Ruth Mancini talks inspiration regarding her new book, In the Blood.
What inspired you to write?
I learned to read when I was just three years old and soon developed a love of stories as an escape from – or maybe as a reflection of – the real-life drama going on around me. I had a rather turbulent childhood and, in hindsight, writing was clearly an early means of self-expression. I remember my first story well: it was about two kids who ran away from home at the ages of four and five, and never looked back. The protagonist (me) got a job working in a post office, while her brother built an excellent house in the woods. The parents were devastated when their children didn’t come home and spent a lot of time sobbing and lamenting their poor parenting skills, vowing to mend their ways should they ever be fortunate enough to be given a second chance. Writing the story was very cathartic indeed! Although my mum, when she read it, missed the point entirely. Instead of the sobbing, lamenting and apologising I’d primed her for, she was delighted. She still remembers that story fondly now.
My mum, like me, is an avid reader and she was also a great storyteller. During some of my early primary years we had a very long walk of several miles to school and back. My mum would entertain us by getting me and my brothers to invent characters whom she would then cleverly work into a story. Later, during my upper primary years, I’d write ‘radio plays’ with my best friend Lucy and her sister Tamsin. We used to record them on an old tape recorder. It was utterly magical, hearing our voices on the ‘radio’ as we acted out the stories. Lucy’s brother Matthew was on sound effects. We wrote a lot of murder-mysteries, mainly because the doors in her house made such a good creaking noise.
I’m now a criminal defence lawyer, as well as a writer so, to be honest, I’m never short of inspiration. The idea for In The Blood came from a real-life murder case in which I was very fleetingly involved.
Which books currently in the market do you feel are most similar to your own work?
In the Blood has been compared to Appletree Yard by Louise Doughty, which is a huge compliment. I think it’s the overlap of crime thriller and women’s fiction that accounts for that. I’ve straddled the two genres a little. One literary agent said my writing style is similar to Liane Moriarty’s and that’s another huge compliment as I admire her writing very much.
What are your favourite books? Do you prefer some genres to others?
I tend to go for real-life rather than fantasy (although there are exceptions: Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife, for example). On the whole, I read the kinds of books I like to write: books about women and their lives and relationships, domestic suspense, and legal thrillers with strong characters as well as a good plot.
If Thelma and Louise had been a novel, it would probably have been my favourite. It had all the elements I enjoy – interesting, relatable, likeable female protagonists with a strong friendship and flaws that get them into hot water, a crime that needs solving, a rollercoaster ride of both comedy and tragedy throughout – not to mention some hugely important social observation about misogyny and its ultimate responsibility for the tragedy that occurs. I just loved that movie (I’m a big fan of film and TV drama as well as books). I like my crime fiction medium-boiled, the way I write it. Not too much violence or too many graphic descriptions of crime scenes or dead bodies for me. I’m more interested in the people in the story and the psychology behind the crime, as well as the characters’ back story. Having a relatable protagonist is key for me.
In southeast London, a young mother has been accused of an unthinkable crime: poisoning her own child – and then leaving him to die.
The mother, Ellie, is secretive and challenging – she’s had a troubled upbringing – but does that mean she’s capable of murder?
Balancing the case with raising her disabled five-year-old son, criminal defence lawyer Sarah Kellerman sets out in desperate pursuit of the truth. But when her own child becomes unwell, Sarah realises she’s been drawn into a dangerous game.
Unsettling and compulsive, In the Blood is a chilling study of class, motherhood and power from a new star in crime fiction.
Ruth Mancini is a criminal defence lawyer, author and freelance writer. She lives in Oxfordshire with her husband and two children.