Saturday, 6 July 2019

Why I love writing Psychological Thrillers!

As a child, I devoured the Famous Five mysteries by Enid Blyton and was later drawn to crime thrillers, such as A Simple Plan by Scott Smith and The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth. Ever since they became recognised as a distinct category, however, I’ve been captivated by psychological thrillers, loving writers such as Minette Walters and Nicci French, from the 1990’s onwards. At the time, I was in awe of all writers and the idea of actually putting together a psychological thriller myself was completely beyond me!

Before I first had a go at writing fiction in 2008, I was a psychotherapist for 15 years. As well as seeing clients with mainstream issues such as low self-esteem, depression and relationship issues, I was privileged to work with ex-convicts from high-security institutions. I found this work fascinating and aside from giving me ideas for novels, it gave me considerable insight into the disturbed and criminal mind.

So, should I try to write murder mysteries or psychological thrillers..? Which would I choose? In the end I didn’t. I put the two genres together.

In my first attempt at a novel, The Evil Beneath, I wanted to create a story that had a distinct mystery on the surface and a deeper psychological thriller lurking underneath. To create dissonance between what the reader ‘knows’ and what the lead character hasn’t yet worked out. I like to find ways to mislead the reader and to create jeopardy from the ‘inside-out’, rather than from the ‘outside-in’. By this I mean that the characters are exposed to danger on a mental level – mind-games and deception – rather than (or as well as!) a physical one.

I’ve written nine psych thrillers to date, with another in the pipeline, and my plots usually centre around the  hidden unreliability or instability of individuals in the story. My protagonists often face a tortuous situation: a missing child, a death made to look like suicide, a stalker, a simple but deadly mistake, for instance. 

In Don’t you Dare, for example, the story starts with a mother misunderstanding a situation involving her daughter and killing someone. This kind of mystery allows the reader to get right inside the minds of key players. It encourages them to try to anticipate how characters might handle certain dilemmas and tempts the reader towards trying to figure out what their true motives are. Not just ‘who dunnit’– but ‘why’ and ‘how dunnit’! It also invites readers to consider: what on earth would I do if I was faced with this situation..?

Most of all, I like the idea of dramatic events happening to ordinary people. A dark and deadly puzzle involving clues where hidden dangers come to light. I love twists and turns and that big OMG moment at the end, of course – that turns everything on its head! In my novel, No Longer Safe, for instance, nothing is as it seems… Many readers told me that when they got to the end of the book, they were so gob-smacked, they had to go back to the beginning to discover how the events turned out as they did! That’s such a great compliment for a writer. I love to knock my readers sideways – and there’s certainly a delicious sting in the tail in that novel!

In all my books I like exploring moral dilemmas and what happens when relationships are blighted by jealousy, secrets, lies or revenge. I like writing ‘domestic noir’ – what could be more scary than thinking you’re safe in your own home and finding that’s where your worst nightmares begin…

My current favourite authors are Belinda Bauer, Claire Kendall,  Lucy Clarke and Sabine Durrant. Brilliant books I’ve read recently are: Until You’re Mine by Samantha Hayes and Tideline by Penny Hancock.

Enemy at the Window, the latest novel from AJ Waines is OUT NOW, published by Bloodhound Books. 99p/99c for a short period only.

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AJ Waines is a No 1 International Bestelling Author
Nearly half a million copies sold 
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Friday, 28 June 2019

New release: Enemy at the Window - read the Opening!

I'm thrilled to announce my new stand alone psychological thriller,
 Enemy at the Window, is released today!

Only 99p/99c for a limited period on Amazon!
Here's the Jacket Blurb!

Someone knows what you did... and they're watching you... 
   
Daniel is living the dream with a devoted wife, perfect job and adorable toddler. Until, out of the blue, his wife accuses him of having an affair and stabs him in a frenzied attack with a kitchen knife. As his wife is sectioned in a psychiatric ward, Daniel returns home from intensive care to find his precious world is inexorably falling apart:

Who is prowling around his house?
Why is someone sending threatening postcards?
And who is his son talking to in the dead of night?

