Today we are joined by British corporate thriller writer, A A Abbott (given name: Helen Blenkinsop) read along as she talks about life, daydreams and writing.
A A Abbott
1. Helen, thank you again for granting us this interview. Could you tell us what A A Abbott’s writing process look like?
There’s a lot of daydreaming before I sketch out a plot. This doesn’t take long for a short story. For a novel, it takes months. I prepare character sheets and a detailed chapter plan before actually writing the book. Once I’ve finished writing, I’ll take short stories to my writers’ circle for a critique and give draft novels to beta readers.
2. Do you have any strange writing habits?
I find a box of chocolates an excellent aid to concentration. However, I use this technique sparingly.
3. What book do you wish you could have written?
Park Life by Katharine d’Souza.
4. Just as your books inspire authors, what authors have inspired you to write?
Arthur Hailey, who came from the same small hometown and whose blockbusters featured in airport shops everywhere in the 1980s.
5. If you could cast your characters in the Hollywood/England/Australian adaptation of your book, who would play your characters?
These hot British, Irish and American actors would be perfect for corporate thriller ‘After The Interview’
Lonely geek Jed Gardner – Tom Hiddleston
Ambitious Andrew Aycliffe – Cillian Murphy
Troubled Boris Brooks – Sean Astin
Musician Melissa Stevens – Sienna Miller
6. How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning? Do you have any name choosing resources you recommend?
I choose names appropriate for my characters’ age, social class and nationality. Google is my friend – and also my beta readers!
7. What do you consider to be your best accomplishment?
Publishing two corporate thrillers in two years.
8. That is a great accomplishment. So where do you see A A Abbott in 10 years?
I’ll have another 10 thrillers under my belt.
9. Were you already a great writer? Have you always like to write?
I used to enthrall my four younger siblings by making up stories for them. I guess if I’ve entertained readers with my work, it’s a job well done.
10. What writing advice do you have for other aspiring authors?
Spend time upfront making sure you’re happy with your plot before launching into writing. It’ll save you time later – far less of your work will end up on the cutting room floor.
11. If you didn’t like writing books, what would you do for a living?
I also do interim (contract) work as a tax accountant. It’s not just about counting numbers, it’s about communicating them. It really helps to be a clear writer.
12. Are you a plotter or a pantster? (Write by the seat of your pants)
Definitely a plotter. I learned the hard way when I had to cut 40,000 words from the first, unfinished version of Up In Smoke. I find planning a novel in detail really challenging, but worth it. When I then write the book, it’s much easier, it already has suspense and pace, and it needs less editing.
13. Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? And do you have any advice on how to deal with the bad?
Yes, I read them, and I’m pleased they’re overwhelmingly great reviews! I don’t respond because each one is a very personal opinion. I can’t fail to be moved, though. One of the reviewers of my first book, Up In Smoke, mentioned he’d watched a close relative die of lung cancer. I really respect him for sharing that.
14. What is your best marketing tip?
Tell everyone you know that you’ve published a book. Talk to them, email them, invite them to the launch party!
15. What is your least favorite part of the publishing / writing process?
I paint with words, not pictures, so I’m happy to let the lovely Anna Hurl design my book covers.
16. Is there one subject you would never write about as an author? What is it?
I’d never turn someone I know into a character in my books. Of course, if they ask me to, that’s different! A hotshot lawyer friend requested a cameo part in Up In Smoke, and I obliged – then he claimed he didn’t recognize himself!
17. How has living in this new Global world where we can communicate across oceans instantly changed how you perceive those in other countries? Do you feel this has helped or hindered your growth as a writer and as a citizen of your own country?
It’s been great to “meet” people from all over the world via social media. Also, the digital world keeps me in touch with other parts of the UK. I live near the sea, in Bristol, but I often travel to the buzzy city of Birmingham and of course, our fair capital, London – now I can find out what’s going on there online as well.
18. Is there a certain type of scene that’s harder for you to write than others? Love? Action? Racy?
Racy scenes are challenging. I don’t have personal experience of everything I write about! I do research online and by asking around.
19. Is this your first book? How many books have you written prior?
I’ve written two corporate thrillers. My first was Up In Smoke, about Big Tobacco. My second, After The Interview, is about high-flyers and heady emotions in IT. Geeks have hearts too.
20. What are you working on now? What is your next project?
My third corporate thriller, which moves from the City of London to a missing person search and shoot-out in Birmingham. Again, it’s fast-paced and hooks readers with the characters’ emotions.
The following are some crazy questions that no one ever asks Authors, funny thing though these are the ones my readers relate to most.
1. What is your biggest failure?
It took two goes at my driving test. I was so confident I’d pass the first time, I’d booked a vacation with the intention of going on a road trip. Needless to say, that was postponed to the following year!
2. How has all the time you invest in others (IE: Wrtiers 750, and the various linkedIn groups to which you are a constant contributor) Helped or hindered you in your own writing journey?
I love the monthly short story competition in the Writers 750 group. It’s fun to do, and writing to a very tight word limit is a good discipline for making every word count.
3. Characters often find themselves in situations they aren’t sure they can get themselves out of. When was the last time you found yourself in a situation that was hard to get out of and what did you do?
I write children’s short stories as a charity auction prize. I promised the last one would be written in time for Christmas but (after repeated chasing) the auctioneer only gave me the winning bidder’s name on Christmas Eve! I emailed her and offered to drop everything to write it there and then, but luckily I didn’t have to – she wanted it done for January.
4. What is your biggest fear?
Being penniless. Should I have chosen a writer’s life? You decide!
5. What do you want your tombstone to say?
I love the late Spike Milligan’s epitaph: “I told you I was ill”
6. If you had a superpower, what would it be?
There are so many desirable superpowers to choose from. Turning into that fly on the wall would be fun – as long as I didn’t get squashed!
7. If you were a super hero, what would your name be? What costume would you wear?
Super Helen! A little black dress with wings would be rather fetching.
8. What literary character is most like you?
A strong female character like Eowyn in Lord of the Rings.
Miranda Otto as Eowyn from “The Lord of the Rings”
9. What secret talents do you have?
I mix a great Bloody Mary.
10. Where is one place you want to visit that you haven’t been before?
New York City.
11. If you were an animal in a zoo, what would you be?
A winter wolf.
A A Abbott’s Alter Ego
12. What is something you want to accomplish before you die?
I’d like to see my thrillers on the bestsellers list.
13. If you could have any accents from anywhere in the world, what would you choose?
A slightly posher version of my own English accent would do very nicely indeed, thank you.
14. What were you like as a child? Your favorite toy?
As a child, I loved having fun and making up stories – so what has changed? I adored a rather scary doll called Wisha Wollopop; it was a figure made entirely out of blue fur except for its dollish babyface.
15. Do you dream? Do you have any recurring dreams/nightmares?
I’m always entertained by my dreams, which appear in full glorious Technicolor with sound effects. Many years ago, I used a really vivid dream to begin a crime thriller. Sadly, I never finished it – but it may happen one day. Watch this space!
Helen, thank you so much for the interview and the insights to a successful authors life. I am sure our readers will be as fascinated as we were with your candid answers.
You can find more information about Helen Blenkinsop and her alter ego “A A Abbott” on her website and don’t forget to follow and like on social media!