Friends & Fiction
Friends & Fiction

Episode · 2 months ago

WB-S2E40 The It Girl with Ruth Ware

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

WRITERS' BLOCK Ron Block and Kristin Harmel have a conversation with thriller writer, Ruth Ware about her lastes book, The It Girl, and explore her writing process, life in England, and how she puts it all together!

What happens when I have something like that that I'm kind of processing is eventually it ends up in my books. And that's what happened with the girl, except obviously, because I'm a crime writer, and you know, writers are generally fairly unpleasant people. I took the situation in the book to kind of the nth degree and made it as sort of as horrible a dilemma as I possibly could, which is what happens to poor Hannah. So, you know, rather than just being involved in a sort of minor gore case where she has to make a decision based on the evidence, you know, she is the person who is the crucial witness in an incredibly complicated case. Welcome to the Friends and Fiction Writer's Black Podcast for New York Times best selling author One Rock Star, Librarian and Endless Stories. Joined Mary Kay Andrews, Kristin Harmel, Christy Woodson Harvey, and Patty Callahan Henry along with Ron Block as novelists. We are four longtime friends with seventy books between us, and I am Ron Block. Please join us for fascinating author interviews and insider talk about publishing and writing. If you love books and are curious about the writing world. You are in the right place. Welcome to a new episode of Friends and Fiction Writer's Block. On this episode, we're chatting with New York Times bestselling thriller author Ruth Ware, whose latest The Girl, was an instant New York Times bestseller when it debuted in July. Today, we'll be talking to her about the book itself, her writing career, overcoming challenges, and even a game of murder and mystery that you and your friends can play at home. I'm Ron Block and I'm Kristin Harmel. I'm so excited to be chatting with Ruth Ware here, not least of all because we share a publicist, Jessica Roth, who has been singing her praises for as long as I've known her. But I was a Ruthware fan long before that. Her novels grab you by the throat from page one. They are just extraordinarily propulsive in the best possible way. Absolutely. Ruth's best selling thrillers include In a Dark, Dark Wood, The Woman in Cabin Ten, My Favorite, The Lying Game, The Death of Mrs west Away, The Turn of the Key, and one by one. They've appeared on bestseller lists around the world, including the Sunday Times and New York Times and have been option for both film and TV. Ruth is published in more than forty languages, yep, boarding and she lives near Brighton, which is about fifty miles south of London on the Sussex Coast. She's joining us from England today. Welcome Ruth. Oh, thank you so much for having me, and what a lovely introduction as I'm British. I'm sitting here you can't see but sort of blushing and generally feeling very awkward, but it was lovely to hear. We were so thrilled when when this worked out for you to come and join us. This is especially the girl, Oh my god, you had me go until the last page. That's what we aim for. It doesn't always work out, but I'm always very pleased when we wantaged to pull the wool over people's eyes. I love the books where you know, you think it's this person, then it's that person, then it's this person, is that one, and it doesn't add up till the end. We all love a red herringe. So before we dive into chatting with you, we'd love to hear a bit about the book, which seems quite a fitting title, as you seem to have become the girl of the thriller group, although different, different than the people in the book. Yes, not that kind of girl. Girl. Can you give us a quick overview of the book? Yeah, I would love to. So. My main character is Hannah. She's a bookseller. She's living in Edinburgh...

