Monday, 2 October 2017

'My experience just shows anyone can give writing a go!'

Thanks to Marianne over at  'Books life and everything' for this interview (originally posted on her blog on the Lost in the Lake, blog Tour)


M: Would you like to start by telling us a little about yourself and how you started as a writer?

AJ: I was in my forties and had no idea I was going to write fiction. I’d had a varied career, having been a professional musician (cellist), an administrator and a psychotherapist. After fifteen years in the latter role, to be honest, I was burnt out and I was looking for something new. I tried writing a short story and it ballooned into a novel. Encouraged by my brother-in-law, I sent it out and got an agent and my life has completely changed as a result! I’m now a full-time author. My experience just shows you that anyone can give writing a go!

M: What is it about the psychological thriller genre which attracts you?

AJ: As a former psychotherapist, it was a natural progression for me to choose psychological thrillers as my genre. I’d worked with ex-convicts from high security institutions, so I felt I had some insight into the disturbed and criminal mind. But I love a good murder mystery too – so as a result, my books tend to have both a sinister mystery on the surface and a deeper psychological thriller lurking underneath, with that essential twist at the end, of course!

M: What are your writing routines and where do you do most of your writing?

AJ: I’m at my desk at around 8am and apart from a short break for lunch, I carry on until around 5.30pm - just a normal working day. I take notebooks with me everywhere I go and I’m always jotting down ideas, but I can never focus in a park or coffee shop to do the real work. I wish I could! I can only work at home in my study with nothing but silence around me. For some jobs (eg social media, accounts), I can have music playing (Mozart’s Requiem is a favourite), but not during the creative cycle itself, such as plotting, drafting, editing.

M: How do you go about researching detail and ensuring your books are realistic?

AJ: My books appeal to readers who are curious about the way people tick, and I’m lucky to be able to use my real life experiences in psychotherapy (being careful to preserve confidentiality, of course). For any other research, however, I have to check the details. In Lost in the Lake, I had to look into what happens when a car hits the water and sinks. I needed to know how people get out of a vehicle, how much air they have, how it feels and so on, so I read a lot of newspaper reports, personal accounts and scientific reports, online.

 M: Without spoiling the plot, could you let us know a little about the Lost in the Lake?

AJ: The story starts when a van leaves the road and plummets into a lake, killing all but one of the passengers. Or so it seems. The sole survivor, Rosie, knows in her bones that it wasn’t an accident, but has gaps in her memory. That’s the tangled murder mystery on the surface. She turns to psychologist, Samantha Willerby, to help recover her memories and that’s when the psychological thriller begins to simmer. A chilling, altogether different dynamic is going on underneath the main enigma. Rosie looks like she’s searching for answers about the crash, but very soon it becomes clear that she’s after something else…

M: If you could choose to be a character from Lost in the Lake who would you be and why?

AJ: Golly, I think they all have a rough ride in the story! I probably feel most connection to the lead character, Dr Samantha Willerby. She’s a clinical psychologist (so slightly different from me), specialising in trauma and memory loss. She’s partly the kind of person I’d love to be: a real trooper, super-reliable and determined, but (like all of us) she sometimes doesn’t trust her own judgement and makes mistakes. There’s also a darker side to her past, which she is yet to resolve and she keeps falling for the wrong kind of men (not my own problem, thankfully!). In Lost in the Lake, she’s reacting to something that happened recently, but she tries too hard and it leads to a situation that spirals out of control.

M: What can we expect next from you?

AJ: Next up will be the third in the Dr Sam series, Perfect Bones, set on a canal boat in London. That will be published in 2018. I’m also writing the first draft of another standalone thriller (my eighth). I’ve got lots of other ideas buzzing around in my head for a while to come, I think!

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All books can be read in any order 
(Lost in the Lake is also second in the series featuring clinical psychologist, Dr Samantha Willerby)
  •  Over 400,000 books sold worldwide
  • Girl on a Train  #1 Bestseller on Kindle in UK and Australia (2015 & 2016) 
  • No Longer Safe  30,000 sold in the first month & #1 in 'Crime Noir'
  • Awarded Kindle KDP Top 10 'most-read Author' in UK 2016 & 2017