Author Ruth Ware Discusses her newest thriller One by One

She is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of In a Dark, Dark Wood, The Woman in Cabin 10,The Lying Game, The Death of Mrs. Westaway, and The Turn of the Key. With, One by One, Ruth Ware returns with another heart-pounding suspenseful thriller

Ruth Ware worked as a waitress, a bookseller, a teacher of English as a foreign language, and a press officer before settling down as a full-time writer. She now lives with her family in Sussex, on the south coast of England. She is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of In a Dark, Dark Wood, The Woman in Cabin 10,The Lying Game, The Death of Mrs. Westaway, and The Turn of the Key.

With, One by One, Ruth Ware returns with another heart-pounding suspenseful thriller. Getting snowed in at a luxurious, rustic ski chalet high in the French Alps doesn’t sound like the worst problem in the world. Especially when there’s a breathtaking vista, a full-service chef and housekeeper, a cozy fire to keep you warm, and others to keep you company. Unless that company happens to be eight coworkers…each with something to gain, something to lose, and something to hide. As each hour passes without any sign of rescue, panic mounts, the chalet grows colder, and the group dwindles further…one by one.

  1. In your novel, a group of coworkers are forced to “shelter in place” after an avalanche traps them in their chalet at a French ski resort. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, most of us have had to quarantine ourselves for prolonged periods of time. Did you predict that this novel would be so relevant? Do you find yourself relating to your characters more now?

    Well my husband is a virologist and flu experts have been saying that the “next big one” was due any time now for a couple of decades, so in some ways I was better placed than most to see this coming. But of course in reality I was as shocked as anyone else to be cancelling my book tours, queuing for flour, and buying masks on etsy.

    Do I have more sympathy for my characters now? Hmm... good question. I am naturally quite antisocial and have no problem being alone for extended periods of time, in fact one of my favourite ways to finish a book is to hole up in a hotel room for days, ordering room service, and speaking to no-one at all. So I didn't find lockdown hard from the point of view of social isolation – the thing I probably found most difficult was having my husband and kids around 24/7 (not that I don't love them, but it made working basically impossible!)

    Out of everyone in the book I probably relate most to Liz, who comments at one point that it's not the isolation she's finding tough, it's being shut up with her former co-workers. If I knew rescue was coming, then I think I would be fine hunkering down alone at Chalet Perce-Neige for a few weeks. It would be the presence of Topher and the others that would grate on my nerves.
     
  2.  What was your inspiration for this novel? Were you influenced by any real-life murders or incidents?

    The inspiration came really from thinking about the important relationships in our lives. I've written often about friends, family and romantic relationships, but when I sat down to write this book I realised that I had never addressed the other important figures in most people's lives – our colleagues. We spend more time with these people than with most of our friends, and yet they can move on at a moment's notice. It's a relationship that can be hugely rewarding, as well as hugely toxic, and it's not often written about in fiction.

    Other than that, it's pure fiction. I try not to base my work on real people – it feels somehow disrespectful.
     
  3. Did you know who would be the killer(s) when you started writing this novel? Or did it change throughout the course of writing it?

    I did, and that's almost always the case. I think it's very hard to lay all the clues for the reader if you don't know what you are supposed to be hinting at. I'm not a fan of novels where the solution comes out of the blue on the final page and leaves you thinking “how the hell was I supposed to guess that?” Of course it means that astute readers do sometimes get there before the reveal – but I prefer that to the risk of people feeling cheated.
     
  4. Your novel centers around the employees of a small tech start up called “Snoop” on a work retreat. “Snoop” is an app that allows you to spy on what another person is listening to, from celebrities, to your friends, to anonymous accounts. If you could “snoop” on anyone’s music, who would it be and why?

    Well, the odd thing is that I'm not really a music person. Which sounds strange, having written a book entirely about a music app! I listen to music in the car sometimes, of course, but most of my listening is podcasts or audiobooks – I tend to reserve music for when I'm with other people and I want it more as a background.

    I think any kind of social media is fascinating though – it tells you not just about who the person really is, but how they want to be perceived. I think that would be the attraction of snoop – figuring out when a celebrity's carefully curated feed ends, and their real listening begins. One of my favourite quarantine moments was that film of Snoop Dogg sitting alone in his car, just blissfully listening to the Frozen soundtrack. It was not just touching and unexpected, but it also felt totally authentic. Maybe he would be my first snoop.
     
