Best-Selling Author Ruth Ware Dazzles Again With Her Latest Book Ruth Ware's highly anticipated fifth novel, The Turn of the Key, is full of spellbinding menace and suspense.
Posted on Sep 3, 2019 04:00pm

By Yolanda Crous

If you've never spent a long weekend devouring a Ruth Ware thriller on a hammock, this is the summer to start. Her fifth novel, The Turn of the Key, is set in the Scottish Highlands and is as compulsively readable as you would expect a Ware book to be (see her previous best-sellers The Woman in Cabin 10, In a Dark, Dark Wood, The Death of Mrs. Westaway, and The Lying Game, which were as lauded by critics as by readers).

At Turn's center is a nanny with secrets whose morality is questionable, a home with a reputedly haunted history replete with myriad "smart" devices, and—of course—a murder.

Watch! spoke with Ware at the home she shares with her family in Sussex, on the south coast of England, to talk plot twists, unlikable characters, and the dangers of technology.

How would you describe your book to your readers?

A woman is in prison. She's found herself in a terrible situation where her life has unraveled, and she's writing to a person she believes might be able to solve it. The challenge of writing a book entirely in letters was technically interesting to me, if that's not too geeky.

It's a spooky novel. Do you believe in ghosts?

I don't, but at the same time, I still cross my fingers for good luck. It makes me realize that much as I try to tell myself that I am a rational person, there is this atavistic core of me that is superstitious whether or not I want to admit it. Pitting these two sides of my psyche against each other is interesting to me.

Between its history of hauntings and its smart technology, the house felt like a living, breathing character.

Yes! That's what I'm going for. It's such a new technology—home management systems. And we are only just coming to grips with it. There have been several articles in the press over here about people stalked through the cameras in their home, or new partners being spied upon because the old boyfriend or girlfriend still has access. This is not something that the law has caught up with. It's a kind of living nightmare.

As a reader you're rooting for Rowan, the main character, but you also don't trust her. Was that intentional?

I like complicated, complex characters. I've just come out of watching You on Netflix, and that's a brilliant example of someone who's incredibly unlikable but at the same time you're really invested in them and want to know whether they're going to be OK. And that, as a writer but particularly as a reader, is what is important to me. I have to be intrigued by someone.

The twist at the end is incredible. When you start writing, do you know the whole story or does it unspool as you go?

I find if I know everything about the book, I get a bit bored with it. But I think it's very difficult to construct a thriller plot if you don't know the basics of what is going to happen. The kind of crime novel that I enjoy best is the sort that when the solution is revealed, your reaction is "Of course. I had all the clues. I was given all the information to solve this." In order to give the most clues, you have to know roughly what's going to happen beforehand.

When did you start writing?

My teddy bears were always off on adventures and my Barbie dolls had these amazing Jackie Collins love lives, so I've always been a storyteller. I probably wrote six or eight novels while I was in my teens, but it wasn't until my late 20s or early 30s that I realized that if I was going to carry on writing, I needed to find a way to make it pay. It was a hobby, and I didn't have time for hobbies. I had small kids. I could barely find time to wash my hair.

You have a book coming out every year. Are you a fast writer by nature?

I'm pretty quick. Writing is my job, and I try to treat it like a job. I sit down at 9 o'clock in the morning. You don't have to write very much every day: 1,000 words and at the end of three months you have [almost] 100,000 words, which is a book.

When you finish a book, do you celebrate? Do you go on vacation?

I wish I could say I have a cool routine, but the truth is every time I get to the end of the book, I'm already thinking about the next one!

Photo Credit: Gemma Day Photography.

The Turn of the Key is available wherever books are sold. Interview originally published in Watch! Magazine, July-August 2019.