10 Questions With B. A. Paris 

Good evening folks, I’m delighted to welcome psychological thriller author B. A. Paris to my blog. Here, she chats about growing up in France, her first draft of Behind Closed Doors and her favourite authors. 

1) As a child, did you have a favourite author and do you have a favourite author now? 

As a child I loved Enid Blyton and Agatha Christie. I don’t have a favorite author now, I have too many to choose just one! 

2) When did you start writing? Did you enjoy English in school? 

I started writing 8 years ago and yes, English was my favorite subject in school. 

3) Where did the inspiration from Behind Closed Doors come from? What was the first draft like? 

Some years ago, I had a friend whose husband seemed very controlling and I thought it would make a good story. I didn’t expect it to come out as dark as it did though! 

The first draft wasn’t that different from the final one. Nothing much changed in the story.

4) What was it like growing up in France? 

I grew up in England and only moved to France when I was 21. I loved it so much I stayed there over 30 years. 

5) Do you have an agent, if so, is it nerve wracking, knowing that you now have someone to impress but also someone who will champion you and your writing?

I have the best agent in the world and never feel under pressure from her. That said, I always hope to impress her!

6) When you were an aspiring author, what was the best piece of advice you were given? 

Nobody knew I was writing so I didn’t really get any advice, except from myself, which was to never give up!

7) How do you work best – music or silence? 

I prefer to work in silence but I can also work with a lot of noise going on around me. If I need inspiration I’ll put on a Muse album. 

8) What was the last book you read? 

The last book I read was « East Of Hounslow » by Khurrum Rahman. 

9) Did you enjoy it? 

I can definitely recommend it! 

10) What was your first ever book about?

My first ever book was a psychological drama about a dysfunctional family. 

Thanks for your time, B. A. Paris. 

10 Questions With Hollie Overton

Good evening folks, I’m made up to welcome American crime writer Hollie Overton to my blog. Here, Hollie chats about writing for TV as well as being a novelist, her favourite music and how her personal experiences helped her create her debut novel, Baby Doll. 

Over to you, Hollie. 

1) As a child, did you have a favourite author and do you have a favourite author now? 

I had TONS of favorite authors. When I was much younger, Shel Silverstein, Ann Martin who wrote the Baby Sitters Club and of course Sweet Valley High were my favorites. As I got older, it was Mary Higgins Clark, Stephen King, and Dean Koontz (I’ve always been drawn to darker characters!) Nowadays I read in lots of different genres. I love YA. Rainbow Rowell is an incredible writer and storyteller (Eleanor and Park is one of my favorite love stories ever!) I’ve also read the Hunger Games series at least three times. It’s perfect storytelling. I’m also huge Michael Connelly fan but I’m always discovering new writers. Gillian McAllister is a wonderful writer of domestic thrillers and I’m obsessed with John Marrs, who wrote a book I loved called The One. I’m just not able to pick one.

2) When did you start writing? Did you enjoy English at school?

I’ve always been a writer. I picked up a journal when I was seven or eight kick and filled up book after book for years with random musings about my life, short story ideas and dreams of the future. That love of writing was really nurtured in my English classes. I had incredible teachers who made writing and reading fun. I also worked on the school newspaper and won writing awards in high school, so writing was always a part of my life. It wasn’t something I ever considered doing as a career, but over the years, while I was studying acting, I started to realize I wanted a more active role in the creative process. I took my first TV writing class in 2007 and fell in love with it. 

3) How did being a TV Writer help with planning your debut novel, Baby Doll? 

As a TV writer, you learn so many skills that apply to writing a novel. The most helpful in my mind was how to pace a story and keep it exciting for a reader. In commercial fiction, especially thrillers, you want to keep the audience engaged and make sure they keep turning the pages. Having worked as a TV writer for the last seven years, some of that became intuitive, which in turn made writing my first book a bit easier (not easy, but easier!) TV is also all about creating great characters and that’s what I try and focus on when I’m writing. Who are these people? What makes them tick? It’s the same in TV and in books and I’m very grateful I had that training before I started writing fiction.

4) What inspired Baby Doll, and how did you create Lily and Rick?

