Nadaness In Motion is the book blog owned by Nada Adel Sobhi and it is where honest book reviews meet author interviews, guest posts, and personal writing ranging from poetry to short stories alongside the Takhayyal/Imagine writing prompt challenge. ---
“You cannot kill a breeze, a wind, a fragrance; you cannot kill a dream or an ambition.” - Michel Onfray
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).
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
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
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 BeneathandGirl on a Trainhave 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
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.
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
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 outThe Self-Esteem Journalwritten
under Alison Waines, for more on this.
Check out the
below excerpt from Dark
Place to Hide.
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
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?
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.
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.
way, Dr Penn,’ says the nurse. ‘Diane wants you to come through, now.’
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.
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
okay,’ you say, saving me from having to ask.
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.’
shake your head a little as if it was nothing; it’s so like you to play down
your own misfortunes.
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.
so sorry, Harper,’ you whimper.
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,
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
got pregnant,’ you say, ‘and I didn’t even know.’ Your face buckles at this
moment of recognition. We got
thumb the tears gently away from your eyes, trying to ease away the pain.
Wishing I could bear it for you.
seven…’ You look down at my hand, holding on.
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…
sorry,’ you say, again, your eyes struggling to focus.
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.
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.
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.
there is also something I haven’t told you.