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Author Interview With A. A. Abbott: Accountant Turns To A Life Of Crime Thrillers — Inspirational Indie Authors Podcast

Author Interview with A. A. Abbott: Accountant Turns to a Life of Crime Thrillers — Inspirational Indie Authors Podcast

My ALLi author guest this week is A. A. Abbott, a British author who loved telling stories as a child, but never thought she could write professionally until she broke out of her accountant’s cubicle and gave it a try. Today, she researches her crime thrillers with the mathematical precision of a CPA, making sure every detail is perfectly accurate. 

Inspirational Indie Authors Podcast: A. A. Abbott Interview

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On Inspirational Indie Authors, @howard_lovy interviews @AAAbbottStories, who broke out of her accountant's cubicle and to write crime thrillers with the mathematical precision of a CPA. Click To Tweet

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Inspirational Indie Authors Podcast: About the Author A. A. Abbott

British crime thriller writer A.A. Abbott – known to friends as Helen – writes fast-paced suspense thrillers set in the British cities of London, Bristol and Birmingham. As a city girl, she lived and worked in all of them. “I also know the beautiful countryside of North Somerset well, and that’s where my latest story begins. By far my darkest book yet, psychological thriller ‘Bright Lies’ follows runaway teenager Emily from a country mansion to a city squat, as she flees the stepfather who’s gotten too close. Like 10% of us, many of my family are dyslexic. While I’m not, I want my books to be enjoyed by readers with dyslexia and visual impairment too. That’s why I publish my thrillers in a LARGE PRINT dyslexia-friendly edition as well as the standard paperback and Kindle versions. Don’t forget, you can also adjust the font on your Kindle to suit your needs.” You can find her on her website or on Twitter @AAAbbottStories.

Inspirational Indie Authors Podcast: About the Host Howard Lovy

Howard Lovy has been a journalist for more than 30 years, and has spent the last eight years amplifying the voices of independent publishers and authors. He works with authors as a book editor to prepare their work to be published. Howard is also a freelance writer specializing in Jewish issues whose work appears regularly in Publishers Weekly, the Jewish Daily Forward, and Longreads. Find Howard at howardlovy.comLinkedIn and Twitter.


If you’re a published indie author who would like to be interviewed by Howard for the Inspirational Indie Authors podcast, you need to be a member of the Alliance of Independent Authors.

Then contact Howard, including your membership number, explaining why you’re an inspirational indie author and what inspires you.

If you haven’t already, we invite you to join our organization.


Inspirational Indie Author Podcast: Interview Transcript: A. A. Abbott

Howard Lovy: I’m Howard Lovy, and you’re listening to Inspirational Indie Authors.

Every week, I feature a member of the Alliance of Independent Authors to find out what inspires them and how they are an inspiration to other authors.

My guest this week is a A.A. Abbott, a British author who loved telling stories as a child but never thought she could write professionally, until she broke out of her accountant’s cubicle and gave it a try.

Today, she researches her crime thrillers with the mathematical precision of a CPA, making sure every detail is perfectly accurate.

A.A. Abbott: Hello, writing is my game and A.A. Abbott is my name. Actually, that’s a complete lie. My name is really Helen Blenkinsop, but I chose A.A. Abbott as a gender-neutral pen name and also quite a handy one for those of you who like to organize your bookshelves alphabetically.

I’ve written eight books in total, seven mystery and crime thrillers, of which the most recent is a five-book series, about a high-end vodka business.

But my latest book, Bright Lies is a complete departure, still a thriller, but a dark psychological thriller, and in a much darker and more disturbing direction than I’ve ever taken before.

I used to make up stories when I was a small child, even before I could read and write, and I still remember the beautiful pleasure of learning to read, age five.

I remember being shown flashcards at school and then all of a sudden, after maybe two weeks of seeing flashcards and having the older children help me put a finger along the page and read the words, all of a sudden, I discovered that I could read for myself, and even better I discovered that I could read anything.

Possibly not very well in the case of newspapers aimed at adults, but I could certainly give it to go. That was a revelation to me.