As Daniel attempts to put his life back together, a merciless force just out of reach is unravelling it, bit by bit, until Daniel is plunged into his worst nightmare.

Enemy at the Window is an utterly gripping psychological suspense thriller, full of secrets, lies and betrayal, leading to a heart-stopping conclusion. It will appeal to fans of authors such as C.L. Taylor, Mark Edwards and Sabine Durrant.

"Couldn't put it down and didn't want it to end"
"Didn't see the twists that keep coming even to the last page"
 "Another spectacular page-turner!"
(ARC reviewers) 


Here's the Opening:
Enemy at the Window - A.J. Waines

Opening - Chapter One 
15 February 2018

When Sophie opened her eyes everything was wrong. Someone had tucked her into bed, but it wasn’t hers. She wasn’t in the right place. This wasn’t home.
      The last thing she remembered was the sound of a police siren. Somebody further up the street must have had an accident or maybe it was coming from the television. She wasn’t sure. Before that, the childminder had let herself in and was holding her phone, looking horror-stricken. Then there had been a woman wearing green pulling at her arm. She looked like she’d just hopped out of a helicopter or been sky-diving.
     What was Daniel doing lying there on the floor under the kitchen table like he’d fallen asleep? And who had spilt all the red paint?  She needed to get out of here; to start clearing it all up.
     She struggled against the crisp white sheets. They were too tight. As if she was strapped down. Looking over to her right there was another bed, and then another next to that. Wait a minute – there are other people here. What’s going on?
     The curtain on her left was pulled aside; the rings rattling along the pole like coins spilling from a fruit machine. A woman dressed in a blue uniform looked down on her.
     ‘How are you, Sophie?’
     ‘Where am I?’
      The nurse smiled and held Sophie’s wrist as she focused on her watch. ‘Do I know you?’
      Sophie read the name ‘Rose’ on her name tag, but it didn’t mean anything to her.
      ‘You’re in hospital – you’re safe.’
      Rose leant over to plump up her pillows and Sophie flinched. ‘Don’t worry… no one is going to hurt you.’
     ‘This isn’t right. I’m not…’
     ‘Rest for now. There’s some juice on the table if you want it.’
     Sophie narrowed her eyes. There was a persistent throbbing sound. Too loud. Trapped inside her head. Clanging and banging. She jerked from side to side to try to find the source. They’re trying to electrocute me. They’re trying to kill me. Her bones felt like they were on fire beneath her skin. She called out.
     ‘Help… help me!’
     The same nurse returned to her side, looking inconvenienced.
     ‘What’s the matter?’ she said, her hands on her hips.
     ‘That noise? What are you doing to me?’
     The nurse glanced at something above Sophie’s head and gave her the kind of smile reserved for someone who has already made too many claims on one’s patience.
     ‘It’s your heartbeat,’ she said. ‘It’s nothing to worry about.’
     ‘My heartbeat?’
    ‘Yes. You’re hearing the blood pumping inside your head, that’s all. It’s normal.’ The nurse turned, her soft soles squeaking on the linoleum.
     It was starting to become clear. Daniel had told lies to make these people keep her here, so he could shack up with that slut he’s been seeing behind her back. She tried to rear up again, but her head hurt and things started to swim out of focus.
     Her body shook uncontrollably and a burning sweat encased her, followed by a chill that made her teeth rattle. Oh God, I’m dying.
     For a moment she wondered if she was in fact already dead and her body was making its journey towards an everlasting black hole. She tried to call out again, but nothing happened. No sound came out. She was locked inside the tomb of her own body. Then suddenly, as if a switch in her brain clicked off, she started to drift into a hazy calm.
     Don’t panic… it’s only a dream… you’ll wake up in a minute.
~

Buy your copy now! 

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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AJ Waines is a No 1 International Bestelling Author
Nearly half a million copies sold 
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Thursday, 27 June 2019

Do you have a Criminal Mind?