...with her husband, Will, who's her college sweetheart. They're expecting their first baby. So on the face of it, everything is pretty idyllic, but you quickly learned that Hannah has quite a traumatic past. When she was at university, her college roommate April was murdered and in fact, Hannah found her strangled in their shared dorm room. The college porter John Neville was convicted largely on Hannah's evidence, and now ten years later, back in the present day in Edinburgh, john Neville has died in prison, still protesting his innocence. And on the face of it, this should be good news, you know, it should free Hannah up to close a really painful chapter of her life and and get on with things and you know, look forward to this new life that she's bringing into the world with her husband. But in fact, what it forces her to do is face up to the fact that she has never been completely happy with john Neville's conviction. There are questions that she's never been able to answer, there are thing that never quite added up, And when a podcaster comes sniffing around with it's of information that Hannah had no idea about ten years ago, she is forced into the realization that not only did she possibly make a mistake which resulted in an innocent man dying in prison, but more than that, April's killer is possibly still out there and it could be someone pretty close to home. So yeah, that's not that's none of that as spoilers. That all happens in the first two chapters. Okay, so beyond there's elevator Bitch. What's the book really about? Well, good question. Well, usually, like my books have some sort of core or some sort of phobia of mine or some sort of worry that I'm I'm nibbling about, and often some kind of social issue that I'm bothered about, something that I'm sort of you know, reading about in the news, or something that I just think it needs a little bit more sort of thought on my part. And this book is no exception. And I guess not the phobia this this is not. You know, The Woman in Cabin tenn is very much a book that's about like a personal fear of mine, which is the idea of seeing something, reporting it truthfully and not being believed. This book isn't isn't about a fear in that sense. But I wasn't. I was probably halfway through before I realized that actually what I was really writing about was probably something which happened to me several years ago now. But I was called up for jury duty. I went into it sort of quite I don't know, quite blithely in a way. I was sort of like, you know, oh, this is a very important chance to do my civic duty, and you know, I feel very proud to be asked to be part of the justice system. And you know, all that was true, and it is a really important thing to do. But I found it really I don't want to say traumatic, because I think that overstates sort of my part in things, which was actually, you know, a very sort of privileged, insulated way to encounter the justice system. But I I found the responsibility really weighed on me. You know, I wasn't sleeping, and I took it seriously, and I think I wasn't alone in that I got the impression that most of my fellow jurors felt a similar kind of weight of responsibility. But I think that what really impressed me was the fact that I came to this case in a really kind of you know, as I said, like a really sort of insulated way. I only had to deal with this for two weeks and then I was able to go home. And you know, it wasn't it wasn't a case nearly as serious as the one in the book, But the people who were there as as witnesses and defendants and victims, you know, they had a much more bruising encounter with the justice system, and really, no matter what the verdict was, nothing was going to make things okay for them. They were going to go home and have the same problems and the same hurt that had happened to them before any of this started. And this this really really bothered me, and I suppose it must have played on my mind over the years. And usually what happens when I have something like that that I'm kind of processing is eventually it ends up in my book,...

...and that's what happened with the girl, except obviously, because I'm a crime writer, and you know, writers are generally fairly unpleasant people. I took the situation in the book to kind of the nth degree and made it as sort of as horrible a dilemma as I possibly could, which is what happens to poor Hannah. So, you know, rather than just being involved in a sort of minor gore case where she has to make a decision based on the evidence, you know, she is the person who is the crucial witness in an incredibly complicated case and things go wrong. She you know, she says what she saw, what she thinks she saw truthfully, but it turns out to have been a mistake that ends up in a major miscarriage of justice. And I think for me, you know, for me, that would be I don't think I would ever sleep again if that had happened. I would never rest until I found out what the truth was and if I could possibly put it right. So that's the kind of that's the sort of personal side of it. But I think, you know, there are lots of kind of social themes, lots of things that I'm sort of nibbling around in the book as well, in terms of you know, class and inequality and and how people present the world versus the people we take at face value and the people that we mistrust. And lots of complicated themes which on I don't think they're really avertly addressed in the book necessarily, but there are all stuff that worries me that ends up getting kind of floating to the surface in the plot. Oh, it comes across so beautifully though, too, every one of those themes. And what a great backstory. Thank you for sharing that. Yeah, it's fascinating because you know, I think about this a lot with my own writing too. For me, I feel like the things that I that are gnawing at my mind, the things that are bothering me, the things that I need to work through, somehow surface in my work, even though I don't realize I'm doing it. It's almost like in retrospect, I can look back and say, well, of course, that's why the plot took this twist. And in fact, I you know, when we were preparing for this podcast, I had read an interview with you in The New York Times in which you said some fear or phobia or personal terror of my own is seeded through the pages of most of my books, which is kind of what you just addressed. I'm curious how deliberate that is on your part. Is it is it something that you realize that you're working through, or that you're reflecting on as you right, or is it something that just sort of surfaces on its own. It's a good question. It's mostly completely unconscious. I mean, I think with with the woman in Cabin tent, it was probably a bit more conscious than most in that I knew it was a It was an issue that had been in the news a lot in the run up to me writing the book. You know, court cases where it was he said, she said, situation, and where the the she was a young drunk woman, And it really bothered me the way that two people's word ended up being weighed so very differently by the justice system so often, And that was something that I knew worried me. And having mean on occasion a young drunk woman. You know, nothing particularly bad ever happened to me, thankfully, But I think it's something that most people think about as they go through life. You know, it would I be believed, how well would my word be weighed? And that that I think was something that I knew I was bothered about, But very often, as you say, you know, it's something that comes bubbling up from your subconscious and certainly with the ita that it wasn't. I never sat down to think, I'm going to work through my you know, qualms about the justice system in a novel. It was I was probably halfway through before I sort of thought, I guess this is really about how blunt the justice system can be as an instrument of you know, restorable restoration. And yeah, so I know when I sat down and to start to write the novel, that wasn't in the forefront of my mind, and I think exactly as you said, you know, it's I sort of think of it a bit like dreaming. You know, sometimes when you're really stressed about something and you wake up from a dream and you've been i it like you know, swimming against a riptide or something like...

