Wednesday 29 January 2020

Confessions of a Suspense Author - Guest Post Zoe Lea

Continuing my 'psychological thriller author' series, I'd like to welcome the lovely Zoe Lea to my blog. Zoe is an author who first came to my attention on Instagram due to the wonderful photographs she posts, all set in the beautiful Lake District where she lives and writes. Loving this part of the country myself, I couldn't wait to ask Zoe some questions.

You’ve written two psychological thrillers. Have you always written in this genre?

The first time I tried to write a book it was for young adults and it was bad, really bad. I wrote several of these that were unsuccessful until an agent said that the book I was writing would be better suited to an adult audience. I gave that a go and it kind of went from there.

Could you describe ‘If He Wakes’ in three words?

Twisty. Page-turning. Shocking.

You live in the beautiful Lake District where my own thriller is set. How important do you think setting is to a novel?

Hugely. And it was something that I overlooked for such a long time, but I think setting is almost like another character in the novel. It sets the tone and atmosphere of the book; it gives the reader indications as to how everything builds. Without a good setting, I think a novel can become two dimensional.

Do you remember where you were and what you were doing when the idea for your latest novel came to you?

Not so much with The Secretary, I’d had an idea batting about for a while about a woman who does little acts of revenge on people she feels have wronged her. I think it was actually whilst on a school run that I thought a primary school would make an excellent setting!

Are you a plotter or a pantster and how long does it take you to write your thrillers?

I used to be a pantster and I love that way of writing, but it doesn’t work for me in the long run. I keep forgetting this and start giddily writing each novel as soon as I get a spark of an idea, but I need to have a good plan. I need to think about the plot and so, I usually get half way through a novel and then have to start planning which is not ideal at all. Because of this, it takes me a stupidly long time to write a thriller, but I’m working on it!

Could you describe your typical writing day?

As well as being an author, I also run a business so I don’t really have a typical writing day. But usually, my writing will happen either early morning or late afternoon, or on my lunch-break depending how the book is going, so it can vary from day to day.

I’m sure my readers would love to hear about your road to publication. Was it long and winding or did you take a short cut?

Oh it was a long road! I’ve been writing for years, but mostly short stories. I didn’t have the confidence to write a book for the longest time. Then it was YA books and then, with my first stab at an adult book I went on a Curtis Brown online course. That was invaluable, not only because of the advice and support I got, but because it made my attitude shift towards myself as a writer. I began to think I could actually do it. I got an agent from the novel that I started on the course and after several rewrites, got my deal with Canelo and now I’m working with Piatkus

You post great pictures on Instagram. How important do you think social media is to an author?

Hmmm, that’s a tricky one. I think it can be a really useful tool to building up an audience and community who know you and this can be wonderful for when you have a new book out or a deal that you want to announce. However, it takes a lot of time and can suck the life out of you if you’re not careful. I do Instagram because I adore it, it’s a hobby for me, a way of connecting with my readers and sharing my life as well as getting a peak into the lives of others, but I have to be careful it doesn’t take time away from my writing. If you’re an author, the main job is writing books, not spending ages on social media, and I think it’s important to remember that at all times!

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I love being outdoors. I try to get a hike in every weekend if I can with the family. I’m also starting to really enjoy cooking, which is a novelty for me as I’ve hated it in the past, but recently I’ve found a new love for it.

What does your family think of your writing?

They are immensely proud. My teenage son showing off my book to his mates was a joy to witness, and my husband, who is my writing rock, is delighted. He shares my every high and low and I absolutely would not be able to do it without his unwavering support.

But something quite pivotal happened when I got my proofs of The Secretary. I took a copy to my parents, who have been my biggest cheerleaders and supporters since I was a kid. Having a tangible book I could give them was a momentous thing in my head as I’d dreamed of handing a finished book to my parents for so long.

At the time I was going through a really rocky patch, I was full of self-doubt and as I handed the book to my dad, I said, ‘Finally, I did it. After all that time.’ And he hugged me and said, ‘love, we’re not suddenly proud just because of this book, we’ve always been proud of you.’
And it changed my perception of the whole process.

