Q&A with AA Abbott

Today I’m taking part in the blog tour for Lies At Her Door. I’m sharing my Q&A with the author with thanks to Rachel Gilbey at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me on the blog tour and to AA Abbott for answering my questions!

AA Abbott

Have you always wanted to write?

I guess the thought has bubbled away for most of my life. As a child, I made up tales for my younger siblings. When I was eleven, my English teacher insisted I read out a story in class. This was how I found I could entertain an audience outside my family. I’ve been blown away by the great reviews for my psychological thrillers, so I’m glad I took the plunge to send them out into the world.

What were your previous jobs? Have they helped you with your writing process?

These days, I’m a full-time author, but I used to take temporary jobs so I could earn money and still spend six months of the year writing. I’ve mostly worked in accountancy, but I’ve also been a TV extra, a lab technician and a barmaid. In fact, I’ve done nearly forty jobs in various fields. They not only provided creative inspiration, but writing business reports taught me to use as few words as possible.

What was your inspiration for ‘Lies at Her Door’?

After living near London and in Birmingham, I moved to Bristol, which sits above a honeycomb of tunnels and cellars. On Christmas Day 2020, a cellar collapsed under public gardens in a posh part of the city. Most of the residents nearby had no idea the ground wasn’t solid, but some of the older folk had partied in a similar cellar for the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977. I began to wonder what might happen if a skeleton was found there. It formed the basis for the mystery at the heart of Lies at Her Door.

How do you construct your characters? Do they have traits of people you know?

I prepare two pages of notes on the most important characters before writing a story, with a few sentences for each of the others. I may borrow dialogue, outfits or situations from real life, but I make a deliberate effort to keep my characters fictional. The only exception is where readers volunteer to be included in a story. That’s happened three times. Librarian Jackie Molloy saves a life in ‘The Bride’s Trail’, actor Vimal Korpal helps a young DJ in ‘Bright Lies’, and Sofia Ali feeds the homeless (also in ‘Bright Lies’). In the real world, they’re all people who step in to help others.

What does your writing process look like? Are you a plotter or a pantser?

I am mostly a plotter. In an initial flush of enthusiasm for a story, I usually write a couple of scenes to get a feel for the characters. Then I prepare a plot outline and notes on my characters. Finally, I plan each chapter. Only then do I sit down to write.

When my first draft is as good as I can make it, I ask twenty to thirty beta readers to read it. They are my heroes. As well as correcting mistakes, they suggest a host of improvements. The second draft is almost unrecognisable when it goes to editor Katharine D’Souza for a final polish.

I do 99% of my writing on a laptop. Some authors swear by a handwritten manuscript, but I am not one of them. When I tried writing a chapter by hand, the result was no better or faster than a chapter I’d typed from scratch. I have also dabbled with dictation, which is quick but results in clunky prose (at least from me). Thus, I return time and again to my trusty keyboard. I am currently on my tenth attempt to learn touch typing; wish me luck!

How did you research? Did you enjoy it?

The discovery of a skeleton on Christmas Eve rapidly turns into a murder case, so ‘Lies at Her Door’ features a lot of police work, some of it at the Bridewell police station in Bristol. I have been lucky enough to visit the police station when I was doing charity work, and also when the building was previously rented by a firm of accountants. One of my beta readers recently retired from the local force; she patiently answered copious questions and corrected my manuscript. A couple of forensic specialists explained how the body would be identified, and the time and mode of death established. The key takeaway is that bones can be determined as human within thirty minutes, but it can take weeks to find out whose they are.

Mostly, I carry out research by talking to helpful people. This is very enjoyable, but the most fun I had with research was visiting the Chase vodka distillery in Herefordshire. My Trail series of thrillers is focused on vodka makers and East End gangsters, so I needed to find out more about the business. My top tip if you’re visiting Chase: don’t drive!

Who are your favourite writers? Are you influenced by them?

My favourite writers dream up interesting characters, who then negotiate the twists and turns of a believable plot. Thriller writers I love are Shari Lapena, Linwood Barclay, Barbara Vine and Lucienne Boyce, whose pacy mysteries are set in the 18th century. I also enjoy Guy Gavriel Kay’s historical fantasies.

Am I influenced by them? Yes, as I want my books to be as good as theirs, the kind of stories that make you race to the end. 

If you could invite three people, living or dead, to dinner, who would they be and why?

Richard and Judy! It would be awesome if they picked ‘Lies at Her Door’ for their book club. I’d love to tell them about it, and I’m sure they’d be good company too.

To join us, I’d ask Dawne Archer. She raised funds for Thrombosis UK by trekking through the Sahara Desert, she has a sparkling wit, and dinner with her would be fun and inspiring.

Who would you least like to be stuck in a lift with and why?

A former colleague had bad breath that could gag you at ten paces. Once, we were in a meeting with another fellow, who offered him a mint and then handed him the full tin as a gift. It was very tactfully done.

Who would play the main character/s in a film version of ‘Lies at Her Door’ ? 

I’d love Dakota Fanning to play Lucy, the shy girl who longs for excitement. She gets too much of it as a murder suspect! Robert Pattinson would be suitably suave as Daniel, Lucy’s rock star brother. Finally, Asa Butterfield is guaranteed to shine as the young and ambitious policeman, Neil.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

Reading, of course – it’s one of life’s greatest pleasures. I also like walking, hanging around in coffee bars and wasting far too much time on Facebook. Back in the day, you’d find me socialising over craft beer and cocktails, but now it’s more likely to be a cuppa.

What is next for you?

I’m writing another psychological thriller set in Bristol. Watch this space!

Favourites:

Book? Sailing to Sarantium, by Guy Gavriel Kay.

Film? Soylent Green.

Band/Singer? Annie Lennox.

TV show? Mad Men.

Colour? Blue.

Place? Birmingham. 

Biscuit? McVities Milk Chocolate Digestives (plural).

***

Lies At Her Door is available from Amazon.

You can follow the rest of the blog tour here:

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