Norfolk crime thriller

PUBLISHED: 09:00 11 April 2016

Best selling author Clare Mackintosh, who is the first author to appear at this year's Bookfest series at Briarfields hotel at Titchwell

Best selling author Clare Mackintosh, who is the first author to appear at this year's Bookfest series at Briarfields hotel at Titchwell

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The Briarfields' Bookfest series kicks off this month with Clare Mackintosh, author of best-selling thriller I Let You Go.

DRAWING ON painful personal experiences, it is little wonder that author Clare Mackintosh’s depiction of grief, fear and criminality is so compelling.

Her debut book, the psychological thriller I Let You Go was one of the biggest selling titles of last year. But it is not an easy read, nor was it an easy story to write, tackling the death of a child, domestic violence and being a victim of crime.

“Essentially I wanted to write a book which explored the impact of trauma on our lives. The decisions we make, the way we deal with it, the impact on all those round us and ultimately the way it shapes and clouds our happy-ever-after,” says Clare, who is the speaker at the first of this year’s Briarfields’ Bookfest events, on Sunday, April 17.

Her decision to give up her 12-year police career to become a writer was, she says, the result of series of life-changing circumstances.

“I loved the police, but when I had my children, I gave birth to twins 12 weeks early and we were in hospital for a long time. Sadly my son, Alex, died when he was just five weeks old after contracting meningitis. His brother Josh came home in February 2007 and then I discovered I was pregnant, again with twins. It was totally unexpected and after giving birth to my second set of twins in 15 months, I was diagnosed with postnatal depression. I was grieving for Alex, which was incredibly raw; I was a new mum to three babies, and it was just a real maelstrom of emotions.”

She initially returned to work, but after a year, she realised it was time to make a change.

“I kind of had an epiphany. I had lost one child and wasn’t seeing the other three grow up, so it was the catalyst for a big change. I took a career break and decided to pursue my first love, writing.”

Despite having no experience, she began tentatively putting out ideas to commissioning editors and gradually she built up a steady flow of work. “I always loved writing and actually wanted to be a journalist but the career adviser told me it wasn’t a real job,” she laughs. Instead, after studying French at university, Clare had joined Thames Valley police, and she believes being a writer and a detective actually have some synergy.

“When I was in CID we were advocates for victims, discovering their stories and presenting them in a compelling way to an audience, such as a courtroom. So the process of pulling together a narrative has always been something I have enjoyed.”

I Let You Go deals with the death of a child, and she says that writing the book was a very raw experience. “I found the main character’s grief very real and very difficult to get down in words as I was very much drawing on my own personal emotions. It was an incredibly tough process.”

The book also focuses on domestic violence, something Clare frequently dealt with while in the police.

“Meeting both victims of domestic abuse and the offenders undoubtedly leaves an imprint on you. Although every case is different, there are very common threads which run through people’s stories, mainly that the victims are so scarred psychologically that they often blame themselves and, on the other side, offenders convince themselves they had no other choice, that somehow this violence is justified. I really wanted to convey that in the book.”

Clare is a self-confessed social media obsessive and frequently exchanges emails, tweets and Facebook messages with readers, which she says is a real privilege.

“I also love doing events, not only do you get to meet people in person and hear what they think, you get to see new parts of the country you have never been to before, like Norfolk. I plan to have a couple of days there and can’t wait.”

Briarfields’ Bookfest with Clare Mackintosh, Sunday, April 17. Tickets £15, including afternoon tea. Mark Billingham, author of the Tom Thorne crime novels, will be at Briarfields’ Bookfest on Sunday, October 16, and more writers and dates are still to be announced. Briarfields, Titchwell, PE31 8BB; 01485 210742; www.briarfieldshotelnorfolk.co.uk.

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