Monday, 11 September 2017

Using 'real-life' in crime fiction - How far can you go?

Thanks to CWA who originally posted this feature in their Crime Readers' Association Newsletter.

As a former psychotherapist, I’ve been faced with enough guilty secrets, obsessions and shocking revelations to keep several novelists busy for the rest of their lives! My work involved connecting with ex-convicts from high-security institutions, where I learned a lot about the so-called ‘criminal mind’ (more on this later), but I also worked with ordinary people, just like you and me, who’d been hiding guilty secrets and were admitting to affairs, fraud, even unsolved crimes.

Within the four walls of the psychotherapist’s ‘confessional’, I’ve been confronted with some unnerving disclosures during my fifteen years’ experience. I once worked with an elderly man who brought me a photo of the mannequin he kept dressed in his dead daughter’s clothes in the corner of his sitting room. Another client was convinced he was a reincarnation of 'The Messiah'. I’ve slightly changed the details here, but other examples are too sensitive and poignant to reveal to you.

So how far do I go? How much of my writing is limited by ethical constraints?

Imagine finding your own clothes on a corpse?
When using real-life material in my fiction, I have to scrutinise every aspect and alter anything that could identify an individual. As a result, I’m confident that no one reading my books would ever come across their own Doppelganger within the pages. More often than not I use a fragment of a patient’s experience and turn it into something fresh. In the above example about the mannequin, the macabre image stayed with me and led to the opening hook for The Evil Beneath, where the protagonist discovers a body in the Thames and is shocked to find the corpse is wearing her own clothes. That one striking idea set in motion the entire story.

Readers sometimes ask if real patients end up in my stories, but I tend to use a combination of fascinating character traits, instead. In Lost in the Lake for example, Rosie, the sole survivor of a crash, demonstrates  several dysfunctional behaviours I came across in my work. Rosie is a misfit because of her grim background, struggling to make friends but trying too hard, so she pushes people away. Her low self-esteem makes her clingy even though she’s forthright and obsessive. When she makes up her mind about something, she won’t let go and it is that which takes the novel in a disturbing direction…

Only once have I put a real person more or less directly on to the page – and, of course, I can’t tell you which character that is..!

One of the most interesting aspects of my work with ex-offenders was my gut-reaction when spending time with them. Far from feeling revulsion or disgust, the overriding emotional response I felt was sadness. Most of my client group were women, struggling to cope in dire circumstances, caught up in domestic violence, drug abuse or poverty. They felt they had no other course of action open to them, other than to lash out. Others claimed they were protecting their children and 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. These individuals found themselves so deeply entrenched in unmanageable situations that they felt they had no escape.

There's no doubt that many 'real-life' psychotherapy situations make for gripping material now that my full-time career is writing crime fiction, but I will always be careful and respectful about how I present it.

My latest book, Lost in the Lake, was released last week in paperback and ebook (99p/$1.27 for a limited period!)

CLICK to join my Newsletter for book freebies and updates on new releases!
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
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

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Lost in the Lake - OUT NOW!

I'm thrilled to announce that my brand new psychological thriller, Lost in the Lake, is published TODAY in paperback and ebook!

(ebook at 99p/$1.28 for  short time only...)
You can view and buy the book at:
Amazon US
Amazon UK
and all Amazon outlets worldwide.

When a van leaves the road and plummets into a lake, all but one of the passengers are killed. Or so it seems. The sole survivor, Rosie, however 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, but it's only half the story. Rosie turns to psychologist, Dr Samantha Willerby, to help recover her memories and that’s when the psychological thriller begins to simmer. Rosie looks like she’s searching for answers about the crash, but very soon it becomes clear that she’s after something else. When the truth about Rosie finally creeps up on Sam – she’s already seriously out of her depth…

ENJOY!


View and buy Lost in the Lake at:
Amazon US
Amazon UK
and all Amazon outlets worldwide.

CLICK to join my Newsletter for book freebies and updates on new releases!
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
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

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Lost in the Lake Blog Tour

Lost in the Lake comes out tomorrow and here's the incredible line-up for the Blog Tour!
7-18 September
(see individual links below the poster) 


It's a real pleasure to have these wonderful book bloggers lined up to tell you what they think about the book. There are also Q&As, extracts and giveaways!
 
List with live links:


You can PRE-ORDER the ebook today - 99p/$1.27 for a short period only!