  5. The “locked room” murder mystery is an incredibly engaging narrative device. Once the first body is found in the house, I found myself on the edge of my seat for the rest of the novel. Was it uniquely challenging to write a murder mystery in which the murderer is always around? Was it harder to hide from the reader who the culprit was?

    This is a good question but I honestly never thought of it from that angle! In most of my books the murderer is present for much of the plot, so it wasn't a new problem for me – the murderer is always going to be trying to conceal their role, so that's not a hard thing to plot around. What's harder is presenting the clues in such a way that the solution is not obvious to the narrator (and the reader). In some ways it makes the actual writing easier – the knowledge that the murderer must be present sets up an inherent tension – readers are already a little on edge.
     
  6. The novel starts with a newspaper article about a few gruesome murders that occurred in a chalet after an avalanche, so that the reader knows a few details of the crimes beforehand. Why did you choose to use this as the opening of the book?

    Partly because the first death takes place a little way into the book, so I wanted to signal to the reader that a murder is coming! And partly because so much of the fun in reading detective novels is in solving the puzzles the author sets. In this book you don't have many puzzles in the first few chapters, so setting the reader a big one early on – four people die, but which four? - gets things ticking.
     
  7. I used to work for a tech start-up, and the dynamic between the employees is spot on. Did you do any research on the start-up world? Did you conduct any interviews with current or former employees of any companies?

    I'm so happy to hear that I got it right! No, I didn't speak to any real live employees but I did read a lot of books and listen to a lot of podcasts about the challenges of being a start up CEO (Start Up, by Gimlet, was particularly helpful in that respect, although all the CEOs in that are lovely and very conscious of their responsibilities to their employees – in stark contrast to Topher and Eva).
     
  8. The setting of this novel, an expensive French ski resort, is simultaneously gorgeous and terrifying. Why did you decide to set this novel at a ski resort? How did you capture the setting of this novel?

    Well I love skiing, so it's a setting I knew fairly well and didn't have to research too hard. It also felt like a good place to explore themes of money, excess and over-confidence – there's a lot of conspicuous consumption in ski resorts, and skiing seems to bring out the worst in a certain type of person. Anyone who has been skiing will probably recognise the stereotype of the person swooshing dangerously down the slope at a speed just slightly above their skill level, more interested in showing off than than in keeping other skiers safe.

    Mainly though it's because as a writer I have to spend a year in the place I set a novel – in my imagination at least. So it might as well be a place I want to spend time!
     
  9. In this novel, power is a big theme. The power that someone has in the company, the power of a guest over an employee, the power of secrets, the power of lies. How do you think power influences the choices of the characters in this novel?

    I think this is true – it's also about the different kinds of power we have, and the delicate balance of how that plays out. My two narrators are both people in a really ambiguous situation in that sense. Erin works at the chalet so in one sense she's subordinate to the Snoop employees, who are the guests – her job is to keep them comfortable and serve their every whim. But in another sense, she and her co-worker Danny are the hosts, the chalet is their territory, and what they say goes. It's a balance that becomes increasingly precarious as the week wears on and the group is stranded – Erin becomes more and more concerned with maintaining her position of authority because she's aware that if she cedes it, someone more erratic may step in.

    Liz is in a different but equally ambiguous position – once the lowest of the low at Snoop (she was Topher and Eva's assistant back before the app even launched) she has ended up with a tiny share-holding which has become the casting vote in a battle for control over the company. Since then she's left the company – but her shares have remained her own property, so now she's in the strange position of being the person everyone used to ignore and boss around, who is now courted and flattered for her vote.

    On the other hand Topher, the CEO of snoop, is someone who takes power for granted and he can't believe what's happening when the events of the week take all that away. He's still googling helicopter airlifts, even while the storm rages, unable to accept that he's essentially powerless in the face of a natural disaster.

    Someone once described plots as being, at their heart, about original status quo, disruptive event, new status quo. This book certainly fits that pattern. Everyone is grappling with that transition.
     
  10. Why do you write thrillers? What is it about them that makes you enjoy writing them so much?

    I think they are the perfect combination of head and heart – an intellectual battle of wits between the reader and the writer to solve the mystery, mixed with a personal journey for the characters. To me that is having your cake and eating it.

 

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Esther Dormer

This interview is the very best I’ve read. It tells enough that I’m definitely buying the book but not too much. Like a perfect trailer to a movie. I loved the thought provoking questions. It seems that this novel is do much more than a mystery. Very well done

Posted : Sep 02, 2020 02:40


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