Interview with AJ Waines
for Louise Mullins
Following fifteen years as a psychotherapist, AJ Waines wrote her first novel and became an international bestselling author. She’s been featured in The Wall Street Journal and The Times and been ranked a Top 10 UK author on Amazon KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing). Now writing full-time, she has publishing deals in UK, France, Germany, Norway, Hungary and USA. She was recently offered a two-book deal with Bloodhound Books to include her latest book, Don’t You Dare, which comes out on May 8th. I caught up with her to find out more about her life.
When did you start writing? I’m not one of those people who always wanted to be an author and I failed my English literature GCSE, which was a bit of a shock at the time. I’ve always loved writing essays and had two self-help books published, but didn’t try any fiction until 2008, when I thought I’d try a short story and ending up writing a whole novel. It got me a top agent in London, so that really spurred me on!
Childhood ambition I trained as a child in classical music – cello and piano, and went to music college, although I really hated it and swapped to do a degree and then MA in Music. I loved reading and used to binge read on anything by Enid Blyton and Bunty picture-story comic books that were popular when I was about 10 years old.
Road not travelled In my teens, I thought I’d be a professional orchestral cellist, but after I left the Royal Northern College of Music, I knew the lifestyle wasn’t right for me. I’ve played in all the big concert halls in London; Royal Festival Hall, Barbican, Albert Hall, which has been thrilling, but I also knew ultimately, I wasn’t good enough to get into the orchestras I admired.
Earliest Memory: I fell out of a car window when I was two years old. Fortunately, it was stationary in the drive! I can picture the whole thing, but think I remember my parents telling me about it rather than the event itself though, but I’ve always been fascinated, as a psychotherapist, by the vagaries of our memories.
Formative Experiences: When I look back, my love of reading as a child, the fact my mum was never without a crime fiction book on her lap and my decision to be a psychotherapist in my thirties, are probably the most important factors in my author ‘journey’. I’ve always loved keeping a journal (I even wrote a book about it, The Self-Esteem Journal) and in my therapy work was privileged to be able to step inside the minds of so many clients to find out how they ticked. It’s amazing raw material to transform into psyche thrillers.
Breakthrough After I’d had a crack at writing my first short story (which turned into a novel), my brother-in-law suggested I try to get an agent and I was utterly amazed when, soon after, I was snapped up! Sadly, the book didn’t get a publisher and I was unceremoniously dropped, leaving me gutted. But I picked myself up and got another agent and carried on from there. It’s been a big learning curve and roller coaster ride since then. Don’t you Dare is my seventh novel and I’ve become a ‘hybrid’ author who is both traditionally and self-published. I’m hooked now and can’t see myself doing anything else.
Relaxation I get very restless when I’m not working on a book in some way, but as I have RSI as well as osteoarthritis, I’ve had to force myself to take breaks. I love walking in nature (especially by the water), I like keeping my garden flourishing and adore going to films. Meals out (my husband and I have taken to having breakfast out lately, so we get the rest of the day somewhere beautiful) and I enjoy yoga and reading (of course).
Which Films do you prefer: I’m not so fond of the big Hollywood action or blockbuster movies, preferring smaller foreign films with subtitles instead. A selection of my favourites would be: Let the Right One In (Swedish), Harry He’s Here to Help (French), Tell No One (Harlan Coben’s book, in French), and recently the spellbinding, Phantom Thread (USA).
And your Musical Tastes? They’re very broad, from Philip Glass to Pet Shop Boys! I studied Shostakovitch in my Master’s degree and find his music deeply moving, but I also love Rachmaninov, Chopin piano music, Brahms and virtually any requiem. I was lucky enough to perform the Elgar cello concerto when I was 21, which was incredible to do. I can’t listen to music when I’m writing, it’s too distracting, but if I’m doing my admin or accounts, I can. Yesterday, I listened to Scriabin second piano concerto – it’s sublime.
Favourite item in wardrobe: I have a little cerise velvety miniskirt which I wear summer and winter, it’s so versatile – great with sandals or woolly tights and riding boots.
Career Highlight: Reaching Number One on Amazon in the UK and Australia with Girl on a Train was very special - it happened in two consecutive years. But it’s also hard to top selling 30,000 copies (No Longer Safe) in the first month or being showcased next to HG Wells on my agent’s website! I’ve been very lucky.
Latest Book: In my new Psychological thriller, Don’t You Dare, a misunderstanding leaves a mother and daughter trapped in a terrible dilemma that will affect their lives forever. Neither of them plans to commit a crime, but something awful takes place that sends their lives spiralling out of control. The tension in the book comes from the different ways in which they handle what they’ve done. Who is going to keep their nerve? Who’ll be the first to crack? It’s a nail-biting ride and perfect (I hope) for fans of Ruth Ware, C.L Taylor and Clare Mackintosh
AJ Waines latest book, Don’t You Dare, is published by Bloodhound Books on May 8th and is available to PRE-ORDER now from all Amazon outlets. Find AJ Waines’ books here, visit her website and blog, or join her on Twitter, Facebook or get her Newsletter.
Book link for Don't you Dare: