By Maggie James
Welcome to an e-publishing sensation!
I'm delighted to welcome novelist Rachel Abbott to my blog today. The Guardian newspaper called Rachel ‘the epublishing sensation of 2012’ while The Observer stated ‘self-published authors such as Rachel Abbott are the trade’s hottest property’.
Rachel was born near Manchester, England, and spent most of her working life as the managing director of an interactive media company. After her company was sold in 2000, she fulfilled a lifelong ambition of buying and restoring a property in Italy. She now splits her time between homes in Italy and Alderney, where she writes full time and has just completed her third novel. Rachel launched her first novel 'Only the Innocent' in November 2011. The book was self-published in the UK through the Kindle Direct Publishing programme on Amazon, and reached the number 1 spot in the Kindle store just over three months later. It held its position for four weeks, and was the second highest selling self-published title in 2012.
'Only the Innocent' is now published by Thomas and Mercer in the USA, and achieved number 8 in the US charts one week after launch, before reaching number 1 in August, making Rachel’s debut a number one bestseller on both sides of the Atlantic. On 18th March 2013, Rachel Abbott released her long awaited second novel 'The Back Road', which entered the UK Kindle chart at number 100 just 48 hours after launch. It went on to reach number 2 and has over 450 five star reviews.
Let's get going with the questions!
No choice but to commit murder...
Have you always wanted to write? What was the impetus for ‘Only the Innocent’?
I have been writing in one form or another for years. I ran an interactive media company for many years, and we often produced dramas for training and education (and occasionally for entertainment), and I was involved in the scripts. They weren’t sterile training videos – each one was like a TV drama, and working on those gave me a real desire to write.
When it came to Only the Innocent, I’d had an idea in my head for years – What set of circumstances could be so bad that a woman had no choice but to murder a man? I spent years thinking about it as I drove to work – because there had to be no other option, and that’s quite hard to imagine. Then when I sold my company and had some spare time, I was delighted to find that I really enjoyed writing the story, and my writing career just went from there.
Describe a typical writing day for you. Are there any props you consider essential to the writing process, such as music?
I like silence when I write. Well – that’s not quite true. I live by a beach in the Channel Islands most of the time, and I can hear the sea washing up on the shore, which is a wonderful sound.
My props depend on the stage of writing. When I am editing, I usually end up eating a lot of biscuits – usually Jaffa Cakes – which I swear help me to concentrate.
As for the day itself, I sit down with a cup of coffee and go through all my emails first, respond to any that are absolutely essential, and flag for follow up any that will wait – principally because I want to get on with writing. I find I work best in the morning, so I write all morning, and if things are going well, all afternoon as well. If I’m stuck on a plot point and need to give it some thought, I will spend the afternoon taking care of all the other stuff – the outstanding emails, the accounts, some marketing. It all needs to be done, so I tend to go with how I’m feeling at a certain time. But writing takes priority.
Dark themes, and what makes people tick
Will your future novels explore different genres, or will you stick with psychological thrillers?
For now, I will stick to psychological thrillers. I am fascinated by what makes people tick – and that could have gone towards romance or thrillers. I think I’ve ended up with a thriller style that is about relationships, but usually the sort that have gone catastrophically wrong somewhere. But in all cases, the way in which they have deteriorated leaves my protagonist with a dilemma.
Your books, being psychological thrillers, cover dark themes. Are there any topics you wouldn’t portray in your writing, and if so, why not?
I don’t think in general that I would write about gory acts of physical violence. There may be dead bodies – there may be some elements of violence. But I don’t see myself writing about cutting open people’s stomachs and wrapping intestines around the victim’s neck. That sort of sickening violence should be reserved for those who write it considerably better than me. It’s mainly in the mind in the case of my books.
My readers decide what is right and wrong
To what extent do you believe a crime fiction writer has a duty to end their novels with good triumphing over evil?
I don’t believe that at all. That suggests that everything is either black or white, and although it’s difficult these days to mention ‘shades of grey’ without it being misconstrued, I think that’s the reality. People do bad things. But they are not necessarily bad people. They make mistakes, get themselves deeper and deeper into trouble, and find it hard to extricate themselves. Sometimes people have to do very bad things in order to save others. One of the shout lines on one of my books is ‘how far would you go to hold on to the people you love?’ and it’s a theme that I have used more than once. In other words, sometimes people need to do some terrible things in order to protect others – and where do you draw the line? So I like to leave my readers to decide what is right and what is wrong. In both 'Only the Innocent' and 'Sleep Tight' my protagonists do things that are, without a doubt, illegal. But you can practically hear people cheering them on from the sidelines.
Italy, Alderney and DCI Tom Douglas
Will your future novels involve the same characters, such as DCI Tom Douglas? Any hints about intriguing characters from your next novel?
I never intended to write a series about one policeman, but my readers fell for him, and so I’ve just carried on – and I love him more all the time. So for the moment, he’s staying with us.
In terms of intriguing characters, there are several very interesting personalities in the next novel that are outside of the norm. Once more we have people doing quite extraordinary things – either to protect themselves or to defend others. As always, the foreground is dominated by a family – in this case with an adorable baby boy called Ollie.
Will any of your future novels feature Italy, where you now have a home?
I did feature Italy a little in 'Only the Innocent'. Laura has a summer home there. I don’t spend as much time in Italy now as I do in the Channel Islands – and Alderney, my home, already features in 'Sleep Tight' so it would be difficult to repeat it. I may, however, bring Italy again at some point in the future – but it would have to be relevant to the plot.
Food, recipes and music
Your website features food and recipes from your books. Is food important to you, and if so, what is your favourite type of cuisine?
I love food and I love cooking. I keep telling myself that I should go on a diet (true) but food is one of life’s greatest pleasures. The very next thing that I am going to do after answering these questions is go and make a curry. Indian food is my favourite, but anything spicy – Thai, Malaysian, even North African. Our local Indian restaurant here in Alderney (it’s really good) have a special curry that they make for me from Bangladesh, using a certain kind of lemon that you can’t get in the UK. It’s wonderful.
Your website features music from your books. Is music important to you, and if so, what sort do you most enjoy?
I love to sing. I am a member of a small singing group that meets once a week for an hour or so, and we occasionally perform in public. We sing all kinds of things – but mainly well known popular music that people will recognise from the charts at some time or other (probably not recently, though). My taste is very varied. I particularly love 'Elbow' at the moment, but then when I wrote 'Sleep Tight' I mentioned Judie Tzuke’s music, which is haunting. Music, to me, is like writing. It has to evoke emotion. If it doesn’t, I’m not interested.
My main characters share my values
To what extent do you reveal yourself in a novel – your opinions, your values?
That’s a really good question. I think the main characters in my books share my values. The protagonist in each story (excluding Tom, of course) is usually a woman, and I think that although their personalities have been very different, they each have had a moral code that I approve of. However, I try very hard NOT to use writing to express my opinions. I used to be really, really guilty of that, and would find a way to introduce little things that bugged me into the story. My editor and/or agent would – without fail – cross them out. And quite right too. My books are not a platform for me to spout about bad manners, or irritating habits, and I would never make any political statements in my books, unless they were the opinions of the characters – but never mine.
Thank you, Rachel!
Thanks to Rachel Abbott for granting me this interview! I hope my readers have enjoyed it. You can find out more about Rachel and her books via her website, www.rachel-abbott.com,her blog, on Facebook or Twitter.
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