Hello Tania, what originally inspired you to write thrillers?
It’s the genre I read and love the most, so it felt natural for me to write crime thrillers. I like writing novels that are gritty. I want to wince when someone meets a ‘sticky end’, and I want to feel unnerved. I want to be able to feel the sense of impending danger and the fear, and that’s what I try to convey in my novels. I guess I write a novel that I’d like to read.
DCI Claire Winters is a complex character. Do you like her and do you think she shares any traits with yourself?
Excellent question and one I get asked a lot. I think every author puts a little of themselves into their main characters, whether it be a conscious decision or otherwise.
There are definitely traits of myself in Claire. Personality-wise, like Claire, I’m feisty. I have no trouble speaking my mind and fighting my corner, but I would never dream of being as rude as Claire can be (unless someone gives me cause to be!). I don’t always take things at face value. Sometimes I see things in others that someone else would miss, and nine times out of ten my intuition turns out to be right, and that is one of Claire’s traits that can be an asset.
I’m not a push-over, and I never wanted my main character to be either, and that’s something I admire in people, so I do like Claire. She’s driven, but this can come across as arrogant and ruthless. (I’m neither, by the way!) Yes, she can rub people the wrong way, but I try to balance it. She has her reasons for being the way she is and more will become clear as the series progresses. She has a good heart and for the most part, she’s loyal once her trust is earned. Like me, she’ll fight your corner and could be your most trusted friend. Equally, she’s not someone you’d want as an enemy that’s for sure. Don’t cross her!
Your novels keep the readers on their toes. How do you achieve a good pace in your plot?
With crime you have to remind yourself that the central investigation is the backbone of the novel. All the ‘flesh’ around that ‘backbone’ has to be relevant. Once I’ve written the first draft I look to see what could be cut. If any scenes fail to offer real character development, or add colour to the story, it needs to be cut. With police procedurals in particular, pace is so important. The reader has to be completely immersed in the story to want to keep turning the pages until they find out who the killer is. As an author you hope the reader won’t be able to put the book down until they do. If I feel like the manuscript is flagging at any point whilst reading it through, then I know it needs addressing and I won’t send anything out until I know I’ve (hopefully) got it right.
With my second novel, ‘The Principle of Evil’, I had some excellent advice from Keshini Naidoo, the crime/thriller reader at Darley Anderson Literary Agency. She used to be an editor at HarperCollins. She read the original MS when it was a (huge) 145,000 words. She offered me some sound advice about trimming the novel because 145k words would greatly impact whether a publisher would take it on, and said the pace suffered as a result of the overall length, and she was right.
Keshini offered to read the full MS again after it had been trimmed to around 100,000 words, and despite not taking the submission to the next stage, she was very complementary. I then went on to receive four more full manuscript requests from different agents.
The covers for your books are fantastic. I gather you designed them yourself. How did you come up with the design and can you recommend any software to do this successfully as advice for an aspiring author?
Thank you. The covers are testament to what can be achieved using Photoshop. I started using Photoshop in 2006 and spent hours teaching myself how to use it. It wasn’t easy but I did enjoy it.
With both my novels I started making a list of the themes and anything symbolic that would best represent the novel.
‘For All Our Sins’, for instance, had to feature a priest since the death of a priest is integral to the story. And blood. I have to have blood somewhere! My Dad was kind enough to let me photograph him in my husband’s hooded winter coat. What started off as a ‘stock’ image was then manipulated in Photoshop. It’s a powerful piece of software. Playing around with the colour tones, lighting and layering techniques finally created the image on the cover today.
Similarly with the second novel, ‘The Principe of Evil’, I used my husband’s face in the woman’s hair. The dark grass and ice effect at the bottom of the image, which is supposed to be frozen water, very relevant to the novel, was painted in using the various brushes in Photoshop and a texture layer using a photograph of real ice.
Designing your own cover is not always possible, (or wise, if you can’t even draw stick men!) My advice would be to seek a professional if needed. The cover is so important as it’s the first thing a reader will see, and in the self-publishing world you have to stand out. A quality professional looking cover is a must if you can afford it. If your budget is limited, you could look at the artists on Deviant Art. There might be a student very willing to take on a commission for a fair price.
Many thanks for the excellent advice. Best of luck with your writing Tania!
Tania, I know you have recently obtained the rights back of your debut novel, ‘For all our Sins’ and have published both this and your recent novel, ‘The Principle of Evil’, yourself and have been successful in this venture. Have you any advice you can pass on here?
I’m still learning what works in terms of marketing etc, but there are a few things that people can take on board.
Never rush to publish your novel. Whatever you publish is representative of you and your skills and your career as an author. Take your time to get it right. Mistakes are OK so long as you learn from them.
Get to know your potential readership. Social media can be a great tool, but I have authors who have followed me on Twitter and if I follow them back, they then send me a generic impersonal direct message purely advertising their own work.
Sorry, but that’s just irritating and I tend to swiftly unfollow them. I don’t believe aggressive marketing campaigns are the key to more sales. Word of mouth is probably the best way for people to get to know you and your novel. The last thing you want is a reputation of being full of yourself. Take an interest in other peoples work and support each other. Even a simple retweet is supporting another author.
Finally, don’t expect overnight success. Be realistic and concentrate on honing your craft. As an author you are always learning.
Finally, I know one day your dream, rightfully so, is to be published mainstream. Like myself you have been through highs and lows. How have you kept motivated, focussed and chosen your current path.
My family keep me motivated, but I’d say my proof reader, Willow, definitely gives me that extra boost I need. Yes, my family are fantastic with their support but I always find I need that extra ‘kick up the bum’ by someone who isn’t so close to me on a personal level. Willow provides an ‘outsider’s’ point of view.
I’m stubborn. I will keep going. I’m not saying rejection doesn’t hurt – it does – but you need to become tough. Grow that thick skin. There have been times that I have nearly given up, but I have to remind myself that I have come close several times to signing with an agent.
I decided to self-publish because I hoped I had a readership. Seeing that my books are selling on Kindle and I’m earning money from that is better than having a finished MS sitting collecting dust in a bottom draw. Besides, you never know who may be reading your work and what doors that could open.
Many thanks Tania for joining us today. You can find out more about Tania and keep up to date with her work at: