Friday, 26 August 2016

My Obsessions Laid Bare!

When I moved house recently, I realised there were clocks in every room - sometimes more than one. Having checked with friends, I found this was rather excessive! Being a former psychotherapist, I wondered why I needed so many clocks! Why do I constantly need to know the time? But clocks weren't the only items that were popping up in every room! Let me explain...


During my training as a therapist, I underwent a psychological profile test (Myers-Briggs) and discovered that I came out with a preference for ISTJ (Introverted, Sensing, Thinking and Judging). The latter indicator refers to a desire to be organised on a day-to-day basis. People with the 'Judging' preference want things to be neat, orderly and established as opposed to the opposite type (Perceiving) who want things to be spontaneous, with plenty of scope for flexibility. 'Judgers' want things settled, 'Perceivers' want things open-ended. My score for 'Judger' was nearly off the scale!

Having a clock in every room completely fits with my 'type'! I like certainty, I like to be early for appointments (I hate being late), I like to orientate myself within the day and measure how much time I can allocate for activities.  If I have a dentist appointment at 9am, for example, I know I'll have to leave at 8.30am, and have breakfast before 8am, and so on. I perpetually have my watch set a couple of minutes early - which has been a life-safer at times, when I've had to make a dash for the local train!

I have friends who leave the house without a watch. Can you imagine that!? They spend the entire day without a watch! Now, to me - that is like leaving the house without any clothes on. How do they catch their trains, avoid parking fines when their tickets run out or get anywhere on time? To some of you (also Judger types), this will sound totally familiar and common sense. To the Perceiver types, my way will feel prescriptive and OTT.

As a light sleeper, I need a clock in the bedroom that's completely silent (not a flicker of a tick is permitted) and not bright in the dark. However, I do want to know what the time is during those brief moments if I wake during the night. Having spent years trying to find the perfect clock, I now have a digital one that shines the time on the wall beside me. Problem solved. I LOVE it!


As we packed up to move house, I noticed that mirrors had been reproducing around our house like flies. There was at least one mirror in every room in the house. In some rooms - ahem - I counted three... So what's the story with having mirrors everywhere? I believe this is also about certainty in a more existential way. To some of you, this may sound wacky, but I can only feel solid and fully 'real', if I can see myself! I don't mean all the time, but just checking in every now and again, at least once a day. Being a very 'visual' personality, 'seeing' literally is 'believing' for me and I start to feel disoriented if there are no mirrors around me. It's not a vanity thing. It's not about 'how' I look, it's more to fully check that I am there at all; that I exist. Sound crazy? Mmm...that's just the way it is.


I have one in the garden, two in the house (upstairs and down), one in the medicine drawer and I often refer to the one on the dashboard in the car. Normal, right? It is for me. I'm one of those people who feel the cold. Terribly. No matter what time of year, I always seem to need two more layers than everyone else! Being able to judge what I'll need to wear in order not to freeze is therefore a daily requirement. It's another 'measuring' tool - like a clock - that lets me know where I stand.

In my new book (currently available to Pre-Order), Inside the Whispers, another of my obsessions comes to light, but you'll have to wait a while to find out about that! In the meantime, what are your obsessions and why do you think you have them?!

If you enjoyed this post, PLEASE SHARE it. Thank you!
   Inside the Whispers is the latest Psychological Thriller from AJ Waines. 
You can PRE-ORDER it NOW

  •  Over 1/4 Million books sold worldwide
  • Girl on a Train  a Number One Bestseller on Kindle in UK and Australia (2015)
  • The Evil Beneath Number One in 'Murder' and 'Psychological Thrillers' (UK Kindle charts)
  • Awarded Kindle KDP Top 10 'most-read Author' in UK (2015)
Find AJ Waines at: 
Blog *  Website  *  Twitter  * Facebook  *  Pinterest  * Goodreads  * Google+  

Join AJ Waines' Newsletter HERE or below:

Monday, 15 August 2016

Inside the Whispers - What's it About?

My NEW chilling thriller is on PRE-ORDER NOW!

