Author Clare Mackintosh“Writing my novels is a way of coming to terms with these experiences.”

As heard on The Ryan Tubridy Show

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Former police officer Clare Mackintosh left the force to write crime novels and, given that she has sold over 2 million books to date, you’d have to say that she made the right decision. You might also think she should stick with what’s worked so well for her up to now, but no, instead she’s switched genres for her latest book, After the End. And if the reaction to it so far is anything to go by, that decision has also been a good one.  Clare spoke to Ryan Tubridy about how she “accidentally” joined the police, how she came to write for a living and about the birth of her twin boys. Of her twelve years as a police officer, she told Ryan:

“I put my heart into it. It was a fantastic career. But, deep down, I always wanted to write.”

Clare described the moment she knew she had to quit her job with the police. She had got a report in work that reviewed her and the job she was doing and it was glowing, telling how she was so positive, energetic, smiling and generally just a great person to have around. She was thrilled and decided to bring it home and show it to her husband. He read it and said:

“Yeah, this is really great. Who’s this woman? I don’t know her.’”

That was a pivotal moment for Clare. She left the police and her first novel, I Let You Go, was published in 2015. She’s been a full-time writer ever since.

Following successful IVF, Clare’s twin boys were born prematurely and one of them – Alex – became critically ill while in hospital. It became apparent that, if he survived, he would likely be unable to walk or talk or have much awareness of the world around him. The medical staff told Clare and her husband that they needed to decide if Alex was to receive further medical intervention, or if they should stop treatment and let him pass away.

“It is the most horrific moment of my life.”

Clare worried about whether her and her husband would be able to agree on such a heartbreaking decision. Alex’s doctor had told her that they had to agree, as the alternative would be unthinkable. She recalled going to the hospital car park and calling her father, a doctor, who gave her the advice she needed:

“You have to imagine two different lives. You’ve got to put yourself in the future. Two, five, ten years if Alex lives and think about what your life will be like, what his life will be like. And you have to do the same if he dies and imagine what your life will be like. And then you have to pick a path.”

As a writer, she told Ryan, Clare seeks solace in words. In writing about the grieving process and exploring those sorts of themes through a fictional character, she’s able to process them.

“Writing my novels, particularly the one I’ve just written, is a way of coming to terms with these experiences.”

Clare’s latest book, After the End, is inspired by the ‘unthinkable’ comment that Alex’s doctor’s made: it’s about two parents who disagree on what should happen to their critically-ill son.

“The important thing when we make these decisions is not the decision itself, but how we handle it afterwards.”

After the End by Clare Mackintosh is published by Sphere. And you can hear Ryan’s full interview with Clare, as well as the rest of The Ryan Tubridy Show here:

© The Listener 2019

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