Friday, August 7, 2015
Interview with AJ Waines + excerpt for Dark Place to Hide
Today, I'm featuring psychology-mystery author AJ Waines. I've wanted to host her for a while on my blog and finally, the chance has presented itself.
I have an exclusive interview with her, as part of her blog tour for her newest book Dark Place to Hide as well as an excerpt from it.
First, who is AJ Waines?
AJ Waines was a psychotherapist for fifteen years, during which time she worked with ex-offenders from high-security institutions, giving her a rare insight into abnormal psychology. She is now a full-time novelist with an Agent and has publishing deals in France and Germany (Random House). Both her debut novels, The Evil Beneath and Girl on a Train have been Number One in 'Murder' and 'Psychological Thrillers' in the UK Kindle Charts. Girl on a Train has also been a Number One Bestseller in the entire Kindle Chart in Australia. In 2015, she was ranked in the Top 100 UK authors on Amazon KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing).
Her new psychological thriller, Dark Place to Hide, was released 30 July, 2015, and is available HERE.
Book Blurb for Dark Place to Hide
She’s trying to tell you – if only you’d listen…
About to break the news to his wife, Diane, that he’s infertile, criminology expert, Harper Penn, gets a call to say she’s been rushed to hospital with a miscarriage. Five days later, when Diane fails to return from the village shop, police think she must have taken off with a secret lover, but Harper is convinced the online messages are not from her.
In the same Hampshire village, plucky seven-year-old Clara has retreated into a make-believe world after an accident. Then she, too, goes missing.
As Harper sets out on a desperate quest to find them both, he has no idea what he’s up against. Could the threat be closer than he thinks? And is there a hidden message in Clara’s fairy tales?
Dark Place to Hide is a chilling psychological mystery with a cold-blooded deviant lurking at the core.
Nadaness In Motion's exclusive interview with AJ Waines
Q: Do you still practice psychotherapy? Have any of your (previous) patients influenced your writing?
AJ: I write full-time now – I felt fairly burnt out after 15 years of intensive therapy and writing psychological thrillers was the perfect career move! I always have previous patients in the back of my mind, but I have to be very careful to make sure they could never be identified in a story. It’s been such a privilege to be allowed access to people’s inner most thought-processes and motives – that’s the kind of material I might draw on. I’m also interested in unusual disorders and these may creep into a novel!
Q: Why do you write crime novels?
AJ: I’ve always loved reading novels that fall under the ‘crime fiction’ umbrella, from early Enid Blyton mysteries, then on to writers like Patricia Cornwell and Kathy Reichs. I loved reading authors who came from an unusual background that informed the book, such as a pathologist or forensic expert. When I started writing in 2008, I had a feeling that my psychotherapy background could bring an additional element to ‘psychological thrillers’ and because I loved reading these kinds of books by then, it felt a natural genre for me.
Q: As a psychotherapist, do you think mixing psychotherapy with romance would make a good book/content?
AJ: I think the many forms ‘love’ takes is a very interesting angle. Dark Place to Hide has a theme of trust and betrayal in a marriage that once looked perfect, but which becomes riddled with cracks. How real they are and who is causing them is part of the story. Most of my patients had relationship issues and understanding the diverse ways individuals define love, show or expect love in their lives is fascinating. I’ve helped people to explore the way violence, drama, jealousy and fear can play a part in their love experiences and I think you’ve hit on a really good area, Nada, that I could develop further!
Q: How does Dark Place to Hide relate to your two earlier books?
AJ: My books so far The Evil Beneath and Girl on a Train have been standalone novels, although I also have a trilogy that will be released in the future. Each book features a lead character with skills which help them cut below the surface of everyday life and give them a special edge for solving crimes. In Dark Place to Hide, the lead is a criminology expert who always notices more than anyone else. His wife goes missing under confused circumstances after a secret he’s been hiding is discovered. Then a little girl disappears in the same village. So, like my other books, there’s a deep mystery running through two seemingly unrelated stories and the troubled protagonist has to try to piece everything together – desperate to find those missing - while the clock is ticking.