For those who'd like to know what it's all about, here's the story:

Where the most Dangerous place – is inside your own head…

Following a London Tube disaster, three traumatised survivors turn to clinical psychologist, Dr Samantha Willerby, for help – but she’s mystified when their stories don’t add up. Her confusion turns to horror when one by one, instead of recovering, they start committing suicide.

When her partner, Conrad, begins to suffer the same terrifying flashbacks, Sam is desperate to find out what is causing them and a mysterious and chilling crime begins to unravel.

Then the flashbacks begin for Sam…

The first book in the Dr Samantha Willerby Series, INSIDE THE WHISPERS is a tense, haunting Psychological Thriller that will leave your nerves in shreds.

You can pre-order it now at only 99p/$1.29:

 and all Amazon outlets worldwide

Released on 20 October in ebook and paperback

Friday, 12 August 2016

Judge a book by its cover?

My new Psychological Thriller, Inside the Whispers, was revealed yesterday and is now available to PRE-ORDER!

The Design

I’m very honoured to have an excellent cover designer, Christa, at Paper & Sage in Kentucky, who manages to put together exactly what I’m looking for. I usually have a strong idea and image in my head for each book and that's how it was with Inside the Whispers. The story involves an incident on the London underground, so I wanted an image to reflect that: a Tube train coming into a station, surrounding by billowing smoke… Is it a bomb? Is it a fire? Is it on the train or in the station? Stop the questions right there – because this story is NOT what it seems..! (I like to involve a deep mystery and twists in my stories and you'll certainly find that, here).
I find that a lot of books have similar covers (especially psych thrillers!), often involving a lone young woman looking vulnerable, her back to camera, in the misty distance. I prefer to have covers that give more of a setting for the story and the focus here is on the ‘thriller’ aspect – although the title, Inside the Whispers, has a curious, chilling angle, too. After all, in psychological thrillers – the biggest threat comes from what is going on in the mind! It can be the mind of the lead character or the baddie(s), or both. This leads to uncertainty, doubt, then a sense of vicarious jeopardy in the mind of the reader! That's the nail-biting edge-of-your-seat feeling we all love. 

Amazon US ($1.29)
Amazon UK (99p) 
Amazon Canada ($1.99) 
(and all other Amazon outlets worldwide)
 More than anything, the cover needs to be eye-catching and has to SELL the book. This means it must be simple but striking, especially at thumbnail size. The image mustn’t shrink to a blur once it is reduced to the size most readers will see when it's advertised in an email ad, blog post or Amazon listing. Too much detail gets in the way and adds clutter. 

Early minimalist Penguin covers,

Covers for different genres

Ebooks don’t ‘need’ covers, but they all have them, so that you get a snapshot of the feel of the book when you’re browsing online. The Penguin cover here (from the 1930s) relies entirely on the title and author to grab the reader; the jacket is more about the brand of the publishing house than to entice you into the story. Nowadays, covers give distinct visual cues to indicate book genre. Take chick lit, for example – the font style is curly, the colours are soft and pastel, the image is jaunty. Thrillers (especially in the 70s) are hard-hitting using angular shapes, often in metallic colours. The cover for a psychological thriller needs to show the suggestion of what might be in store. There is a hidden element, something unknown and scary, covert, to be discovered. 

In the 1990s, when I first started reading novels by Minette Walters and Nicci French, the term ‘psychological thriller’ was gaining ground as a genre title. The covers were often based on black (the ‘noir’ edge) with single provocative images, such as these:

The Brand

Producing books with a similar look is important for writers. Readers want to glance at a cover and know immediately it’s the latest one written by their favourite author, regardless of the content of the story. The font becomes a trademark for many and when I first suggested a lower-case font for the titles to Christa at Paper & Sage, she came up with the brilliant distressed font I use for all my books.

Original cover of 
Girl on a Train, 2013
The original cover of Girl on a Train in 2013 was chosen from limited stock photos. It's got an erroneous old-fashioned feel to it; maybe it's a little chilling, but it doesn't tell us much about the story. When I re-released the book in 2015, I was able to give it a revamp with my own ideas! This was part of my brief to the designer:
2015 cover
with 'brand' theme

I'm looking for an image of a 'worried woman looking out of a train window'- it's June, but raining...

