Rachel Abbott tells about her next book ‘The Back Road’
Rachel Abbott has sold a lot of more than 100,000 copies in the UK and Europe. Only the Innocent is now published in US and it’s already available all over the world in the English language
«The pace is good and there are enough twists and turns to keep the reader guessing to the end. » Sarah Burnsmy next book – The Back Road
«The author has fantastic skills in developing her characters, emotions and scenes that quickly draw the reader into her story. » Dorothy Lewis
«Overall, the characters are very interesting and well developed. » William T Bonner
By: Alberto Berenguer Twitter: @tukoberenguer
Why did you decide to publish on Amazon.co.uk? It is due to enduring years of rejection from agents and publishers?
It didn’t really work that way for me. I originally wrote Only the Innocent for my own benefit – I had this idea in my head and it wouldn’t go away. I wanted to write about what set of circumstances would give a woman no other option but to murder a man. So that’s what I wrote about. I wasn’t planning to be published. I did send it to a few agents and had some pretty good feedback about the writing. The problem that they could see was that it was a difficult book to categorise, and they thought that publishers would have a problem adding it to their lists. I wasn’t too concerned – I’d done what I set out to do. But then when it became possible to upload to Amazon, I just thought “why not?” and it was as simple as that. One decision on a rainy afternoon when I was just roaming around the internet!
Will you publish Only the Innocent in other countries?
Yes – it’s already available all over the world in the English language, but is in the process of being translated into several other languages, including most of the major European languages.
Do you think that the relationship between Hugo Fletcher and his wife Laura Fletcher is unrealistic and unconvincing?
I definitely don’t think that. One or two people have commented that they can’t believe that any woman would allow herself to be treated that way. I think that shows a complete lack of understanding of mental abuse. It can happen to the strongest of people, because it happens over time and it’s debilitating. I used to work for The Samaritans – a brilliant organization – and the things that people allow themselves to be subjected to may seem strange to people who have never experienced it – but it’s there, and in all walks of life. There is a line in the book about the gradual wearing down of all defences, and that’s what happens. People who don’t believe it should just call in at a women’s shelter.
For some readers, the detective comes over as more believable than the other characters the plot. Do you agree? Do you think that would worth developing him in another book?
It was a real surprise to me that everybody loved Tom Douglas! I did, but then he was my character. When the book was first outlined, the police were hardly going to have any impact at all on the story. This isn’t really a book about WHO committed the murder, it’s about WHY, and so the police originally had quite a small role. But once they were in there, they had to be properly integrated into the book, and so Tom Douglas was born!
He is definitely back – in fact my second book The Back Road features Tom, and he’s back in the third book too.
In terms of being more believable, I think he’s the most normal – but then he wasn’t embroiled in the cruel world of Hugo Fletcher – so he was bound to be more human. The other characters were going through their own versions of hell – so for readers who are perhaps less empathetic to the individual tragedies, Tom’s ‘normality’ would undoubtedly stand out.
You’ve had over 100 5-star reviews of Only the Innocent from Amazon readers. In addition, many people consider you one of the best British crime writers today. But, how do you face up to negative reviews?
Everybody is entitled to their opinion, and Only the Innocent in its original form did have some issues. After it became a bestseller, I was lucky enough to get a great agent (without going through the whole submission process that I had so wanted to avoid). She and one of her team edited the book, and sent me back a mass of sections that I had to rewrite – mainly based on character building, scene setting, etc. The revised book is much better, and since it was released there have been very few negative reviews. However, not everybody likes the story – it deals with some quite harrowing topics, so I completely understand if people don’t like it. I generally manage to take the reviews on the chin. I read an article recently in which an author says you have to consider publishing your book to be the same as dancing in public. Some people are going to think you are completely useless at it, while others will admire your style (although probably not in my case). If a reviewer has something helpful to say, I am prepared to listen however negative it is. If, however, they just simply want to make something derogatory up, such as one reviewer who asked how many times I would use the phrase ‘insincere smile’ in the book (the answer to which was NEVER), you just have to shrug it off and move on.
“I suspect that Rachel Abbott grew up with Agatha Christie novels and decided to write a traditional “locked room murder” with more sex and more violence thrown in for good measure and modernization”. Do you agree with this comment about your novel?
Well, obviously I don’t, but I think that whoever wrote that comment had either not read the book, or didn’t really understood what it was about. It wasn’t about the murder. That was almost incidental – and was in effect the means by which the real story came out. It was about abuse in many forms, and about whether it’s right to punish the guilty or protect the innocent. So if the reader has only seen the superficial story, I can perhaps understand why they might hold that view.
People read at different levels and take different things from books. That’s something every writer has to accept, and not everybody will grasp the subtle nuances.
Readers can find Only the Innocent in various formats: Kindle Edition, Paperback or Audiobook. What format is functioning better?
