When internet millionaire and philanthropist Harry Melville dies in a car crash at the age of forty four, the lives of his wife, Sarah, and twin brother, Ben, are thrown into turmoil. Harry seemed to have it all; a close-knit family and a happy marriage – along with all the trappings of wealth. Yet as he recalls his past from the afterlife, a story emerges of the unspoken and bitter jealousies between brothers and of an unhappy wife burdened by loneliness and guilt. When Ben takes over the running of Harry’s charity foundation he begins to find purpose for the first time in years. But the arrival of a talented young artist brings a series of revelations that expose Harry’s complex and dual personality in full. As he learns his part in the suffering of those he left behind, is it too late for Harry to make amends?
A tale of regret and redemption in this world and the next. From the Outside looks at the futile rivalries that can destroy sibling relationships and the lost opportunity for happiness when ego is allowed to reign over emotion.
When and where do you prefer to write?
I prefer to write in the mornings but it’s not usually possible with my fictional work as I am employed by a news and magazine publishing group four days a week. So, I usually focus on fiction for an hour or so in the evenings, and for a couple of hours on Friday mornings.
Living with three males (my husband and two sons) let’s just say they each have their own man caves and I usually end up working at the kitchen table.
– Do you have a certain ritual?
I’ve been employed as a professional writer for my entire career so I really just treat fictional writing with the same discipline as my day job. I’ll make a cup of tea or coffee, sit down and begin. Just like when you used to have to sit down to write an essay for school homework, the hardest part is beginning. Once you write that first line, you’re away.
– Is there a drink of some food that keeps you company while you write?
I usually always have a hot drink on the go of some sort – typically caffeine in the mornings and herbal in the afternoons and evenings. And I try to drink a lot of water to keep a clear head and stay energised.
– What is your favourite book?
That’s such a tough question because I have many favourites. Ultimately, it comes down to the one that stayed with me for longest and made the most impact. That has to be We Need to Talk About Kevin, by Lionel Shriver. I have a terrible memory and usually forget plots and characters pretty quickly, but that story has stayed with me over the years. It posed so many questions and left me feeling unbelievably torn over who was to blame for Kevin’s actions, if anyone. I also loved all three of Donna Tartt’s novels. She is a brilliant writer.
– Do you consider writing a different genre in the future?
I like to mix-up the genres, yes. My last novel, Polls Apart, was a political thriller while my new book, From the Outside, is more of a supernatural drama/thriller, that explores loss, life after death and sibling rivalry. I’m working on a third novel which is a thriller based around sex-trafficking. My sister and I have also talked about working on a book together either around parenting or ageing, so maybe we’ll get our acts together and do that one day.
– Do you sometimes base your characters on people you know?
There is usually an element of people I know, and even parts of myself, in my main characters. I like to draw on the humour, strengths and vulnerabilities of the people I’m closest to, but I’ll also feature characteristics of people I’ve observed or worked with over the years too.
– Do you take a notebook everywhere in order to write down ideas that pop up?
I always have a notebook with me for work, so I have found myself noting ideas down over the years. I often email myself in the night to remind me to do something the next day too. Ideas usually pop into my head when I’m walking the dog so I make sure I note them down as soon as I get home.
– Which genre do you not like at all?
I haven’t read a lot of science fiction or history over the years, but there is nothing I would rule out reading. My view is that if a book is written well, I’ll read anything. I tend not to like long-winding descriptive prose unless it is brilliantly done. Sometimes I feel authors include a lot of description because they feel it is the right thing to do and I find myself skimming to get back to the plot. I’m quite an impatient person so I like things to move at pace in life generally.
– If you had the chance to co-write a book. Whom would it be with?
I have to say my sister. She lives in London and I live in Edinburgh so we only get to see each other a few times a year. We both have kids and work very hard so it would be so lovely to have the opportunity to spend time together on a joint project. I’m sure there would be creative differences along the way (to put it mildly) but we’d get there in the end. We’re very close, and that’s why I tend to always include strong sibling relationships in my writing because my own has been such a big influence.
– If you should travel to a foreign country to do research, which one would you choose and why?
My husband and I have taken our two boys to California on holiday each year for the past five years. We love the LA and Orange County areas and we have friends and family over there. I find the constant sunshine exhilarating, and when you walk around LA you can almost feel the possibilities in the air. Everyone seems energised, motivated and optimistic and that’s a very empowering environment to be in, which is why I’d choose that part of the world to work in.
Thank you, Clare Johnston and Love Books Group Tours.
About the author
Clare Johnston is a journalist and content specialist, and a frequent contributor on radio and TV, having appeared on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour, The Kaye Adams Programme and comedy satire show Breaking the News on BBC Radio Scotland, along with STV2’s Live at Five. She is a former editorial director of Press Association Scotland and commercial editor and columnist with the Daily Record. She is currently working with the DC Thomson media group and supports businesses with communication and content creation. Clare is based in Edinburgh.