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
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

Monday, 14 August 2017

Book Review: Lying in Wait by Liz Nugent

Lying in WaitLying in Wait by Liz Nugent
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, which shows what happens when ‘love’ spills over into callous control and devious manipulation.

Clever plotting leads the reader through a labyrinth of uncertainty about what and who the story is really about and where it is heading; there’s a shock regarding the opening characters very close to the start. The ambiguity is partly achieved due to three interspersed first-person narrators detailing their version of events, set in three timeframes.

Events in 1980 set the scene and we’re introduced to the blatant murder of a young woman, partially strangled by Andrew, Lydia’s husband (the first narrator), then brutally finished off by Lydia, herself. The first sentence tells us what kind of person Lydia is: “My husband did not mean to kill Annie Doyle, but the lying tramp deserved it.” O-k-a-y…

Her son, Laurence, a teenager at the time, is oblivious to the whole episode and entirely unaware that the woman’s body is buried in the back garden. What an opening chapter!

The following narrators are Karen, the dead woman’s sister and Laurence the innocent son. The twisty story follows the family history through to 1985 as the different lives cross each other’s paths and the mystery of the woman’s death gradually creeps closer to the surface. In 2016, we get the final outcome. Chilling indeed! Highly recommended.

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

Thursday, 3 August 2017

A Fresh Take on Psychological Thrillers

This post first appeared on Jennie Ensor's exciting blog - thanks to Jennie for the opportunity!

As a former psychotherapist, it was a natural progression for me when I first had a go at writing fiction 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.

In my childhood, I’d devoured books by Enid Blyton and later was drawn to crime thriller/mysteries; my all-time favourites being A Simple Plan by Scott Smith and The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth. As an adult, too, I was captivated by psychological thrillers ever since they began to be recognised as a distinct category, loving writers such as Minette Walters and Nicci French.

Old favourites!
So, a love for crime mysteries and psych thrillers…

As a result, my books tend to have both a distinct mystery on the surface and a deeper psychological thriller lurking underneath, with that essential twist at the end, of course! The mystery element is not usually a police-procedural as such, but a dark and deadly puzzle involving clues and hidden dangers that the main character, an ordinary person like you or me, gets caught up in. My protagonists range from a journalist, a lecturer in criminology, an archivist and more recently a clinical psychologist –  most are feisty, but vulnerable, women with their own unresolved issues lurking just out of sight.

There's a body in the water and she's wearng your clothes - The Evil Beneath
At the start of each book, an incident usually takes place which shakes the protagonist’s world upside down. These incidents range from a body found in The Thames wearing the main character’s own clothes (The Evil Beneath), a suicide under a train that isn’t what it seems (Girl on a Train), a missing woman and child in a quiet village (Dark Place to Hide), the body of a stranger that appears one morning in a remote cottage (No Longer Safe) and a Tube fire where survivors give accounts that don’t add up (Inside the Whispers).

In each situation, my main character is pushed to breaking point, faced with lies, deception, secrets, moral dilemmas or concealed psychological disorders Then, gradually as the plot unfolds, the mystery and the psychological elements link up. The hidden connection becomes clear – or gets turned on its head!

In my latest book, Lost in the Lake, 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…

I’ve always loved hidden things. I was a secretive child and kept diaries with tiny keys and padlocks. I also collected money boxes with intricate locking devices and even used to hide magazine clippings of the Queen under a rug beside my bed! That’s where it all stems from. Anything concealed and I’m hooked!

Lost in the Lake is available to Pre-order now on Amazon at 99p for a limited period. Paperback & Ebook published 7 September.
 ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
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

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Cover Reveal + Opening FREE - 'Lost in the Lake!'

I'm super, super excited - because the cover of Lost in the Lake goes out into the world today! 
Here's the cover and story outline. I really hope you like it! My heartfelt thanks to Paper & Sage, in Kentucky, for doing such a fabulous job!
 
'A tangled Murder Mystery on the surface - a sinister Psychological Thriller underneath'
 

     PRE-ORDER the ebook NOW:
Amazon UK (99p)    Amazon US ($1.28)


Here's the story:

She came at first for answers…now she’s back for you

Amateur viola player Rosie Chandler is the sole survivor of a crash which sends members of a string quartet plunging into a lake. Convinced the ‘accident’ was deliberate, but unable to recall what happened, she is determined to recover her lost memories and seeks out clinical psychologist, Dr Samantha Willerby.

