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Saturday, September 28, 2013

Author Interview: Rachel Amphlett

Today I am pleased to present to you all the 99th in a series (of 100) of Author Interviews. Recently I sat down with the shoelace-tying, guitar-playing, Rachel Amphlett, and our conversation went something like this:

Paul:  I like to start my interviews by asking if you have any writing rituals?
Rachel:  If I’m not using my laptop to write on, I always use the A5 size moleskine notebooks. They’re a perfect size to carry around or leave on the bedside table for those insomnia-driven writing sessions. The pocket at the back is useful as well – when I was writing my latest thriller, Under Fire, I started a new habit of sketching out scenes on index cards and kept those in the pocket of the notebook so that I was never stuck for something to write about. Pen-wise I’ll use anything if I have to, but I do have a soft spot for .4 nib size felt pens. I’m lucky in that my writing is really neat but a good pen ensures I can go back and check things months after I’ve written it down!

Paul:  What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors? Why?
Rachel:  Obviously I read thrillers, as that’s what I write. My favorite thriller authors are Stephen Leather, Michael Connolly, Robert Crais, James Rollins, Chris Ryan, Lee Child and Daniel Silva.

I have quite wide reading tastes though – like my musical tastes. The bookshelf is about as eclectic as the CD/iPod collection. Other authors I enjoy are Jim Butcher (the Harry Dresden series), Sandra Brown, Ian Rankin, Suzanne Collins (Hunger Games), Steven King, Leo Tolstoy, Charles Dickens – all authors I’ve discovered since being a teenager and I’m always open to recommendations!

Paul:  If someone had the power to step into your creative mind what would they see?
Rachel:  A lot of munchkins running backwards and forwards with bits of paper in their hands, stressing about where to file it for future use…

Paul:  In all the years you’ve been publishing your work, what is the biggest mistake you made that you could share so others can avoid making it? 
Rachel:  When I started Under Fire, I had a really clear idea of what the story was in my head so I just started writing without a plan – HUGE mistake!  By the time the characters had taken over, it had taken a completely different turn so I had to ditch about 10,000 words. I then sat down and did a proper chapter-by-chapter plan which got it back under control.

I’ll always plan out a novel in future before I start writing it!

Paul:  How do you find the time to write?
Rachel:  I need to be disciplined. My new trick is to write on the train into work – I’ve got a 40 minute journey each way and if I manage to wedge myself into a quiet corner of a carriage I can get between 500-1200 words down per session.

I try to write something every day, even if it’s only a few hundred words so I’ll sneak in half an hour each day of a busy weekend, more if it’s quiet. I also suffer from bouts of insomnia so rather than fight it, I’ll sit and write for an hour or so rather than waste the time.

Paul:  What is one thing you hope I do not tell the readers?
Rachel:  I think I was the last kid in my class to learn to tie my shoelaces…

Paul:  Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Rachel:  To elaborate on the planning I implement now, I started properly on my third novel last week but only once I had the whole chapter plan listed out with every single scene drawn up. It’s made it very, very easy to get words on to a page and get the word count up quickly.

I’ve started using Scrivener for the first time with this new novel and by copying and pasting each scene at the top of the chapter I’m working on, I’ve got a quick reference guide to remind me what I’m supposed to be doing.

It doesn’t stop me from changing things around as the story develops – it’s just better to be able to see the knock-on cause and effect of making changes and seeing how the characters will cope.

Paul:  Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Rachel:  I tend to edit grammar and spelling as I go along. I’ve really noticed the quality of my writing jump considerably between book one and book two – it’s more confident. The first structural edit won’t happen until I’m about three-quarters of the way through. Once that’s been done, I tighten up any scenes and then finish the complete manuscript. I always employ a professional editor right at the end before publication because by then I’m oblivious to any typos and bad habits.

Paul:  Do you have to do much research for your stories?
Rachel:  Both White Gold and Under Fire took a lot of research time. Being techno-thrillers, I really had to make sure that I sounded like I knew what I was talking about – in order to bend the facts to fit the story, I had to start off with something plausible. All up, Under Fire took 18 months from start to finish and six months of that was probably made up of researching facts before I could put pen to paper.
With my third novel, I’m taking a break from the techno-thrillers and returning to basics. It’ll still be a thriller, but it means a lot less research, and I’m really enjoying the freedom of writing something like that.

Paul:  What is your most recent book? Tell us a little about it
Rachel:  Under Fire was spawned out of reading an article about the UK’s gas crisis over the winter of 2010. I felt that it wouldn’t be the last time the government found themselves in that situation, and what would happen if someone, or an organization, took advantage of that? Here’s the blurb:-

An explosion rocks a Qatari natural gas facility… a luxury cruise liner capsizes in the Mediterranean… and someone has stolen a submarine…

Are the events connected?

Dan Taylor doesn’t believe in coincidences – all he has to do is convince his superiors they are next in the terrorists’ line of fire.

As Britain enters its worst winter on record, Dan must elude capture to ensure the country’s energy resources are protected. At all costs.

In an action-packed adventure, from the Middle East through the Mediterranean to London, Dan and his team are on a quest which will test every choice he makes. Assisted by the exotic Antonia Almasi, Dan realises he faces an adversary far greater than he ever imagined.

And not everyone is going to survive

A video trailer for the book is on YouTube at:

Paul:  How much marketing do you do for your published works or for your ‘brand’?
Rachel:  I’ve learnt so much since publishing White Gold! I started planning the marketing for Under Fire about 5 months out from its release, drafting press releases, organizing a book trailer to be made, and getting postcards made up with both book covers on which I coerced a few local cafes and independent bookshops to display. I also spent some time re-branding my website earlier this year and I’m really pleased with the results. I do as much as I can around a full-time job and home life – I think the important thing is to recognize your own limitations, and that’s where networking with other authors and readers is so critical to any success. It’s a team effort.

Paul:  What do you do when you’re not writing? Do you have any hobbies or party tricks?
Rachel:  I wish I could spend more time playing guitar – I used to play in bands but the writing (and marketing) takes up all my creative time at the moment. I’m hoping to do some songwriting with a mate of mine towards the end of this year and I’m just going to have to be very disciplined with my spare time so I get the chance to do that.

I love going to the cinema and live music, and I’ve just started learning to ride a motorbike. I should probably learn to calm down a bit but I don’t want to get to my old age and wish I’d done something, so I tend to try and take on everything now – ask anyone who know me!

Paul:  Thanks, Rachel, that was wonderful, and brings a good close to this series of interviews. I wish you every success for the future.

About Rachel Amphlett: Rachel Amphlett previously worked in the UK publishing industry, played lead guitar in rock bands, and worked with BBC radio before relocating from England to Australia in 2005.

After returning to writing, Rachel enjoyed publication success both in Australia and the United Kingdom with her short stories.

In August 2011, Rachel published her first thriller, 'White Gold', as an eBook with a paperback version being released in 2012.

A further Dan Taylor thriller, 'Under Fire', is scheduled for release in August 2013, while two independent projects are currently being researched.

Rachel's Website: Rachel Amphlett
Rachel on Twitter: @RachelAmphlett
Rachel on Facebook: Rachel Amphlett
Rachel's latest book: Under Fire (Amazon)

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