An Interview with Author, Ruth Ware

ruth ware interview main author

By Sarah Morgan

Harrogate… a picturesque town full of beautiful buildings, amazing eateries, exciting shops and… murder.

Well, for one long weekend in July every year the latter is the case anyway, because that’s when the annual Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival takes place at the Old Swan Hotel. In 2024, it’s running from the 18th to the 21st, with a line-up featuring the great and good of the crime-writing fraternity.

One person who knows all about it is this year’s programming chair, Ruth Ware, whose novels, including In a Dark, Dark Wood, The Woman in Cabin 10 and The Lying Game, have propelled her to the top of her genre’s tree. Nevertheless, she’s still pinching herself about her role.

“It’s a dream come true! I was so bowled over when I got the call, honestly. I never expected it,” she says when asked what it’s like to take charge of the popular event.

“It’s a really interesting process. There’s quite a big established committee already there, a real mix of people like industry experts, and some authors, plus a bunch of people who are the actual nuts and bolts of the festival, who do all the hard work of getting people in the right place at the right time.

“So I breezed in with my wish list and then suddenly realised, have people been here recently, have they got a book out, are they going to be able to travel… But I’m so happy where we ended up. I think we’ve got an absolutely cracking line-up that showcases the whole breadth of the crime genre.

“I really wanted to do justice to crime and thrillers as a genre, as well as picking some of my own writing heroes. So yes, I’m very happy with the full programme!”


“Storied past”

Among the headliners are Peter James, Elly Griffiths, Chris Carter, Shari Lapena, Vaseem Khan and Richard Osman. The last on that list is arguably the biggest name in the genre at the moment, so it’s something of a coup to have signed him up.

“He’s highly in demand,” admits Ruth. “But we don’t take the time of anybody who said yes for granted. I think the thing about Theakston’s is that there is huge good will within the crime writing community to it, so there’s that thing that people would be here whether or not they were ‘working’, and that’s such a joy as a programmer to know that people are excited about being asked to come.”

She adds: “One of the great joys of Theakstons is that authors, editors, agents, reviewers, readers… they’re all just hanging out in the bars and on the lawns. It really feels egalitarian.

“You can just rock up to someone for a chat and it might turn out they’re a bestselling crime writer, or someone who has their debut novel out this year, or they’re a passionate reader who’s been coming every year for 20 years, and all of those are equally interesting.”

Although she seems to have got her dream line-up already, there are a couple of names Ruth would have love to have invited – if she’d had a time machine, or if they were able to travel.

Agatha Christie,” she grins. “She is after all one of the reasons why the festival is in Harrogate, because it has that storied past. And I think everyone would love to know what happened with her disappearance – did she really have amnesia? As someone who loves Christie’s work, I don’t think I could resist getting her on the stage and grilling her about what went on.

“Also, someone I hugely admire but who isn’t often categorised as crime is Stephen King. Dolores Claiborne, for example, is a straight-up whodunit told in a really fascinating way. It was a huge influence on a couple of my books, so I’d love to snare him.”

Not only is this year’s festival a big event for Ruth because of the part she’s played in putting the entire thing together, it’s also important due to the fact that she’ll be launching her eagerly awaited ninth crime novel, the reality TV-inspired One Perfect Couple, during it.

“It’s coming out on the first Thursday of Theakston’s, which is really exciting. It’s a lovely full circle actually because my first book, In a Dark, Dark Wood, was sort of launched there as well. One of the first public things my publishers did was they took me up to Harrogate before the book was due to come out and I sat with a huge set of proofs and I gave them away to people.

“I remember at the time and looking at the panels and the special guests and stuff, and thinking, if I make it onto a panel at Harrogate, I will feel as if I’ve really made it! So yeah, it’s rather lovely that a decade later, to come back and launch my new book as programming chair is amazing!”

“A joy”

ruth ware interview portraitAlthough being so hands-on at Theakston’s is a huge part of Ruth’s year, it’s just one event in a packed schedule, which looks set to include another trip to our region in October, when she’s pencilled in to appear at the East Riding Festival of Words in Beverley.

“I’m writing another book at the moment that is currently under wraps, so I can’t talk about it,” she reveals of her other projects. “I’ve got an American tour coming up, then I’m coming back to Harrogate and other events in the UK, and then I’m going to Hawaii in November for a writers’ conference. I always enjoy talking about my books, but I must admit the setting swayed me on that one!”

The last 10 years have been a whirlwind for Ruth. Before that, she was working in publishing and wasn’t sure she’d ever make a living as a writer.

“I always wanted to be a writer, right from when I was tiny, virtually before I knew that writing was even a job,” she admits. “When I got to the point when I might have started taking it more seriously and trying to get published, I’d started working in a publishing house.

“That was a huge setback because it gave me this enormous attack of stage fright; I suddenly realised how high the bar was, how difficult it is to make a living as a writer, and just generally the horror of submitting my manuscripts to an agent, then realising that later I might have to work with them!

“It was only when I had my kids that I came to this crossroads and realised that if I didn’t find a way to make this pay, I wasn’t going to be able to keep (writing) in my life because I barely had time to wash my hair, let alone do anything creative!”

Now, with lots of experience and plenty of bestsellers behind her, Ruth has learned to deal with her ‘stage fright’ and urges wannabe authors to simply enjoy the process of creating imaginary people and the worlds they live in.

“It’s a joy to be able to do this full-time, it’s all I ever wanted and not something I take for granted at all,” she says. “I think it’s tough when you’re in the trenches, putting yourself out there when you’re vulnerable, but if you can just hold onto that joy of how much fun it is to create… yeah, just keep the faith!”

You see, no matter what happens in Harrogate, books don’t have to be murder!

Ruth Ware is the 2024 Festival Programming Chair for the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival (18-21 July). Her latest book, ‘One Perfect Couple’, publishes on 18 July
author images: Gemma Day


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