Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Author Interview - Sharlene Almond - Author of Initiated to Kill

Sharlene Almond has a diploma in Body Language and Criminology, enabling her to explicitly portray the main characters in her novel. Sharlene lives in Auckland, New Zealand with her two dogs and partner. She enjoys watching documentaries about history and conspiracy theories, giving her ideas for her next books.
At 31 years old, Sharlene has a diploma in Cognitive Behavioural therapy, Freelance Journalism, and Editing and proofreading; giving her the ability to better understand the human mind, writing about it in manner her readers can understand and connect with.
Sharlene has also started up two additional websites: Body, Mind and Health services - https://bodymindandhealthservices.wordpress.com
Animal Health and Welfare Services: https://animalhealthandwelfareservices.wordpress.com/home/

Both websites are based around her qualifications in Counseling, Personal training, human and animal nutrition, Animal behavior and Natural therapies.

Initiated To Kill
Two men from two different generations, both initiated into a powerful organization that throughout history has sought control and uses their power for destruction. They leave behind a wake of murder, manipulation and ancient secrets. The first man wreaks havoc in and around the Whitechapel district of London, England in the 19th century. While the other stalks his victims in the cosmopolitan city of Seville, Spain in the 21st century; knowing that only he could uncover the true motives of one of the world's most infamous serial killers—Jack the Ripper.

Who are your influences?
I like a variety of authors; however, there are some in particular that especially influence my writing.
James Patterson is one of my favorite authors, not only does he write great thrillers, he writes short chapters, which in my opinion makes the story go faster, encouraging the reader to want more.
Jeffery Deaver is another great thriller writer, with both of these authors delving into the psychology of the main characters, and especially the killer or killers.
Jack Kerley, Michael Marshall and Stephen White all write great psychological thrillers, largely based on drawing the reader in through the connection they make between the characters in the book, and the reader.
And, of course, Dan Brown, with his conspiracy thrillers, and the history behind those conspiracies
we still ponder to this day.

When did you begin writing?
Way back in high school, I was homeschooled through the Correspondence School, which encouraged essay writing instead of actual exams. This piqued my interest in writing, as I even enjoyed writing academic papers.
Throughout my teen years I dabbled writing a variety of things, including short stories and novels.
However, life sort of got in the way, and I didn’t fully commit to writing an actual novel until I was about 21 years old.
From there, I finally completed my first novel, and continued to write three more. As well as a New Zealand travel E-book, and a variety of health and animal articles based around my training as a therapist and animal nutritionist.

How do you come up with your stories, characters, character names, POV, etc?
I first started to get my ideas from random things popping up in documentaries or on television, or even in other books. They tended to help lead me down several paths of the kind of books that I wanted to write.
From there, my own thought process and ideas kicked in on what I wanted to do with the snippets of information I heard about, saw or read.
History is one of my best inspirations for ideas. As it also lends credibility to the story line, so when the reader reads my book, the plot isn’t that implausible, hopefully making it even more thrilling.
My novels are not designed to create ‘copy-cat’ killers; merely the historical killers are connected in some way to the present day killers.
Locations are also a key part on where I get my ideas. Whether it is a place I want go to, or just a place I literally pointed to on the map. That then leads me to research more about the location, and its myths and history on the location. Of course, every time plenty of information pops up, and usually more than one idea pops into my head of where I want to take the story line.
The conspiracy angle also gives me plenty of ideas, as it tends to be the base for the plot line, then I just expand everything from there. Whether it is several conspiracy theories or myths intertwined, or with some of my novels, the ideas materialized from my research. I begin to make connections between different events and people, building on the theory of what I think could have happened.
Finally, my main character Annabella Cordova, also allows me to create another aspect to the plotline through detailing how to read facial expressions and body language, and how to detect when someone is lying. Because Annabella is deaf, she has to hone her other skills to help solve the case.
For Initiated to Kill, I already had written a sentence for a story idea. I decided to run with that, and as I did more research, more ideas came flooding in. And like I mentioned above, the historical aspect on Jack the Ripper with the connection to the Freemasons – history had already written that. I just expanded on it. Bringing the characters to life, and using the real events to create a fictional, and hopefully, exciting read.

Do you work from an outline?
Definitely. The process differs slightly for each book, but I need a place that I can immerse myself in research and writing without disruption and too much noise. A place that I can relax back and let ideas flow.
However, the other elements that help bring my novels together always start with a basic plot outline. Sometimes I might start off with researching different countries in which I want my novel to be based in, then look into the history of that place to see if anything jumps out at me that I can use as my historical backdrop.
Other times I might have a general idea of the historical aspect of the novel, so I build on the idea that way.
From there, the plot outline can be formed, outlining the main events that might occur throughout the novel.
In order to write my first novel, I used the snowflake method; although quite time-consuming, it helped me build on the major events with each step. Including writing a more detailed plot synopsis, and major character synopsis.
Once those were completed, using Word Excel, I could easily create a chapter outline by numbering the chapters along the top line, and writing a sentence or two about what I wanted each chapter to include. I might start off with about thirty chapters, but throughout more research and actually writing the book, I gradually build on this. The end result being about hundred chapters or more.
This last part, I still do for every book. This element enables me to have a clear picture about what I need to research and write about each day.

