.

My favourite bookshop when we lived in the Boston area was the beautiful Newtonville Books  and they are kindly hosting the launch event for The Missing One on 12th February.  My friend, Nick, sent me this photo as he walked past the window yesterday. All those lonely, guilty, self-doubting hours in Newton, MA were worth it in the end.

missingone newtonville books

 

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