When did you first realise you wanted to be a writer?
About five years ago. It was the right time in my life. Any earlier would have been too soon. I work from home anyway as a private piano teacher. I’ve been self-employed for 25 years. The teaching is mainly evening work, so I have the daytime hours. Housework is a necessary evil. I do it; it doesn’t leave me with that fuzzy feeling of fulfilment. I’ve had four children and stayed at home with them, which more than fulfilled me. Three of my children are now adults.
There came a point, after years of being a teacher and a mother – two very demanding roles as far as ‘giving’ goes – when I thought, OK, this is my life. I’m still young and energetic enough to dedicate myself to a new cause (and I wanted to). Plus, I’m old enough to have a little experience behind me – and all writers need life-experience. So, what do I want to do now? What do I want to say? I’m very communicative. I like people a lot and have always observed people. I found that writing was what I wanted to do, and once I started, it became a compulsion.
As human beings, we like to finish what we start. Human nature dictates that it’s a good idea to complete; bring closure to. Writing a novel is like constantly having an itch you want to scratch. It’s a never-ending venture that longs for completion. You become utterly devoted to it. You live with your characters. At the end of the process, you always feel it could be better, stronger, sharper. And so you cut, chop, snip, prune. You edit and edit again. It never feels finished, but it’s an amazing process. You learn so much about yourself along the journey.
How long does it take you to write a book?
About a year, give or take. Editing time can be added on top of that – more months of intensely tedious work. It really is a labour of love.
What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
As a person, I’m hopelessly impulsive. I can be half-way through pinning the curtains behind the holders and think of someone I need to ring and dash off to do it – one curtain opened, the other not. Because I’ve been my own boss for so long and never had to conform to rules and timetables, I don’t have a ‘work schedule’ as such. I teach 25 piano lessons a week, look after friends and family and work like mad on my writing or promoting my book in between.
Every spare moment is spent on my writing. I’m up until all hours at night and I’m always up early. Sleep is a burden. My energy knows no bounds when it comes to writing, especially if I’m in the middle of something and some character needs unlocking from a cupboard or something. I can’t very well leave her there! P-lease!
How many suspense novels have you written?
Just one in the mystery/suspense thriller genre, plus I’ve written an unpublished paranormal suspense book which is sitting idle on my computer at the moment. One day …
Which is your favourite and why?
Could you choose between one of your children? I love them both and I’m sick of them both (let the analogy between my books and my children end here!!). When you’ve read something dozens of times and squeezed its virtual spots, it gets a bit monotonous.
Where do you get your ideas?
I don’t know. Someone I know quite well who read Either Side of Midnight said to me, ‘Hey, I never knew you had a twisted mind! Where do you get your ideas from?’ I took it as a compliment. It’s like asking why you dream you have extra rooms in your house and are being chased through them by a giant Mars bar or something. You just do. Who understands the workings of the subconscious mind?
As human beings, we’re deep and complex. Peoples’ books (whatever authors may say) are an extension of them; they say something significant about that person and their life-experiences. They say (whoever ‘they’ are) that it’s impossible to disguise our own handwriting, even if we’re trying to. There will be tell-tale signs that an expert could spot to identify the writer. I think our fictional stories are like this. They are an integral part of who we are – like those weird dreams of ours – and are a mishmash of our own unique journey. Fascinating stuff!
Who is your favourite character from your own work and why?
I’ll stick to Either Side of Midnight because it is my one published book. My favourite character is possibly Siobhan. She’s so far removed from me that she makes me laugh. It’s interesting for me to develop her. She’s socially awkward and says inappropriate things. She makes you squirm. No one wants to be with her. I’d hate to spend an afternoon shopping with Siobhan. It would be a nightmare. She isn’t interested in fashion, isn’t chatty or sociable and is only funny when she doesn’t mean to be. I laughed most when Siobhan was in conversation with someone. Sadly, amusing myself wasn’t in the interests of the plot (a thriller by nature must be plot-driven), so I ended up cutting lots of Siobhan’s utterly unwise words. And I miss them.
Which character from the work of others do you wish you’d invented and why?
Good question. Two of my favourite authors are Ian McEwan and Sebastian Faulks. Neither of them are mystery/suspense writers, but I want to mention one each of their characters. The memory of them stayed with me long after I finished the respective books.
Sebastian Faulk’s Engleby is one of my favourite books of all time. I wish I’d invented Engleby – a very complex character. The story is in first person, so we’re right inside his head. I’ve never been so close-up to a character and simultaneously wondered if I really knew them at all. The whole book has a ‘Shutter Island’ feel to it. You’re never quite sure what’s going on, but it is beyond intriguing, and I found it quite moving at the end. Loved it!
Ian McEwan wrote a book called Solar. His protagonist, Michael Beard is another very complex character. I loved hating him. If you’re going to write about a nasty protagonist, you’d better be brilliant at writing. Luckily for Ian McEwan, that wasn’t an issue. Normally, readers love to love their protagonists. Michael Beard is not lovable. He’s utterly repulsive, and he has an incredible ability to rationalise his behaviour. I thought that Ian McEwan did an incredible job with him.
Talking about the thriller genre, of course I wish I’d created Jack Reacher – the guy men want to be like and women want to be with! Jack is a genius creation – a guy with no home, no clothes or belongings of any kind who drifts from place-to-place for the heck of it, kicking baddies along the way, fearing no one. Awesome! If I’ve a small complaint, I wish he’d change his undies a little more often. Sometimes, I wonder if I can smell them, just a tiny bit.
If you could have been someone from history involved in crime (good or bad) who would that be and why?
That’s a tough one. Having just watched the first short series of Whitechapel, which was about Jack the Ripper, I think I would like to be involved in whipping back to those times (with the use of DNA testing and hindsight and modern technology and everything, of course) and helping the police to nail that monster. His crimes were hideous. He went unpunished. The mystery has haunted and fascinated people ever since. Conspiracy theories rage.
When I was growing up in Manchester in the 70s and 80s, the Yorkshire Ripper was on the loose, murdering women just 20-odd miles away from where I lived. As a teenager, I was completely traumatised. I remember the Manchester Evening News once featuring in small pictures that filled the front page, pictures of all 13 of his victims. I don’t remember the headline, but it was along the lines of: Will He Ever Be Caught? Fortunately, we can look back and know that Peter Sutcliffe was indeed caught and brought to justice – even if it was long after he should have been. I’d like be involved in cracking the case in London way back in 1888 – from a very safe distance, of course.
What are you working on now?
I’m about to start writing a follow-up to Either Side of Midnight. There’s that itch again! I never intended for it to have a sibling. It was going to be an only child! But there is definitely some unfinished business. People who’ve read Either Side of Midnight have hinted – not slightly subtly – that they want a sequel. Who am I to deny them? I’m plotting and planning right now. In fact, I must be on my way!
Tori de Clare is UK author of Either Side of Midnight, a mystery/suspense thriller. It is currently in the adult and NA sections of the market. Tori's career has been in music. She has privately taught piano and theory of music for the last twenty-five years and is passionate about the Romantic Period, especially the works of Chopin and Rachmaninoff. Mum of four and one of seven children, Tori finds little time for hobbies outside of family, reading, writing and teaching. Her very busy life gives her the perfect excuse to opt out of ironing and all forms of keep-fit. The only working out she does is how to avoid accompanying her husband to the gym. For ever. Daughter of two pianists, music was destined to be her career. Her father died when she was 18 and always aspired to being a writer. Either Side of Midnight is dedicated to him, and to her mum who taught her to play the piano.
Either Side of Midnight by Tori de Clare