Tell me about your favorite scene in your novel.
Hmmm, there are so many to choose from. However, if I were to pick I would say the later scenes as Annabella develops into a stronger personality. I first designed her character to be shy, and unsure. As the story progresses, and more things come to light, her character becomes stronger, more skilled at reading people, and better equipped at dealing with the things that happened in her past.
What excited me the most about Annabella’s character, was what I was going to do with it in the other books I have written. The scenes with Annabella in my first novel are specifically designed to create a major change in her, which hopefully readers will see and like.

Can you tell us a little about your writing philosophy?
I stick to what I love. If I love writing and entertaining people, then writing will never be a waste of time. Yes, there will be rejections and criticisms countless times, but as the saying goes ‘whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’.
I take note of constructive criticism so I can improve on my writing. Every bad review may also have some valuable advice that I can take on.
I also keep persisting. I have received a lot of rejections unfortunately, but it goes with what I do. Because I love to write, I never know what might happen.
I have found a good query letter is also key. I need to be able to hook the publisher pretty quickly. A query letter shouldn’t be long winded, but get straight to the point.
In the end, it’s easy to fit into the popular genre, it’s harder to actually write what I enjoy writing if it’s not so popular. However, like many books now, in which once a upon a time they weren’t popular, one never knows what might pique the readers’interest, making writing even more exciting, which is my main motivational philosophy.
As I mentioned above, I use a basic plot outline for every novel – The Snowflake Method.
This is my favorite, and in my opinion most useful tips for authors. And not just ones that are starting out, I still have used this for my second, third and fourth novel. In my opinion, a good novel needs a detailed plot outline. You can just sit down and write; however, if you haven’t created an outline, the structure may be all over the place.
And you might waste time trying to think up what you want to write each day for the chapters. Events may not be cohesively linked. Using the Snowflake method c helps to arrange all my thoughts and ideas. And in word excel, it makes it easier to rearrange chapters, and add to them, without having to do that after I have done all the writing.
Also, the chapter outline basically helps to schedule in what I need to focus on each day, by using the section under chapter headings to write a few sentences on what I want the chapters to include.
I will, of course, add to the chapter outline, remove other things etc. However, this just gives a great starting point. And it means I can even add what research I have collected so it fits into the story better.
The other aspect I find important is Research, write, research, and write. This is the stage when I actually intend to flesh out a novel. Researching before, during and even after the first draft is not only useful for getting more ideas, but it makes it easier to remember things when I am writing, so I am as accurate as possible.
I find the best way to prevent writer’s block is to have plenty of research to work from. That way I can pick and choose what I find necessary to include, and helps me come up with a wealth of ideas.

Have you ever tried writing in any other genres?
I dabbled a little bit in other genres like sci-fi and Romance. However, I am always drawn back to the thriller genre. That is my favorite genre I like to read, I’m not really drawn into a Romance plot.
Although, I have enjoyed reading and watching things based in the sci-fi genre, it wasn’t something that I particularly liked writing.
I enjoy writing something that is as close to being as realistic as possible, so it seems plausible to the reader that what they are reading could actually happen. And it makes it exciting to write about as well.

Do you have any interesting writing-related anecdotes to share?
I’ve always had a notebook that I’ve jotted down ideas that I want to write about. One idea caught my attention, and when I started research on it, things fell into place.
I didn’t really have something in particular that inspired me, but I’ve always enjoyed reading thrillers/mysteries, so that’s what I wanted to write about. The more research I did, the ideas just kept flowing. But it wasn’t until I started to edit Initiated to Kill, that I began to see how interesting it would be to include the historical element to it.
Going from past and present enabled me to explore a whole other dimension, and give more meaning to the present-day plot line. The Jack the Ripper angle was only supposed to be a quick mention, but reading more about the conspiracy angle that surrounded it, I knew I had to write about it.
But I didn’t want it to be like other Jack the Ripper books or movies, something different, someone different. Patricia Cornwall’s book – The Portrait of a Killer, reveals another suspect to the never-ending discussion of who this infamous killer was.
And so, I delved into the mind of a killer. Detailing about this man’s life, going into the psychological workings of this eccentric man and bringing him to life. And in the same way, I did this more my present-day characters as well. As the character’s lives are written almost like mini sub-plots, a lot is revealed about the inner psyche of the characters.

Are there some quotes from your book that you can share, or graphics?




If your book were made into a movie, who would you cast to be the main characters?
For Annabella Cordova, Scarlett Johansson.
Andres Valero would be Jim Caviezel.
And as Jack the Ripper – Gary Oldman.
All these actors show they have a diverse range of characters they can play, bringing the characters to life.

You can follow Sharlene through her blog, her Amazon Author page, on Twitter where she's @SharleneAlmond, her Facebook page, her Pinterest, or on Goodreads.