Christa came up with this excellent cover, which really says to me that the passenger has 'seen something that worries her' out of the window - you can see the component parts here.

I like having a tagline on the cover, too, a little teaser to draw the reader in. For Inside the Whispers the tagline is:

     Where the most dangerous place - is inside your own head...

 – and that pretty much sums up a psychological thriller to a tee!

If you enjoyed this post, PLEASE SHARE it. Thank you!
   Inside the Whispers is the latest Psychological Thriller from AJ Waines 
(and FIRST in the Dr Samantha Willerby Series)

  •  Over 1/4 Million books sold worldwide
  • Girl on a Train  a Number One Bestseller on Kindle in UK and Australia (2015)
  • The Evil Beneath Number One in 'Murder' and 'Psychological Thrillers' (UK Kindle charts)
  • Awarded Kindle KDP Top 10 'most-read Author' in UK (2015)
Find AJ Waines at: 
Blog *  Website  *  Twitter  * Facebook  *  Pinterest  * Goodreads  * Google+  

Join AJ Waines' Newsletter HERE or below:

Thursday, 11 August 2016

'Inside the Whispers' Cover Reveal!

I'm delighted to reveal the cover today 
for my new Psychological Thriller, Inside the Whispers...

It’s on Pre-order from Amazon NOW (99p/$1.29) 
 For release on 20th October (ebook and paperback)

Click to pre-order:
Amazon UK
Amazon Canada
(and all other Amazon outlets worldwide)

An insight into the 'making of the cover' coming tomorrow...

Saturday, 6 August 2016

New Release on its way...

Ooohh - the Countdown begins...

Watch this space...

All will be revealed on 11 August 2016

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Exclusive Interview with EM Powell!

 It’s a great honour to welcome the acclaimed author, E.M. Powell, on my blog today!

I met Elaine at a crime writers’ conference a few years ago, where she kindly rescued me from being a wallflower and we’ve stayed in touch ever since.

About the Author

E.M. Powell’s medieval thrillers The Fifth Knight and The Blood of the Fifth Knight have been #1 Amazon bestsellers and a Bild bestseller in Germany. Book #3 in the series, The Lord of Ireland, was published by Thomas & Mercer in April 2016. Born and raised in the Republic of Ireland into the family of Michael Collins (the legendary revolutionary and founder of the Irish Free State), she now lives in northwest England with her husband, daughter and a Facebook-friendly dog. She is also a contributing editor to International Thriller Writers The Big Thrill magazine, blogs for and edits English Historical Fiction Authors, reviews fiction & non-fiction for the Historical Novel Society and is part of the HNS Social Media Team.

The Exclusive Interview

Elaine has been notably generous with her support and encouragement, as well as being refreshingly witty and down to earth! I’m frankly amazed at the quantity and quality of the blog posts she produces; interesting historical pieces with incredible detail about medieval England, with great photos, too. That’s aside from writing her novels which have received considerable international recognition. How does she do it?! Well, I’ll let you meet her for yourself, to find out! She has kindly responded to a series of questions I put to her recently, about her work:

1. I understand you discovered a love of Anglo-Saxon and medieval English during your University studies in literature and geography, but how did you make the leap from that to writing novels?

Thank you for the lovely intro, Alison and for hosting me on your blog. For what it’s worth, I think that the only rescuing you needed at the conference was from me! I had a belter of a throat infection and was mildly delirious with a fever. The fact that I landed next to you and started raving on about medieval axes and chain mail, and yet you didn’t run away, is a real tribute to your professionalism and kind heart.

As for my leap to novel writing, here’s the long story short. I had won a number of writing prizes at school and had been encouraged by the career guidance nun to pursue a career in writing. (Note: this is not more delirium. I went to a convent school in Ireland and the sisters were very ahead of their time. Proper psychometric testing and everything.) Family didn’t agree. I was moaning about all this to long-suffering Spouse two decades later. He told me to go and write a novel. So I did. It was a 120,000 page contemporary thriller with romantic elements. And it was utter drivel. It got rejected by agents and publishers many, many times. It languishes in an electronic drawer to this day.

