Today I’m talking to English thriller writer AA Abbott.
AA Abbott’s real name is Helen Blenkinsop, but like JK Rowling, she wanted to maintain an air of mystery. Her crime thrillers, set in Birmingham and London, sizzle with suspense, twists and the evils of office politics.
Tell us something about your books.
They’re fast-paced British crime thrillers set in London and Birmingham. I move each story forward with short chapters and characters sparking off each other.
My Trail series features two families fighting for control of a vodka business, and a crime dynasty who get caught up in their fortunes. Glamorous Kat White, a vodka heiress, never expected to end up penniless in London. Having made bad choices, she’s on the run.
The Bride’s Trail, first in the series, sends killers on Kat’s trail to a dramatic showdown in Birmingham. Although the story could end there, Kat’s life is still at risk as she finds her purpose in the rest of the series.
It’s a heady cocktail of revenge, love and suspense. You can be sure death is never far away.
What inspires you to write? Who are your favourite writers?
The power to entertain through a story is exhilarating. I learned that early in life, as the eldest of five children. I’ve been crafting tales ever since.
Joan Aiken was my favorite writer then. She penned a few mysteries for adults too, and although they hark back to another era, I love re-reading them. Like Agatha Christie, her style is still fresh. Other writers I love are Ruth Rendell, John Grisham, JK Rowling and Terry Pratchett.
How do you start writing? Do you have a process or do you fly by the seat of your pants?
Planning is everything. I begin with a rough plot, spend time getting to know the characters, and then prepare a chapter plan before I start to write.
How has your writing process changed since you started writing?
Totally. I used to start with a blank screen and just hit the keyboard. That works for a short story, but after I’d cut 30,000 words from my first novel to bash the plot into shape, I decided advance planning would have been better.
How long does it normally take you to write, and what proportion of the time is spent doing what?
I write one book a year, and work on it full-time for six months. That’s roughly one month plotting, three months writing a draft, one month rewriting after beta reader feedback and one month of editorial rewriting.
What is your favorite part of the writing process?
Nothing beats the sheer joy of the first crisp proof copy back from the printers.
Do you involve other people in your writing, as collaborators or editors? How do you make this work?
Luckily, 20-30 people volunteer (or have their arms twisted!) to be “beta readers”, giving me feedback on the first draft. They complete a 2 page questionnaire, with a focus on what could be improved. These unsung heroes help me for free! Their ideas are brilliant, and I’m really grateful to them.
My editor, Katharine D’Souza, then suggests even more improvements. She’s based in Birmingham and writes fantastic novels set in the city; do check them out.
Finally, proofreader Paula Good adds a final polish to the book.
Do you have any writing tips you’d like to share with readers?
Two tips. First, if in doubt, just write something – you can always change it later. Second, joining a supportive writing group is a great way of improving your standard (and finding beta readers).
Anything else I haven’t asked you about?
Lots – thanks for asking! Accessibility is important to me. I’m planning to release audiobooks, and meanwhile, all my thrillers are available in a large print edition that’s also dyslexia-friendly.
I love meeting readers and talking to book groups, too. You’ll find Questions for Book Clubs on my website – guaranteed to start a conversation, and keep it going.