Q: What’s next in your writing life?
AJ: I’m so excited because my agent has suggested I release all my books – so the next one No Longer Safe – a thriller set in a remote cottage in the Highlands of Scotland will be coming out in 2016.
Q: What hard lessons have you learnt about writing?
AJ: I started writing in 2008, knowing nothing about fiction writing and never having studied English beyond school basics and never having been on a course. I was incredibly lucky to get a top agent with my first attempt – although we didn’t find a publisher. My hardest lesson learnt is the erroneous belief that once I’d written a novel, it would be easier the next time! Not so! I keep lots of notes about plotting, characters, pace etc, and a record of structural blunders from all my novels, so I re-read these notes when I start a new one. I seem to have to learn everything again from scratch, as though every new novel requires a crash course in novel-writing every time... I secretly hope I’m not the only one who goes through this!
Q: Do you have any bad writing habits?
AJ: My worst habit has cost me dearly – it’s backache caused by sitting at my desk for too long. I know I should get up and move around every half an hour, but I always have that little voice in my head that says, ‘I’ll just finish this sentence…’ or ‘I’ll just tidy up this paragraph before I take a break’. It’s because when I’m right in the thick of the story, I fear losing the thread if I wander off to make a cup of coffee. Getting up destroys the flow. It’s so hard to pull myself away!
Q: Having written three mysteries, what other genres would you consider experimenting with?
AJ: Good question – I’m very much hooked on mysteries with a psychological element for now and I have several more which will be published over the next couple of years, including a trilogy with a female clinical psychologist as the lead character. I wish I could write literary fiction like Anne Tyler or Claire King, but I keep being drawn back to secrets, clues and hidden pieces of a jigsaw!
Q: Can writing be a means of psychotherapy? Can you elaborate on that?
AJ: Excellent question! – and I’ve actually written a book on this, from the angle of writing down our own feelings in terms of a personal journal. Putting into words how we feel is cathartic and productive in so many ways – especially for developing self-esteem. It’s one of the most therapeutic tools I know. Others have written on the value of ‘creative’ writing – but all writing is a reflection of oneself and helps us know more about who we are. Check out The Self-Esteem Journal written under Alison Waines, for more on this.
Check out the below excerpt from Dark Place to Hide.
A handful of words - that’s all it takes. He lays them out for me, leaning forward man to man, his palms on his knees. His tone is pacifying as if he thinks I’ve guessed; as if by now I must have worked it out.
‘Your wife’s had a miscarriage,’ he says.
The doctor’s words force my spine into the back of the seat, crushing me. I am being shunted further and further back, watching the floating faces of the two nurses beside him trying to reach me, their expressions creased with sympathy. Those words in themselves are ripe with disarray. A baby. It’s a complete shock. I didn’t know.
But there’s more.
There’s a moment first, when I think of what this means to you. The child you’ve been waiting for, hoping for, longing for - we both have. You must be torn apart.
The doctor straightens up. He’s delivered the bad news and for the medical team, it is cut and dry. Shock, distress, sadness – that will be my onward journey in their eyes; hard, but inevitable. But they are wrong.
What he has told me doesn’t make sense.
How can you be having a miscarriage?
You can’t possibly be pregnant.
I can’t remember the correct order of events after that. They said I could see you, Diane, but I must have stalled because the next minute I’m wandering off towards an open window by the stairwell with a plastic cup of water in my hand. One of the nurses must have handed it to me. She must have thought I needed time to prepare myself to face your grief, a period of quiet to find the right words of solace and comfort for you. But instead, a loud voice inside me is yelling, How can this have happened?
Blood is pumping hard and fast into my temples, my neck, my chest and I hate myself for letting this question fog my brain when you’ve been rushed here in pain, in panic. Of course, I was frantic when I got the call. I nearly sprained my ankle racing up the stairs to get to you, distraught and almost out of my mind. They said you had been found at the side of the road in a pool of blood; you were in intensive care and my mind was racing. I thought at first you’d been struck by a car or attacked in a secluded lane. I thought I’d lost you and I’d find a white sheet covering your face.
One emotional state, however, is now shaking down all the others and rising to the top. It is no longer panic or desperation, but confusion. It is starting to look like you have hidden a massive transgression from me; one that could shatter a marriage in the blink of an eye.
‘This way, Dr Penn,’ says the nurse. ‘Diane wants you to come through, now.’
She must have mistaken my sigh for a sign that I’m impatient to see you. In fact, I need more time. I let her guide me, like a marionette, through two sets of double doors towards your bed. I find myself hiding my shaking hands from her as if I’m afraid she’ll think I’m not man enough for you.
My eyes stumble on your face; worn and framed with sticky clumps of hair. You’ve been through a fight. My spirit dissolves at your vulnerability. I grab your hand.
‘I’m okay,’ you say, saving me from having to ask.
The nurse steps forward holding a clipboard. ‘Your wife collapsed. She was on the verge of a haemorrhage, Dr Penn – it was touch and go there, for a while.’
You shake your head a little as if it was nothing; it’s so like you to play down your own misfortunes.
‘I didn’t know,’ you whisper. I can see no trace of remorse or guilt and I reproach myself for looking for it; I should be resoundingly and solely grateful that you are alive, able to recognise me, form sentences. Still, I probe your dewy eyes for signs, but there aren’t any. You catch my frown. You think I’m perturbed because you hadn’t told me.
‘I’m so sorry, Harper,’ you whimper.
I sit beside you. It was only a few hours since we’d laughed at breakfast; you dropping your buttered toast and catching it between your knees. You’ve always been quick like that – co-ordinated and sporty, like your sister. Now you look gaunt and pale – a different person.
‘How are you feeling? Are you in pain?’
You rub your belly and wince. ‘I had to have a D&C – it’s fading now. I have to stay here for a couple of days, they said.’
‘What happened?’ I mean the bigger question, the series of events, sweeping all my accumulated uncertainties into one giant enquiry, but you hear only one strand of it.
‘We got pregnant,’ you say, ‘and I didn’t even know.’ Your face buckles at this moment of recognition. We got pregnant.
I thumb the tears gently away from your eyes, trying to ease away the pain. Wishing I could bear it for you.
‘How many weeks?’
‘Only seven…’ You look down at my hand, holding on.
Seven weeks ago. My mind scatters as I try to pin the date into the calendar in my head. It would have been early June. We’d been in London the weekend of the 31st May and we’d made love – that much was true. I remember it, because I haven’t been able to function in that department as often as I’d have liked. Nevertheless…
‘I’m sorry,’ you say, again, your eyes struggling to focus.
For what, exactly? My male pride is bursting to ask, but now isn’t the time. You are my wife, hurting, suffering and in disbelief. I need to put a hold on my questions and be here for you. You need my support. There’s been a baby – the one thing we’ve been waiting for; the dream, the rapture that would have made everything complete. And you have lost it. Your body has rejected it.
‘It’s not your fault,’ I say, kissing your limp fingers. All your movements are in slow motion and you can barely string two words together. I know you’re playing it down; the physical pain, the distress – being brave for my benefit. I can’t confront you with the rest of it – not now.
‘I’m so glad you’re here,’ you whisper. ‘Just hold me.’ I scoop you into me and feel your feverish sweat roll against my cheek. We’ll have to talk about it later. The answers are all there, I just have to wait. Then the truth will be laid out, not only for me, but also for you. As it happens, I have my own secret to share. I have my own concealment to lay bare.
Because there is also something I haven’t told you.
Connect with AJ:
Alison lives in Southampton, UK, with her husband. Visit her website and blog, or follow her on Twitter and Facebook.