I have always been a writer of sorts – from my days at school when I loved to write essays, to my business life when I wrote scripts for training and education programmes, creative proposals to potential clients and storyboards for interactive software. At the back of my mind was the idea that I would like to write a novel, but the first time that I ever said the words out loud was in 1994. Even then I had the idea for Only the Innocent, and it was just bursting to get out. It took another 15 years before I actually had the time to write (I ran my own company, so a seventy hour week was the norm) – and now I’ve started writing, I can’t stop!
How long does it take you to write a book?
That’s a difficult question, because I spend a lot of time planning. I need to know my characters intimately. I need to consider where they would live, how they would furnish their homes, what they like to eat and drink – the smallest details that make these people real to me. Initially I come up with an idea, which ferments for a while – usually while I am editing the current book. Once I have the idea, I have to think about the people that would make this idea work, and fill in all the details about them. Then I plan the whole thing. I don’t always stick to the plan, but having it there gives me a direction.
The physical writing probably only takes about three months, but then I edit, my agent edits, my editor edits and that process takes quite a while too. So the total process is probably about nine months.
What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
I try to get up at 7 each morning, so that I have time to answer emails, chat to people on Twitter, etc. By the time I’m ready to write, it’s probably about 9 am. I work until 1 and then stop for half an hour for some lunch. Then start again. Depending on how it’s going, I might write until 6 or 7, and then I look at emails and see if there is anything else that I need to respond to. I do that basically seven days a week, unless my husband drags me out for a walk because he’s really concerned that I have become surgically attached to my chair.
How many crime novels have you written?
Which is your favourite and why?
It is – and it will always be – the next one that I write! Like most writers, I guess I am very self-critical. I can see things that maybe I should have done better, and resolve to learn and improve for the next one. I love the story for my next book, and I hope that the lessons I have learned about writing will all come through, making it the best ever. Until the one after, that is.
Where do you get your ideas?
From people. Not that I personally know many murderers – but the victims in my stories are not necessarily the ones who get killed.
In Only the Innocent, I remember seeing a programme about women murderers on the television. Accepting that some women murderers are clearly deranged, it was also clear from this programme that some seemed like normal, ordinary women. So I had to ask myself – what would make a sane woman commit a cold-blooded murder? What set of circumstances could be so bad that she had no other choice? Then I worked out what sort of woman this might be and why she couldn’t have done anything else.
With The Back Road, I wanted to think about a group of average people, with average deceptions in their lives. I wondered what would happen if a tragic event acted as some sort of catalyst, which exploded in their midst and exposed all their secrets and lies.
Who is your favourite character from your own work and why?
Leo (Leonora) Harris, from The Back Road. When I created Leo’s character, she was quite cynical and cold. But as the story developed and I edited her scenes, I stopped seeing her as the person on my character sheet and started seeing her through the eyes of other people in the story. This changed the way she interacted with people – especially Tom Douglas, the neighbour and policeman. I like the way that she cuts through any niceties and gets straight to the point. She’s also quite damaged, and she’s going to appear in future books as maybe the hard carapace falls away bit by bit.
Which character from the work of others do you wish you’d invented and why?
The honest answer might surprise you – but that would by Harry Potter. NOT for the money (although that would be very nice, of course) but because I salute JK Rowling for her staggering imagination. It’s the bits like the train station, and the game of Quiddich – I can’t begin to imagine a mind that sets itself free enough to think of such things. And the books were so clever – they may be aimed at children, but the writing was so well done that it amused adults too. The idea of Dumbledore liking knitting patterns is a classic example.
So – it might be a strange choice for a thriller writer, but I admire anybody who has such a vivid imagination and sense of humour.
If you could have been someone from history involved in crime (good or bad) who would that be and why?
I would really like to have committed the perfect heist. No weapons allowed – nobody gets hurt – and I would happily give the diamonds or whatever away. But again it’s that level of ingenuity and clever thinking that I love. I read a story about a spectacular diamond heist in Berlin. There were three men, and I believe they came in through the roof – a bit like a Mission Impossible scenario. However, they made one mistake. The dropped a glove. There was DNA on the glove – but because two of the perpetrators were identical twins, with identical DNA – neither of them could be prosecuted.
Whenever I see a film about a heist, I always want the perpetrators to get away!
What are you working on now?
I’m working on my third novel. I am really excited about the story, but as always before I can start writing, I need to get all the preparation work done. I’ve done the key character profiles, the story timeline and identified some of the locations. I’ve also sketched the overview of the story – so I’m ready to get all the pieces in place. But until I know these locations and characters like I know my own home and my husband’s face – I’m not quite ready to start to transfer these to my story. If I don’t know what these people look like, how can I describe them to my readers?
The real writing will start, hopefully, in about two weeks’ time.
Rachel Abbott website: http://www.rachel-abbott.com
Rachel Abbott blog : http://rachelabbottwriter.wordpress.com
Rachel Abbott media site: http://www.rachel-abbott.info
Twitter account #1: https://twitter.com/_RachelAbbott
Twitter account #2: https://twitter.com/Rachel__Abbott
For purchases for e-readers other than Kindle, please consult the Rachel Abbott website.
Rachel Abbott was born just outside Manchester, England. She spent most of her working life as the Managing Director of an interactive media company, developing software and websites for the education market. The sale of that business enabled her to fulfil one of her lifelong ambitions - to buy and restore a property in Italy.
Rachel lives part of each year in the completed property with her husband and two dogs, and the rest of the year at their home in Alderney – one of the Channel Islands - where she is now able to devote time to her other passion - writing fiction.