But Rosie is hiding something…

Sam is immediately drawn to the tragic Rosie and as she helps her piece the fragments together, the police find disturbing new evidence which raises further questions. Why is Rosie so desperate to recover her worthless viola? And what happened to the violin lost in the crash, worth over £2m?

When Rosie insists they return to the lake to relive the fatal incident, the truth about Rosie finally creeps up on Sam – but by now, she’s seriously out of her depth…

Lost in the Lake is a nail-biting, edge-of-your-seat Psychological Thriller that will leave you glancing over your shoulder.

Published on 7 September, but you can Pre-order the ebook for 99p HERE, and at all Amazon outlets worldwide.

Read the Prologue for FREE HERE

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
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

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Which part of the Writing Process is the best?

Someone asked me recently which part of the writing process I liked best. I answered without hesitation: ‘The bit I’m doing at that point in time.'

It's a great feeling to have - that each stage feels like the best bit - then I realised that it’s the transition between one aspect of the book production to another that is often tricky. Let me explain why.

Getting a book published (in one paragraph)
As a hybrid author, published both independently and traditionally, I’m involved with a wide range of stages in the process. In the UK, I produce my own books from start to finish, project managing the entire process from initial ideas to writing the novel, formatting for ebook and paperback, getting the cover designed, managing the editing and proofreading, then all the publicity and marketing that needs to get the show on the road. The latter is time consuming, but essential for authors these days to get their books noticed: blog tours, interviews, guest posts, promotional photos etc.
From this...
...to this
Today, I have my marketing and publicity hat on. With a book due to be announced in two weeks time, I’m at a hectic admin stage, which will also involve activating that magical 'pre-order' button on Amazon.

Click here for Lost in the Lake (or join my Newsletter for updates!)
Swapping from one stage to another
In two days’ time, I'll need to get back to editing, as my proofreader is due with a round of errors to correct (final ones I hope). In the meantime, I’m returning to my work in progress, a standalone psych thriller. It's been untouched since I left it a couple of months ago at 40,000 words (about half way through a first draft) to prepare Lost in the Lake for publication. This is where it gets tricky, because going back to it is hard; I’d largely forgotten what it was about! The plot felt sketchy and I was basically lost! I printed out the manuscript, so I could read it away from the PC and step back into the story again, because I couldn’t even remember some of the characters. Luckily, I'd made a list of plot-points to keep track of the direction I was heading in - but even so, there was no way I could resume writing the novel straight away - I had to get to know everyone in it again!

Back to Writing again
A strange thing has happened since I’ve engaged my brain with the creative part of the process again (although actually, all of the book process is creative in some way). My mind has clicked into the world of my characters and I’m finding ideas popping up all over the place. I have notebooks in almost every room in the house and in the last few weeks they’ve laid dormant. Now, all of a sudden, I'm reaching for them in order to collect little snippets: details on the setting, aspects of  key characters' personalities, how they move, talk, their motivations. It’s as though a searchlight has come on inside my head as I dig deeper into the story. In fact, I woke this morning before 6.30am with a pile of questions: Why did X do what she did at the age of 15? Why did P fall in love with T in the first place? I also realise I need a 'family tree' to gain more context about the characters' backgrounds and also some specific ‘family hardships’ to explain key aspects of the story.

Progress
But the story is filling out again, not only have I climbed back into the novel, but things there are stirring. The plot is on the move again and once I’ve reached the point in the manuscript where everything came to a halt, I’ll be bursting to find out what happens next (and to write it down!)

I’ll have to break away, of course, during the next few weeks to get Lost in the Lake out into the world, but I now have a new ‘home’ place to come back to every day. All I can say is the life of an author is never boring.

Lost in the Lake:  
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
AJ Waines is an International Bestselling Author of Psychological Thrillers 


  •  Over 400,000 books sold worldwide
  • Girl on a Train  a Number One Bestseller on Kindle in UK and Australia (2015 & 2016) 
  • Awarded Kindle KDP Top 10 'most-read Author' in UK 2016 & 2017
Find AJ Waines at: 
Blog *  Website  *  Twitter  * Facebook  *  Pinterest  * Goodreads  * Google+  

Join AJ Waines' Newsletter HERE or below: