Clare Mackintosh is the multi-award winning and bestselling author of I Let You Go, I See You, Let Me Lie, and After The End, all Sunday Times bestsellers. She has more than two million copies of her books sold in 40 countries. Her latest thriller, Hostage, will be published in June 2021.
Mina is trying to focus on her job as a flight attendant, not the problems of her five-year-old daughter back home, or the fissures in her marriage. But the plane has barely taken off when Mina receives a chilling note from an anonymous passenger, someone intent on ensuring the plane never reaches its destination. Someone who needs Mina’s assistance and who knows exactly how to make her comply.
It’s twenty hours to landing. A lot can happen in twenty hours.
Phenomenal! This explosive locked-room thriller has everything a reader could want in this genre: murder, mystery, morally grey areas, and a very empathetic heroine. Mina is a mother first, but when someone presents her with an anonymous note while on her most recent flight, she’s forced to choose between the passenger’s lives, or the one life that matters most… Read full review
Author’s Corner – Interview with Clare Mackintosh
Thanks so much for being on Author’s Corner! Can you tell us one funny, quirky thing about you, something most people might not know? An interesting hobby or funny habit, something so readers can get to know the person behind the author.
The pressure! This is like when people ask you for your favourite joke, and instantly, all the funny things go right out of your head… I love open water swimming, which I do in the lake in my home town, where the water rarely gets above 15 C. My favourite time to swim is in winter, when it’s a balmy 5 degrees and the cold makes your skin tingle.
What are some of the jobs you had before becoming a writer, and how did they help you with what you do now?
I did a lot of waitressing in my teens, and I think it’s one of the best jobs for people watching. You get to observe relationships, and the way people behave when they think no-one’s watching – like the guy who makes out he’s leaving a big tip, then puts it back in his wallet when his date’s finding her coat. After I left university I joined the police, and I was an officer for 12 years. It taught me a lot about the thin line we all walk between ‘good’ and ‘bad’, and between a safe life and an unsafe one. It’s terrifyingly easy to cross between the two; a space I often occupy in my writing.
What is the very first thing—ever—that you remember writing?
A short story for a school competition when I was seven. It was printed in the village magazine, and I have the page framed on my office wall. It’s called The Unhappy Rainbow, and it’s about a rainbow who loses his colours then meets a boy who paints them back on. There are disappointingly few plot twists.
What are some of the book(s) that you’ve read and loved recently?
I adored The Eighth Girl, by Maxine Mei Fung-Chung, about a woman with multiple personality disorder. The author is a psychotherapist and this debut blew me away. I’ve also (very late to the party) just finished American Dirt, and was breathless the entire time. I can understand the controversy around it, and hope publishers are doing more to seek out Own Voices stories, but I also understand why it’s been such a hit.
In our author chat a few months ago you mentioned how there are some books that motivate you, and others that make you feel like you can never write as good as that author. Can you give me an example of each?
Ha! That was a rare moment of honesty 😉 To be more specific about this, if I’m in a fragile state of mind, reading a brilliant book can pull me down, whereas on another day it might inspire me. So I couldn’t name a specific book or author, because it’s less about them and more about myself. Does that sound weird?
If you could be a character in a book for a day, who would you be?
Pollyanna, from the children’s book of the same name, by Eleanor H Porter. When she receives a pair of crutches in the missionary Christmas package, instead of the doll she was hoping for, Pollyanna is happy not to need them. Imagine being able to find the joy in a pair of crutches! I’m sure I’d annoy the hell out of my friends, but playing the Glad Game seems like a nice way to spend a day.
Just for fun, choose one answer for each:
- Laundry or Dishes? Laundry (but only if someone else pairs the socks)
- Movies or TV? Movies
- iOS or Android? iOS (I hate that I’m a slave to them, but…)
- Coffee or Tea? Tea – I’m British!
- Ninjas or Pirates? Pirates are best. Why? Just because they AAARRRRGH.
- Beach, City or Forest? Forest, every time.
If you could invite five people (dead or alive) to a dinner party, who would they be and why?