I think, when you’ve been chasing a dream for a long time, it can become an insurmountable goal that becomes more than it actually is. My dad’s comment that day taught me not to put so much pressure on the outcome, it reminded me that I write because I love it, and that’s so important to keep hold off as you go through the publishing process. So, my family are forever the wisest, best and most brilliant council I could ask for.

What next for Zoe Lea?

I’m just in the process of completing my next novel, The Influencer. It’s about a social media queen who gets involved in the case of a missing teenager. After that, more writing, more novels but I have no idea as yet as to what they’ll be!

Zoe Lea lives in the Lake District, UK with her husband, two children, dogs and peregrine falcons. As well as writing, she helps manage an animal tracking company used for raptors and other wildlife. She's previously worked as a teacher, photographer and in the television industry, but writing has always been her passion. She is currently working on her next novel.


Wednesday 22 January 2020

My Road to Publication - Guest Post Lesley Sanderson

I'm always fascinated to hear about the writing journeys of authors. This week, as part of my continuing 'Psychological Thriller Writers series', author Lesley Sanderson tells me about her road to publication. Lesley's third novel, The Leaving Party, will be published by Bookouture on 31st January.

Over to you, Lesley.

Thank you Wendy for inviting me to your blog. I’m sharing my writing journey here with you as these are the posts I read avidly about my favourite authors!

Like many writers, books defined my childhood. My happiest memories are of being ensconced with a Malory Towers under the bedclothes or those moments when the children’s librarian in the public library produced a new book from her magic cupboard for me. Age fifteen, I was working as a Saturday assistant for Islington Libraries and despite following my other passion for languages and completing a French degree I gravitated back to libraries where I have worked ever since, eventually switching from public to school libraries. Consequently, I have spent most of my working life surrounded by books. Psychological thrillers and crime have always been my favourite genre and I attended author talks and festivals as an avid fan.

I’ve always loved writing; as a child I wrote poems and plays and forced my friends to perform them! I filled exercise books at primary school with ‘novels’. Every now and then I’d attempt a short story, or a novel but lacked confidence and abandoned these projects. As a school librarian I’d chat to visiting authors who often mentioned doing courses had helped them get started.

In around 2011 I changed my working hours from all year round to term time only and decided to make the school holidays count with a serious attempt at writing. This time, once I started I couldn’t stop. The single thing that kickstarted me was entering the Grazia First Chapter competition. I didn’t get shortlisted but I asked for feedback and was told ‘you can certainly write.’ That single sentence gave me the confidence I needed to pursue writing seriously and I was off!

I took a course in Writing for Children and began writing YA fiction. By this time I was keen to get an agent and was receiving the usual rejections - each one stabbed at my soul! Being an impatient person I self published four YA books as I knew I’d have a ready audience in my school library. The students liked the books and this motivated me to keep going. One of the most important aspects of the course was linking up with other writers, and I formed a group with three others. At some point we all switched to writing for adults. In 2015 I wrote the beginning of a psychological thriller and was accepted onto the Curtis Brown six month novel writing course.

In 2017 I entered the Lucy Cavendish prize and was shortlisted which was the most exciting experience of my career and the whole experience was lovely. The extracts we entered were displayed on the website and the day after the winner was announced (not me!) I was contacted by Hayley Steed from the Madeleine Milburn agency asking me if I’d like to submit to them. Would I?! My book was by no means complete but she still wanted to see it (defying all the advice I’d been given about submitting to agents!). Three weeks later I was offered representation and I could finally say those words ‘I’ve got an agent’! This culminated in offers from Bookouture and Audible and my first book The Orchid Girls was published in 2018. My second book The Woman at 46 Heath Street was published lin 2019 and I signed another two book contract. My third book The Leaving Party is published on 31st January 2020 - in ten days time and book 4 will follow in June.