2. What drew you specifically to writing pacey historical thrillers?

12th Century Chasse showing Becket murder
I had entered The Drivel in many writing contests, thanks to my membership of the wonderful Romance Writers of America. It was apparent from the feedback that the one, the only, thing I was any good at, was pace. So I learned a lot of other stuff, like character and plot. And I shifted from contemporary to historical because I loved historical worlds and I could expand my creative horizons. Book #2 was a historical thriller with RE. Still quite drivelly, but not so much. I had a few near misses with agents/publishers. Book #3, The Fifth Knight, which centres on the infamous murder of Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170, got me an agent and a publisher. It all looks seamless. But from the inception of The Drivel to debut publication day took ten years. I had had a ton of rejections for The Fifth Knight too, many on the basis that ‘no-one reads medieval.’ Three books and 120,000 copies later, I think we can agree that somebody does. Or else I have just the one Uberfan.

3. How much does a writer need to know in order to write a novel set in the 12th century? What level of research do you need to do to get started?

The research commitment for historical fiction of any sort is huge. Any historical writer of any period will tell you that. For anyone thinking of embarking on it, note I’m not mentioning any historical qualifications. You don’t have to have them. But you do have to find reputable sources of information and check and check and check. And even after all that checking, you will get 1* reviews calling you out on your lack of research. This is despite the stack of thumbed tomes at your elbow published by fly-by-nights such as Oxford University, Cambridge University, Yale University. I could go on. But the bottom line is that all that research is hugely enjoyable. If you don’t enjoy it, then you probably shouldn’t write historical. You can also get some great blog posts out of it. A final note of caution, however. If you’re writing historical fiction, you’re not writing as a historian. Another historical fiction writer I know reminds people that we’re ‘Not Historians, but Storians.’ I like that a lot. We are, for all our research, making stuff up. It’s fiction.

4. Do your story ideas come to you within the context of their time (ie do you ‘think’ within that era?) or do you have an idea and then transport it back in time to the medieval period?

Medieval Devil
A bit of both. In my second in the Fifth Knight series, The Blood of the Fifth Knight, there is a major plot theme around sorcery. With my 21st century head on, I find the idea of a devil breaking into a church and making off with a sorceress on the back of a barbed black horse quite fun and certainly very lively. But for medieval people, this was shocking, terrifying truth. I have some characters who doubt this kind of account, but they would in reality have been in a very small minority. I don’t particularly struggle with understanding that mindset of belief through fear. I was raised in Ireland, a Catholic country where for my entire childhood the word of the Church was law. Just as it was for the medievals, religion wasn’t a part of society- it was society. Even as a small child I was regularly informed about burning in hell for my sinfulness. The enterprising nuns even showed me and my classmates how to perform an emergency Baptism to prevent a soul going to hell.

5. How do you structure a new story, when almost every detail (apart from the weather and human emotions) has to belong to another time – transport, food, tools, clothes, language, for example? Do you research as you go along? How do you immerse yourself in that world when you’re living in this one!? (You will notice I’m in awe of what you do!)

King John c1370 depiction. Great Charter Roll, Waterford
That’s very kind of you to say so, but I enjoy it so much that I can hardly claim it as a chore! The approach I take (and everyone is different) is to do a great deal at the start to make sure the plot premise is sound. For my latest release, The Lord of Ireland, I had to make sure that I understood all the ins and outs of 12th century Irish history leading up to the point when Henry II sent his youngest son, John, there. (Yes: THAT John. As in Bad King John. As an eighteen year old, he got the gig of sorting Ireland out. John being John, he didn’t.) As anyone who knows anything about Irish history, the ins and outs are, shall we say, complex. But I got there. Once I had the politics straight, then came the detail. The Irish dressed differently, spoke differently, fought differently, ate differently. Put it this way: I have many, many folders.

It took me two solid days to find out what an Irish dart looked like. And yet I only spotted at the proof-reading stage that Sir Benedict was holding a fork in one sentence. He now holds a knife. But that fork could well have landed me another 1* review. As for immersion, there are so many amazing museums and re-enactment groups out there. I also like to go and jump around in castles and muddy fields. A lot.
6. Have you ever been tempted to write contemporary fiction?

