Monday, 21 May 2018

Why Escapism is good for Authors

Have you ever been caught daydreaming? Missed your stop on the bus because your mind was miles away? Been hauled up for staring out of the classroom window as a child? If so, you probably learnt that escapism was best avoided. But the ability to switch off, to transport yourself, to imagine possibilities and ‘think outside the box’ is essential to creativity and it’s the bedrock of a writer’s existence.

We all indulge in escapism: watching TV or films, listening to music, reading, playing games, sports and daydreaming. It’s completely normal. Escapism is useful for managing stress. It’s the mechanism by which we can step away from our problems. When we’ve spent all day fretting about work, for instance, an evening at a comedy club helps us to relax and let go. A game of tennis, a walk around a lake or an hour in a bird-hide, clears away our tangled, murky thoughts, so that when we come back to issues, we have a fresh view of the situation.
 
My first forays into escapism take me back to when I was around nine years old. The girl next door lent me a box brimming with small Bunty magazines, from a range called ‘picture story library for girls’. These little books transported me. There were around fifty of them and I devoured each and every one. I became the ballet dancer in one story, the gymnast in another. Spurred on by such stories, I learned to do the splits and have been able to, ever since! The Mallory Towers series by Enid Blyton had the same effect on me. I was totally immersed in those adventures. I still get a tingling excitement when I type the title. They were my first recognisable ventures into escapism.
My finest gymnastic achievement!
Escapism allows us to drift away from our own life – the routine, the humdrum – for a while. To leave our known reality behind and enter an existence somewhere else. Avid readers find this when they open a new book. Within moments, they have entered a new world with all their senses. For me, as an author, each time I write a new book, it’s like stepping through the back of the wardrobe in Narnia (CS Lewis) or opening the gate to The Secret Garden (Frances Hodges Burnett). A new place, new people and a new mystery. I become a new self, identifying with the characters in the book, joining them as they unravel the threads of a murder, facing their dilemmas, responding to their emotions from the safety of my writing desk.

I have one of those minds that naturally seems to take off somewhere. Very easily. I tend to do a lot of ‘what if’ thinking with regard to my own life. I think a crime writer needs that much maligned part of us that tends to slip into ‘catastrophe thinking’. I’m often dreaming up nightmare scenarios, asking myself ‘what’s the worst that could happen here?’ and running with it in my mind. I visualise. A lot. I have a second life going on inside my head all the time – a constant film running that jumps around from planning, rehearsing, daydreaming, reflecting and making stuff up. It’s busy in there!

This kind of ‘wild mind’ is useful when looking for ideas for writing a new novel. Brenda Ueland, (If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit) calls it ‘moodling’ – daydreaming with a pencil in your hand. It’s the process of brainstorming and letting your imagination wander, then catching whatever comes out, like netting butterflies.

Someone once asked me why I don’t do more travelling and I told them that I do all the travelling I need inside my head. This is true of many introverts – instead of spending time ‘out there in the real world’, we go inwards into our thoughts, reflections, memories and imagination. The books I read feed this rich inner world and the books I write emanate from it. I forage around in these other lives in order to gain insights to bring back to this one.

In my writing, escapism means I take myself into the scenes I’m creating and explore them as though I’m physically present. I look around the room, the boat, the cellar and feel the cold, see the shadows, smell the mould, taste the dust, hear the footsteps, sense the foreboding. Then I describe the experience. 

Of course, there were many times during the writing of my latest thriller, Don’t you Dare, when I didn’t know what something looked or felt like. What does the cellar of a pub smell like? How warm is it? How fast can you go in a speedboat? So I looked these details up, but most of the time I’m inside the story. And that’s where the fun starts, because I can design who does what in a novel. I’m in control. I can make people become who I want them to be. Make things happen in the way I decide. Like an adult playing with a train-set or model village! (It makes the process of writing sound like a doddle, which it really isn’t –  but it is all-consuming.)

There are no two ways about it, I’m hooked on escapism and admit to being a self-confessed daydreamer! I wouldn’t give it up for the world.

My latest book, Don’t you Dare, is published by Bloodhound Books and is available from all Amazon outlets:




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This feature was first published in The Crime Readers' Association Newsletter.

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CLICK to join AJ Waines' Newsletter for book giveaways and updates on her new releases!