Having my books published has been wonderful. I’ve discovered I love the editing process and working with Bookouture which has a fast turnaround I’ve become much better at planning my books. Instead of making it up as I go along I work through the synopsis with my editor and we plan it together so that when it comes to writing I have a detailed structure to follow. The magic of writing still happens - twists and turns come to me as I write and lead the characters in surprising directions. For me the best part happens after the first draft when I can pull the draft apart and make it work, adding clues and red herrings and extra twists.

Yesterday I received a comment from a reader on social media saying: ‘Love your books! Pre-ordered.’

This is what makes all the effort worthwhile. My favourite authors give me so much joy with their books and to be able to do the same is a gift. To all aspiring writers I’d advise to just keep on working at it and you will get there eventually; I never thought it would happen to me!

Lesley spends her days writing in coffee shops in Kings Cross where she lives and also works as a librarian in a multicultural school. She loves the atmosphere and eclectic mix of people in the area. She has lived and worked in Paris and speaks four languages.

She attended the Curtis Brown Creative novel writing course in 2015/6, and in 2017 was shortlisted for the Lucy Cavendish fiction prize.

Lesley discovered Patricia Highsmith as a teenager and has since been hooked on psychological thrillers. She is particularly interested in the psychology of female relationships. The Leaving Party is her third psychological thriller.

Pre-order your copy of The Leaving Party here 

Find out more about Lesley on her website here

Visit Lesley's Facebook author page here

Wednesday 15 January 2020

Your Truth or Mine - Guest Post Trisha Sakhlecha

Continuing my psychological thriller series, I'm delighted to welcome the lovely Trisha Sakhlecha to my blog. Trisha's debut Your Truth or Mine (don't you just love that title?) was published in June last year and I've been dying to find out how this thriller writer goes about the writing process. I love these interviews as every author has been so very different.

Your Truth or Mine is your debut novel. Do you remember where you were and what you were doing when the idea for your thriller came to you?

I wish I did, but it doesn’t usually work like that for me. There’s very rarely a single moment of inspiration, it’s more like a slow building and layering of lots of ideas and themes. With Your Truth or Mine?, my starting point was a single image: a happily married woman discovering that her ‘perfect’ husband had been having an affair. The characters had been living in my head for a while at that point and I knew early on that I wanted to write about the shock of infidelity in a marriage in which one partner’s version of the truth completely contradicts the other’s and the subtle, and often crippling, forms of emotional and psychological control that can go unnoticed, all of which is brought into sharp focus as the protagonists find themselves enmeshed in an investigation.

Could you describe your novel in a sentence?

When a young woman goes missing, an expat couple are forced to confront uncomfortable truths about their relationship and all the lies and secrets it conceals.

Have you always wanted to write in the psychological thriller genre?

When I started writing Your Truth or Mine? I had no idea what genre it would fit into. All I knew back then was that I was writing a novel about a toxic, dysfunctional marriage that had layers of lies and deceits woven through it. It was only once I finished the first draft that I realised that what I had in my hands had the potential to be a psychological thriller. But looking at it in hindsight and considering how dark and twisted I like my plots, I can’t imagine writing anything other than psychological thrillers!

Are you a plotter or a pantster and how long did it take you to write your thriller?

I think I’m a bit of both. I usually have the main beats mapped out – the big reveals and twists -  and I do a very vague outline, but other than that, I like to discover the story as I work through the first draft. If my characters don’t surprise me, I doubt they’ll be able to surprise my readers. I NEVER know the ending until I’ve written it. The first draft usually takes me between five to six months, then there’s a couple of months of edits.

What did you find hardest and what easiest when writing Your Truth or Mine?

Your Truth or Mine? isn’t just my first published novel, it was my first attempt at writing fiction, so I think the hardest part was getting to grips with the rules and the conformations of writing fiction – I’d never even considered things like the three act structure or pacing and tension before. It was a very steep learning curve.

The easiest part, ironically, was writing the actual first draft - knowing so little about the craft meant I had complete freedom to make so many really, really obvious mistakes and just have fun with the process.