I wrote The Drivel. That is all.

7. What are you working on at the moment?

Research for Book #4 of the Fifth Knight series and another medieval project about which I’m sworn to secrecy.
Huge thanks to Elaine for her insightful answers – I have to say, it all sounds fascinating…

Find out more by visiting or Waterstones and find her on her Blog, Facebook and Twitter. Discover her books at Amazon.

 If you enjoyed this post, PLEASE SHARE it. Thank you!
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------              AJ Waines’ novels are Standalones and can be read in any order:

  •  Over 180,000 books sold worldwide
  • Girl on a Train  a Number One Bestseller on Kindle in UK and Australia (2015)
  • The Evil Beneath Number One in 'Murder' and 'Psychological Thrillers' (UK Kindle charts)
  • No Longer Safe went straight to Number One 'Crime Noir' (US & UK Kindle charts)
  • Awarded Kindle KDP Top 10 'most-read Author' in UK (2015)
Find AJ Waines at: 
Blog *  Website  *  Twitter  * Facebook  *  Pinterest  * Goodreads  * Google+  

Join AJ Waines' Newsletter HERE or below:

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Lost your Writing Mojo? Try a Writer’s Journal

My first published book wasn’t a Psychological Thriller – it was a self-help book about keeping a journal to build self-esteem, back in 2002! It might seem a million miles away from my current suspense mysteries, but I’ve found keeping a Writer’s Journal has helped me enormously to stay on track in my writing life. Here’s how a simple journal works for me, in the hope that it might help others.
When my writing isn’t going well, if I don’t feel like knuckling down to it, or the book grinds to a complete halt, I go to my Writing Journal and use the following four-step process (using a password-protected file so it’s private and I don’t filter what I express!):

1.    What exactly is wrong? I take a step back and ask myself this question in the most open-ended way possible. In this first stage, I just pour my heart out about how I feel (swearing is allowed, no one is going to see it!) I call this the ‘agony aunt’ method – just spill, moan, complain, thrash out the emotions…

2.    Why do I think I feel like this? I try to isolate the issue in the most accurate way possible to hone it down (there is usually more than one, of course!). Is it about this book? A string of nasty reviews? Submission rejections? Am I run down creatively? Is it about something else: family, domestic, health or money concerns? I just get the problems down on paper, one by one.

3.    Dig deeper. Why is my energy flagging? If it’s the storyline that is the issue, I stand back and try to find out what isn’t working. Are the main plot points strong or original enough? Is the pace wrong? Have I run out of ideas? Is the ending weak? Am I getting confused about my central themes? Is the main character too flat?

4.    What would have to happen for things to get better? How could I get excited about my story again? I brainstorm ideas: Do I need to re-read from the start? Do I need to cut an entire section of the book? Do I need to cut out a certain character? Do I need to try a third-person narrator instead of first? This requires a critical and balanced eye and it might be worth involving a trusted friend or fellow writer to help identify what needs to shift.

I also find it’s useful to have a Writer’s Statement to hand which clarifies why I’m aiming to be an author in the first place and what I want to achieve. Mine is the following:

·        To thoroughly ENJOY the process
·        To earn enough to carry on writing full-time
·        To develop and improve and be the best writer I can be

In times of uncertainty, I return to these core values and check whether I am out of line with them. Ultimately, I reckon it’s important to remember why we put ourselves through all the writing heartache!

If you enjoyed this post, PLEASE SHARE it. Thank you!
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------              AJ Waines’ novels are Standalones and can be read in any order:

  •  Over 180,000 books sold worldwide
  • Girl on a Train  a Number One Bestseller on Kindle in UK and Australia (2015)
  • The Evil Beneath Number One in 'Murder' and 'Psychological Thrillers' (UK Kindle charts)
  • No Longer Safe went straight to Number One 'Crime Noir' (US & UK Kindle charts)
  • Awarded Kindle KDP Top 10 'most-read Author' in UK (2015)
Find AJ Waines at: 
Blog *  Website  *  Twitter  * Facebook  *  Pinterest  * Goodreads  * Google+  

Join AJ Waines' Newsletter HERE or below: