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...)

If you enjoyed this post, PLEASE SHARE it. Thank you!
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------              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: 
Blog Newsletter  *  Website  *  Twitter  * Facebook  *  Pinterest  * Goodreads  * Google+  
 

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

A Day in the Life of a Hybrid (Trad and Indie) Author

One of the absolute joys of being a writer is that every day is different, largely because writers can (and need to) play a much bigger part in the publishing process than they used to. Most authors now have a ‘platform’ and with the rise of social media, they can invite readers to go with them, behind the scenes. Readers can now discover how books are written, what their favourite crime writer reads (or eats for breakfast) and even see snaps of the cuddly pets who clamber across the author’s keyboard! The result is that a reader gets to know the author behind the books and the writer has a far more exciting job.

December 2015

7.30am: Set up my To-Do list for the day. With a foot in both traditional and independent publishing, my days are packed with diverse tasks. Right now, I am in the final stages of editing my latest novel, No Longer Safe, which is due out in February 2016. I have a week by week plan over six months, which started with completing the final draft and goes right through to the book launch. Not only do I write the novels, but I’m a formatter, proof-reader, layout-checker, publicist, project manager, marketing manager and much more. I oversee the cover design (exciting!), set up blog tours, organise giveaways and competitions (pestering lovely authors for free books), set up blog posts, newsletters and post to Twitter, Facebook, G+, Goodreads and Pinterest... then I come up for air.

My desk on a tidy day...
So – it’s Monday morning and I’m at a particularly thrilling stage in the process – waiting for the first proof copies of No Longer Safe to arrive in the post. The novel has been copy edited by now and I’ve also made all the necessary changes from my beta-readers. They scour my early drafts and answer a series of questions, such as ‘Does the story drag anywhere?’ and ‘Did you find out certain facts/reveals too soon/too late?’ etc. I also want to know if they worked out ‘who dun it’ - and if so, where? Consequently, in the last week or so, I’ve been knuckling down to fix everything in the story. I’ve tightened up the plot, tidied up the narrative and swapped the order of events to make it more dramatic. I’ve checked for continuity – the weather is a particular issue in this new one, with shoulder-high snow drifts which thaw, then freeze over into treacherous ice. I love the chance to use lots of imagery and to give the conditions a part in the plot, although one astute beta-reader reminded me I needed to pay more attention to down to earth issues like grit, anti-freeze, ice-scrapers and so on.

8am: Open up my email and social media accounts to see if anything new has popped up. One of my favourite perks is getting questions and comments from readers – some of whom leave messages overnight, as they have read my book on another continent, while the rest of us have been fast asleep! Feedback like this tweet (which came in as I was setting up this post) can really make my day!



9am: Start writing this feature for the Crime Readers' Association. I flesh out a few notes I made for it over the weekend.

11.20am: Postman arrives! I rip open the box and hold the first proof copies of No Longer Safe in my hand. I stand in awe at the way the cover has turned out and reflect on proofreading it, last week. That’s when I ran through the whole book in two to three days, in long blocks, so that I could keep on top of the story without too many interruptions. During that time, across the other side of the world, my fantastic cover designer was sending over draft versions of the cover from Texas! We usually go back and forth for a while until we get the main image and the atmosphere right. As I mentioned, No Longer Safe is all about snow, but the feel of the cover has to be savage and remote, so we’ve tried to find a dark, menacing mood, rather than the look of a pretty snow globe! The covers all match the branding my designer has set up for me, giving each book a distinctive look in terms of the all–lower-case font for the title and the distressed texture.

11.45am: I log onto my ‘project home page’ on Amazon to check the paperback process still says ‘awaiting proofs’. For my last novel, I pressed the magic green button too soon and the book came up for sale three weeks early… Arghh! No mistake this time. Getting to this stage has also involved dizzy-making checks for ‘widows or orphans’ (those stray words that should never fall at the top or bottom of a page) and making sure new scenes are not indented (all technical stuff I used to take for granted as a reader!) The formatting for the ebook is entirely different, by the way, but that’s for another day.

My little helper...
12noon: Parcel up copies to send to my proofreaders. One is female, in her mid-fifties, another is male, mid-twenties – it’s good to have a range of readers. I scuttle back from the post-box and make a coffee.

12.45pm: I start identifying bloggers who might like to host a review or interview for my blog tour. In the meantime, my Agent is focusing on the books that are already selling. She is putting me forward for special promotions on Amazon, so they will appear in ‘Kindle Daily Deals’ not only in UK and US, but also in, say, India or Australia.

1.45pm: Short lunch break and watch Neighbours (oops - guilty secret blown!)

2.15pm: I start setting up my Winter Newsletter with book news, giveaways and a ‘taster’ for No Longer Safe. 

4pm - 6pm: I start a feature on the inspiration behind the book that I'll be able to use in the run up to the launch. At the end of the day, I have to be peeled away from the keyboard.

You’d think being a writer was all about – well – writing a book. But as you can see, it’s a lot more than that. From writing the first word to getting the novel into the hands of readers it's a massive challenge, but I love every bit of it!

This feature first appeared on the Crime Readers' Association Blog. 

If you enjoyed this post, PLEASE SHARE it. Thank you!
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------              AJ Waines’ novels are Standalones and can be read in any order:

  
  • Girl on a Train  a Number One Bestseller on Kindle in UK and Australia (2015)
  • The Evil Beneath went to Number One in 'Murder' and 'Psychological Thrillers' in the UK Kindle charts
  • No Longer Safe released February 2016
  • Awarded Kindle KDP Top 20 'most-read Author' in UK (2015)
Find AJ Waines at: 
Blog Newsletter  *  Website  *  Twitter  * Facebook  *  Pinterest  * Goodreads  * Google+  
 

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

No Longer Safe - Look Inside Sneak Preview

 My new chilling Psychological Thriller, NO LONGER SAFE is due out on 4th February.
   
 '...a disturbing psychological thriller that will resonate in your mind for many days to come. 
You will not forget this novel! It is that good.'  (5 stars, Goodreads)

It has sold over 5,000 copies on pre-order for Kindle! Yikes!

  So here’s a sneak preview of the Opening Chapter...


No Longer Safe by AJ Waines
Chapter 1 (part only)

15 November
You were the last person I expected to hear from. After all this time. After all the cards and letters that had come back marked ‘return to sender’.

I drifted from the hall into the sitting room, carrying the envelope on both outstretched palms, like a piece of newly discovered treasure. One slice from Dad’s paper knife and it was open. At first I thought it was an invitation to a wedding, but there was no card; instead it was a letter wrapped around a glossy brochure of a castle nestling amongst snow-capped mountains.

It was your handwriting for certain. I looked straight down to the bottom of the second sheet to confirm it. Karen Morley. That’s when I had to sit down. My head was suddenly too big for my body and I couldn’t trust myself to read without feeling giddy. Was it really you? I checked the address – Brixton – in London-terms that meant you were practically on my doorstep. No distance at all. 

I made my brain slow down so I could trail my eyes across the curves of your fountain pen. That was a novelty in itself – the personal touch – when nearly everything that landed on our doormat these days was typed. But that was very much your way of doing things, Karen – making people feel special, making that extra effort to show you cared. Would be wonderful to see you again…remembered your birthday…love to invite you…important time for me…

I read the first part again. It was an invitation, but not to a wedding. You were inviting me to a cottage in the Highlands – on holiday.

I slid from the arm of the sofa into the seat. Nearly six years without a word and now this. I tried to reach you after we finished Uni, of course I did. You were the one who stood out, the friend I thought I’d found for life. Once Uni was over, other associations tailed off and calls were replaced with Facebook updates with the odd round-robin email. But ours was different.

To be honest, I hadn’t expected you to fall away like you did, Karen. We’d established a real bond – or so I thought. Afterwards, you moved to Bristol while I moved back to London, but I was certain we’d visit each other; I’d travel one weekend, you’d travel the next. I had my heart set not only on keeping in touch, but staying best friends. 

I did go to stay with you at the start – just once, remember? You replied to my emails for a while, sent a cheery card that first Christmas, but then, like the rest, you drifted away from me and I never heard from you again. Until now.

I held the letter under my nose, stupid I know, just to see if there was a trace of you left on the paper. Then I held it to my chest and allowed your presence to sink into me again. You were my inspiration, the person I wanted to be. I’d never felt that kind of admiration about anyone before. You brought everything alive and coaxed me out of my shell. 

With no siblings and a small disjointed family, my only proper relationships were with my parents and I’d always found them impossible to talk to. It had never occurred to me to bare my deepest feelings to them. You were different. I knew straight away the first time I spoke to you. All my doubts and failings came tumbling out, because you made me feel so safe, without any sting of judgement. No one had ever offered that to me before. No one else ever seemed to notice when something was wrong. I’d spent most of my life going it alone, because I was awkward and shy and people didn’t know what to do with me.

I brought my hand to my mouth. It must be a mistake. You must have mixed me up with someone else and posted the invitation to the wrong person. That would explain it. This was too much to expect after almost six years of silence; it was too big a deal. An invitation to spend fourteen days together out of the blue, without any preamble? But then that was you, Karen – always surprising people, keeping us all on our toes.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Advance reviews:

'No Longer Safe is a "Hair Standing on End" thriller that pushes the boundaries of deception and fear!' (5 stars, Goodreads)

'I don't know how this authors does it...I can't fail to give it 5 stars.' (5 stars, Goodreads)

If this extract has you intrigued, PLEASE SHARE it. Thank you! 
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- AJ Waines’ novels are Standalones and can be read in any order:
  
  • Girl on a Train  a Number One Bestseller on Kindle in UK and Australia (2015)
  • The Evil Beneath went to Number One in 'Murder' and 'Psychological Thrillers' in the UK Kindle charts
  • No Longer Safe released February 2016
  • Awarded Kindle KDP Top 20 'most-read Author' in UK (2015)
Find AJ Waines at: 
Blog Newsletter  *  Website  *  Twitter  * Facebook  *  Pinterest  * Goodreads  * Google+  
 

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Stunning Reviews for No Longer Safe!

No Longer Safe isn't out yet - still 3 weeks to go, but I've already had some terrific reviews!

Thanks so much to my early readers!





































Read the full reviews here:
https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1474107504

And here:
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/28090093-no-longer-safe#other_reviews 

Sneak preview of the opening coming here next week... -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------              AJ Waines’ novels are Standalones and can be read in any order:
 
  
  • Girl on a Train  a Number One Bestseller on Kindle in UK and Australia (2015)
  • The Evil Beneath went to Number One in 'Murder' and 'Psychological Thrillers' in the UK Kindle charts
  • No Longer Safe released February 2016 (2,000+ advance copies sold to date!)
  • Awarded Kindle KDP Top 20 'most-read Author' in UK (2015)
Find AJ Waines at: 
Blog Newsletter  *  Website  *  Twitter  * Facebook  *  Pinterest  * Goodreads  * Google+