Interview with T.R. Richmond, Author of What She Left
23 Feb 2016
It’s the story of a young woman who drowns on a night out with friends – and an academic then pieces together her life and the mystery surrounding her death through her paper and digital trail. I wanted to write a traditional “suspense” story, but make it reflect how we communicate these days, so it features snippets of information from different sources, rather than having one single narrative viewpoint. As well as letting me write about love and lust and secrets and obsession (such things never go out of fashion, right?), this meant I could explore contemporary issues, such as the media, the online world and the digital “footprint” any of us leave.
What or who inspired you to become an author?
I’ve always been preoccupied by capturing detail – whether that was keeping a diary as a kid or taking photographs. Maybe it’s because memory is fickle, but I’ve always worried about “losing” the past. My desire to write was born out of the same sentiment – it’s partly about helping me remember. It’s also about wanting to start a dialogue with readers. When you publish a book, you’re saying to people: ‘This is how I see the world, what do you think?’
Name a book that you feel has impacted your life significantly. Why was it so impactful?
Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles. I was a student doing a summer job in London when I read it. I’d got off a bus, was late for work and about 30 pages from the end, but just stood by the side of the road outside the office and carried on reading. I simply had to finish it. My boss even walked past me at one point and asked me if I was alright! If ever I need reminding of the power of books, I think of that moment..
What makes your world go round? Why does it bring you joy?
I love being in the company of people I’ve known for a long time – people who know about the best things I’ve done and the worst things I’ve done and are still there for me. Just being in the same room as friends I’ve known for, say, 25 years, gives me a deep sense of joy, calm and excitement.
How do you like to spend a rainy day?
I’m a TV box-set addict, particularly US shows. I loved The Wire, House of Cards, Mad Men and Homeland. I also thought The Affair was stunning; the way it played with perspective was fascinating and there was a scene in Season 1 where Cole Lockhart had a heart-to-heart on a city sidewalk with Alison which was just heartbreaking. My current indulgence is Breaking Bad, which pretty much everyone else seems to have watched. It’s an incredibly brave bit of TV – not just in terms of the subject matter, but because the main character does such terrible things. It also can shift genre, virtually on a scene-to-scene basis, leaving you unsure what exactly you’re watching. It’s utterly compelling, though.
If you could have dinner with anyone, alive or dead, who would you choose and why?
My younger self. Not because that person would be good company – they’d probably be boring, introspective and naïve – but I’d tell my younger self to relax, enjoy life more and take more risks.
What’s your favorite quote or scene from What She Left?
Rather than my favourite, can I tell you about a bit I particularly remember writing please? It’s a scene where Alice Salmon has a weekend away by the seaside town with her boyfriend. Often, writing can be a slow process but occasionally, just occasionally, you find yourself totally immersed in the fictional world you’re creating. After I’d finished that session at my computer, I headed into my local town. It’s only two miles away and I’ve made that journey hundreds of times, but I got lost. I left the house and intended to get the train, but walked in the wrong direction for the train station. So I decided to get on a bus, but I got on the wrong one. I then even managed to get off at the wrong stop! The only excuse I can make for such ridiculous behaviour was that I was still in my characters’ heads and hadn’t recalibrated myself to reality.
Do you have a motto, quote or philosophy you live by?
I could be worthy and say something like “do unto others as you would they do to you”, but the things I believe in tend to be more practical.
I believe in the benefits of work. OK, that might be easy for me to say because I’m lucky and do a job I love and I might not say that if I was working 16 hours a days in a job I hated, but work does give us a sense of purpose, a feeling of achievement and helps define our place in the world. I also believe in loyalty and, if someone’s good to you, you shouldn’t ever forget that. And here’s one thing I don’t believe in – “luck”. Luck is merely a coming together of your efforts and circumstances, so is largely within your own control…
T.R. Richmond is the author of the new book What She Left.Buy The Book
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