Welcome to Ruth Heald, author of I Know Your Secret.
Thanks for the opportunity to feature on your blog, Ruby. I write psychological thrillers and I’ve had three books published by Hachette: The Mother’s Mistake, The Woman Upstairs and I Know Your Secret. When I thought about my favourite books, it became clear that my love for thrillers started young. Writers like R.L. Stine, Lois Duncan and Gillian Cross were firm favourites when I was a child.
It’s been a pleasure to think about all the books that have influenced me, but it’s been a difficult task to narrow the list down to ten! I’ve chosen a real range including some books I read over thirty years ago, and some I’ve read much more recently.
- Ernest and Celestine by Gabrielle Vincent
I’ve recently rediscovered this book, when reading to my children. I’ve kept it since I was a child, and my copy is held together very badly by peeling brown Sellotape. The story is about a father’s love for his daughter, and the efforts he goes to replace her lost toy. The story has always stayed with me, because ultimately it’s about the unconditional love that exists between a parent and a child.
- The Demon Headmaster by Gillian Cross
This was the first book that made me want to be a writer myself. I read it when I was around six and Gillian Cross became the first author whose name I used to actively seek out on the spines of the books at the local library. I read everything she wrote, but I think The Demon Headmaster was the one that really stayed with me. It enthralled me and I can still remember lots of the plot points today. The suspense was brilliant and I couldn’t stop turning the pages. I read it over and over again as a child and I still have my copy today. I’m saving it to read to my daughter when she’s old enough.
- Sweet Valley Book Series – by Francine Pascal
I got seriously addicted to these books, which told the stories of beautiful twins, Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield as they went through the trials and tribulations of first primary school, and then high school, and finally university. There were hundreds of them and I used to collect them. They came out regularly, maybe as often as once a fortnight. Every time we went into the local town centre, I’d go into the book shop to see if the latest one was out so I could spend my pocket money on it. When we had a much-anticipated family holiday to America, I remember being excited about Disneyland, but possibly more excited when I got there and found out that the Sweet Valley books were released in America a few months ahead of the UK, so there were loads of books I hadn’t read in the bookshops!
- Flowers in the Attic and the Heaven series by Virginia Andrews
The page-turning melodrama of Virginia Andrews is just glorious. I read these series when I was about twelve and although the issues were controversial and adult, I just couldn’t stop reading. There was drama in every sentence and the stories were true family sagas. The characters went from rags to riches and back to rags again repeatedly and the books had more than their fair share of evil parents. They had everything!
- Sophie’s Choice by William Styron
I read Sophie’s Choice when I was a teenager and it was heart-breaking. What I appreciated most about it was how the aftermath of trauma penetrated every element of Sophie’s life. So often books are about the trauma itself, but I’m also fascinated by the long term effects on people’s lives and relationships. This book was so sad and I think it will always stay with me.
- A God In Ruins by Kate Atkinson
I have adored Kate Atkinson’s writing since I first read Behind the Scenes at the Museum over twenty years ago. Every word of her prose has meaning and often it takes me longer to read her books, because I like to stop and think about her choice of words and the nuance of what she’s communicating.
It’s been a struggle to pick a single Kate Atkinson which I’ve loved the most. Behind the Scenes at the Museum and Life after Life were close contenders, but I’ve ended up going for A God In Ruins. In all Atkinson’s work, I love the way that she gets so firmly in the minds of her characters and understands their strengths and their flaws. In A God in Ruins the interplay between the characters is so real and hits the mark every time. It was Viola and Nancy’s story that touched me the most. I won’t spoil it for you if you haven’t read it, but the cumulation of that storyline, was a real “ah-ha” moment for me. It seemed so true to life.
- Beside Myself by Ann Morgan
When I put this book down, I felt sad to have finished it because I was so invested in the characters. The book captured the nuance of mental health and family relationships so well. My heart ached for the protagonist, who was so deeply, but so understandably, flawed. I finished reading this book feeling like I’d learnt something about other people and about the world.
- He Said, She Said by Erin Kelly
In this book, Kelly manages to deal with a very sensitive issue (a rape trial) with compassion and poise, and still create a completely captivating thriller. The plotting is brilliant with twist after twist, but yet at the same time you can tell that Kelly has undertaken meticulous research to make sure that the story is both accurate and does the victims of real life crimes justice.
- The Outcast by Sadie Jones
When I think of this book, I remember feeling a deep sense of injustice. I can still remember Lewis, the protagonist, so clearly, and it’s over ten years since I read it. He was so beautifully written and I desperately wanted things to turn out all right for him.
- Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo
A very deserving (joint) winner of the Booker Prize 2019, this book was so fresh and original, telling the inter-connected stories of twelve black women in London. As a Londoner myself, I felt that stab of recognition when I read about the characters, combined with a stab of annoyance that these stories are not told more often. I loved the characters here, who were all flawed, but all fascinating. The book is about identity and the fight to discover and keep it.
I Know Your Secret was published by Bookouture on 10 June 2020.
You’re not who you say you are. Neither is she.
She thinks she knows me.
She believes my marriage is falling apart at the seams, that my husband can barely look me in the eyes. She thinks I’m desperate for a baby, that my longing for a family keeps me up at night. As much as I hate to admit it, all of this is true.
She thinks I listen to her advice, that I care about her opinion. That couldn’t be further from the truth.
Because she has no idea who I am. She has no clue that I know everything.
I know her secret. I know that she did the unforgivable. I know how many lives she ruined.
I know exactly what she did. And I’m here for her.
Ruth studied Economics at Oxford University and then worked in an eclectic mix of sectors from nuclear decommissioning to management consulting. She worked at the BBC for nine years before leaving to write full time. Ruth is fascinated by psychology and finding out what drives people to violence, destruction and revenge. She’s married with two children and her novels explore our greatest fears in otherwise ordinary, domestic lives.
You can connect with Ruth on Twitter:
or Facebook / RJHealdauthor