Thursday, April 30, 2020

Mary Torjussen Interview - The Closer You Get

Photo Credit: Jennie Miles Photography 2016

Mary Torjussen is the acclaimed author of Gone Without a Trace and The Girl I Used to Be. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Liverpool John Moores University and worked for several years as a teacher.


What inspired you to pen your first novel?
I wrote my very first novel the summer before I was 40. I’d always wanted to write, but always found a reason why I couldn’t. I had two children and worked full time as a teacher, so life was always hectic, but I had an idea buzzing around my mind that I thought would make a good romantic novel. Then I read in a newspaper article that a novel is around 80,000 words long and at the same time I realised it was just over 80 days before we were going on holiday to France. And that was it! I sat at my computer at nine o’clock every evening, when the children were in bed and my (then) husband watched a movie on television with his headphones in, and I wrote 1,000 words per day. In 80 days I’d written a complete novel. Although it wasn’t any good, the process was exhilarating and I learned so much about how to structure a book.

Tell us your latest news.
I wish I had good news to tell! We’re all on lockdown here in the UK. I long for the days when I can go out with friends for lunch or a movie, or invite them to my house for dinner. I haven’t seen my (adult) children since February and can’t wait to hug them. It’s very upsetting as their father, my ex-husband, is dying from a non-Covid related illness and it’s very unlikely they will see him again. They video-call but it’s really not the same, and of course I can’t be with them to comfort them. This is happening to so many people around the world right now and my heart goes out to anyone who’s personally affected by this terrible disease.

Who or what has influenced your writing, and in what way?
My biggest influences are books I read years ago. There were no Young Adult books when I was young and from the age of 11 I used to read my mum’s library books. I became hooked on Agatha Christie, Daphne du Maurier and Mary Stewart. Scenes from those authors’ books have been a huge influence on me, particularly The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Rebecca and The Ivy Tree. Reading Agatha Christie novels taught me all about plot devices such as the unreliable narrator, red herrings, plot twists and – crucially – the art of the cliffhanger!

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
I think it was that moment when I opened a box of my own books, which my editor at Berkley had kindly sent me. It really was a dream come true.

What do you hope for readers to be thinking when they read your novel?
I love to write novels set in a domestic setting, where the peril is very close to home, so I want a reader to think, “What on earth would I do if that happened to me?”

In your new book; THE CLOSER YOU GET, can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about it.
THE CLOSER YOU GET is a story about Ruby, who’s unhappily married and having an affair with her boss. Together they make the decision to leave their spouses and to be together. Ruby plays her part and tells her husband she’s going, but Harry doesn’t show up. As Ruby’s life disintegrates, things start to happen to unnerve her, to make her vulnerable and scared. It’s a novel about choices and how they can change the course of our lives, and about revenge: does it really make us happier?

What part of Ruby and Harry did you enjoy writing the most?
I loved writing about the way they met and how their feelings were so strong right from the start. I’ll never be a romance writer though as all I could think was, “Soon, it’ll all go wrong…!” Ruby was really ready for someone to save her from her unhappy marriage and if she hadn’t met Harry I think it’s probable that she would have met someone else. Given that Harry was happy with Emma, it was such a challenge to write about his reasons for the affair. I wanted to show how complicated all relationships can be and how timing can be everything.

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
I would love Tom in THE CLOSER YOU GET to meet Hannah from GONE WITHOUT A TRACE. He wouldn’t know what had hit him!

What’s the most ridiculous fact you know?
Sea otters hold hands while they sleep – how cute is that?

What according to you is your most treasured possession?
This has to be my house. I took on the mortgage after I divorced and it was really tough going at times. It’s so comforting now to know I have that security. I loved my house from the moment I saw it – it’s an Edwardian house with three stories and a fireplace in every room. The windows have coloured glass and it’s light and airy. I live near Liverpool and the houses here are fantastic value for money.

Best date you've ever had?
I don’t think any date can get as exciting as your very first date when you’re still in school and your friends are a captive audience on the run up to the date and in the debrief the next day. In a way, the boy didn’t even matter as if things went tragically wrong it was even more dramatic.

If you could go back in time to one point in your life, where would you go?
Ohhh that’s a difficult question! I’d love to go back to when I was 20. I’d moved to London to work as a secretary in the BBC and just had such a fantastic time living with friends and going out every night. Whenever I think of those days it seems to be summer and there’s music playing.

If you wrote a journal entry today, what would it say?
“I just want to go out!”

What event in your life would make a good movie?
It’s a horrible event actually and one that I drew on when I was writing THE CLOSER YOU GET. I was 20 and living in London, but was visiting my parents in their home town of Stoke-on-Trent. I’d gone out with my boyfriend to see a movie and found that the last bus was going to terminate at a bus station three miles from my house. My boyfriend lived three miles in the other direction. We said goodbye and I walked home alone along a long road which was lined with locked factories – no houses, no traffic, nobody around. After a few minutes a young man in a Mini drove by. He slowed down and asked if I wanted a lift. I refused, he drove off and I relaxed. But then he drove past again, asked again, got another refusal and drove off. This happened several times until he drove up onto the pavement, blocking me in. As he opened his car door, I ran across the road. Another car had stopped at a junction and I just jumped into it, crying. The man in the other car tried to chase the Mini, but couldn’t do it. Then he said to me, “You really shouldn’t have gotten into my car – it could have been a set-up.” There was a moment when I really thought, “This is it,” but luckily this man was fine and took me home.