The real life story of Ariel Castro and the girls he held captive in Cleveland, Ohio inspired the plot of Baby Doll. But it was my relationship with my twin sister, Heather that was the emotional core of the book. We’re best friends, and I kept imagining what my life would be like as a teenager if I didn’t have my sister, and how it would change the course of our lives. The story evolved from that. Rick Hanson, the villain of the book sprung from the idea that there are lots of monsters hiding in plain sight. He’s a teacher, a loving husband, but he was a sexual deviant and smart enough to know how to hide it. I’ve read a lot about serial sexual predators as well and that’s how Rick’s character was created.

5) When you were an aspiring author, what was the best piece of advice you were given? 

Don’t listen to people who say there isn’t a market for your work. A lot of people heard the premise for Baby Doll and were like, “Have you heard of Room?” I had of course heard of it, but I knew my book was different. I could have started second guessing myself, but I stayed the course. People will also say no one is reading certain types of books, or books about certain subjects. If it’s something you’re passionate about, write it and ignore the haters.

6) How many agents did you submit Baby Doll to before you found a publisher? 

I only submitted Baby Doll to one agent. I was repped for film and TV by WME and they obviously have a huge book department. My TV agent passed the Baby Doll manuscript along to an agent, Eve Atterman, and she really liked it. She did have some edits that required another draft. There wasn’t really a promise of representation, just like these are my thoughts. I thought they were incredibly smart and made the book so much better. It took me about five months to do them (I was getting married at the time and pitching a TV show). When I finally sent it back, she read it and was like, “this is great. We want to submit to to editors,” which is the greatest news a writer can hear. The submission process can be stressful. It’s radio silence while you’re waiting to hear, but if you’re lucky there are all these things are happening behind the scenes. We sold to Goldmann in Germany first and then the UK and then US. It was and still is the most exciting time of my writing life.  

7) What was your writing process for Baby Doll like? How many drafts did you do?

It’s hard to say how many drafts. I’d have hundreds of documents, rewriting constantly. The first half of the book I wrote very quickly. The second half I had to kind of figure out what the rest of the story was, but I wrote a loose outline and it helped keep me on track. Writing Baby Doll wasn’t my full time job. I was working on developing a TV show and going on meetings, so I usually worked on Baby Doll really late at night. But there was no real deadline, no urgency to finish which looking back, now that I have to write on deadline was a really great part of the process.

8) How was the writing process different for The Walls? Did you do much research for both books? 

The Walls process was much faster and furious. I had a little over a year to complete the manuscript and that was including working full-time on my TV show. I finished the first draft in about seven months. Then I did the rewrites over the next three months, while working on the show. I did a lot of research for both books. I talked to experts in the field, FBI consultants, prison consultants, read tons of stuff on death penalty and sexual assault. To me, the research is just as important as the writing because it informs so much of the story.

9) How do you work best – music or silence? Did you have a favourite genre of music growing up and has it changed?

It depends. I know this sounds odd but when I’m at home, I usually write with the TV on. It has to be something I’ve seen before, movie or TV. It’s basically background noise. If I have a really tight deadline, I listen to music. I’m not really a music person, so usually it’s just a singer/songwriter Pandora station that I like. But I never write in silence. I feel like the background noise helps drown out the inner critic that says, “You’re not good enough.”

10) What was the last book you read and did you enjoy it? 

The last book I read was Gillian McAllister’s Anything you do Say. She’s a British novelist and it was a really interesting story about a woman who commits a crime and the two outcomes—what happens if she leaves and doesn’t report it and what happens if she stays and does. A Sliding Doors type story with a crime setting.  

Thanks for your time, Hollie. 

10 Questions With Helen Callaghan 

Good morning folks, and Happy Saturday!! I’m delighted to welcome psychological thriller writer Helen Callaghan to my blog. Here, Helen chats about how she gained representation, her favourite authors and studying for her degree as a mature student. 

Over to you, Helen. 

1) As a child, did you have a favourite author? 

Oh yeah – I would glom on to someone, then read everything they’d ever done – then I’d re-read it. Books were expensive then. I loved CS Lewis, Tolkien, and Watership Down by Richard Adams. At home, us kids could watch most things – I saw Jaws, The Exorcist, Alien – all at quite a young age. But I remember being taken to the cinema to see Watership Down the movie and it was the only one that actually gave me nightmares. It was hardcore.

I still love to be scared…

2) Did you enjoy English at school? 

Yes. It was my best subject. I was the weirdo that actually enjoyed the set books for my GCSEs. Very early on I’d become a fanatical reader, and the more you read, the more you end up reading. 
3) Did you go to university and if so, did you enjoy your degree? 

I did indeed! I was a mature student, having spent the best part of ten years mucking around, so when I did go it was because I wanted to. I got my A-levels in night classes and they came out surprisingly well, so someone suggested I have a go at Cambridge and I ended up getting in. My family were thrilled, as I was the first person to go to university. 
I studied archaeology rather than English though. I thought to myself that archaeology would produce more things to write about. Which funnily enough, was true….

4) Are you self published, and if not, do you have any advice for aspiring authors? 

I’m not self-published – I went the trad publishing route, as when I was starting out, self-publishing was still finding its feet. I’d been writing on and off for years, but around 2009 I completed a dystopian thriller, which never sold but got me an agent – Judith Murray at Greene and Heaton. Dear Amy was the third book she ended up submitting for me, and there was an auction and it sold in ten days, which felt very peculiar after thirty years of trying!
Most people in such cases advise you to ‘be persistent’ and ‘finish what you start’ and that is all excellent advice, but folk have probably heard it before. I think *my* advice would be, join a writing group. Being in a writing group exposes you to listening to others’ opinions, and teaches you how to accept and deal with criticism. Dealing with criticism, and being able to seperate your book from yourself, is a skill that never goes out of style. And it’s always nice to meet simpatico people. Join a writing group.

5) How did your first review of Dear Amy feel? What did you do to celebrate? 

D’you know, I can’t remember? The thing no-one tells you is, you don’t really remember the good reviews. The bad ones, those you remember. But I do recall my parents had been flipping through lovereading.co.uk (which I had not seen yet) which collated a ton of reader reviews and they were ecstatic, which made me ecstatic. I think we were in Rome, and we celebrated with wine and pasta. But to be honest, I think we would have done that anyway. What else do you do in Rome?
6) Do you have a favourite all time book?

Hmm… I don’t have a single favourite. Some things do different things at different times, but I do have things I love for different reasons. I loved The Secret History by Donna Tartt, which had a real influence on Dear Amy with its Classical leanings. I love Iain Banks, Angela Carter, and Charlotte Bronte – I have a real Gothic addiction. 
But I like other things too – recently I really enjoyed The Girls by Emma Klein and I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes which is this over-the-top US spy thriller but which was just fantastic, so clever and absolutely raced along…

7) How do you like to work – music or silence?

Ooh, depends. At home it tends to be silence, but every book has a playlist I create for it, with the tunes that put me in mind of what the book is about. The new book, Everything Is Lies, which is coming out in February, was about revelation and disillusionment, so it had things like Big Picture by London Grammar and lots of Florence and the Machine. There were Eighties tracks too, as part of it is set then, so The Smiths and The Cure were happening. 
The one I’m working on at the moment, which doesn’t have a name yet, is about sexual jealousy and betrayal. It’s also about being isolated, both psychically and geographically, and it’s set in Orkney. So it was Mr Brightside by The Killers, Burn For You by Sting, Kings of Leon, PJ Harvey; all much more slow-burning and ballady if you like. 

As a rule, if I am working in public, in a coffee shop say, I’ll have the playlist for that particular book happening on headphones. Elsewise you’re going to be listening to Starbucks’ piped music, which I can never get on with. 

8) Are you a Rod Stewart fan?

No, I missed the Rod Stewart boat, I think. Growing up, I remember my cousin was mad for him, and she was a little older than me. Though my eldest cousin got me into David Bowie. I mean, what’s not to love about David Bowie?
Thanks for your time, Helen. 

An Interview With Camilla Wray

Good afternoon folks, I’m delighted to welcome literary agent Camilla Wray to my blog. Here, Camilla chats about her journey to becoming a literary agent, advice for aspiring authors and her guilty pleasures of genre. 

Over to you, Camilla. 

1) Did you see yourself becoming a literary agent after you left school? Did you actually have any other career plans? 

I never really knew what I wanted to do when I was at school, just what I loved. I was very much an ‘average’ child but I absolutely loved stories. I was a huge reader growing up, but then I also loved fashion and learning about people. My A levels were in English Literature, Psychology and Textiles so this sums me up I guess! I had really low grade predictions though so I didn’t apply for anywhere when I was doing my A Levels, instead my mum and dad told me to give myself some space and to work as hard as I could away from the huge pressure of University applications.

I still had no idea what to do though so after getting my results I just followed my interests and decided to go to Cardiff University where they have an amazing Creative Writing department and you could do it as a Joint Honours with Psychology. I guess in a way I was hedging my bets!

Then in my last year of studying at Cardiff my friend and I decided to start a fashion label and we did this together for two years before my love of words wouldn’t leave me alone. She carried on and is now hugely successful and I decided to look into what I could do to join fashion and writing. This is when I did a Post Grad at the London College of Fashion in lifestyle and Fashion journalism. After this I worked at The Independent for a bit and then got a job as the assistant to the Fashion Editor of ‘S’ magazine. I really loved it there but it was only 4 days a week so I started looking for a job to do on a Friday. There was an advert on the University of Arts website for a admin role one day a week at the Darley Anderson Literary Agency, and this is how I was introduced to the world of being a literary Agent. Ten years on and I’m still at Darley’s and am incredibly thankful I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I am so lucky to have a job I adore and am very passionate about and I am determined to tell my kids to follow what they love, not what they think they should do.

2) Did studying psychology at university pique your interest in the crime genre as a reader? 

I’d say it was actually Patricia Cornwell who got my really intrigued by people and crimes. I was obsessed with her books when I was a teenager and also loved the Point Horror books. Studying psychology at A level and then at university definitely built on this but the interest was always there I think. I’m incredibly nosey and love meeting new people and finding out all about their lives and worlds. Humans are equally fascinating and terrifying.

3) What do you recommend aspiring authors do before querying? 

Read, read, read. This is key I think as when you find a genre / author you love as a reader then you need to sit back and really think about why you love it, what makes you react, what makes you unable to stop and why. Even if you don’t end up writing in this genre, what you’ve learnt as a reader is gold dust. So I’d say read as much as you can. Then once you’ve written your own manuscript go back to the authors and genres you love and read into who represents them, how they find an agent and use them as further inspiration.

4) What was the process involved in setting up Pitch An Agent? 

I was very lucky as Adrian and Myles were instantly keen to set up Pitch An Agent and so it was a very smooth process. I just felt that there was a huge opportunity for new crime writers to have the chance to talk to agents about their work and not just receive a standard ‘no’. As an agent it’s very hard to be able to send personal feedback, I try as much as possible but I get 10-15 submissions a day and only take on average 1-2 authors a year so it is hard. With Pitch An Agent it means that for a couple of days we can meet authors and be fair, honest and hopefully kind about where they could develop their characters, plot, pace.

5) Is there something in the crime genre that you haven’t seen or read about previously that you think ‘I could see that in a book’? 

 What an interesting tricky question! To be honest with the crime genre ideas are so very rarely new, but it’s the characters you use, how you focus a plot, and an author’s own spin that have a big impact. I had been looking for a sliding doors thriller for years but as with anything there are now books with this as a concept coming out. I love high concept ideas though and I think there is something genius about taking classic concepts – such as the locked room mystery – and putting it in a very fresh, contemporary setting. I also have this very odd horrid recurring nightmare where I come home and my husband is asleep in bed so I try and be really quiet and sneak under the covers, only to find it isn’t my husband at all, it’s someone dressed as my husband wearing a weird latex wig (my husband has a shaved head!). It’s horrific as my poor husband is actually tied up under the bed. I guess the only good thing is neither of us is actually dead but it still isn’t overly nice or perhaps slightly worrying!

 6) What is your guilty pleasure genre? 

I love love stories so these are definitely something I adore. THE TIME TRAVELLERS WIFE is one of my favourite stories. I also love reading most women fiction books. I grew up reading a huge amount of Maeve Binchy and Jilly Cooper and I’m a huge Jill Mansell, Lianne Moriarty and Jojo Moyes fan. I read HOT MESS over the summer and loved it. Her dad character is genius.

7) What was the last book you read and did you enjoy it? 

 The last book I read was THE COWS by Dawn O’Porter and I absolutely loved it. It was fresh, funny, heart-breaking and shocking all in one.

8) Completely random – are you a Rod Stewart fan and do you have a favourite song of his? 

Ha, ha, very sadly I’m not. In fact I couldn’t actually name you any of his songs. I’m so sorry! And it’s not because I’m cool as I am a bit Elton John fan, so maybe that’s why. Because I’d never want to cheat on Elton.

Thanks for taking the time out Camilla. 

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