Howard Lovy: Helen was the eldest of five children, born within the space of five years in Bedfordshire, in a small town called Dunstable, where she took an early interest in storytelling.

A.A. Abbott: As a child, as soon as I could read, obviously I could write, and I’d been making up little stories for my brothers and my sister for quite a while, but I didn’t commit them to paper really until I was age nine, 10, 11, 12, and they weren’t really that great. And even though I used to tell stories to my siblings all the time and they loved them, I knew that it would take a lot of polishing to actually make a career out of it and although we were a nice middle-class family, we didn’t have much money. So, there was absolutely no way my parents would have bankrolled me learning my craft for 10 years and making it as a writer. Instead, I ended up working as an accountant. So, that would be a CPA in the US.

That really played to my strengths because, obviously, you have to be good at mathematics, which I was, but you do also have to be very good at writing, because a lot of accountancy is about analyzing figures and then communicating a story about them to people, and you have to do that in as few words as you possibly can because people are busy, and accounting is not necessarily that interesting to them. And I did learn how to make every word count which stood me in good stead when finally, I began to write fiction again.

Howard Lovy: But while Helen was crunching numbers in her accountant’s office, she always kept an extra pad of paper around for her writing, for someday.

A.A. Abbott: I’ve written in fits and starts over the years. In my twenties, I wrote a great many short stories. I also had the dream, which became the basis for my latest book, Bright Lies. But at that time, I wasn’t really capable of putting a narrative together for a full-length novel. So, I wrote my ideas down, but it was just little short stories, and I didn’t really do anything with them. I didn’t belong to a writing group; I just went to the odd class. I kept writing the shorts stories and compiled a file of them.

Then I started a family, and I take my hat off to the writers who have small children and are able to write, that was not something that I ever did. I didn’t really read much either when my son was young, I just spent time with him. If I had spare time, I spent it with him. I went to work to earn money for the family and I slept and ate, and that’s pretty much all I did. My son brought a great deal of joy into my life, but creativity was something that I had to put to one side.

Howard Lovy: Then Helen started to have some troubles at work, so she decided to focus on herself through a personal development course, which changed the course of her life.

A.A. Abbott: I was having quite a rocky time at work. I’d got a new boss, and he and I just didn’t get on, and that was quite a shock to me because until then, mostly I’d had bosses who I thought were really nice, but for whatever reason, we were at hammer and tongs and I had to do something about it.

So, I went on a personal development course for a weekend. It’s something called the ISA Experience, and it’s an incredible course because lots of people go away for the weekend, they meet up, they’ve all got issues that they want to deal with and they’re all different issues, but somehow everyone ends up dealing with them.

I had to buddy up on the ISA Experience course with another guy, and his issue was that he didn’t get enough sleep. So, we had an agreement afterwards that we would ring each other every day and I would check that he had gone to bed before 11:00 PM the preceding evening, and he would check that I had done 20 minutes of writing, because what came out of the course was that I’d always wanted to write and my life would be happier if I did write, and we agreed that I needed to build a habit of writing.

Howard Lovy: Helen set out on a path toward the writing career she always wanted. She began by meeting other writers.

A.A. Abbott: I went to a writing class at Bristol University for the day, and there was an impossibly glamorous lady there called Nikki Davis, and I was looking at her and thinking, she’s so sorted and so glamorous. She was the archetype of what you expect a writer to be, I suppose. I approached her and invited her to lunch, and she said, would you like to come to my writing group?

The first time I went, I decided that I wasn’t going to go again. She had to talk me into coming back because I went along to the writing group and everybody had brought along their work, and it was exquisite. You know, it was really, really good, and here am I just beginning again, after having a family and coming back into the concept of writing, and there are people who’ve spent four hours writing the perfect paragraph. It really was a beautiful paragraph. And then after they’d shared their work and critiqued it, they talked about the books they were reading, and they were all reading Booker prize winners, and I was seriously intimidated by them. And I felt, even if I went to lunch once a month with each of them, I would still be intimidated by their approach to writing.

