Mug Shot: Lucie Whitehouse
Lucie Whitehouse was born in Warwickshire, England, read Classics at Oxford University, and now lives in Brooklyn, New York. She writes full time and has contributed features to the Times, the Sunday Times, the Independent, Elle, and Red. She is author of The House at Midnight, The Bed I Made, and Before We Met.
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In your most recent finished work, what was the hardest scene to write?
Keep You Close, my most recent novel, was my fourth and the more experienced I get, the harder I think writing is. As you get better, the bar just keeps rising. Which is what keeps it exciting, of course. The hardest scenes in Keep You Close presented all the challenges: how to capture extreme emotion without melodrama; how to write (or imply) sexy sex; how to seed a big secret without tipping the canny reader off that there was one. The hardest scene technically was the reveal of the biggest twist. I was aiming for proper sleight of hand, the kind I love reading, where something happens in an unassuming line mid-paragraph and you have to go back and reread: what the hell?
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
Without question the two hundred and something dollars I spent on an evening class on dialogue writing at NYU School of Professional Studies when I visited New York in 2009. Not only did I get the chance to hear the playwright Jeffrey Stanley — the most talented teacher I’ve ever come across — analyze Chinatown and Dirty Harry but as a direct result I met my husband, who’s American. I ended up moving from London to New York permanently and that has been priceless for my writing.
What do you think is the best way to market your books?
Nothing beats word of mouth. That said, I enjoy writing pieces for newspapers, magazines and websites, and that’s a good way to remind people you’re alive. I also love Twitter. It’s much nimbler than Facebook, for example. My publicist strong-armed me into joining and I was an addict within half an hour. Actively marketing on Twitter I don’t like at all — I try not to do it myself and I don’t like it when others do — but I have absolutely been drawn to read books by authors whose take on things and humor I've enjoyed there. It’s also a great way for readers to get in touch.
Who are some of your favorite authors that you feel were influential in your work?
Growing up, I loved Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising series and anything by Penelope Lively but especially The Ghost of Thomas Kemp and The House at Norham Gardens. Interestingly, Norham Gardens is about three roads over from the street in Oxford, where Keep You Close is set. I loved the atmosphere of those books and the sense of place, two things which are very important to me when I’m writing. Daphne du Maurier was huge for me as a teenager who loved the darkness, as was The Secret History. I loved Arthurian legend and then, when I started studying Greek, the tragedies, especially Euripides, for his psychology – I saw Hippolytus when I was 16 and was blown away. My long-time favorites are Dickens, Graham Greene, and Conrad; they’re my gold standard because they combine great plots with great writing. Denise Mina is my favorite crime writer, she really is the girl with all the gifts: great plots, great characters, spot-on social commentary and — hugely important — humor.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Plotting doesn’t limit you, it sets you free.