...that, and you're like, maybe this is to do with the enormous pressure of work that I am battling against. Except often in books it seems to be a much more, much more literal version of that. I do always think my books are a bit like free therapy on some level, you know, you come out of them feeling like, really get some very cathartic. You've worked through lots of issues and you feel great. It's it's so true. But then I also feel like after you've finished writing the book and you know you have to kind of let that character go and move on to the next there's almost this grieving process that happened, you know, like I've been through the free therapy, but now I have to move on to the next phase of my free therapy. Yeah. No, it's so true. And especially when they're there are characters that just really get under your skin and that you get to love. And I think that's the great grief in a way of writing stand a Loans is that you have to say goodbye to them. But I like to think of them still out there. I kind of wonder, you know, what they're doing every now and again, and I sort of think of them as like friends that I used to know, who you occasionally see popping up on Facebook and you wish them well and you hope that their marriage is doing okay and that you know they're not drinking too much and whatever is. Oh God, I love it. I want to go back just a little bit and talk a little bit about the setting for the book. So one of the things that you do really well is to choose and then really really expertly execute the perfect setting to bring the book alive. I think you excel in creating claustrophobic and eerie worlds in which the strings are pulled tighter and tighter, and this is no exception. Can you talk to us a bit about what made the setting of Oxford so perfect in this novel? Well? Yeah, there, so there are there's really two key settings in this novel, and obviously one's Oxford and one's Edinburgh where the present day. So the book is split into two sections for anyone who hasn't read it to to narrative strands, there's a before strandon and after strand, and the before strand is the ten years ago at Oxford University and it's told in alternating chapters with the after strand, which takes place in the present day in Edinburgh. And I didn't go to Oxford University, so that was always a bit of a bit of a hubrist, I guess on my part, because it's you know, it's a an environment that has been written about a lot. There are so many novels set at Oxford and some real classics. It does feel like an enormous act of hubrist to sort of feel that your book needs to be added to that teetering pile, particularly when you have no personal experience of it. But I think when I knew that I wanted the before strand of the book to be set at university, Oxford was the obvious choice, and I never really wavered from that. So I went to Manchester, which is a very different university experience. You know, it's a huge, spoiling university that takes tens of thousands of students every year, so it's a great place to go to university. But it's very different from the Oxford system them, which is based around colleges and you when you apply to Oxford, you apply to a college. You're accepted or rejected by that college, and if you get in, then you live in that college. You have rooms in the college where you sleep, you have a dining hall where you eat. You have most of your tutorials within the college, so there'll be a tutor who's often a member of the college who will teach you. You socialize in your college. There's a bar, and really it can become a very claustrophobic atmosphere because the college is typically aren't very big, even quite a large. Oxford College might only take three D undergraduates. So if you get together with someone in your first term and then break up with them, you know that you are likely going to be eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner with that person for the next three years. And that might be fine, but it might not be depending on how your breakup went. And added to that, of course, they are just really really beautiful places. You know, they're surrounded...

