It is a pleasure to interview New Zealand fiction writer Sharlene Almond
I read that you self-published first, then found a publisher. Why did you self-publish, and what do you like about having a real publisher?
I self-published to enable me to contact reviewers to review my books while contacting publishers. Quick starting the process meant I could get a fair idea of what readers wanted through reviews, and publishers could get a look to see what readers liked.
The best thing about having a publisher is that they cover all editing, book cover work, etc, without me having to pay for things. I have also noticed that quite a few book reviewers won’t review self-published authors, or some think because a person self-published that the book won’t be very good. Admittedly, I do think my novel is much better having been done by a professional editor.
I am guessing since you are trained in editing and proofreading, you probably don’t need to pay someone to edit your work. What do you think is the most important thing to remember when self-editing?
Although I have been trained as an editor, because I have read my manuscripts so much, it is easy to miss the small things. As the saying goes, ‘two eyes make better than one’. The more eyes on it, the more likely things will get picked up.
While working on my second book, I thought I had picked up as much as I could. But coming back to it a year later to make sure I covered everything, I picked up heaps of things I previously missed. Of course, working with a traditional publisher, I thankfully don’t have to pay for the editing.
Reading that you have studied body-language, how do you think that feeds into your writing? Can you offer other writers any tips?
My main character, Annabella Cordova is deaf, so the way she communicates is through body language and facial expressions. Although I did plenty of research about this, studying this topic enabled me to give the character a more authentic feel to what she does.
Personally, in any good thriller/mystery book, adding an element of interpreting body language makes it a great read. Everyone can benefit from understanding body language. And because I go into detail about this aspect, it makes it a bit different from other thrillers that might just skim over the topic.
Given that you write a blend of historical and present day plots set in different locations, do you think body language changes with time and place, or is it truly a universal language?
Body language is completely universal. Humans are incapable of not communicating. Whether it be someone displaying obvious signs of anxiety or anger, to someone just sitting completely still and not speaking.
Everything we do communicates to others, and because a lot of our body language is subconscious, we cannot control some of what we put across. In that millisecond our true feelings are exposed and even the most accomplished liar cannot control that. So, whether it be historical or present day, our unconscious brain sends signals that cause an automatic reaction before the conscious kicks in.
The only thing I would say, is that people are becoming more accomplished liars; whether it be through psychopathic tendencies or pathological lying, people are learning more to mask their inner feelings. But if someone is trained and observant, no one can truly hide everything.
The obvious question–can you tell me where to find your books?
I am on several social media platforms, where I am happy to connect with people who want to learn more about me and my books.
My Blog: https://sharlenefreelancewriter.wordpress.com/
Purchase Initiated to Kill at Amazon
My Amazon Author page
What inspired you to write Initiated to Kill?
I’ve always enjoyed reading books with a twist, thrillers being my favourite. I just jotted down an idea one day, and eventually started writing the book. Everything fell into place; the characters, the locations, the plot…until I started edited it.
That’s when the conspiracy theory and the historical elements took shape. Loving history, I immediately knew this was what I wanted to do with all my novels—be part-historical, part-present day. Things that I’ve watched or read, or an idea that randomly popped into my mind, helped the story take shape. And every day more elements presented themselves.
What caused you to choose your characters?
I was always interested in learning about body language and facial expressions, and I wanted my main character to be unique. That is why I made Annabella Cordova deaf. Certain elements unfolded while I was writing about her, shaping her into what she is. Of course, for me, any good mystery/thriller does need a detective. Making the story more plausible.
The other characters come from the location where it all takes place—Seville University. The historical characters…well, because a certain amount of this is based on facts, they of course, were the obvious choice.
What inspires you to write?
Writing isn’t just something that I hope to get money out of one day. It’s a hobby, a passion, a learning curve, a chance to experiment, think outside the box. Writing allows me to leave the world I live in and go into another world. See things through my characters’ eyes.
With my writing, all my novels include true elements in history, as well as being based in Europe and beyond. It’s easy for me to write, because each chapter connects with the next.
As cliché as it sounds, writing is in my blood. At an early age, I’ve always enjoyed writing. However, I didn’t really have the inclination to write a full novel, not knowing where to start.
Years later, I finally got the chance to sit down and begin writing. Things really took shape when I set up a word excel/spreadsheet for my chapter outline, making it easier to piece together a novel that made sense. Now I can’t stop writing.
A hobby and hopefully one day a job, writing is something I have always, and will always love.
