RACHEL ABBOTT: THE TENSION NEVER REALLY DROPS IN STRANGER CHILD
Posted by Ognian Georgiev
Rachel Abbott’s last novel Stranger Child was released on February 24. The quality writing of the thriller earned a lot of positive reviews averaging with 4.5 stars in Amazon. The next Land of Books guest is a member of 1 million sales club with her books. Let’s welcome Lady Abbott!
– Rachel, your last book Stranger Child was described by the critics as “The perfect thriller”. What makes the novel so perfect and complex?
– I think I would be uncomfortable with claiming that my own novel is perfect in any way – but I believe people enjoy Stranger Child because the tension never really drops. It’s also quite an emotional book, and I hope that readers really start to care about the characters – one in particular. Although my books do have a main police character, much of the story is told from the point of view of the victims, so it is possible to understand the impact on them, rather than focusing on the procedure followed in order to catch the perpetrators of the crime.
– How did you decide to write the story?
– I knew that I was going to have to let my readers know how Tom Douglas’s brother died. There had always been an air of mystery around his death, but I didn’t want to write a book that was just about that. I wanted there to be a story in which he was somehow implicated. Through the previous books we have learned that Jack was an expert in computer security, so the idea – believe it or not – started with that. What could he have been involved in that might have led to his death? And how could that have impacted on the present day?
– What was the biggest challenge during the write up process?
– Making the whole thing credible, I think. It is so easy with some of the character in this book to make them almost a caricature, and I wanted them to be the genuine article. When it came to describing some of the underworld characters, I had help from people who have dealt with them, but it was a fine balance.
– Tell us something more about your main characters Emma and Tom? Are they close to someone from your real life?
– Not really. Tom was named after one of my nephews, but only because it seemed like the right name for the character. I think Tom is my ideal man, to be honest. He’s sensitive, but not soft, and he’s confident but not cocky. Emma is a strong woman – but she was badly hurt by Tom’s brother, and admits to herself that she probably took the easy option when she married David. A life free from stress suited her initially, but perhaps she has time to dwell on whether an easy life is always the most satisfying.
– How much time did you need to finish the story and to publish it?
– I only seem able to write a book a year. It takes a while to get the current book out of my head and become fully absorbed in the next one, and so I need at least two months from publishing one book to being completely absorbed in the next. I write quite quickly, but there’s a huge difference between my first draft and the version that finally gets printed. I rewrite just about all of the book at least once, and then I go through several editing phases – from the structural edit down to the choice of words. So it all takes time.
– Did you expect that Sleep Tight will become such a big hit?
– I liked the idea behind Sleep Tight – it was something that I thought most people could understand and empathize with. But although I thought it was a strong story, it’s never possible to tell what the readers will think. I’m delighted that it became so popular though – and not just with UK readers. It has sold almost the same number in the US.
– Who are you?
– For a thriller writer, I would say that I am quite a cheerful person! I love food and wine, and discovering new places around the world to visit. I am (I think) very sociable, and I live on a small island in the Channel Islands where – despite what you might believe from an island with only about 1800 people – there is never a dull moment. Obviously I love to read, but also to look out of my window at the sea – something I never tire of.
– What are your writing habits?
– Currently I have a ridiculous amount of administration to attend to – and as a result I’ve taken on a part time PA to take some of the load off me and give me more time to write. But I work every day – seven days a week – and devote as much time as I can to writing. At some point during the year I will take myself off to our house in Italy where the paperwork can be ignored and write for four or five hours each morning before it gets too hot. But because I’m completely undisturbed I can get a lot done in those hours.
– Are you satisfied by the sales of your books?
– I think amazed is a more appropriate word. I cannot believe how many books I have sold, and when I passed the million mark (total sales across my first three books) I was overwhelmed. I couldn’t be more pleased.
– What are you doing to promote your book by the best possible way?
– The key when a new book is released is visibility. People need to see the book wherever they look – whether that be on as many blogs as possible, or on Twitter, Facebook – it has to keep appearing. However, once the book gets into the Amazon charts, my marketing has less of an impact. I might influence ten or twenty sales a day, but visibility in the Amazon charts is the best form of promotion.
– When we will see your next novel and would you give us some insight about it?
– I am hoping that the next novel will be out in a year’s time – next February would be ideal for me. It’s a bit early to say too much about the story – but once again Tom Douglas will be heading up the investigation. And again, the emphasis will be on a psychological thriller where we see much of the story from the victim’s viewpoint.
– Did you remember the exact moment when you decide to write a full novel?
– I can’t remember when, but I can remember the occasion. I used to run a company in England, and I was keen to sell it. We invited the chairman and his wife to dinner and I told them that this was my aim. They asked ‘but what will you do with your time?’ and I answered ‘I want to write a book.’ It was the first time that I had ever thought that, and it just came out. It was in fact about ten years after that before I was able to make a start, but that was when I realized that it’s what I want to do.
– You self-published your first novel Only the Innocent. Why you decide to take this way after several nice rejections from agents and how the novel was brought and republished by Thomas and Mercer?
– Only the Innocent did receive a few rejections – but it wasn’t quite so bad as that. Of the small number of agents I sent it to, the responses were quite favourable, but modifications were requested that I didn’t necessarily agree with. I decided to self-publish, and after the book’s success in the UK I was approached by Thomas and Mercer for the US rights. I was delighted to agree, and they acquired the US rights to Only the Innocent and my next book – The Back Road. However, their policy after that was to acquire world rights in books, and I didn’t want to do that. I wasn’t prepared at that time to change the way I published in the UK. As a result, I now self-publish both Sleep Tight and Stranger Child in the US as well as the UK.
– If you may ask yourself one question in the interview what it will be? (Don’t forget to answer)
– What was the best decision you ever made as a self-published author? My best decision was my choice of agent – Lizzy Kremer of David Higham Associates. Many self-published authors think they don’t need an agent – but I think that depends on the agent. Mine has helped me not only with making the right decisions in terms of my strategy, but she listens when I talk about my next book and offers advice and input. She is the first reader, gives me pages of notes, and arranges for professional editing. On top of that, of course, there are the sales of foreign rights, which her agency manages, and I genuinely believe that without making this choice I would not have achieved the success that I have.