...by these high medieval walls. There's typically only one entrance in and out, which is the Porter's Lodge guards the entrance and overlooks it, which becomes an important plot point in the novel um And they're just you know, they're they're incredibly stunning ancient buildings. So I think, you know, for all of us who grew up hoping that we would get our Hogwarts letter one day, Oxford is probably the closest that most of us will ever have to that kind of glorious, you know, Gothic architecture in real life. So yeah, it's uh, it was always the place that I wanted to set the novel. The novel in terms of the kind of, as you say, the sort of claustrophobic atmosphere, the sense of enclosure. But I think also more importantly, perhaps one of the interesting things about going to university is that often it's the first time you encounter people who are radically different to you, because, you know, if you went as I did, I went to a very ordinary state school, so most of the people there were in a pretty sort of similar income bracket to me. There wasn't really anyone who was hugely wealthy. We all were geographically very similar because my town only, my school only served the town where all the kids lived, and it was a small town. It was a small, pretty white town with no mosque and no synagogue, so everybody who lived there was pretty culturally similar. And going to university was the first time when people were sorted not by an accident of income or where they happened to be born, but by their intelligence and their aptitude for a subject and their interest in studying it for three years. And that meant that you suddenly got a wild diversity of people, you know, and and at Manchester that there was you know, I met people who went to private school. I met people who are much wealthier than me. I met people from other countries had come to study at Manchester, but I think at Oxford that disparity is even larger. And I remember a friend of mine saying that she she rang me up and said that there's a girl on my landing who's the daughter of a countess, and I sort of thought, well, I did, like, I didn't know that countesses existed in real life. Like theoretically, I do understand that they're not a mythical being, but I certainly would never expected to meet an actual countess, let alone be you go to university with their daughter and be like three doors down. So I think Oxford just really exemplifies that enormous disparity of background, that you were suddenly all in the same environment, and from a rightly point of view, that creates friction, and friction is inherently makes for interesting plots. So yeah, so Oxford felt like the perfect setting for the before part of the narrative. That's awesome and it really comes across. Of course, I didn't got Oxford, but I went to a school where there was a lot of it, and you brought out so much of the stress of college life and the relationship building, and it just like it took me back and Alms didn't want to go. I do you think it was Yeah, there's a certain amount of triggering for people. I think the other thing about Oxford is that everybody who goes there and this is this is true for a lot of colleges, of course, and certainly I've had some correspondence for people who are like, yeah, I remember this and it was not good. Is the fact that the people who end up there are typically the people who were the best in their class at school. You know, they're the brightest, they're the best, they were the ones who were always top of the class. And suddenly, when you get to Oxford or you know, or i'm sure Yale or Harvard or any of the top tier schools, you are in a class entirely composed of other people who also were in that bracket, and only one of you is going to get to be top of your new class. And that some people rise to that challenge, but some people find it extraordinarily upsetting and difficult.

And yeah, I think I didn't have time to go into that hugely in the book, but I think that was a pretty complicated experience for most of the people I spoke to who had been talks with That's interesting, you know, that was such a great explanation of setting and why you chose to set it at Oxford. I wanted to talk about another story decision, and that is why you chose the two timelines. So during the first timeline, Hannah is just starting college and later she's about to become a mother. Those are the two the before and the after, very firmly grounded in those time periods. What made you choose those particular stages of life for your story to play out against. Well, I love a dual time nine novel, and I've written quite a few, although some of them are not split by ten years, they're much sort of closer in time. And typically when I've written it before, I've done it in a much more kind of fluid way. You know, there's a lot more segueing back and forth, and there's a lot of emory, and there's a lot of experiencing stuff in the present, and then it's sort of bleeds into a flashback. And this time I didn't do that, And that was a narrative decision right from the start, right from when I started writing the book. I split it into these two very discreet timelines which never really overlap, and it took me about half the book to realize that that's because Hannah's life is completely fractured by what happened to her when she's at university, and the person she is before April's death is completely different to the person she is afterwards, and her life has been defined by that Fisher. So therefore it felt right on some level for the manuscript to reflect that. So the two the two timelines are very abruptly separated, and you switch back and forth from them in sometimes I think, quite a disorientating way, although that's hope that's deliberate largely. But in terms of why I picked those two stages, the university timeline was always going to be so at Uni, and I think for me that's because it was one of the defining moments of my life, you know, when I became an independent person for the first time, and I left home and I had to figure out all sorts of things and try and find out who I was in the absence of my parents and the friends that I had grown up with. But also I think it's a hugely vulnerable stage of your life in the sense that you know, I'm in my forties now there's I don't flatter myself. I could handle everything, but I have I feel I've developed, you know, just out of having twenty five years in the adult world, a fairly good grasp of, you know, defense mechanisms and understanding of how difficult situations can go, and understanding of how to diffuse things. You know, when I was eighteen, I didn't have any of that experience. I just sort of blithely went out into the world and it threw myself into situations that looking back, I'm impressed by my bravery and also horrified by how it could have turned out. And you know, I'm very glad I did all of that. But at the same time, I don't think I had an understanding of what I was taking on when I took some of my challenges, which is, you know, it's right because that's the time of your life when you should be fearless and foolish and brave and tackle challenges that you are very ill equipped to deal with, let's be honest. But all of that does make an interesting point to set a you know, a thriller that rests on a single moment, because of course, Hannah has gone out into the world as someone who is fearless and brave and you know, taking on things that she's not equipped to deal with. And what happens is something basically the worst thing happens almost of you know, and it completely changes who she is, and just at the moment when she should be, you know, spreading her wings and being brave and foolish, something happens that makes her go back into her shell, and that's...