Can you describe what you were doing and your emotions when you heard Your Truth or Mine had found a publisher?

I was shopping at IKEA with my Mum when the very first offer came through. I was pushing a trolley stacked with flat pack furniture when I heard my phone ping. There had been a lot of back and forth with publishers that week and I knew even before I’d looked at my phone that it was my agent. Typically, my signal dropped out before the email could finish loading, so all I could see was the subject line with the word ‘Offer’ in it. I remember abandoning my shopping trolley - and my very bewildered mother - in one of those massive aisles and running around IKEA like a mad woman trying to find cell signal!

Have you always wanted to be a writer?

Yes! Though it wasn’t until I showed the finished first draft of Your Truth or Mine? to a few writer friends that I dared to dream about being a published writer.

Could you describe your typical writing day?

When I’m writing the first draft, my writing day begins at 5am. I tend to go straight to the draft and write for a solid hour or so, before going back to sleep. I find that writing that early in the morning when I’m not even fully awake lets me tap into my subconscious and write more freely – and quickly - than I do later on in the day. It helps that I’m really just desperate to go back to bed but I do usually manage to get the bare bones of the scene or chapter I’m working on down in that time. I go back to my desk around 9.30-10am and spend a few hours reworking whatever I wrote in the morning, building in the layers, adding description, refining the dialogue etc. I usually finish by 2pm.

When I’m editing though, I find afternoons better and I’ll usually start around midday and work until late into the night.

What next for Trisha Sakhlecha?

I’m waiting on line edits for my second psychological thriller, Can You See Me Now? which is due to be published later this year and working on the first draft of book 3.

Trisha Sakhlecha grew up in New Delhi and now lives in London. She works in fashion and is a graduate of the acclaimed Faber Academy writing course. In the past, Trisha has worked as a designer, trend forecaster, and lecturer. Your Truth or Mine? is her first novel.

You can buy Your Truth or Mine: Amazon

Find out more about Trisha here:  Instagram   Twitter

Wednesday 8 January 2020

The Truth Waits - Guest Post Susanna Beard

Continuing my 'Psychological Thriller Author' series, I'm delighted to welcome Susanna Beard to my blog, Wendy's Writing Now. Susanna has had two thrillers published by Legend Press, Dare to Remember and The Truth Waits. I couldn't wait to ask her some questions... here are her answers.

You’ve written two psychological thrillers. Have you always written in this genre?

Yes! These are my first two books, ever. With Dare to Remember, my debut, I had no idea what genre I was writing in — I was just writing the story that came to me. But when I wrote The Truth Waits I set out to write a psychological thriller, as they were very much front-of-mind for editors at the time, and I knew I would enjoy the process. My next two books are more in the suspense category, though I suppose it depends how you define a genre!

Do you remember where you were and what you were doing when the idea for your latest novel came to you?

Yes — the one I’m currently writing came from a charity lunch: not something I do very often! The speaker was from a charity that focuses on modern slavery; she spoke passionately about the horrors that some people are forced to endure. It occurred to me that modern slavery is often a hidden crime and hard to identify, and that it would make a very good story. I would also like to raise awareness of the issue, which can only be a good thing.

Your second novel, The Truth Waits, is partly set in Lithuania. How important is setting in
helping to build suspense?

In The Truth Waits, setting is really important. The story starts with a body on a beach, and I felt the beach itself needed to be remote, quiet and threatening rather than sunny, beautiful, and full of tourists. My first idea was Sicily, but I soon realised that wasn’t going to work – it has too many associations with beach holidays and beautiful scenery. Also, British people tend not to know much about Lithuania, which added to the sense of mystery.

I visited the beach I used in the book – it’s on the Kuronian Spit on the Baltic Sea. It was just perfect: totally unspoilt, long empty sands, lowering skies, a strong wind, and a dark forest flanking the beach. I also set the beginning of the book in March, when the weather there is cold and miserable, which added to the atmosphere.

