Friday, February 12, 2016
Author interview with AJ Waines about new psychological thriller No Longer Safe + Excerpt - Blog Tour
Psychological thriller author AJ Waines is back on Nadaness In Motion with a new book and tour!
Book: No Longer Safe
By: AJ Waines
Publisher: 4 February 2016
When Alice receives an invitation from Karen, her charismatic University friend, to stay in a remote cottage in Scotland, she can’t wait to rekindle their lost friendship. But two more former students arrive – never friends of Alice’s – and as the atmosphere chills, Karen isn’t the warm-hearted soulmate Alice remembers. Barely is the reunion underway before someone is dead and the fragile gathering is pushed to breaking point.
As the snow cuts them off from civilisation and accusations fly, Alice finds herself a pawn, sinking deeper into a deadly game she can’t escape.
No Longer Safe is a chilling Psychological Thriller that delivers a delicious sting in the tail.
As part of the tour, AJ Waines managed to squeeze in a few psychology-related questions about her new novel in this short but exclusive interview followed by an excerpt/extract from the novel. The excerpt is also exclusive to Nadaness In Motion.
Q: How did you get the inspiration for your new book No Longer Safe?
AJ Waines: 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.
Q: Do you consider certain psychological issues then incorporate them in the characters of your novels or do you have a character then try to include a psychological problem for them?
AJ Waines: I think it can be either, but for me, mainly the character comes first and I’ll think ‘He or she could do X or Y, because of this dysfunctional aspect in their character’. Occasionally, I have a ‘condition’ or a disorder I’d like to explore and I’ll think ‘What kind of person would be managing this syndrome? How would they hide it?’ Then I play around with both the character and the disorder and find out who that person might be.
In No Longer Safe, all the characters have mild psychological ‘issues’ from the start - Alice, the narrator, has low self-esteem, for example. It’s the events during the story, however, that trigger the main psychological impact for various figures in the story. In this way, the characters respond in certain ways as the story progresses, but what they do has to be latent from the start. The plot itself leads the psychological content, but the twists need to be borne out of the existing traits and qualities of the characters, although some of these behaviours and flaws are disguised.
Q: Does each of the main characters in the novel have a psychological issue (whether mild or major)? Or is just the protagonist and the antagonist?
AJ Waines: In No Longer Safe, ALL the main characters have psychological ‘issues’! Some of these are clear from the start, other ‘defects’ start to emerge as the story progresses. Like ordinary people, the fictional characters try to hide their behaviours and coping strategies, so the reader comes up against lies, secrets and deception. In No Longer Safe, no one is who they appear to be…
Q: Do you have any works in progress? Can you tell us about them?
AJ Waines: I have a Trilogy – a series of three psychological thrillers coming out next! They all feature an intrepid (fictional) Clinical Psychologist, Samantha Willerby, who is based at a hospital in London. She faces extraordinary crimes hidden inside chilling mysteries that test her to the limit. The first book is called Inside the Whispers and is about several passengers who come to Sam recounting scenes from the same Tube disaster - an incident, she discovers, that they were never involved in. It’s due out in Autumn 2016!
Exclusive excerpt from Chapter 6 from No Longer Safe by AJ Waines
When I woke the next morning, the world had changed. It was eerily quiet and still; as if all the sounds outside the cottage had been sucked away. I could tell from the quality of the shimmering grey light that there had been a fall of snow and I tugged at the curtains to see how deep it was.
Living in London again, I’d forgotten about the impact of a vast snowfall. Not just a dusting, but the dense accumulation that smothers everything in sight by dawn. I’d forgotten how it blanches the colours out of the air, smoothes over hard edges and creates new plump mysterious shapes.
I could see shades of white backed up for miles across the valley, over pine trees, crags and the occasional rooftop, but the scene was quickly closing in on itself. It felt as though the whole world had stopped and I’d stepped inside a black and white photograph. Nothing moved except the hands of the clock.
As soon as I turned round the headache hit me again. It was like being smacked by a blunt instrument. I knew the only reason I’d slept at all was because I’d taken a sleeping tablet. Thank goodness I’d brought them. I’d grabbed them only as an after-thought, once my bags were packed and lined up by the front door. This was such a special opportunity and I didn’t want to be so overexcited that I didn’t get a wink of sleep. I’d never used the pills before. They were meant to be a last resort after I was mugged in September, but with the bang on my head yesterday, I don’t think I’d have had a decent night without them.
I put the heater on and huddled under the covers. I waited and waited; the heater clicked and rattled, but it felt like the temperature was still hovering around zero degrees.
My mind drifted back to the day Karen and I met. We didn’t share lectures or any of the same subjects. All we shared was a kitchen – known as B2 – with around twelve other students along the corridor. In fact, I didn’t even belong there; my designated kitchen was at the other end, but for some reason the reception I got in mine was standoffish, verging on hostile.
With nothing to lose, I’d tried my luck in B2.
‘I’ve not seen you before,’ said Karen, introducing herself with a show-stopping smile as she skimmed past with a tray of beers. ‘It’s all-comers here. Grab a seat. Fancy some noodles?’
I felt like a valued customer in an exclusive restaurant. Everyone was chatting, sharing jokes and even toasting marshmallows on that first visit. I found out that, in the evenings, students gathered with instruments to form an impromptu band, drawing in an audience from other floors in the block. While the concerts were underway, another group would put together a huge pile of food – spaghetti bolognese or risotto – and share it with anyone who turned up. Karen, I discovered, was the one who instigated this communal supper idea; her generosity was a revelation to me. She regularly handed round bottles of wine and pieces of cheesecake; she never seemed, like me, to buy any of those meals-for-one. I didn’t hesitate. I shifted over my tins and jars from one locker to another and made ‘B2’ kitchen my new home.
