Meet Lucy Clarke Author Of The Castaways

In lockdown the idea of flying away to a sun kissed beach sounds like something we'd give our right arm for. But what if paradise has a dark side and you discover you can't leave? That's the enticing premise of this week's interviewee Lucy Clarke's new thriller. 

Download the ebook of The Castaways from Amazon or buy the newly-published paperback from Thriller Women's list at NB: if you buy books through this link we may earn a commission from, whose fees support independent bookshops.

Lucy tells us how the coast is in her blood, where she was when she found out her first book had been picked as a Richard and Judy selection, and her tip for budding writers (clue: it's not spend all day on Twitter). 

Book cover of The Castaways by Lucy Clarke

TW: We love the cover for your upcoming novel The Castaways. Can you give us any hints about the story and what inspired you to write the book?

LC: I’m so pleased you like the cover for The Castaways; thank you. Months of work goes into the cover design, and it’s a real team effort involving designers, editors, the sales team – and the author! Out of my six books, this is hands down my favourite cover.

So, let me tell you about the story of The Castaways . . .

Sisters Lori and Erin are holidaying in Fiji. They plan to take an inter-island flight together, but after a devastating argument, only Lori boards the plane. It's a decision that will haunt Erin, who later learns that the plane never arrived at its destination. Two years later, with all the passengers long since presumed dead, Erin discovers that the pilot has been found alive – but he’s refusing to talk. Desperate for answers, she returns to Fiji in search of the truth.

The idea slowly unfurled over several years. Like many people, I’d been shocked by the disappearance of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 back in 2014. I thought a lot about the relatives of those passengers and how the lack of information must have been excruciating. It was a few years later when I was toying with a handful of book ideas, that I returned to thoughts of a plane disappearance. I began to wonder what would happen if the pilot of a plane that had ‘disappeared without trace’ was suddenly found – but refused to talk. What then? That was my starting point.

TW: The novel you wrote during the first UK lockdown, called The Hen Weekend, was snapped up by HarperCollins in a two-book deal. What made you choose a hen party as subject matter and how was the experience of writing during a lockdown compared to your other novels?

LC: The premise for The Hen Weekend is a simple one.  A party of hens hire a cliff-top villa on a remote Greek island and enjoy the perfect holiday – until a body is discovered on the rocks below.

I wrote my first draft in lockdown 1.0 and strangely, it was the most productive and creative writing experience I’ve ever known. When we went into lockdown, I stopped listening to the news and took a holiday from social media, so I think the quietness and stillness of life helped me to focus.

TW: We love the look of your beach hut, where you do most of your writing. How did that come about?

LC: My family have owned a beach hut on the south coast of England since I was a child. It’s only a 10-minute cycle from my house, so I often work there (think blankets and hotwater bottles in winter!). There’s no wifi or electricity, so I love the simplicity of writing by hand with a view of the horizon.

TW: You’ve travelled the world with your husband, a professional windsurfer. How much has travel influenced your ideas throughout your career and what have been the most inspirational places you’ve visited?

LC: Before we had children, we spent every winter abroad travelling in places like Hawaii, New Zealand, Tasmania, the Philippines, and Canada – all of which have made it into my books, in one form or another. I love setting my novels in places I’ve fallen in love with. Being a lover of the coast, perhaps that’s why the sea also plays such a large role in them, too. I’m also fascinated by the shift in characters when they are removed from an environment they know intimately, and displaced somewhere foreign. I enjoy seeing how they react – whether they flourish or flounder in that new space – and ultimately, how the experience changes them.

TW: What is the most important piece of advice you can offer to aspiring thriller authors out there?

LC: My first manuscript was rejected by publishers and, although at the time it was hugely disappointing, I think I really cut my teeth with that novel and began learning my craft. So, I would say that every word you write – whether it goes on to be published or not – is all part of your writing journey and isn’t time wasted. So just keep on writing . . . and writing . . . and writing . . .

TW: As a writer, what are your bad habits?

LC: Social media is a terrible habit. I regularly stick Post-it notes to my desk, reading, ‘Instagram: once a day ONLY!’ When I’m struggling with a scene, or a sentence, the temptation of something glossy and aesthetically pleasing is only ever one click away. That’s why, most of the time, I write with the internet switched off.

TW: Was it a surprise, back in 2013, when your debut novel, The Sea Sisters, was chosen for Richard & Judy’s Book Club? What effect did the selection have on your career as an author?

LC: It was a total surprise! I didn’t even know HarperCollins had submitted it to the selection panel. I received a call from my editor when I was in the Philippines, who told me The Sea Sisters had been selected. It was absolutely surreal. That night, my husband and I went for dinner at this little roughshod beach bar where a Filipino reggae band were playing, and I remember just sitting at the table, feet in the sand, thinking: Richard and Judy? What?!

TW: How did you get your literary agent, and did you have to cope with a lot of rejection prior to being published?

LC: Finding my agent was the straightforward part. I submitted a manuscript to four agents – and three came back saying they were interested in representing me. I signed with Judith Murray at Greene & Heaton, who is still my agent today. It was one of the best decisions of my career choosing to work with Judith; she’s been an absolute rock since the outset. My first novel, which Judith represented me on the basis of, was rejected by publishers. It was a hard knock as I’d spent almost three years writing it. I remember calling Judith and saying, ‘What do I do now?’ She told me, ‘You take a deep breath, and then you start your next one.’ So that’s what I did – and that next book became The Sea Sisters.

LC: When you’re not plotting your next novel, what kind of books do you read to relax and do you have a favourite genre?

I’m lucky to be sent lots of proofs of psychological thrillers, and some of my favourite authors in this genre include Gillian McAllister, Sabine Durrant, Clare Mackintosh, and Erin Kelly. I love reading well written women’s fiction, like Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere, and Delia Owen’s Where The Crawdad’s Sing. My two all-time literary idols are Maggie O’Farrell and Tim Winton, who both write with an emotional lucidity that is captivating.

Quick fire questions:

TW: Your favourite beach anywhere in the world

LC: Sprecks, in Maui, Hawaii.

TW: A country you’d like to visit but haven’t yet

LC: Norway.

TW: A book you’d recommend to take on a long journey

LC: The Overstory by Richard Powers

TW: The one item you can’t live without whilst travelling

LC: My journal.

TW: Your favourite non-writing-related hobby

LC: Surfing.

Thanks Lucy!

Image of author Lucy Clarke taken by James Bowden.

More about The Castaways:

A secret beach.

A holiday of a lifetime.

Wish you were here?

Think again ...

It should be like any other holiday.

Beautiful beaches. 

Golden sunsets. 

Nothing for miles.

You'll never want to leave.

Until you can't...


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