Using setting as a strong metaphor in this book has convinced me of the importance of place and time in drawing the reader into a story.

What three words would best describe your latest novel?

The Truth Waits is my most recently published novel. It’s dark, suspenseful and gripping!

In a psychological thriller, how important is it to have ‘likeable’ characters?

Good question! I don’t know about likeable, but I think there needs to be a main character that readers care about. She/he can be flawed, annoying, frustrating — but she must also have a background or other characteristics that make her compelling. I think there needs to be an element of surprise with the characters in a psychological thriller: something unexpected that emerges as the story unfolds.

Are you a plotter or a pantster and how long does it take you to write your thrillers?

Here’s the thing. I’m by nature a pantster, but it hasn’t taken many books for me to realise that that’s not a good thing — for me. My first novel took about two years, start to finish, while The Truth Waits took almost three. The reason it took longer was because I got to the half-way point and realised I didn’t know what the ending was going to be! It took a lot of teeth-gnashing and hair-pulling, and at least three different endings, before I settled on the right one.

So nowadays I’m planning. I find it quite difficult, but for me, the ending must be clear before I can write the story. And you can always change your plan, or refine it as you go along; if a new, brilliant idea comes to you as you’re writing, so much the better!

Also, I know that having a properly worked-out plan in place will help me concentrate on the writing rather than angsting about the plot. A much more satisfying process!

Could you describe your typical writing day?

I’ve been a PR consultant for many years and still have some PR work, so I tend to get that done first in the day – after the dog walk, of course! I check social media and marketing first thing as well, and deal with any deadlines that are coming up. Then I get down to the writing or editing work.

I almost always work through lunchtime (I might have a snack at my desk) and when I can, I take a break to go swimming. The walking and swimming help me think about my plot and my characters, particularly if I’m a bit stuck.

When I’m writing a first draft, I try to write 1-2,000 words a day – the job gets done remarkably quickly that way (as long as I have a plan!). Editing takes a long time, and much thinking goes into it. Towards the end of the afternoon I walk the dogs again, and then read for a couple of hours, which feels like a treat, especially if I’ve had a satisfying day writing.

I’m sure my readers would love to hear a little about your road to publication. Was it straightforward?

I started late in life, though it was always part of the plan (!). My career in PR meant that I was writing almost every day, so I suppose the ‘writing switch’ was already on when I decided to take the plunge and write a novel. I was already working from home, too, which helped. I took the Faber Academy Writing a Novel course, which was the best thing I’ve ever done. I got a number of rejections, as most authors do, and for a while I wondered if it was going to happen, but to my surprise my first novel got me an agent and a publisher!

What aspects of writing psychological thrillers do you find easiest and hardest?

The easiest bit, for me, is the first draft. It’s fun, and exciting, and as long as I know where I’m taking it, I like the intellectual challenge. It’s like filling in the gaps in a jigsaw.

Have you ever considered giving up writing?

I feel like I’ve only just started, so no. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, and in some ways I wish I’d started earlier. I’d like to keep writing for as long as possible!

What next for Susanna Beard?

My third novel is with my agent now; my fourth is undergoing an overhaul and my fifth is well under way! It feels great to have a body of work under my belt, and I’m hoping and intending that each one is better than the last – that way I’ll definitely have a best-seller one day. Fingers crossed!

You can buy both of Susanna's novels here

Susanna is fascinated by human relationships. She can be found people-watching wherever she goes, finding material for her writing. Despite the writer’s life, she has an adventurous streak and has swum with whale sharks in Australia, fallen down a crevasse in the French Alps and walked through the sewers of Brighton - not in that order.

Her passions include animals — particularly her dogs — walking in the countryside and tennis, which clears her brain of pretty much everything.

Susanna’s debut novel, Dare to Remember, was published in February 2017, and her second, The Truth Waits, launched on 1 November 2018. Both are published by Legend Press. She aims to keep writing, and never to get old.

Visit Susanna at, email her on,

Like her page on Facebook: @susannabeardauthor
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