AJ Waines is a No 1 International Bestelling Author
All books can be read in any order 
(including Inside the Whispers (Bk 1) and Lost in the Lake (Bk 2) which are also in a series)
  •  Over 450,000 books sold worldwide
  • Girl on a Train  #1 Bestseller on Kindle in UK and Australia (2015 & 2016) 
  • No Longer Safe  #1 in 'Crime Noir' [30,000 sold in the first month]
Awarded Kindle KDP Top 10 'most-read Author' in UK 2016 & 2017

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

How to Write a Psychological Thriller

Latest thriller - published Today! (May 8)
When people eagerly greet me with the words 'I've got a great idea for a novel', the first response that flashes into my mind is: 'Okay, so now you need about fifty more and you might be on to something.'

It's true! One sparky idea might give you a great hook for the opening of a novel, but in a psych thriller, you need a lot more. In my humble opinion what follows is my pared-down recipe to writing one.

What makes a Psychological Thriller?
In a nut-shell, most thrillers need some kind of dramatic incident at the start that sets off a chain of events, so that the reader is immediately gripped and intrigued. After this shock, the story needs to unfold with a search for something or someone, a chase or race against time, plus inner and outer turmoil for the main characters. It needs 'themes' to give the story continuity and meaning, 'threads' to link disparate parts of the plot together and 'layers' to show how the past relates to the present. The plot needs conflict and dilemmas, twists and turns, with set-backs and unexpected consequences following the characters' actions. And, of course, at the end it needs a super mind-blowing twist!

The hook to grab the reader at the outset
In Don't you Dare, there's a murder right at the outset and we know who did it and we think we know why. It's even on the jacket sleeve. What's the drama in that, you might ask? A-ha...it's what happens next that is key. Rachel has just attacked a stranger because she thought her daughter was in danger - and now he's dead. Beth wants to call the police. That's what anyone would do, surely? It was an accident. A misunderstanding. But Rachel absolutely refuses to involve the law. She puts her foot down and won't hear of it. She insists they keep what's happened a secret. Why is she so adamant?
My desk on a tidy day...
Structure and Characters
I usually use a three-act structure for my story arc and make sure I have distinct character arcs, too. Protagonists must make their own emotional journeys through the book and be different at the end from how they were at the beginning. Whilst the characters don't always need to be 'likeable', they do need to be fascinating or compelling in some way, so that the reader has a vested interest in what happens to them. They need to have colourful backstories to give them motives for having taken certain steps in the past, or for reacting how they do in the present. Psych thrillers usually contain a great deal of interior dialogue to show the inner worlds of the protagonists, so they need to have distinct personalities. Each one needs a well-defined 'voice'. Drawing on my experience as a psychotherapist, my characters often have psychological issues we can all relate to; hidden fears, grief, loneliness, addictions, jealousy or certain disorders, such as trauma-induced memory loss (see Lost in the Lake).

Before I start a new story, I like to have an overall concept for the book, to generate the 'feel' of the narrative. In the case of Don't you Dare, it was the question: 'What happens when your daughter becomes your enemy?' This allowed me to explore this complex and precarious dynamic. I also ask myself the following three questions:

1.Whose Story is it? 
Who is the narrator? Who is best placed to give the most dramatic account of what happens? Sometimes, it creates more drama to have two or more narrators, telling aspects of the story from their separate viewpoints in individual chapters. In Don't you Dare, we see the unfolding of events from both Rachel's (mother) and Beth's (daughter) points of view. This allows the reader to know details that the other character hasn't seen, to have 'insider' he's behind you-type knowledge! Furthermore, some secrets are also withheld from the reader. Neither Beth, nor the reader knows, for instance, why Rachel is so obsessed with covering up the crime at the beginning of the story. This allows me, as the author, to revel in lies, secrets and hidden motives! I love that sense of dissonance in a story - a sinister undercurrent where everything is not as it seems.

2.What big questions will the book explore?
In Don't you Dare, I was gripped by another question: What's it like to try to get away with a terrible crime? How will mother and daughter manage their dreadful secret? Will one of them break under pressure?  What happens to their relationship when they start blaming each other? Will they go ahead with the planned wedding in a matter of weeks? (it's good to have a 'race against time' element). Conflict, tension, mystery, manslaughter, lies and cover ups are all present in the opening chapters of this novel and the story spirals on from there. 

3.What other Themes are in the book?
At the outset, I identified the other areas I wanted to explore:
  • The problem with secrets when more than one person is involved
  • Rivalry between mother and daughter who are close in age - the dark side of female bonding
  • How grief and rage can lead people to go completely off the rails and commit rash acts
  • What people are capable of under duress
Rachel and Beth's home in Don't you Dare
Then there are settings, atmosphere and weather to consider. In my novel No Longer Safe, the snow plays a big part in the story. In The Evil Beneath, the River Thames is at the heart of the plot. In Don't you Dare, the 'rundown' terraced house in Winchester where Rachel and Beth live is a real place my husband and I viewed when we were house-hunting. I've made it more ramshackle in the story than it really was, but the layout of the first floor is the same as in this diagram, which shows the 'Jack and Jill' bathroom (one that's accessible from both bedrooms). This particular layout plays a part in the story...

Tattered back patio that features in Don't you Dare


Although I originally plotted the end of the book, when I came to write it, it completely changed. This seems to be common for writers. As the story progresses and the characters show who they really are, new possibilities come out of the woodwork.

After considering the structure, the story arc, the hook, the themes, the characters - after all that, you write the book. Simple...! 😉

DON'T YOU DARE is published by Bloodhound Books and available from Amazon
(for Amazon US click HERE)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~  
CLICK to join AJ Waines' Newsletter for book giveaways and updates on her new releases!

AJ Waines is a No 1 International Bestelling Author
All books can be read in any order 
(including Inside the Whispers (Bk 1) and Lost in the Lake (Bk 2) which are also in a series)
  •  Over 450,000 books sold worldwide
  • Girl on a Train  #1 Bestseller on Kindle in UK and Australia (2015 & 2016) 
  • No Longer Safe  #1 in 'Crime Noir' [30,000 sold in the first month]
Awarded Kindle KDP Top 10 'most-read Author' in UK 2016 & 2017

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Don't you Dare: Author Interview and early Reviews

Don't You Dare by AJ Waines

Available to PRE-ORDER:
Amazon UK & Amazon US

Published May 8

Interview by US thriller-lover, Hope Carridan, with the Author:

What is Don’t you Dare about?

It’s starts with a drastic misunderstanding – Rachel bursts in on her daughter, Beth, when she thinks she’s being attacked. She steps in as any good mother would and a terrible crime is committed. A man is dead, but it’s what happens next that is crucial. Beth says they must report the crime to the police. Her mother says no…no way…

Can you sum up the book in a few words?

Mother and daughter. One dead body.
Who’ll be the first to crack?

Where does the tension in the book come from?

The tension in the book comes from the different ways in which mother and daughter handle what they’ve done. Neither of them planned on committing a crime, but now they’re trapped in a terrible dilemma that will affect their lives forever. Who is going to keep their nerve? Who’ll be the first to crack? It’s a nail-biting ride and perfect (I hope) for fans of Ruth Ware, C.L Taylor and Clare Mackintosh!

What inspired you to write this book?

As a former psychotherapist I’ve always been interested in people’s motives for doing things. In this story, I wanted a dreadful crime to be committed by the lead character, Rachel, and for her to be desperate to cover it up. She has a very good reason, but keeps that reason hidden from Beth, her daughter (and the reader). A battle of wills unfolds as Beth, the queen of oversharing on social media, becomes a liability.

What was the first scene you envisaged?

It’s the scene where Beth gets drunk at her hen party and announces to everyone that she has something important to reveal. Her mother flies into a complete panic. Will Beth give them both away because it’s the ‘right’ thing to do? How can Rachel stop her? It’s the point when the story hangs on a thread and can swing either way.

What genre do your books fall under?

They are psychological thrillers, but nearly all involve a murder mystery too. In Don’t you Dare, we see the story unfold from Rachel and Beth’s points of view in alternating chapters. We see the inner motives and emotions they are not sharing with each other, the secrets being kept right from the start, even though they are devoted to each other. They both want to protect the other person and, ironically, a lot of the problems arise from this place of love.

Can you give us a flavour of the book?

This is near the beginning of the book, from Rachel’s point of view:

‘We’ve done something despicable,’ Beth whispers.
‘I know. But I hope you know why.’
Only – of course, she doesn’t know the real reason. And she must never find out.

I always love stories involving secrets and lies and this novel has plenty of them, with a big twist at the end!

Goodreads reviews for Don't you Dare

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AJ Waines is a No 1 International Bestelling Author
All books can be read in any order 
(including Inside the Whispers (Bk 1) and Lost in the Lake (Bk 2) which are also in a series)
  •  Over 450,000 books sold worldwide
  • Girl on a Train  #1 Bestseller on Kindle in UK and Australia (2015 & 2016) 
  • No Longer Safe  #1 in 'Crime Noir' [30,000 sold in the first month]
Awarded Kindle KDP Top 10 'most-read Author' in UK 2016 & 2017

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

New Don't you Dare - Pre-Order and read the Opening!

Don't you Dare is available on Amazon to PRE-ORDER now
Release date: May 8th

A heart-stopping psychological thriller!