What was the best memory you ever had as a writer?
It would have to be receiving an email from an agent in London asking whether she could call me to talk about representation. This is every unpublished author’s dream, I think.

Where can readers find you?
I like to use Twitter and hang out with other writers on there. It’s odd as when I hear in the news how toxic it can be on Twitter, I can’t relate to that at all, as I just surround myself with lovely people! I do use Facebook but again tend to mix with writers and readers on there. I prefer to phone my family if I want to chat and don’t post personal things on Facebook. I have just started to use Instagram. I will always respond to readers, so please do feel free to contact me in whichever medium you prefer.

Ruby: Outside the (hotel room) door I stood for a second, hardly able to breathe. This was it. Once I went in, there was no going back.

Ruby: I knew where [Harry] was. He was in the same position I’d been in that night, telling his wife, Emma, that he was leaving her. We’d planned it all, synchronized timings. Now all I had to do was to wait for him.

Ruby: Still, though, when I put on moisturizer I didn’t look at my reflection in the mirror, and when I turned off the lamps and lay in the darkness, my face was hot with shame.

Ruby: Of course I still felt the pressure to look good when he did get here, so though I was staying in, my face was made up, my hair brushed, and I wore my nicest clothes. But deep inside I think I knew by then that he wouldn’t come, and by Sunday night, my shoulders were slumped and no matter how much makeup I had on, the dejected air I wore took the shine off my face.

Ruby: I thought of Tom in our bed, lying on goose-down pillows and covered with a quilt as light as a cloud. I thought of the grey silk throw that was draped on the bedpost and the soft lights and the woolen rugs, and the en suite with its power shower for two. And then I looked around my hotel room. It was nice enough, but I was alone here. Not just alone. Homeless. Jobless.

Ruby: The wardrobe door was standing slightly ajar. Slowly I reached out and opened it wide. All of my dresses were there on hangers, just as I’d planned, swaying in the evening breeze.

Ruby and Oliver: I knew it was wrong of me. There was a complicity between us, that we knew something that my husband didn’t. It’s not right. I know that. But sometimes, well . . . sometimes you just want to keep things to yourself. And that’s what it was with Oliver; it wasn’t that I was colluding with him, more that I was keeping just a fraction of myself to myself. I was allowing myself a private life.

Emma: I steeled myself. Something was coming. Whenever someone tells you something you really don’t want to hear, they do it with their face covered, either in the shower, while taking off a sweater, or in the pitch-dark of a bedroom. It’s Psychology 101, isn’t it?

Emma: I looked from him to her, at the way she reached up to touch his hand, the way she nestled against him, and I thought, Enjoy it while you can, Ruby Dean. I am going to blow up your life.

Emma: And so I curled my feet up on their soft velvet sofa and I had another sip of wine and started to talk to Tom about my life. What it was like to be me. It was more intoxicating than the wine, I have to admit. For a while there’d been a barrier between Harry and me; I knew now he’d created that. I realised when I spoke to him nowadays it was as though there was a brief pause where he had to stop thinking his own thoughts and acknowledge mine, but then he’d forget mine immediately afterwards and go back to his own. It was more than that, though. It was as though I was speaking another language and he needed time to translate. And the distance had grown greater as time went by. So that night it was the first time in months that I felt someone was really listening to me. Speaking my language.

They promised to tell their spouses they were leaving and then meet to begin their new life together. But he never shows up.

A new twisting novel of psychological suspense from the acclaimed author of Gone Without a Trace.

Coworkers Ruby and Harry are in love--but they're married to other people. They decide to tell their spouses that their marriages are over and to start their new lives together. Ruby, who has wanted to leave her controlling husband for a while, tells him she's leaving him and waits at the hotel where she and Harry are to meet. But Harry never shows up.

Suddenly, Ruby's life has fallen apart, and she's lost everything. Harry won't answer her calls, and she's fired from her job. She finds a cheap apartment in a run-down part of town, all the while wondering what happened to Harry.

Just as Ruby thinks she's hit rock bottom, strange and menacing things start to happen--someone is sneaking into her apartment, and someone is following her home late at night--and she is going to have to fight for her survival.

You can purchase The Closer You Get at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you MARY TORJUSSEN for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of The Closer You Get by Mary Torjussen. 


  1. Today's quarantine is the scariest ever.

  2. Falling down the stairs onto a cement floor when I was in second grade and having to not run for a year because of headaches. However, to keep quiet, I did piano lessons and can play piano, read music and have perfect pitch.

  3. "What was the most frightening moment of your life?" It was too frightening even to speak of!

  4. When my husband collapsed on a plane. It turned out to be minor, but that was scary.

  5. When my husband had a heart attack.

  6. The most frightening moment of my life was when I was in a car accident that almost killed me.

  7. The EF5 tornado that was 1/4 mile from my house back in 1991 was the most frightened I have ever been.

  8. The most frightening moment of my life was when my husband was diagnosed with ALS

  9. It was when my daughter had spinal fusion surgery.

  10. My most frightening moment in my life was when I had complications in labor when having my daughter. It turned out ok and now she is a happy healthy girl, but at the time it was so scary.