I said to Nikki Davis, I really don’t think this is the group for me, and she then explained that it was a group for people at all levels, and the point of having that group was that everyone supported each other, and they would be generous in their support, and that’s exactly how it turned out.

Various people have come and gone through the group over the years, Nikki Davis moved to another city, so she doesn’t even run it anymore, but it has survived, and the Bristol Fiction Writers group has been an incredible support to me for the last 13 years.

Howard Lovy: When it came time for Helen to pick a genre, there was no doubt in her mind that she wanted a life of literary crime.

A.A. Abbott: It’s simply that I love reading crime fiction, and I got quite hooked on a British writer called Ruth Rendell, who is now sadly dead, but she wrote some incredible books; a number of police, procedural stories, which were very satisfying because the policeman, Inspector Wexford solves his crimes and then he goes back home, and there’s a lovely contrast between his cozy house and his cozy relationship with his wife, and then these quite nauseating crimes that he has to investigate. In addition to that, she wrote some dark, psychological thrillers, some of them under a pen name, Barbara Vine, and I rather enjoyed those. I rather enjoyed the way that she unpeeled the layers of skin from people to reveal what was underneath.

Howard Lovy: There was one last thing that Helen needed to do before she embarked on her literary career. She chose the pen name, A.A. Abbott, and she did that for three reasons.

One, it puts her at the top of the alphabet. Two, it’s gender neutral and three, her stories go, as he delicately puts it, beyond the bedroom door and she did not want to shock her accountancy clients. Her latest book is a psychological thriller called Bright Lies.

A.A. Abbott: The conventional advice is to write about what you know, well, I’ve certainly written about places that I know because Bright Lies is sets in the Southwestern cities of Bath and Bristol. Obviously, I live in Bristol and Bath is very close, and then the second half of the book is all about a night club in the trendy Digbeth area of Birmingham, a city in the English Midlands, where I’ve spent a lot of time and was working quite recently.

However, the plot of the book doesn’t draw on personal experience. It’s about Emily, a young teenage girl who escapes her abusive stepfather and finds sanctuary with a DJ living in a squat near to the trendy nightclub, where he works in Birmingham. I’m lucky enough not to have experienced abuse myself. I’ve never worked in a night’s club, and I’ve never lived in a squat.

So, I needed a lot of help to get the facts right, and luckily, I’ve got loads of beta readers. I have over 30 beta readers, some of them readers, some of them writers, but many of them are specialists. For example, three ex-police detectives were beta readers for Bright Lies, a forensic psychologist advised on it, a DJ advised me on the club, music, and technical aspects of the music scene. I spoke with abuse survivors. I spoke with people who knew about the drug culture. I’ve really had a lot of help from readers and writers and specialists in making this book the good story that it is.

Howard Lovy: And she checked in with her son and other teenagers to get exactly how teens talk and what music they listened to.

She makes hundreds of revisions based on the advice she gets from beta readers and it’s paid off as her books have been well-received.

Her future books will delve more into psychology as her novels become more character driven.

Helen has two pieces of advice for other writers.

A.A. Abbott: First of all, write regularly if you can. Even if you haven’t got much time, try to make it 10 minutes, 20 minutes a day, just build a habit, because eventually you’ll take all those little bits and pieces, all those sentences or those paragraphs, and you’ll have a book.

It’s not a race. Take your time but do it every day.

And my second piece of advice is be open to feedback, belonging to a writing group where I get feedback in a safe environment, having generous and kind beta readers and a fantastic editor makes the world of difference. That makes the difference between a good book and a great book, in my opinion.

So, be open to getting help.

 

 


If you’re a published indie author who would like to be interviewed by Howard for the Inspirational Indie Authors podcast, you need to be a member of the Alliance of Independent Authors.

Then contact Howard, including your membership number, explaining why you’re an inspirational indie author and what inspires you.

If you haven’t already, we invite you to join our organization.


Howard Lovy

Howard Lovy has been a journalist for more than 30 years, and now amplifies the voices of independent author-publishers and works with authors as a developmental editor. Howard is also a freelance writer specializing in Jewish issues whose work appears regularly in Publishers Weekly, the Jewish Daily Forward, and Longreads.

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