I’ve thanked fate a thousand times for that encounter. It was as though my life really began that day.
I blew on my hands and, gritting my teeth, planted my feet inside my furry slippers and pulled on my bathrobe. I glanced at my reflection in the speckled mirror on the wall and caught the frown on my face. I was still mystified that at such a poignant, delicate time, Karen had chosen me to be here.
At University, Karen had throngs of friends and they all seemed to have more in common with her than I ever had. She’d made a point of befriending me, but I wasn’t so naïve not to realise that there were plenty of others she was fond of. What about the friends she’d met since then, through her jobs or in Brixton? Why had she invited me?
Icicles had formed like dried glue on the inside of the window, but I didn’t marvel at them for long. A knock at the front door shook me and I stood still to listen. I heard Karen hurtle down the stairs to answer it, as if she was expecting someone.
‘Yay – they’re here!’ she squealed.
I ran out onto the landing.
‘Who’s here?’ I called, hurriedly tying the belt of my bathrobe, my mouth wide open.
Others? Karen hadn’t mentioned any others…
There were whoops and screams at the front door. Karen’s arms were wrapped around a man’s neck, dislodging his backpack. She was jumping up and down, circling around the two of them like a puppy. I didn’t remember her face lighting up with such unbridled joy when I arrived on the doorstep.
‘Didn’t I say? You remember Jodie and Mark,’ she cried. I tried to raise a smile as I tentatively descended the stairs. I was crestfallen. I thought it was just going to be the three of us.
I stood still on the bottom step. I did know Jodie and Mark – we’d been at Leeds together for three years, but they’d always been Karen’s friends not mine.
‘Hi,’ I managed eventually, nodding in their direction.
Mark Leverton still looked about nineteen. He was tall and wiry like a bendy cartoon come to life. He’d created a stir with the female population at Uni – black shaggy hair, shifty eyes that made him appear inscrutable and out of reach. I’d never seen the attraction myself.
‘Hey – how’re you doing, Sugar?’ he said to me. I’d forgotten what he sounded like. I’d expected a squeaky voice to match his body, but it was deep and rumbling, like thunder was on the way. It all came back: the way he used to call me after anything sugary – as if he could never remember my name.
Mark had always been a ‘bad boy’; the dark, moody sort that girls seem to drool over. I remember asking Karen at the time why so many fell for blokes like him.
‘Because they’re exciting, I suppose,’ she’d told me. ‘You never know what they’re going to do next. They’re mysterious, intriguing. Women want to work out how they tick; they see dangerous men as a challenge.’
Mark invariably wore black back then; most of his t-shirts featured skull and crossbones or logos of indie bands he’d seen at Glastonbury. He’d been a talented drummer (his studies had suffered), and he’d lapped up the kudos of being in a band. Musicians were allowed to be glum, irritable and leave their dirty dishes about the place. I was pleased to see he’d ditched his trademark black eyeliner and his t-shirt was maroon, instead of black, and had an Armani label, with the logo of a US department store printed across the front. He still had three holes in one earlobe, sporting two studs and a silver scorpion.
Jodie Farringday had always been gorgeous; five foot ten, with thick frothy dark hair tied up into a ponytail and striking supermodel looks. Her legs were twice the length of mine and her typical facial expression was built around a plump pout; her lips enviably claret-red without the need for lipstick. She looked exactly as I remembered her – complete with kitten heels encrusted with snow – she hadn’t changed a bit.
I felt a pang of inadequacy. I wasn’t dressed and hadn’t even brushed my hair. I was acutely aware of the bruise that now resembled a plum stuck to the side of my forehead. I hadn’t had the chance to dab a blob of make-up over it.
‘We’ve had a staggeringly awful journey,’ Jodie moaned. ‘We got here so late last night, we had to stay in Fort William.’ She shrugged off her leather jacket in my direction. I caught it and hung it up. She did a double take as she saw the bruise on my temple. ‘Why did you choose this godforsaken place?’
Jodie had been that odd mix of super-confident on the outside and insecure on the inside. She’d been obsessed with fashion and self-grooming, always washing her hair and making appointments at the tanning centre. She never went anywhere without a glossy magazine and even in company, she used to plonk one on the table to browse through in coffee shops, the pub, restaurants.
Mark did a circuit of the sitting room and emerged looking forlorn. ‘There’s no bloody telly! How am I going to survive without Strictly...?’
‘He’s not joking,’ snorted Jodie.
Karen threw her eyes up in mock offence and took Jodie and Mark each by the hand. ‘I’m making you both a bacon butty,’ she declared, dragging them into the kitchen.
Karen turned to me as I lingered in the hall. ‘It’ll be fun, Alice. Come on – you’ll see.’
Keep up with the rest of the tour here.
Also check out an extract from the first chapter of the novel on AJ Waines' blog here.
About the Author:
AJ Waines has sold over 100,000 books worldwide and topped the UK and Australian Kindle Charts in 2015 with her number one bestseller, Girl on a Train. Following fifteen years as a psychotherapist, she is now a full-time novelist with publishing deals in France, Germany (Penguin Random House) and USA (audiobooks).
In 2015, she was featured in The Wall Street Journal and The Times and was ranked in the Top 20 UK authors on Amazon KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing). She lives in Southampton, UK, with her husband. Visit her website and blog, or follow her on Twitter and Facebook.