Carl Jung suggested that we all have a ‘dark’ side and most of us spend our lives promoting the ‘good’ and downplaying the ‘evil’ tendencies in our personalities. Most of us would claim to be incapable of murder, but who’s to say if this is truly the case? We are certainly obsessed with the criminal mind, if you consider the popularity of crime fiction, true crime and TV detective dramas...


Apparently we love this stuff – why? Because we’re curious about what lurks beneath the surface. We want to replicate the drama of fear and jeopardy from the safety of our own sofas – the chemical reaction itself from tension to resolution, is addictive. On the one hand, it reinforces our sense of wellbeing when the good guy wins. On the other, it allows us to inhabit our darker side for a while; to see the world through the eyes of a killer and gain vicarious gratification of hidden impulses and fantasies.

Is there such a thing as ‘the criminal mind’? If so, how many average individuals out on the street are hiding a deadly secret? Robert I. Simon, author of Bad men do what Good Men Dream (2008), believes that psychopaths are all around us, in the office and on the Tube. Because they are competent and manipulative, they blend in. More chilling than this, he believes anyone has the potential to kill, but most of us choose to thrash our rivals on the squash court or revel in getting that promotion, instead. Simon states controversially, ‘After 40 years…as both a treating and forensic psychiatrist, I am absolutely convinced that there is no great gulf between the mental life of the common criminal and that of the everyday, upright citizen.’


As a psychotherapist, I have had the privilege of working with ex-offenders from high-security institutions, including Broadmore and Rampton hospitals. My work has taught me a lot about the criminal mind and the main conclusion I’ve come to is that there are numerous factors that contribute to an individual committing murder; biological, genetic, psychological, social, and that all forms of human behaviour exist on a continuum. Professor David Canter, Director of The International Centre for Investigative Psychology at Huddersfield University supports this view. ‘It is useful to think of criminal activity as being part of a process rather than a particular action or act committed by a particular type of person,’ he says.
 

Dr Michael Stone, professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University, USA, interviews convicts on death row and claims that more than ninety per cent of serial killers are psychopaths and most are sadists. These are the calculating murderers; cunning and callous without remorse. Hannibal Lecter is probably the most famous fictional psychopath we can all witness in action through film and books. Stone reckons around fifty per cent are also loners; men unable to sustain long-term relationships. But what makes them this way?

The nurture argument explains a great deal. A dog, for example, neglected, underfed and badly treated is more than likely to develop an aggressive streak. A dysfunctional upbringing can have the same result in a human. Stone believes that revenge is one of the strongest motives for murder. He has spoken with Tommy Lynn Sells, a killer of around seventy victims, mostly women, about his feelings for his mother. Tommy was appallingly abused by her as a child, but he has always remained disproportionately protective of her. Stone believes Tommy acted out his anger towards his mother symbolically by killing others, repeatedly paying his mother back for what she did to him in a disassociated manner.

Professor Adrian Raine, a neurocriminologist at the University Pennsylvania, believes biology plays a more important role than we think. In 1994, he took a sample of murderers and found the prefrontal cortex of the brain was significantly underdeveloped in comparison to non-offenders. In his book, The Anatomy of Violence, (2013), he explains how a range of biological factors can lead to violence. ‘Psychopaths have a core emotional deficit – they lack conscience, remorse, and guilt. They just don’t feel feelings the way we do,’ he says. ‘The amygdala – the seat of emotion…is also less activated in psychopaths when they contemplate moral dilemmas. It’s as if psychopaths don’t have the feeling for what is right and wrong – even if they know it at a cognitive level.’


According to Raine, dysfunction in the prefrontal cortex can bring about less control over emotions such as anger, rage and risk-taking, and leads to poor self-control and problem-solving skills, all traits that could predispose a person to violence. ‘Damage that emergency brake on behaviour, and explosive violence is not far away,’ he says.

Few people realise how many biological factors can come into play regarding the criminal mind. Something as simple as a low resting heart rate can lead to fearlessness and impulsive stimulation-seeking in children and adolescents. Raine also found that high testosterone and low cortisol are hormonal red flags and in terms of neurotransmitters, low serotonin can bring about impulsive violence.

