Tuesday, 26 January 2016

No Longer Safe – The Making of the Book

AJ Waines in conversation with book-lover Steve Whellan about her fourth novel, No Longer Safe.

Where did the inspiration for No Longer Safe come from?

I loved the idea of getting four people who appear to be friends, to meet up after a long break, but who actually create a toxic mix when they are left together. The circumstances of the remote location, making the group largely cut-off from civilisation and brewing in their own company gives a volatile ‘hotbed’ feel to the book. With lies, pretence, secrets and ulterior motives, I wanted to create a sense that anything could happen...and it does…and where the worst side of people’s personalities would start to come out. 

The weather plays a central role in No Longer Safe. Have you been to the Highlands in the snow?

Yes, I once spent a week’s family holiday in a log cabin near Fort William, when I was about seventeen. I wanted to write about how the snow changes everything – the sounds, the colours, the smells, the way you approach the outdoors. Growing up in the north (Cleveland), we got a lot of snow in the winter and I hated having to walk our dog (a burly German Shepherd kept on the lead) over rutted pavements that had completely iced over, where every step was treacherous. Snow and ice comes in many forms and is both picturesque and brutal. It’s inviting and it can also trap you. I wanted the story to convey some of these extremes, including the beauty of fresh snow outside the cottage and the emerging hostility inside. 

The story is based around university friends meeting up for a reunion? Is it based on fact, at all?

There are a few glimmers of fact, but relating to the places where the students lived rather than the people themselves. Alice’s introduction to new friends by venturing into a different kitchen in the campus block happened to me in exactly the same way, when I first went to Lancaster University to do a music degree. 

Also, in the second year, I used to stay over with my boyfriend, who lived in the most appalling shared student house – I’m sure it should have been condemned. His bedroom was like a basic ‘lean-to’ outhouse with no heating, and slugs used to come inside regularly through gaps in the floor! My husband also talks about sharing a house when he was a student in Bradford, where you could peer down into one of the lad’s bedrooms from a big hole in the bathroom above. Just gross! These situations clearly had an impact on me!

What success have you had since changing careers from psychotherapist to fiction writer?

I was looking for a career shift, but I didn’t ever dare imagine it might go as well as it has. I have to admit it’s been a real roller-coaster, though. I’ve had plenty of rejections and heartache – getting dropped by my first agent was dreadful, but then I’ve had great luck, too. Essentially, I discovered a passion for writing that I never really knew was there and I’m able to carry on doing it, which is the greatest gift of all. This year, I’ve earned more than I ever have in my life. I’m really grateful for the support of some key special people – they know who they are! I’ve now got a great 'literary' team around me.

Thanks to Steve for his questions.

NO LONGER SAFE is available in ebook and paperback from 4 February. You can pre-order it HERE (over 4,000 advance copies sold, to date...)

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-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------              AJ Waines’ novels are Standalones and can be read in any order:

  •  Over 100,000 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)
  • Awarded Kindle KDP Top 20 'most-read Author' in UK (2015)
Find AJ Waines at: 
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