A special guest post for this week’s Summer Author Takeover by the bestselling author of six mystery-laden psychological thrillers, AJ Waines! Over to Ms Waines, who reveals her love of hidden things…
As a former psychotherapist, it was a natural progression for me when I first had a go at writing fiction to choose psychological thrillers as my genre. I’d worked with ex-convicts from high security institutions, so I felt I had some insight into the disturbed and criminal mind.
As a child, I’d devoured books by Enid Blyton and later was drawn to crime thriller/mysteries; my all-time favourites being A Simple Plan by Scott Smith and The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth.
As an adult, too, I was captivated by psychological thrillers ever since they began to be recognised as a distinct category, loving writers such as Minette Walters and Nicci French. So, crime mysteries and psychological thrillers have clearly influenced me.
My own books tend to have both a distinct mystery on the surface and a deeper psychological thriller lurking underneath, with that essential twist at the end, of course! The mystery element is not usually a police-procedural as such, but a dark and deadly puzzle involving clues and hidden dangers that the main character, an ordinary person like you or me, gets caught up in. My protagonists range from a journalist, a lecturer in criminology, an archivist and more recently a clinical psychologist – most are feisty, but vulnerable, women with their own unresolved issues lurking just out of sight.
At the start of each book, an incident usually takes place which shakes the protagonist’s world upside down. These incidents range from a body found in The Thames wearing the main character’s own clothes (The Evil Beneath), a suicide under a train that isn’t what it seems (Girl on a Train), a missing woman and child in a quiet village (Dark Place to Hide), the body of a stranger that appears one morning in a remote cottage (No Longer Safe) and a Tube fire where survivors give accounts that don’t add up (Inside the Whispers). My main character is pushed to breaking point, faced with lies, deception, secrets, moral dilemmas or concealed psychological disorders and gradually as the plot unfolds the mystery and the psychological elements link up. The hidden connection becomes clear – or gets turned on its head!
In my latest book, Lost in the Lake, a van leaves the road and plummets into a lake, killing all but one of the passengers. Or so it seems. The sole survivor, Rosie, knows in her bones that it wasn’t an accident, but has gaps in her memory. That’s the tangled murder mystery on the surface. She turns to psychologist, Samantha Willerby, to help recover her memories and that’s when the psychological thriller begins to simmer. A chilling, altogether different dynamic is going on underneath the main enigma. Rosie looks like she’s searching for answers about the crash, but very soon it becomes clear that she’s after something else…
I’ve always loved hidden things. I was a secretive child and kept diaries with tiny keys and padlocks. I also collected money boxes with intricate locking devices and even used to hide magazine clippings of the Queen under a rug beside my bed!
That’s where it all stems from. Anything concealed and I’m hooked!
Lost in the Lake is available for Pre-order now and published (e-book and paperback) on September 7.
AJ Waines has sold over 400,000 books worldwide and topped the UK and Australian Kindle Charts in 2015 & 2016 with her number one bestseller, Girl on a Train. Following fifteen years as a psychotherapist, she is now a full-time novelist with publishing deals in France, Germany, Norway, Hungary and USA (audiobooks).
Her fourth psychological thriller, No Longer Safe, sold over 30,000 copies in the first month, in thirteen countries. AJ Waines has been featured in The Wall Street Journal and The Times and was ranked a Top 10 UK author on Amazon KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) in 2016. She lives in Hampshire, UK, with her husband. Visit her website and blog, or join her on Twitter, Facebook or on her newsletter.