April's death. But of course then I needed to find um a point for the after stage of the narrative that sort of counterbalanced that. And I think that for me, the two turning points in my life, and in some ways they sort of reflect each other, but in sort of opposite ways. M was leaving home as a as a student, but then having my first kid, and you know, suddenly the freedom that I'd spent ten years getting used to, you suddenly go from having all the time in the world and all the choices in the world to having no freedom whatsoever. You're tied to this very vulnerable little child who you can't leave for more than a few minutes at a time. And it was an enormous shocked in my system in a good way. Um, but I and it's also you know, pregnancy. I think if you're someone who's you know, relatively able bodied and lucky enough not to have too many health problems, it's often the first time in your life as an adult that you remember what it's like to be vulnerable and to not be able to do the stuff that you take for granted, and to have to think twice before you jump off a bus or you know, run for the train, or do any of the things that you would normally do. So it just felt like the two felt like they counterbalanced each other quite nicely. Absolutely, it makes perfect sense too. So we're continuing talking about story decisions in general. You have these two timelines, You've got all these characters and all these red herrings and the who done it's and all the details. Can you talk about how you approach putting it all together in there? Because I just can't imagine how, Like if I took a picture of your brain, is probable that the lines all over the place to pull it out together, But how did how did you work it through? I always wish I had a more fancy answer for this because Actually, the truth is I don't. I don't plot a bunch. I do think about my books a lot before I start writing them. Um, and this one was no exception because it came out of lockdown, so I had a year of um, you know, I've written a book a year pretty much ever since my first book came out, and twenty was the first year and I didn't write a book. And that was because, like many other people, I was homeschooling and my kids and making banana bread and rocking in a corner and crying and doing whatever else it was we did for five months remembering why I didn't want to be a teacher. And my husband is a virologist, so he was really not able to be much help at all. Who was, you know, just disappeared onto a zoom call at the beginning of the pandemic and according to my memory, didn't come off it for you know, the next year and a half. But yeah, so I did. I did not have a book out. I didn't write a book in twenty But of course, in the back of your mind you always thinking about things. You're running over characters. So I think this was one of my fastest books to write, and Actually that was because quite a lot of it I'd sort of figured out how I wanted it to go. But generally the way I write is I have a set of characters who I think about beforehand. I usually have the setting in mind, and then I know who did it and generally how and why, and then in between I'll have a few scenes that I want to write. Like this book, I knew that Hannah would be pregnant. I had some scenes I wanted to include regarding that, I had some scenes at University. The strip focus scene that which happens quite early on in the book, was one that I knew I wanted to write that was always going to be there. So there were a few kind of beats like that that I knew I wanted to include. But I don't. I don't write anything down, I don't plot, I don't have I don't keep timeline diagrams. Really, I just had a few notes about hand as pregnancy, because that like, you don't want to be twenty five weeks in one scene and then you...

...know eight months in the next, but no beyond that, I just kind of play it by ear and sort of like I think, you know, it would be nice if we got to this scene fairly soon, and how could I make it plausible that this would then happen? And and just yeah, just make it up. So I go along. Well, that's a sign of a brilliant mind because it's all kept there, and it could be the sign of a disorganized mind, let's be honest, But yeah, I have I have a strong faith that if I forget something, it's probably because it wasn't a very good idea in the first place. So I trust my memory to act as a kind of triage system and only keep the good stuff. That may not be how it actually works, because who knows what brilliant things I might have forgotten because they're gone. But that seems to be working so far. I think I think it works out pretty well the way it goes. I actually think that's incredibly intelligent because I outline in great detail and I wind up with a lot of things I need to kind at the end because they were completely unnecessary. So I should think more about that triage system. That's a great idea. Uh So I would love to talk a little bit about underlying themes too. So I'm particularly interested in this because on our Wednesday night, friends and fiction Facebook live show We head on author and television host Tameron Hall a few weeks ago, and her debut novel is about this little girl who disappears, but the disappearance is not taken as seriously by the police as it should be because she's black. So it was really a jumping off point for a great discussion about how society categorizes and prioritizes victims. And in your book, April's murder seems to get a ton of media coverage because she's rich and beautiful, and she's at Oxford and you know, just sort of all these things. And equally, her suspected murderer murderer is, you know, this sort of awkward, disconnected person, which seems to put that person very easily into the culprit category. Right. So I found these elements and the way they influence public perception fascinating and very true to life. Did you mean to address this issue about how society sort of labels us and pre categorizes us based on where or where we came from. Yeah, No, definitely, And in fact, I think when you write books, certainly when I write books, I'm often writing against or in reply to things that I did in earlier books, and the treatment of John Neville was definitely a reflection of some of the other I can't explain this without spoiling previous books, but there were characters in earlier books that I had written who I felt had got a bit of a bum rap, And so it got me thinking about the way society tries to portray their villains in a certain way and wants to see people in a certain light, and the way people who are weird and awkward and socially uneasy in the world are generally much more sinned against than sinning. And John Neville is definitely in that category. Like he's someone who he's not an easy person to like. He's you know, he can be creepy, he can be overbearing, he has very few social graces. But that doesn't mean necessarily that he's a bad person, and it certainly doesn't mean that he's a murderer. But everybody is very willing to feel that he fits, you know, he makes them feel uneasy and uncomfortable, and therefore, as far as they are concerned, that means that he fits the profile of a creep. So I didn't want to make easy answers about that because in the book he does behave in ways that are not acceptable, not just not socially acceptable, but just not acceptable anymore. And I didn't want to excuse him for that, but I suppose it was sort of trying to uneasily edge around the fact that people can be difficult to deal with in some ways, but that...

...that isn't a green light to write them off in other ways. Um. And likewise, with April, absolutely, she's the perfect victim in terms of, you know, the type of person that the press becomes obsessed with, and I wanted to press a little bit on that, and not just to press social media as well. You know, social media is a theme in the book, and people's obsession with April's death is a theme in the book, and how that impacts on the other people in her life, um, and the way that she ticks all of the boxes in terms of exactly she's she's young, she's beautiful, she's intelligent, she's you know, she's at Oxford. And I think I wanted to to sort of just examine a little bit the way we as a society. And I don't want to put it all on the media, because I think social media, who is. After all, all of us is just as guilty of this. We love to put people, and particularly victims into boxes, you know, we put them in we treat them as the perfect golden girl who was in the wrong place at the wrong time and you know, got all lays and was always wonderful to their friends, or you know, the cautionary tail, the girl who had a bit too much to drink, cause a bit too much of a party girl, or you know, whatever it is. And people are really that simple, um And the way, as a society we decide what kind of person someone is, and we create a narrative for them, and then we get incredibly angry if they don't fit that narrative, if they do something which doesn't fit in with the way we feel we were led to be, you know, to perceive them. And certainly victims of crime are often really good examples of that. But the other group that I have started to feel more and more uncomfortable about over the last few years are the it girls of the kind of you know, late nineties, early naughties, you know, the Paris Hilton's, the Britney Spears, the Tarapartment Tompkinson's, the way those young women were first held up in the press and then destroyed because they didn't fit the way society felt they should be behaving. Now I look back at it and it's you know, it's just astonishing, like the treatment that they were subjected to. You know, it's completely sickening. And that was a factor in deciding to give you April is the girl of the title because she is rich and beautiful and ticks a lot of the eight Girl boxes. But it was also a little nod to the way society loves to build people up and tear them down. And it's also part of the reason why I tried to make April such a presence in the book, and that was, you know, I could have all been written in the in the after timeline. It could have been Hannah just looking back in memory. But I made a deliberate decision to set a chunk of the book at Oxford so that we could see April in the flesh, experienced her as a person, and I tried really hard to make her as complicated and three dimensional and complex as possible, to show the way that it is very difficult to reduce people to the narrative that we've assigned to them. You know, April isn't a perfect person by any stretch of the imagination. She's she can be cruel, she can be irresponsible, she can be very difficult, But at the same time, she's also a really loving friend to Hannah. She's funny, she's clever, she's inspiring. She lights the room up when she walks into it. So I wanted her to be someone who it was difficult to put into a box and categorize. Um, yeah, that's a fascinating exploration to people. They are more than just their Instagram Yes, yes, aren't we all? I hope No, I'm exactly no kidding. So, Ruth, you worked in the...

...book industry earlier in your career, and you have said that it gave you a bit of stage right because you had a firsthand glimpse of at how many brilliant books were being published. You said, it became increasingly hard to imagine that there would ever be a place for me and those heaving bookshop shelves to say that twice, but that's what you wrote on your website. So, but by the way, for those of you who haven't already visited, please visit her at ruthware dot com. But back to this, I'm curious, Ruth, how did you quiet those voices of doubt in your head and begin to take yourself seriously as a writer? Well? I hear two factors really. One was that the first book I wrote was in a genre that I didn't work in, which really helped because I felt like I could sort of send it out to people who I had no connection with. I didn't know them, they didn't know me, so it felt like sort of a safe space to fail in a way. But the bigger influence was really fat that I had kids, and you know, you read a ton about you know, the pram in the hall is the enemy of creativity and all that kind of I think I talked to a lot of people on Twitter who are really worried that, you know, they want to be a writer, they want to write a book, and they fill this desperate sort of need to get published before they have kids, because they're really worried that, you know, that it's difficult enough to find the time to write, now how are they going to do it after they have kids? All of which is totally valid, and I completely understand that, you know, finding time to write when you have a full time. Job is hard enough, let alone if you've got kids on the side. But all I can say is that for me, it was what it was that pressure that made me seriously start to write for with an eye to publication and you know, women up and send it out there. Um. And basically I was, you know, I had a pretty demanding job. I had a toddler, and I was on maternity leave with my second baby. Um. And I realized that my writing was a hobby, you know, it was. I was scribbling things in the evenings and weekends, but I wasn't doing anything with it. And I realized that I didn't have time for hobbies anymore, you know, I did. I barely had time to wash my hair most days, let alone do stuff just for me. And I thought, if I don't find a way to monetize this and keep it in my life, I am I'm going to lose this. I'm not going to be able to do it until the kids are you know, probably at school, and maybe not even then. Um. And so I gave myself until the end of my maternity leave. I thought, I'm gonna I'm going to write a novel and I'm going to send it out to an agent and yeah, across my fingers and that became um yeah, my first published novels. So it was it was really that threat of losing um something that I love to do that made me realize that I had to yet to grab my courage and stop being such a worse about it. It's so interesting too, it's so cool. So speaking of your website, we went on and started exploring it. There's this amazing murder mystery game that you put out different people that can play, but I think it's between four and eight people can do it, and all of the different pieces are there to download and get involved. And it was probably was a perfect like pandemic thing to do. It was friends and it's still fun people friends and family that are maybe a long distance or you just get together somewhere and do it. Can you talk about how that came to be and on your website, Well, so it was exactly that. It was a pandemic thing. And I've always loved those kind of mystery dinner parties where you know, you each get a different part and you dress up and you know, someone cooks a themed meal and all that kind of thing. And halfway through the lock down...

...in the UK. I was sort of trying to come up with ways to connect with friends and family that we could do over zoom, because we had for a long time we weren't allowed in each other's houses at all, and then when that was lifted, you had this rule of six they called it, which was six people who were allowed to be from no more than two households, so it was really very limited. And we did a murder mystery via zoom, one of these downloadable ones where everybody took a part on where you're logged in over zoom, and at the end of it, I thought, do you know what, I could have written a better one? I wish I wish I had written one, And then I thought, well, actually, I'm not really I don't really have the headspace to write a novel at the moment, but I probably could do one of these because they're not you know, they're not super long, and it was really fun. I really enjoyed working out the logistics. And the way my one works is the killer is selected on the night you could you or beforehand you can draw it, so it changes each time, and then depending on who is the murderer, the script is slightly different. So you should be able to figure it out from the clues, but it basically it changes each time. And yeah, it was. It was huge fun to write, and we played it over zoom. I did a live version with some other authors that we did to publicize the launch of one of my books, and I, yeah, I hope people are downloading it and playing it, but I really don't know. So if if you have played it and enjoyed it, please tweet me and let me know, because it's not like a book where you sort of end up with, you know, reviews on good Reads or stars on Amazon to prove to you that this thing does exist and is really out there. Um, I never know whether people are doing this. It's completely free and there are even some of my favorite recipes that you can cook alongside it if you want to make it into a dinner party. So what a great little package. Yeah, we'll get some people on it. Do that and let me know how it goes. Let me know if you probably will guess it, because it's yeah, but we will And of course we would be remersed if we did not acknowledge that. Being British and over the last few weeks, the world's eyes have been on the United Kingdom as we all struggle with the loss of your Queen Elizabeth the Second and Commemory at the beginning of the reign of King Charles the Third. Do you have any thoughts on the end of such a long, incredible reign in the beginning of a new one. I know, it's such a seismic moment. I mean, I think for pretty much everybody alive in the UK now, Queen Elizabeth is all we can remember. We are, you know, Elizabethan's and being I don't even know what the word would be Carolina's I've seen on Twitter. It's going to be a really strange shift. I've never known a time when you know, the Queen wasn't on stamps or coins or bank notes, or you know, h MRC has alwaysted for her Majesty's revenue and customs. I guess you know, James Bond will no longer be on Her Majesty's secret service. It will have to be his Majesty. It's just like it's just I don't know how we'll ever get used to it, but it feels like we have had so much change and so much loss over the last few years that I think that's partly why we've seen such an outpouring of emotion, that there's a lot bound up in this moment that is actually nothing not just to do with the queen, and I think a lot of people are mourning a lot of experiences over the last few years that we've seen have been sort of bound up in this moment. So yeah, it remains to be seen how Britain moves from this what's up forward, I know, and so moved by people in the cube being interviewed and they were talking about the things that they brought with them and just those little stories really are indicative of the larger feeling of the country. I love that we can just say the cue and nobody like we don't even need to spec Maybe, you know, if anyone's listening to this in in thirty years time, perhaps we should specify that there was actually like a large queue...

...to visit the Queen lying in state before her funeral. And it's to the extent that the BBC had to add it to their list of weather forecast you know, it was like London, Manchester, Birmingham, the queue and it would tell you like what the what the way there was going to be in the queue. Should you be queuing overnight, it will be you know, going down to minus one or whatever. It was, So, yeah, that's amazing, that's true. Think's such a detail they gave about how long the line it was like five miles at one point, and how many hours and people were queuing for like twenty four hours. It was, Yeah, it was. It was really remarkable. I have to say, I did not want to do that. I don't envy anyone who did it, but you know, I think for the people who did it seems to have been an incredibly meaningful experience. So yes, you could see it, you could see it in their faces. And what about the fact that sort of the whole world is mourning with you. You know, it's something that's so personal to your country, but I think the world over we all feel this grief, in this sorrow because she's all we've ever known. Also, I mean everyone across the world has, you know, for the most part felt you know, she's the queen that's defined our lifetimes too well in a lot of ways. That has been really heartwarming because I think Britain's relationship recently, particularly with Europe. But you know, we're in general with many overseas countries has not been as easy recently as it used to be when I was younger, And you know, it's been really moving to see people like President Mahom in France. You know, his speech about what Queen Elizabeth meant to him and to the French people was just lovely and it has felt, you know, speaking personally, it's felt really comforting to feel like, actually there is still some affection there in spite of you know, all of the awful things that you go over the past few years and the prickliness in both directions of some of the relationships that have sprung up. So yeah, that's been very moving and lovely to see. It's it's always so nice to see the world's come together, even if it's for a sad reason, you know. And I feel like I feel like we've really seen that here. Well, Ruth, it has been so lovely to have you. Um, it's just been such an enjoyable conversation, it really has. But before we let you go, we've already mentioned Ruth, weare dot com and that's awesome free murder mystery game. But is there anything else you can tell readers about where they can find you online or on the road in the coming months. Well I will. I'm always online. My handle on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram is at Ruth ware writer on all three. I'm not on TikTok. Well i am, but only in the sense that I've claimed my user name just in case someone else pretended to be me. But yeah, if you see anyone tick talking as Ruth Ware, it is probably not me. But yeah. Also, I have a book club on my website which people can join and sign up to and they get a bunch more stuff, including some free stories and access to a secret Q and a page full of spoilers. So yeah, please come and find me. I love to chat and yeah, well that sound you hear is me signing up for the book club. Please, Ruth. We're so thrilled that you joined us today. We love chatting with you about your career, your life, and of course the It Girl, which we hope all of you out there will be inspired to pick up. So thank you again, Ruth for joining us. Oh, thank you for having me on. It's been such a pleasure. I know that you're everyone's going to love this book as much as Kristen and I did, and this book along with all of our past guest books, are available at the Friends and Fiction bookshop dot org page. Just visit there. It's a great way to save a little money and support indie booksellers. Thank you again, Ruth, and thanks to all of you for tuning in to the Friends and Fiction Writer's Block podcast. If you're enjoying our conversations, please tell a friend we'll see you next time. Yeah, thank you for tuning in to the Friends and Fiction...

Writer's Block podcast. Please be sure to subscribe, rate, and review on your favorite podcast platform. Tune in every Friday for another episode, and you can also join us every week on Facebook or YouTube. Where are Live? Friends and Fiction show airs at seven pm Eastern Standard Time. We are so glad you're here.

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