Oh man, you ask GOOD questions! I’m going to skip over the fact that, really, I’d like dear departed family members there, and go for a fantasy guest list. Agatha Christie, for plot twist advice; Daphne du Maurier, for insight into writing compelling characters; Elizabeth Gilbert, for creative inspiration; Maggie O’Farrell, because every time I read an interview with her she sounds like the nicest person; and let’s have Oprah as the fifth. Because, well: it’s Oprah.
Let’s talk about your book Hostage. Can you tell my readers a little about it?
Hostage is a locked room thriller set on a long-haul flight from London to Sydney. Flight attendant Mina receives an anonymous note from a passenger on board the plane, forcing her to choose between her own family, and the safety of the people on board.
Hostage is a high-octane thriller that honestly left me breathless, flipping the pages throughout. Are there any plans for it to hit the big screen at some stage?
We’re in talks with producers at the moment, but the screen world is even slower than the book world…
Where did you come up with the idea?
It’s been knocking around in my head for a long time. I have a notebook in which I record vague ideas for stories, and I’ve had ‘plane-based thriller: save the child or save the plane?’ scribbled on a page for a few years. Then, in summer 2019 I was on a flight from the UK to San Francisco, and the story fell into place. I emailed the synopsis to my editor when I landed and wrote the first draft that autumn.
Describe Hostage in three words.
Tense. Twisty. Emotional.
Let’s talk about the protagonist, Mina. I absolutely loved her! Empathetic, compassionate, and yet put into an impossible situation. How did you grow this character for this plot?
Thank you! All my books feature ordinary people, which I think is much more interesting than stories about super-heroes. When James Bond gets into a fight, you know who’s going to win, but when mum-of-three Sandra from 43 Bridge Street faces down her nemesis, the odds are much lower. I ask ‘why?’ a lot, when I’m creating characters. Why did Mina choose to be a flight attendant? Then, when I get the answer, I dig deeper. How does she feel about that? What has it done to her relationships? Being a writer is a bit like being a therapist, unpeeling the layers of your characters until you find their ultimate motivation.
That ending! Wow! Without giving it away, did you know the ending for Hostage before you started writing it? Are you typically a plotter or pantser?
I plot and plot, and then I plot some more. After I write a first draft I tear it up, re-plot, and write again from scratch. It’s such an inefficient way of producing a book, but I’ve accepted it’s just my process, and it produces books readers like, so… With Hostage, I worked towards an ending, then in the second draft – just as I reached the end – I realised there was another twist, one which made me laugh out loud because it was so perfect for the character involved.
It found it incredibly insightful how you wove climate change throughout your theme in Hostage. What motivated you to do that?
I don’t think you can write about aviation and not at least consider the implications on the climate. I read a review from a reader who marked down their star grading because of my ‘condescending author note’, but I’ve read it over and I stand by what I say. The scientific evidence on climate change is incontrovertible, and air travel is a significant factor. The pandemic has given us all an opportunity to work in different ways, and I think it’s important to consider if our journeys are truly essential. I’m not saying we shouldn’t fly – I have tickets booked for a holiday I very much hope I’ll be able to take – just that we should be more mindful about the consequences of our choices. Also, if anyone would like to charter me a yacht for my next European book tour, I won’t say no.
What do you think readers will love about Hostage?
I think they’ll enjoy getting under people’s skin in surprising ways, and being wrong-footed, just when they think they know what’s happening.
What’s Next For You?
Are you working on a new book? Can you tell my readers a little about it, a blurb, potential release date, etc?
We’re always working on a new book, right? I don’t have a title, release date or an official blurb yet, but the second draft is done and I’m about to start edits. It’s a murder mystery set around a lake in north Wales, UK. The border between England and Wales runs through the middle of the lake, and there are tensions between the rural village on the Welsh side, and the luxury holiday resort on the opposite shore. On New Year’s Day, the locals pile into the freezing water for their annual swim, gossiping about the party hosted at the resort the night before, designed to bring the two sides together. But as the mist clears, a body floats through the water…
Get In Touch
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