It is selling much better on Kindle than on other formats. At the moment, in the UK, it is selling equally well on iTunes and Kobo, and has been consistently in the top three of the Waterstones UK ebook chart for nearly a year now – so definitely ebooks in all formats.
Also, do you think that an important factor in your success lies in the interaction that you set up with your readers through social networks?
That certainly had an initial impact – without a doubt. The sales through Twitter and Facebook would have been relatively low – but enough to get the book to a position where it was visible – which is the whole key on Amazon. And until it reached number one, it had nothing lower than a four star review. It had over fifty reviews, and they were all good. That helped. I think the real push came when people on forums started to talk about it. That really made a difference.
How would you define your narrative style?
As third person omniscient, I suppose. Although there are some key characters in the novels, I do move from person to person to experience their thoughts and see through their eyes. In Only the Innocent the number of characters that this relates to is fairly limited – probably just four characters. In my next book – The Back Road – we see from many points of view.
Your latest book is The Back Road, available for Pre-order and it will be released on March 18, 2013. It will be available for other e-readers from September 2013, and in the US. Can you tell us something about this thriller &suspense?
The Back Road has the strap line “the quietest places hold the darkest secrets” and that almost sums the book up. The story is set in a small Cheshire village, where everybody appears to know everybody else. When a young girl is knocked over and left for dead in the middle of the night, the village is in shock. And they can’t understand why she was out so late, and why nobody missed her. Gradually the details of that night are revealed – but it’s not just the secrets of the accident that are exposed. More and more people become implicated as they struggle to hide why they were out that night, and what they were doing. Only one person knows it all – and that person has a lot to lose. So somebody has to pay.
Do you think that The Back Road will be more attractive for the readers? Why?
I think, and hope, that my writing has developed since writing Only the Innocent. I learned a lot from the editing process, with feedback from my editor with comments like ‘what’s she doing while she’s saying this?’ It has made me focus my thoughts much more clearly inside the heads of my characters. The threats to the protagonist are more subtle, but the end is hopefully just as surprising. With Only the Innocent it was about the ‘why’ – but The Back Road is about the why, AND the who.
Also, will you translate your books into other languages?
My agents deal with that. They have managed to get a number of foreign rights deals for Only the Innocent, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see for The Back Road.
Who creates the covers of your e-books?
The very talented Alan Carpenter. He is creative director of a UK plc, and so has huge experience. But I’ve known him for years, and so he always very kindly offers to do my UK covers for me.
Many writers feel pressure after the success of first novel. Have you influenced this fact in The Back Road?
I completely understand this and it’s inevitably a concern. In fact, most second novels do get criticized by the readers. I think there are often two reasons for this. The first is that people who have publishing deals may be pressurized into writing the second book very quickly. I have a US publishing deal, but I was already ahead of the game there, so no pressure at all. In the UK I chose to stick with indie publishing and so had no fixed timetable (other than that which I placed on myself). The second reason that sometimes people don’t like a second book is that the writer has probably developed. Only the Innocent in its original form was quite an undemanding book. There was a lot of dialogue, and much less narrative. My style has developed, and I think The Back Road is a much more rounded book. But there may well be readers who appreciated the simpler style of Only the Innocent. Only time will tell, but the feedback from my early readers has been fantastic, so I’m hoping it will appeal just as much.
Are you writing a new novel now or is all your time taken up by promotion of The Back Road?
I will be involved in promoting for about a month, and then I will cut back and focus on the next book. Marketing can be a full time job, and if I were trying to get back to number one, then I think I would definitely be full time for three months or so. However, getting to number one is now very difficult because of all the 20p books. I can’t compete with that – it’s not the publishers who set that price, it’s Amazon as part of their price matching policy. At the moment, there is only one book above £2 in the Amazon UK top 10 –so I have to be realistic. If I can get into the top 100 to make it another bestseller, I will be happy to get back to book number three.
Finally, you write a blog to help authors going through the process of publishing their first ebook, and you include reviews of indie ebooks. What would you recommend?
Actually, I’ve stopped doing reviews on my blog and must update the page to say so. I’ve stopped because on more than one occasion I said I didn’t have time to review a book or said that the subject matter wasn’t really my thing – and I immediately got a lot of ‘hate’ reviews. One day I told another author that I thought his book was really well written, but I wasn’t able to finish it because of the subject matter. I suggested some other people who might be able to give it a fairer review. Within two hours, I had five one star reviews on my site. And that was in a period when I was getting an average of one review per week (usually four or five star). One of the reviewers was even an anagram of his name. So I don’t offer reviews now – which is a shame for the other authors.
One book that I did review for an indie author early on was Gray Justice, by Alan McDermott. I really enjoyed that. And although I haven’t reviewed them I have read and enjoyed books by both Mel Sherratt and Anya Lipska. I would certainly recommend them.