What is something interesting about you not many people know?
I’m a bit of an exercise fanatic. Morning and evening workouts keeps the body and mind fresh, kick starts the writing process.
What genre do you like to write in?
Thrillers will always be my number one preference. They’re my favorite to read and write about, with the historical aspect thrown in, which is something else I’ve found fascinating.
Also books that are based on a lot of research, a strong plot and characters, and something a little different from mainstream novels.
Have you ever encountered writer’s block? If so, how did you overcome it?
Fortunately, I haven’t encountered writer’s block. Just watching the news or reading history books immediately kick starts the writing process again.
Summarize Initiated to Kill.
Two men from different generations, both initiated into a powerful organization that throughout history sought control and use their power for destruction. They leave behind a wake of murder, manipulation and ancient secrets.
The first man stalks women of the night in the Whitechapel district of London, England, in the 19th century. While the other stalks his victims in the cosmopolitan city of Seville, Spain in the 21st century; knowing that only he could uncover the true motives of one of the world’s most infamous serial killers—Jack the Ripper.
Annabella Cordova quickly becomes embroiled in a conspiracy involving the university she studies at. When her roommate goes missing, it becomes personal. Her past gradually unveils as she gets closer to this than she could have possibly imagined.
A childhood accident causing permanent deafness enables Annabella to use her other senses to read facial and body language; detecting lies in people, including suspects.
Andres Valero, a troubled detective, returns from forced leave, only to be faced with horrific crimes that bring his memories to the surface.
The novel continuously takes the reader back in time to the 19th century, creating a psychological profile of the man who wanders the London streets, his paintings depicting crimes only seen by a killer’s eyes. And a boy that’s continuously tormented by his own sadistic tendencies.
With Annabella and Andres combined, they must stop this person at any cost and reveal a conspiracy hidden for centuries.
Tell me about your characters.
My first main character, Annabella Cordova, is a deaf art student at Seville University. She has the extraordinary ability to read people’s expressions, and has the natural ability to tell when someone is lying. Because of her past, her injury and subsequent deafness, it alienates her from other people. The art major she strives for allows her to connect with her dead mother, as her mother was passionate about art.
Annabella’s memories of her childhood and her mother’s death continually haunt her, and the disappearance of her father, whom she keeps remembering as abusive. As the novel develops, she becomes embroiled in the case of missing girls, quickly bringing memories to the surface that had long since been kept hidden.
The second main character is Andres Valero. He isn’t your typical detective. As one reads the novel, one will quickly discover that his past has lead him to this point. The case of the missing girl reminds him of a case that he longed to forget.
When he meets Annabella, he is skeptical relying on her talent when she offers to watch interviews, and tell him if suspects are lying. As the case evolves, he draws closer to her, reluctant at the connection he feels.
Both character’s past link them to what is happening now. They have strengths and a weakness, and neither can be fully prepared for what is about to happen.
Do you plan to write other books?
Absolutely. This book is the first in the Annabella Cordova series. Because of what has happened to her, the next book reveals a completely different side to her. In the first book, she is quiet, naïve, somewhat fragile. But the reader will see a completely different Annabella, hardened and determined. And instead of a university student, she is manipulated into joining a vigilante organization, which has links to her father.
I have written three more. All based in different locations, part historical and part present; with either a myth or a conspiracy that surrounds the case.
Thank you for your responses, Sharlene! It has been a pleasure knowing something about you and your writing.
If you like the unusual, read Sharlene’s Blood Behind the Castle Walls.
In Hunedoara, Romania, missing girls bodies are found discarded in the forest drained of blood. As the past and present collide, one must question: Did Dracula really exist?
I live in Auckland, New Zealand. A couple of years ago, I self-published two novels, but I now have a publishing contract to republish my first novel.
I have Diplomas in Freelance Journalism, Criminology, and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, a Certificate in Editing and Proofreading, and am currently studying NLP, continuing on to study body language.
I finished my second novel located in Romania, based on the Dracula legend, and the first ever female serial killer–Elizabeth Bathory. The story takes the reader to 2016 where another person mimics her crimes and a man uses an ancient legend to further his dark purpose.
Each book unveils another layer. The historical plot reveals why present day’s events have occurred. The other subplots travel back in time to each character and show how they have become who they are. The books also answers questions left open in previous books.
I have recently finished my fourth novel based on the bubonic plague and the conspiracy theories that surround that event.