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Tuesday, 8 January 2019

Interview: Sharlene Almond

initiated-to-kill, sharlene-almond, book

I love a good thriller - throw some historical influences into the mix and you've got a book I'm bound to enjoy reading! One book that sounds just like that is Initiated to Kill, a fast-paced thriller from author Sharlene Almond. Sharlene has kindly agreed to stop by The Writing Greyhound and answer a few questions, so read on to find out more!

Firstly, please could you introduce yourself?
Hi, I’m Sharlene Almond, I live in Auckland, New Zealand; currently studying Naturopathic Nutrition and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). 
I’m trained in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Neuro-linguistic Programming, Body Language, and Criminology. Along with Animal Nutrition and Behaviour, Editing and Proofreading, and Freelance Journalism. 
I prefer to study from home as I have Fibromyalgia and Endometriosis; making it easier to study and write my novels on my own schedule.
How did you first become interested in writing?
When I was young and all the way into my teenage years, I was in and out of hospital. However, one thing that I enjoyed when I could do it was writing. I guess I could say it was an escape from everything else that was going on. 
I was home-schooled in my high school years, and my favourite part of any subject I took was to write the essays. It allowed me to learn through writing things in my own words and doing additional research. 
I occasionally attempted to write a novel; however, other things tended to crop up, preventing me from sticking to an actual story. 
When I was about 22 or 23 years old, I decided it was finally time to really commit to writing my first novel – and what followed was my Annabella Cordova series, in which I have written four books in that series.
Tell me about Initiated to Kill.
Initiated to Kill tells the story of an infamous historical serial killer, connecting to present-day events in Seville, Spain. Annabella Cordova quickly becomes embroiled in the conspiracy involving the university she studies at. Her life is turned into chaos when her friend disappears, seven days later a gruesome package is delivered to Andres Valero; the troubled detective, returning from forced leave, only to be faced with horrific crimes that bring his memories to the surface. 
A secret society, an infamous 18th-century murderer, a conspiracy to undermine those in power and a man’s vengeful agenda to achieve what he seeks. An initiation that welcomes those into the Brotherhood, welcomes another that purposes could not have been foreseen. A man initiated to carry out work to fulfil a vendetta deep inside him. A man initiated to kill.
Why did you decide to write in the thriller genre?
Firstly, I love to read thrillers. The twists and turns, the unexpected way the characters develop, the suspenseful way the plot slowly unravels to reveal the person behind it all. 
And that’s why I love to write in that genre. Writing is first and foremost a hobby, so it needed to be something I enjoyed doing. I especially love how even the plot of my own books can surprise even me. I think I know who I want to be the ‘bad guy’; however, more often than not, it all changes. 
In my opinion, thrillers are designed to thrill, to keep the reader itching for more, not wanting to put it down until they find out who the culprit is. 
And I hope that is something I have written as well. 
The novel spans different centuries and countries – was it difficult to keep track of writing on such a grand scale?
Fortunately, I discovered a method that makes it so much easier to keep track of everything. One of my most used tips that I researched when I started writing was the ‘Snowflake Method’. The snowflake method has various steps in the writing process before one even begins writing the novel. 
The part I tend to use the most is the chapter outline in Word Excel. Using that software I can order and reorder the chapters around so I can make sure everything flows together, including the characters, countries and centuries. 
Using that method I can put short paragraphs under the chapters endings, and if one chapter doesn’t seem to flow onto the next, then I just move it around. Even when I am writing, I keep changing the order to make sure it all progresses together.
What’s your writing process?
I first research as much as I can on the plot, location, era, characters etc. I section off a binder with dividers labelled plot, location, characters and so on. That way all my research is easily accessed, without having to search through it all to find something out about the plot, or characters etc. I then move on to the next stage. 
I first start from writing one paragraph that basically sums up the plot without mentioning any characters. Then, I start adding to the one character by including additional aspects to the plot, important characters, the era it is set in and so on. 
This basically means having a 1-page summary of how I want the novel to go. From there, I can do character synopses. Talking about their background, what they look like, why they are there, what do they contribute to the plot etc. These character synopses are more for the main characters, and for me to get to really know the characters I am writing about. 
As I write, I tend to add to my research; subsequently adding to the chapter outline as well. Moving chapters around, and even changing major aspects to the plot and characters. When I do a second and third draft, those tend to include major changes, even with changing the culprit. 
Although this may seem like a bit of a process, I find it focuses my thoughts on what I need to write each day, and what additional research needs to be done. Also, it makes it so much easier to move chapters around on word excel, instead of having to move chapters around after it has already been written.
Tell me about your journey to getting published.
Originally, I actually self-published two of my novels so I could get reviews for them. However, I always sought to be traditionally published. 
I think it was in 2013 that I edited my first novel again, and started contacting publishers for representation. It took awhile, but finally, Whiskey Creek Press said ‘yes’. Working alongside their editor, the finished product finally came out on my mum’s birthday – January 14th 2015.
What’s the hardest thing about writing?
Hmmm, the hardest thing about writing is probably the editing. I enjoy the research and the general part of writing for my novel. However, it is the editing part that can be the most tedious. As I have to focus on everything. 
Which is why I tend to change things around on my second and third drafts, and on my fourth, really focus on the punctuation etc.
sharlene-almond, author