In this way, Raine is suggesting that individuals can be predisposed to criminal behaviour; that they are not made the same way as the rest of us. Can such deficiencies be identified and treated? In his book, Raine describes a child, Danny, from a well-to-do family in LA who started stealing at the age of three. It wasn’t long before he became a compulsive liar, selling drugs (aged ten) and stealing cars. Danny described himself as bored with an insatiable thirst for stimulation. ‘The first clinical evaluation confirmed excessive slow-wave activity in Danny’s prefrontal cortex,’ describes Raine, ‘a classic sign of chronic under-arousal.’ After treatment to develop the boy’s focus and concentration, his behaviour radically improved and he became an A-grade student. In this way, Raine shows that biology doesn’t have to mean destiny.

Head injuries can also cause changes in personality - often swift and dramatic. A disturbingly high proportion of serial killers have sustained head injuries at some stage in their lives. Fred West is a case in point. He suffered two serious head injuries; one, through a motorcycle accident, the other when falling from a fire escape, both of which left him unconscious. His subsequent behaviour was deemed to be erratic as a result.

Not all psychopaths are serial killers and we tend to remember the most extreme cases. My own experiences of coming face to face with the criminal mind have been sad, rather than disturbing. I have mostly worked with people from dysfunctional backgrounds who were struggling to cope in dire situations. Caught up in domestic abuse, drug abuse and poverty, they felt they had no other course of action open to them, but to lash out. Some made fatal decisions as their only perceived way out of debt or to escape a damaging relationship. Some claimed they were protecting their children. Many chose a passive-aggressive approach, resorting to arson or poisoning, rather than physical attacks. Setting a fire meant they could walk away and let fate decide what happened. They were individuals who didn’t know how to communicate or contain their feelings or found themselves so deeply entrenched in unmanageable situations that they felt they had no way out.


I also came across people for whom crime was part of everyday life. These men or women had grown up with stabbings, shootings and muggings; they had mental health problems, a fragile personality-type, were easily led and got involved with criminal activity through the influence of others. They were anti-establishment; seeking leadership, gang-culture, excitement, risk-taking - often simply looking for a sense of ‘family’ and belonging.

There are also the cases I am most interested in writing about as an author of psychological thrillers. They are the normal fully-functioning individuals who make terrible mistakes under extreme duress. The average person in the street. They make matters worse by trying to cover up their crime with another one – the domino effect. Perhaps these people are most compelling, because they could be you or I – and they could get caught at any moment. It can start with a simple lie – we’ve all been there – but it their cases, it escalates to murder. The Simple Plan by Scott Smith is a good example of a novel based on this type of killer. It starts out as a ‘victimless’ crime of opportunity and greed, but one thing leads to another, and before you know it, someone is murdered to protect a secret.

The criminal mind, therefore, comes in many forms with complex biological, psychological as well as emotional triggers. One question remains: faced with overwhelming jealousy, hurt, rage, resentment or threats to loved ones - what would you do?

This post was originally published by the Crime Writer Assocation ©AJWaines

 AJ Waines' new stand alone psychological thriller

ENEMY AT THE WINDOW

is published tomorrow, June 28 - available now to pre-order on Amazon.




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AJ Waines is a No 1 International Bestelling Author
Nearly half a million copies sold 
View all books on Amazon

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Friday, 21 June 2019

Enemy at the Window - PRE-ORDER Now!

I'm thrilled to announce my new stand alone psychological thriller,
 Enemy at the Window, is now available to PRE-ORDER!

Only 99p/99c for a limited period on Amazon!
Here's the Jacket Blurb!


Someone knows what you did... and they're watching you...

Daniel is living the dream with a devoted wife, perfect job and adorable toddler. Until, out of the blue, his wife accuses him of having an affair and stabs him in a frenzied attack with a kitchen knife. As his wife is sectioned in a psychiatric ward, Daniel returns home from intensive care to find his precious world is inexorably falling apart:


Who is prowling around his house?
Why is someone sending threatening postcards?
And who is his son talking to in the dead of night?

