One of my goals for this website is to provide helpful advice to writers at all stages of their careers. I love it when I can share these interviews with successful authors, especially when the guest is as informative and entertaining as A. A. Abbott. Thanks, Helen, for making room for this in your busy schedule.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer? How old were you when you wrote your first book?
As a child, I was often taken on long car journeys. Although I’m a Brit, born near London, my mother came from the Netherlands. Every year, my parents drove to the coast and caught a ferry across the North Sea to visit our Dutch relatives. My father took the family out on long daytrips most weekends too. Although our destinations were exciting, the journeys weren’t. After twenty minutes or so, a game of I Spy began to pall. As I loved making up stories, it was only natural to entertain my siblings with a tale or two. Each gripping yarn was devised on the spot, sometimes becoming a saga delivered in weekly instalments over two years.
Those early stories had many and varied subjects: a wild woodsman, elves and space travel. They were inspired by life, fairy-tales and whatever I happened to be reading at the time. I was incredibly flexible. If my sister and three brothers wanted marshmallow mountains and cloud dwellers, they got them. As a result, my audience gave the stories a rapturous reception. At school, my English teacher also praised my creative writing. I dreamed of making a career of it.
Childhood dreams remained just that for many years, however. Most authors take day jobs rather than making a living from writing. I had married, worked as an accountant (I achieved the equivalent of the US CPA qualification), and raised a son to adulthood before I wrote my first full-length thriller novel. Lies At Her Door is my ninth book. Just as I did when I was younger, I aim to give my audience what they want. My readers like to go on a journey with characters who dig deep within themselves to overcome challenges. In Lies At Her Door, Lucy is a kind, yet downtrodden, young woman who is suddenly accused of murder. Her efforts to defend herself could spell her doom.
Have you had to overcome writer’s block, and how did you do it?
For years, I was amazed when other authors complained about writer’s block. How could anyone ever run short of creative inspiration? To help myself out, I kept a box of press cuttings, filing away bizarre news items that caught my eye. I also plotted out each book in advance. While it was time-consuming to plan the interaction of characters and twists, it ensured the plot broadly worked and it meant I wasn’t scrabbling around for something to write.
Lies At Her Door shouldn’t have been any different from my other eight books. It was plotted out, chapter by chapter, in advance. I prepared two pages of background information on several characters and a few sentences each for the rest. Yet, having expected to write two thousand words a day, I struggled to make three hundred. As I’d given up my day job to write full-time, I despaired at my inefficiency.
I still don’t know why I had writer’s block, but two actions helped me to overcome it. First of all, I went for a walk along the coast with spiritual coach and healer Samantha Cross. Sam is a lady who exudes an aura of calm, and she’d previously been very helpful to me when I was developing my characters for Lies At Her Door (more on that later). We strolled together from a village in Gloucestershire, following a stream as it ran through woods to the sea. Afterwards, I felt lighter and refreshed. When I returned home, I immediately sat down at the keyboard.
I would like to say that my productivity returned right away. It didn’t, but it improved within days thanks to Chris Fox’s online course. Chris offers a number of wordcount boosters, including his sprint technique. Doing several ten minute writing sprints and editing my work afterwards, I was able to exceed two thousand words a day. I was happy with that, although as the course title suggests, it’s possible to do much more!
Who is the most important character in the book, and why?
Lies At Her Door is about Lucy Freeman, a young woman who finds herself at the centre of a murder enquiry, and investigating detective Neil Slater. Although they are the people who get the most airtime in the book, Neil’s girlfriend, Gemma, is an important secondary character. Young, yet wise beyond her years, Gemma is a country girl in tune with nature. She lives at the intersection of two ley lines near the mystical English town of Glastonbury. While Neil is suspicious of Lucy from the start, Gemma’s intuition convinces her that Lucy is innocent. Even as Lucy is on a journey to clear her name and break free from the chains of low self-esteem, Neil is learning how to be a better policeman. Gemma’s input is crucial to that.
When I was developing the plot, Samantha Cross helped me to flesh out the characters of Neil and Gemma, and in particular, why they would be attracted to each other. She felt Gemma would appreciate Neil’s desire to serve the public by making the world a safer place. He, in turn, would love Gemma for her kindness and spirituality. It is fair to say that Gemma provides an essential counterpoint to Neil’s well-meaning but impetuous personality.
How much of your own personality do you share with your characters? Is that a choice, or does it happen on its own?
None of my characters are me. They are nicer, braver people, and they face much greater challenges. Nevertheless, aspects of my own life creep into my characters without any conscious decision on my part. For instance, Lucy Freeman’s poor self-esteem and reliance on chocolate are an extreme version of my personal experience. My self-esteem was so low that my husband once said he was amazed I ever got out of bed and functioned in a high-flying job every day. Luckily, apart from a couple of workplace situations, I’ve never been gaslit as Lucy has. I’ve also been able to count on the support of family and friends in building up my confidence.
Unlike Lucy, I’ve never had to hide my chocolate, but I do reach for it when I’m under stress. My absolute fave is Green & Black’s Sea Salt Milk Chocolate. I’m not sure it’s available outside Britain, but if you can track it down, you’re in for a treat!
She forgot about her childhood friend… until his body is found under her garden. Can she prove she didn’t commit the decades-old murder?
Lucy Freeman struggles to find satisfaction in life. Trapped in the shadow of her rock star brother, the thirty-two-year-old craves more than her days at home caring for her terminally ill mother. But her routine takes a turn for the horrifying when a giant sinkhole collapses the earth outside their house and reveals a skeleton.
Shocked to discover the bones belong to a former member of her sibling’s band, Lucy’s worst nightmare comes alive when police suspect her of the killing. And as she turns to her dying parent’s diaries in a desperate search for vindication, she’s entangled in a dark and complicated truth.
Will unearthing long-buried wrongs prove lethal?
Lies at Her Door is a heavy-hitting psychological thriller novel. If you like strong character growth, overcoming dysfunctional relationships, and revealing unexpected secrets, then you’ll love AA Abbott’s chilling whodunnit.
About the Author
British crime thriller writer A.A. Abbott (also known as Helen Blenkinsop) enjoys escaping with an exciting and emotional read, and that’s what she aims to write too. Based in the city of Bristol in England’s beautiful West Country, she’s shared her love for the city by writing about it in her latest psychological thriller.
Lies at Her Door is Helen’s ninth book. She’s had help from readers on subjects as varied as police procedure, philosophy and music. She’s grateful to them and to editor Katharine D’Souza for making huge improvements to the story.
Like 10% of us, many of Helen’s family are dyslexic. While she is not, she wants her books to be enjoyed by readers with dyslexia and visual impairment too. She publishes her thrillers in a Large Print dyslexia-friendly edition as well as standard paperback and ebook versions. (You can also adjust the font on your electronic device to suit your needs.)
A member of the Alliance of Independent Authors, Helen likes speaking to book groups, business networks and social circles. She also has fun reading thrillers and short stories at live fiction events and on Zoom. If you’re a book blogger, litfest organiser, reviewer or simply adore books, she’d love to hear from you.
connect with the author: website ~ facebook ~ twitter ~ bookbubLIES AT HER DOOR by AA Abbott Book Tour Giveaway
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