What do you love most about writing?
I love the ability to learn about a range of things. Whether it is certain aspects to my characters – reading body language. The locations in which they are set – Seville, Spain. The history of the historical aspect of my novels, and everything else in between. 
Seen as I tend to have some sought of conspiracy or myth aspect to all my books, I love finding the different things that lead me to uncover possible conspiracies, and how the evidence could point to that theory. 
Writing allows me to escape into another world, another time, and write it out how I want it to start, continue and end. And even then, the ending wasn’t something I anticipated.
Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
My top tip would be don’t write in a genre that is believed to be popular at the time. Write in a genre you love, that you as a writer are passionate about. The Romance genre might be one of the most popular genres; however, if you don’t enjoy writing in that genre, writing will become a chore, it won’t be as enjoyable. And you never know what genre might be popular next. 
Secondly, treat writing as a hobby, something you enjoy doing, so you are motivated to do it often without concentrating on whether you are going to get money from it. If you treat it as a hobby, then it’s a bonus when others like it or want to buy it.
What are you currently working on?
Currently, I am pitching my second novel to publishers. The Legend Returns tells the story of the first female serial killer in history – Elizabeth Bathory, connecting to present-day events in Hunedorea, Romania. In the aftermath of the deaths in Seville, Spain, Annabella Cordova is recruited into a clandestine, vigilante organization. A case comes her way that reminds her of her past. A young girl turns up mutilated, with unusual marks on her neck. 
As more young girls go missing, and tortured bodies found with marks resembling bite marks; history reveals itself through the similarities of a present-day sadistic, female serial killer. Andres Valero and Annabella are reunited again when he is anonymously called in to investigate these deaths. As Annabella comes closer to the truth, she exposes an ancient Roma tradition lead by a sadistic murderer and two psychopaths that are linked to the history of those that made Transylvania, Romania so famous.
What’s your all-time favourite book?
Now, that’s a pretty hard question to answer, there are so many! The Stranger You Seek by Amanda Kyle Williams is one. The Death Collectors is definitely right up at the top by Jack Kerley. 
And finally, one of my most favourite books that aren’t in the thriller genre is The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. I highly recommend this book as it gives life insights that are applicable to everyone.
What are your ambitions for your writing career?
I would love to have all my Annabella Cordova novels traditionally published. Admittedly, I’m not really drawn to the publicity side of things – television, radio etc. I would just like a modest income from them, and continue writing books that hopefully a wide range of people will enjoy. 
I have also written a New Zealand travel e-book called Journey to Little Paradise. And I have written a range of health articles and animal health articles that I would like to appear on other health blogs or magazines etc. 
Basically, anything that enables me to keep writing while making a modest income from it will be ideal.
Initiated to Kill is available to buy now. For more about Sharlene and her writing, check out her blog or follow her on Twitter.

Will you be grabbing a copy of the book? Let me know in the comments below!

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