As Daniel attempts to put his life back together, a merciless force just out of reach is unravelling it, bit by bit, until Daniel is plunged into his worst nightmare.

Enemy at the Window is an utterly gripping psychological suspense thriller, full of secrets, lies and betrayal, leading to a heart-stopping conclusion. It will appeal to fans of authors such as C.L. Taylor, Mark Edwards and Sabine Durrant.

What readers are saying about Enemy at the Window:


 "There should be a ten-star option on ratings for this one. 
What an awesome, edge of the seat, page turner!!" 5 stars
(Karen Barton, Goodreads Reviewer)

"An explosive read... and amazingly clever story" 5 stars
(Alison Cook, Goodreads Reviewer)

"Fair warning... Don't read this book unless you 
want to get hooked from the first paragraph until the last" 5 stars
 (Jim Jordan, Goodreads Reviewer)

"A tantalising cleverly thought-out plot… one gripping read" 5 stars
(Misfits farm, Goodreads Reviewer)
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
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AJ Waines is a No 1 International Bestelling Author
Nearly half a million copies sold 
View all books on Amazon
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Wednesday, 24 April 2019

Book Review: Skin Deep by Liz Nugent

Skin DeepSkin Deep by Liz Nugent
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Skin Deep isn’t what I expected. It’s billed as a psychological thriller and in my view it isn’t. I’ll explain why in a moment.

Firstly, I’ll give my views on what it IS. It’s the dramatic tale of a woman’s life from a damaged childhood on a remote island, through tragedy and trauma to middle age. The narrative is driven by one woman, Delia, focusing on her family and the impact she has on the lives of others she touches during her life’s journey. It’s about survival and the lengths Delia will go to in order to protect herself. It’s about character and we get to know the many complicated and contradictory layers of Delia’s personality as she moves from place to place, country to country, trying to escape her past and reinvent herself in her new setting.

There’s a dead body, but this only plays a small part at the beginning, to hook in the reader, re-appearing within the context of the story at the very end. The novel is extremely gripping, it’s full of drama.

For those interested in why it isn’t a psychological thriller, in my opinion, a psych thriller usually involves an unreliable narrator of some kind – here, Delia is unlikeable, but at no point in the story are we misled by her narrative. Or anyone else’s. Delia pretty much tells it straight, in terms that are hard-edged and always without emotion. There’s no play on the anxiety of a victim. Unlike a psych thriller, there are no attempts to create tension in the audience, to create dissonance between what the reader ‘knows’ and what the character hasn’t yet worked out. Yet, it IS a page-turner - because Delia’s life is fraught and we watch her stagger from one disastrous situation to another. If you like Patricia Highsmith’s Tom Ripley character, you’ll no doubt enjoy this.
Highly recommended!


View all my reviews

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AJ Waines is a No 1 International Bestelling Author

  •  Nearly half-a-million copies 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

Blog Website * Twitter * Facebook * Pinterest  * Goodreads * Newsletter * Bookbub

Thursday, 11 April 2019

New Book coming June 2019!


I've been busting a gut to let you know I've submitted my next book to my publisher, Bloodhound Books and they loved it! It's due for release on 28 June 2019. So do Save the Date!

ENEMY AT THE WINDOW is in production as I write...


It's a standlone psychological thriller and I'm looking forward to sharing the jacket blurb and cover artwork with you in the months ahead!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~  

AJ Waines is a No 1 International Bestelling Author

  •  Nearly half-a-million copies 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

Blog Website * Twitter * Facebook * Pinterest  * Goodreads * Newsletter * Bookbub

Mini Book Review: The Bones of You by Debbie Howells

The Bones of YouThe Bones of You by Debbie Howells
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A beautiful, tender, touching, deviant, harrowing murder mystery! Love a psychological thriller that can be savoured because the quality of the language is so good, rather than 'raced through' because the plot alone holds a book together. Highly recommended.

View all my reviews

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~  

AJ Waines is a No 1 International Bestelling Author

  •  Nearly half-a-million copies 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

Blog Website * Twitter * Facebook * Pinterest  * Goodreads * Newsletter * Bookbub