What readers are saying about Don't You Dare:


I loved every twisty word in this thriller. Absolutely brilliant!”  Steven D – Goodreads Reviewer

“Wow! What a twist! This incredible psychological thriller has a conclusion that truly shocked and surprised me.”  Robin Taylor – Goodreads reviewer

"A brilliant read, an excellent plot, a wonderfully enjoyable book" Nicki Murphy - Nicki's Book Blog

"A compelling read" Donna Bradley - NetGalley Reviewer

"...really gripping and held my attention from the beginning to end" Ella Star - NetGalley Reviewer

This book explores the dark side of a mother-daughter relationship when pushed to the limit and will appeal to fans of authors like Ruth Ware, Clare Mackintosh and C.L. Taylor.

Here's the opening:
~ Chapter One ~
Rachel
Wednesday evening, March 8
I knew something was wrong the moment I slipped the key into the lock. 
       A light was visible through the keyhole. I teased the door open a fraction and stopped dead. The fluorescent strip light wasn’t the source, instead there was a dim glow at the far end of the cellar. I edged the door open another couple of inches with my foot, holding it firm against the self-closing spring. The beam was coming from behind the empty stainless-steel kegs stacked on the floor under the trap door. Was there a cleaner here with a mop? The landlord fixing a leak? It couldn’t be. The landlord was in Marbella and the pub had been shut for nearly two weeks for refurbishments. No one had keys but me. There was only one explanation. An intruder must have got in and was snooping around with a torch. 
      I stood frozen on the top step, torn about what to do. If I backed out now I’d attract attention – the door always made a juddering sound when it closed. If I called the police from where I stood, I might be overheard. I had my eyes fixed on the light the whole time, hardly daring to blink, waiting for the beam to bob around to see which direction the burglar was moving in. Except the light didn’t move.  
       A man groaned, then came a scuffle, then a woman whimpering.
       ‘No. Let me go…get your filthy hands off me!’ 
       Beth. 
       I didn’t need to hear anymore. I knew my daughter’s voice anywhere and could tell instantly what was going on. In that split second, my mind was on one thing and one thing alone. 
       I hurried down the remaining steps, not caring if I made a noise. I found Beth half-naked, shivering, her hair roughed up in a black tangle as a man I’d never seen before leant over her, his trousers down, gripping her struggling torso from behind.
      ‘No…no…stop!’ she yelled. 
       I rushed towards the pair of them, no words forming in my mouth, instead letting out a primaeval scream that must have sounded like a tortured horse. Something terrible was happening to my daughter and I had to save her. Rescue her from the brute who was forcing himself on her, his hands on her bare back, shoving her over a wooden chair. I charged at the figure as he straightened up. Bastard. My reaction came from a place of outrage, of maternal protection, from a gushing surge of rage and horror. I was doing what any mother would have done without a second’s thought.   
       I’m strong. I carry kegs and crates down to the pub cellar every day and when I’m on a mission, there’s no stopping me. 
       I threw myself at him, lashed out with my tight fists. His face was caught in an expression of dumb surprise and he was off balance, his legs trapped by the trousers caught around his ankles. He toppled backwards and there was a loud crack as his head struck against the protruding tap on a full cask of pale ale. Then he went down. 
      I thought I was saving Beth. I thought I was doing the right thing. I stormed in to save my daughter from being raped. Only I got it all wrong. Badly wrong. And now a man I’ve never met is lying dead a few inches from my feet.

 ~
More about the book coming soon...

Don't miss any updates. CLICK to join AJ Waines' Newsletter 
for book giveaways and updates on her new releases!
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~   

AJ Waines is a No 1 International Bestelling Author
All books can be read in any order 
(including Inside the Whispers (Bk 1) and Lost in the Lake (Bk 2) which are also in a series)
  •  Over 450,000 books sold worldwide
  • Girl on a Train  #1 Bestseller on Kindle in UK and Australia (2015 & 2016) 
  • No Longer Safe  #1 in 'Crime Noir' [30,000 sold in the first month]
Awarded Kindle KDP Top 10 'most-read Author' in UK 2016 & 2017

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Cover Reveal! Don't you Dare

I'm so excited to share the cover for my new stand-alone thriller, Don't you Dare!



Pre-Order on Amazon from April 25 - Out on May 8
Advance reviewers can find it on NetGalley 
 
My thanks to my publisher, Bloodhound Books, for doing such a fabulous job of the cover!

Here's the story:

When barmaid, Rachel, discovers her soon-to-be-married daughter, Beth,​ pinned down by a stranger in the pub cellar, Rachel lashes out in panic and the intruder ends up dead. In desperation, Rachel convinces Beth they should cover up the crime and go ahead with the planned wedding in one month’s time.

