My blog guest this week is fellow Choc Lit author Clare Chase.
Clare writes mysteries set in London and Cambridge featuring crime-solving couples. She fell in love with the capital as a student, living in the rather cushy surroundings of Hampstead in what was then a campus college of London University. (It’s currently being turned into posh flats …)
After graduating in English Literature, she moved to Cambridge and has lived there ever since. She’s fascinated by the city’s contrasts and contradictions, which feed into her writing. She’s worked in diverse settings – from the 800-year-old University to one of the local prisons – and lived everywhere from the house of a Lord to a slug-infested flat. The terrace she now occupies presents a good happy medium.
As well as writing, Clare loves family time, art and architecture, cooking, and of course, reading other people’s books. She lives with her husband and teenage children, and currently works at the Royal Society of Chemistry.
I asked Clare some questions:-
Have you ever undertaken an investigation like your sleuthing characters?
Thankfully, I’ve never been faced with the serious crimes that they have to tackle! However, I am quite an inquisitive person, and I do find there are lots of everyday mysteries that pique my curiosity. If there’s an unexplained dynamic between people that I know, for example, there’s a great temptation to try to find out what the background is. I also love objects that hint at past stories, like the pen and ink drawing in our living room, dedicated to my great, great uncle by the artist Claud Lovat Fraser. I spent some time looking into Fraser’s history; the personal nature of the present made me want to know more.
Even though these are low-key mysteries, they’re the sort of puzzles that spark ideas for the whodunnits that I write. Circumstances can often be developed and embroidered to form the basis of something darker.
You have a degree in English Literature – which is your favourite classic book?
I think it would have to be Charles Dickens’ Bleak House. It’s very moving and full of tragedy, but also crammed with intrigue, hidden connections and evil plots! But what really makes the novel special from my point of view is Dickens’ ability to conjure up such vivid pictures and intense emotions. There are paragraphs in that book that still give me goose bumps, a couple of decades after I first read them.
Do you plan your novels or go with the flow?
I’m a dedicated planner – though I’m filled with admiration for writers like Minette Walters and Donna Leon who just dive in. Before I start I know who my killer is, and I’ve plotted the main twists and turns, and worked out how the denouement might play out. I find if I have those things in place, I can relax and my writing flows, because I know I’m not going to march off down a dead end. Having said all that, things frequently change as I write. The process of getting the words down sparks new ideas, so I don’t let my original plans restrict me.
Do you feel your writing is influenced by the city you live in?
That’s definitely the case for my latest books, A Stranger’s House and One Dark Lie, which are both set in Cambridge, where I live. I find it’s a fascinating backdrop for mystery fiction. It’s a very small city, and the contrasts between people’s circumstances can be stark. You get college choirs singing Elizabethan madrigals by the river, whilst drunks deal drugs on the commons. You also get people rubbing shoulders who wouldn’t normally cross paths. The university employs large numbers of people in all sorts of capacities, from college bedders, who look after the students’ rooms, to professors. This means secrets have the potential to travel quickly and in unexpected directions! Beyond that, it’s a very beautiful, lively and international place, which means there’s lots of interesting local colour to draw on.
My first book, You Think You Know Me, was set in London, where I lived as a student.
Which characteristics do you share with your characters Ruby and Nate?
Ooh, golly – that’s a great question, but a tricky one! Ruby’s much braver and more self-sufficient than I am, to be honest, though people have said they like her mixture of feistiness and vulnerability. I do have a curious streak though, just as she does, and I’m very interested in what makes people tick. Ruby makes her living writing about people and their behaviour, which is a job I think I’d enjoy! Nate has had a lot to deal with, including a past family tragedy, and unfinished business with his enemies. Perhaps because of this, he’s very fond of the situations that make him feel grounded, such as holing up at his Suffolk farmhouse or working a case with Ruby. I think that’s what I share with him: I love some excitement and adventure, but only if the most important things remain solid and dependable!
Nate and Ruby both like music, and also cooking – they love their food and wine – and that’s certainly something I share too!
Thank you, Clare – I’d love to know more about the history of that pen and ink drawing – fascinating!
Clare’s latest novel, One Dark Lie, is out now on all digital platforms.
One Dark Lie – Blurb
The truth can hurt, and sometimes it leads to murder …
After becoming embroiled in a murder investigation, Nate Bastable and Ruby Fawcett have decided to opt for the quiet life. But crime has a habit of following them around.
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, almost as though he had something to hide …
You can find out more and buy a copy here: www.books2read.com/u/mV7XGJ
The previous books in the London and Cambridge mystery series are:
You Think You Know Me (London): www.books2read.com/u/3RBDEp
A Stranger’s House (Cambridge): www.books2read.com/u/mvYLAl
Both are available in paperback and on all digital platforms and can be read as standalone novels.
If you would like to connect with Clare, her links are below
Website and blog: www.clarechase.com