Clare Mackintosh talks about I LET YOU GO

I LET YOU GO has very powerful themes of emotional and physical abuse, atonement and forgiveness. Two detectives are attempting to find out who was responsible for the hit and run accident that killed a five-year-old boy. They are thwarted by a rainy and dark day, and that no one was able to figure out what kind of car hit him or see any noteworthy characteristics of the driver, basically leaving the detectives without any clues to follow. The main character, Jenna, disappears, attempting to make a fresh start in a small town on the Welsh coast. But she is haunted by her fears, her grief and her memories of a cruel November night that changed her life forever.

EC: How did you get the ideas for the story?

CM: Shortly after I joined the police there was the investigation of a real life hit and run accident. It stayed in my mind for years afterward. I found it very hard to understand how anyone could drive away from a dead child. That got me thinking, what were their reasons? Then about nine years ago one of my sons died of meningitis. He was a twin who was only five weeks old. I thought a lot about grief and the affect it has on someone’s life. It changes us and defines the choices we make within a relationship.

EC: Did your professional experience help in writing the story?

CM: Yes. In 2011 I left the police. I was very careful to make sure the story remained fictional, but my work experience helped in creating an authentic world. I had much less research to do in relation to investigations and how to authenticate the work police environment. It is a familiar world to me. The sound of feet on concrete and metal doors being shut is so familiar. I hope it added atmosphere.

EC: Was it therapeutic for you to write?

CM: Yes, but also painful. Some of the sections I wrote felt raw to me. I put myself into the book when writing the way the character feels after losing a child. I also had a lot in common with the spouse of the detective, Meg. I know what it feels like to give up a police career to raise a family.

EC: Why did you give up your job?

CM: I wanted to prioritize my family. I had this peer assessment at work and the results said great things about me. I was positive, energetic, and had time for everybody. After I showed it to my husband, he commented ‘who is this woman, because we don’t see her at home.’ I realized I gave my family the leftovers of myself.

EC: I think one of the detectives, Ray, symbolizes this. Correct?

CM: He as a parent is blind to what is going on at home and at times forgets what is important. Ray is passionate and good at his job, throws himself into it completely.

EC: Meg also represents someone giving up her profession to be a stay at home mom. Please explain.

CM: She is an intelligent woman who was very successful at her career. In some aspects she misses some of her former life. She struggles with losing her identity. I definitely suffered with that when I left work.

EC: You made the abuser, Ian, to be a very evil person. Correct?

CM: Yes. When I was in the police I was really affected by the many women who suffered abuse. The offenders had these alternate realities built for themselves. There are very few perpetrators who attempt to justify their behavior; yet, this odd behavior in abusers I found intriguing. What is frightening about domestic abuse is how slowly it builds. If you said to my character in hindsight, ‘you will be ostracized from your friends and family, will not be able to control your own money, and will be told what to wear,’ I don’t think she would go willingly into that relationship. What happens is that it creeps up so gradually and someone’s self esteem is broken down.

EC: The dog Beau plays a prominent role. Do you have a dog?

CM: I have a Springer Spaniel. I think dogs are great heroes and provide great company. Beau helped Jenna in the healing process. In the beginning she would not let him get close to her, but eventually he forced his way into her heart.

EC: Can you give a heads up about your next book?

CM: It will also be a psychological thriller. I hope it will be a bestseller like I Let You Go. It is about how we are creatures of habit. If we do the same things every single day people can use it against us.