Rachel, however, has her own reasons for not involving the police.

Hiding their dreadful secret is harder than they both imagined and as the big day approaches and the lies multiply, Beth becomes a liability. Rachel looks on in dismay at the hen party​ ​when, after too many drinks, Beth declares she’s about to make a special announcement. But before Beth can say a word she disappears...

When two people share a chilling secret can both hold their nerve?

This book explores the dark side of a mother-daughter relationship when pushed to the limit. Perfect for fans of Ruth Ware, C.L. Taylor and Clare Mackintosh.
~

Read the opening of the book in my next post...coming soon...

Don't miss any updates. CLICK to join AJ Waines' Newsletter 
for book giveaways and updates on her new releases!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~  


AJ Waines is a No 1 International Bestelling Author
All books can be read in any order 
(including Inside the Whispers (Bk 1) and Lost in the Lake (Bk 2) which are also in a series)
  •  Over 450,000 books sold worldwide
  • Girl on a Train  #1 Bestseller on Kindle in UK and Australia (2015 & 2016) 
  • No Longer Safe  #1 in 'Crime Noir' [30,000 sold in the first month]
Awarded Kindle KDP Top 10 'most-read Author' in UK 2016 & 2017

Saturday, 10 March 2018

New release news...


Little bit of news...we have a title...we have a date...


Find out more Here


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~  

AJ Waines is a No 1 International Bestelling Author
All books can be read in any order 
(including Inside the Whispers (Bk 1) and Lost in the Lake (Bk 2) which are also in a series)
  •  Over 450,000 books sold worldwide
  • Girl on a Train  #1 Bestseller on Kindle in UK and Australia (2015 & 2016) 
  • No Longer Safe  #1 in 'Crime Noir' [30,000 sold in the first month]
Awarded Kindle KDP Top 10 'most-read Author' in UK 2016 & 2017

Monday, 26 February 2018

Review of: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars 

One of the best books I’ve read in a long time…

First, we had Adrian Mole, then Bridget Jones and now Eleanor Oliphant. It’s all in the voice. Anyone who watched The Bridge and was fascinated by the character of Saga will recognise that Eleanor is on the autistic spectrum. Honeyman manages to capture this authentic and poignant voice consistently, which is impressive in itself. Eleanor is fully functioning in many ways, but she doesn’t understand or do social niceties, doesn’t understand the reason for or tell white lies, she ‘tells it how it is’ and pays the price for it with sniggers and cold-shouldering on all sides.

Themes of loneliness, alienation and the struggle to fit in – we’ve all experienced these to some extent – form the humanitarian reach of the book. Whilst Eleanor’s personal take on life is extreme because of her condition (and upbringing), we’ve all been there. Take, for example, the title of the book – we’ve all said we’re ‘fine’ at some point, when we’re not, when in truth we’re sobbing inside or desperate for someone to listen to our fears or give us a big hug. But with Eleanor, everything is that much harder. She’s got no supportive family and grew up in foster homes. She’s disfigured with a scar (externally and internally). We know there was a fire in her past and through tiny reveals as the story progresses, we get to know the deeper damage done in her childhood involving a cold and deviant mother.

Already in her thirties, Eleanor seems to grow up and blossom in this story: we see her explore kindness, discover joy in simple things such as the touch of a hand, a haircut, kitten heels instead of 'versatile' Velcro shoes. She starts to become part of things rather than always observing and being excluded on the side-lines.

The themes are handled with great tenderness, wit and panache, but Eleanor’s real journey is about discovering love, where she least expects it. She and a work colleague, the unrefined Raymond, are involved in a simple act of kindness. They help get an elderly man to hospital when he falls in the street. From this one act follows a string of new connections for Eleanor – the stranger’s family, parties, makeover appointments and new routines in her life as Raymond keeps the connection between them going.

It’s Eleanor’s view of the world in this book that is both refreshing, funny and heart-breaking. Those three words probably sum up the feel of the book. It will make you cry! Highly recommended.
 
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
All books can be read in any order 
(including Inside the Whispers (Bk 1) and Lost in the Lake (Bk 2) which are also in a series)
  •  Over 450,000 books sold worldwide
  • Girl on a Train  #1 Bestseller on Kindle in UK and Australia (2015 & 2016) 
  • No Longer Safe  #1 in 'Crime Noir' [30,000 sold in the first month]
Awarded Kindle KDP Top 10 'most-read Author' in UK 2016 & 2017