September 15th, 2015


Welcome Sharlene Almond

A big welcome to fellow Kiwi, Sharlene Almond.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your writing?
I’m a 27 year old student/author, who is a bit addicted to studying. I’ve studied in a range of topics involving beauty, animal care and psychology, photography, journalism, Criminology, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Neuro-Linguistic Programming. Right now I’m studying Body Language.

The last four topics have proven to be the most useful, as my main character, Annabella Cordova is deaf, so she communicates through sign language, and of course, body language. So, studying body language has helped me to get a better insight to how Annabella sees things.

The Criminology Diploma has been useful as my books are psychological thrillers. Having a better understanding of the inner workings of criminals, in particular serial killers certainly helps. Although, I am keen to do further study in criminal profiling as well.

I have four written novels, all are part-historical, part-present day psychological thrillers, based in either Spain, Romania, Egypt and Greece. Each book has Annabella Cordova has the main character; however, unlike in my first novel – Initiated to Kill; Annabella is part of an organisation that hunts down the worst criminals. Each time bringing her into contact with Andres Valero, who was the Detective in charge of the case of the missing girls in my first book.

Currently, I only have my first novel published, while contacting publishers to publish my second book – The Legend Returns.

How long have you been writing for, and what inspired you to start writing?
I’ve been writing since I can remember, but it was only about four, maybe five years ago that I finally decided to focus on writing my first novel.

I find writing to be a great creative outlet, and with lots of ideas already in my head, or in my notebook, I had plenty of material to go on.

Can you tell us about your new release? What inspired you to write it?
Initiated to Kill has two parts to it. The first part is based in 2016, Seville, Spain. Annabella becomes involved in the case when she reports her roommate missing. The police only start taking it seriously when every week another girl goes missing, and six days after they think the girl has been gone missing a package arrives at the front desk of the police station. In that package sparks a major manhunt. Which brings in Andres Valero, who was on leave because of the attack on his fiancée, and subsequent handling of that case.

When Andres Valero, and his partner Riveria go to talk with Annabella, they soon discover her unique skills of reading people. Not just their body language, but when someone could be lying.

Reluctant to at first bring Annabella in. Andres soon concedes, as panic starts to spread about these girls going missing.

Their case brings them into contact with Seville University, where the girls are from, and with a conspiracy thought to have been forgotten about. And a man bent of getting what he desires most of all.

Throughout the book, I take the reader back in time to 19th century Whitechapel, London. And to a man that is considered one of the most infamous serial killers – Jack the Ripper.
But this plot isn’t just another tale about his crimes, but the man that could possibly have been Jack the Ripper. The narcissistic child, that grows into a talented, but sadistic artist, that strolls the sordid streets of Whitechapel looking for his next masterpiece.
Although, some may liken my conspiracy theory and symbology to Dan Brown, I would like to think my novel stands apart from his in the way of how I represent the conspiracy, and how the Jack the Ripper crimes could have been a part of this conspiracy.

Both the present-day and historical part of the novel all go back in time to the main character’s lives. Instead of just talking about what happened to them, and their background; I have set a stage, created the chapters to enable the readers to get a detailed picture and understanding of the main characters.

Which of course is where the psychological thriller comes in. My novels explore the deprived psyche of two serial killers – both past and present, and how both of them are connected to each other. While also exploring the disturbed and wounded psyche of Annabella and Andres.

How did you come up with the title?
I came up with Initiated to Kill as it fit perfectly with basically what the book is about. Two men ‘initiated’ into an organisation to kill.

As the book covers both killers drive to kill, but it all started with them being initiated as members into this organisation that wants to influence, control and take over the role to rule the most powerful countries in the world.

What was the hardest part of writing your book?
The historical part is the hardest. I want to make sure the history side of it is as authentic as possible. So, I do plenty of research about the culture, the people, how they live, what they eat, the environment, the entertainment, how they conduct themselves – everything.

Which of course is both time-consuming, and somewhat difficult to make sure the sources I get my information from are pretty accurate.

However, in saying that, what I learnt was well worth the time spent on it.

Did you learn anything from writing your book? What was it?
I learnt more than I could possibly put in this interview. But the obvious ones are everything I learnt when doing the historical aspect. Also, the conspiracy theory surrounding the Jack the Ripper case, and the Freemasons.

It was quite interesting to find out the background of the Freemasons. Quite a few people are under the impression they’re some sort of secret society. But ironically, back in the 19th century, and even further back they were more like an elite gentlemen’s club. It was only in World War II that they had to go ‘underground’, as the Nazi’s were pursuing them nearly as much as the Jews, as the Nazis thought the Freemasons were in collusion with the Jews.

The other aspect is learning so much about Spain, in particular, Seville. I loved learning about the culture, food, festivals and the history behind this beautiful country. Which, of course, made me want to visit. So, hopefully one day.

The final main aspect was increasing my knowledge and interest in body language. I enjoyed watching the show ‘Lie to Me’, in which body language and facial expressions played an important role in the characters. But doing my own research into it enabled me to have a better understanding of this fascinating topic.

Do you have any advice for other writers?
Stick to what you love. If you love writing and entertaining people, then writing will never be a waste of time. Yes, you will be rejected and criticised countless times, but as the saying goes ‘whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’.

Take note of constructive criticism so you can improve on your writing. Every bad review may also have some valuable advice that you can take on.

Are there any genres you prefer to write and if so, why? What book do you wish that you had written?
I have also, and will also enjoy writing psychological thrillers. To get into the mind of a killers, or killers makes fascinating research, and an even better read.

I do find sci-fi books to be quite interesting, but I enjoy the realism of my books – both the historical part, and the present-day part, to write in any other genre.

Do you have any genres you prefer reading, and if so what are they? What book are you reading at the moment? What other novels do you adore/ writers you follow?
Psychological thriller, historical and sci-fi are the genres I prefer to read in.

Currently, I am reading, then will review Arcania Rising by J S Eaton. I review books in my spare time, so tend to read a range of genres.

James Patterson, Dan Brown, Jeffery Deaver, Karin Slaughter, and Stephen White are all authors that I enjoy reading. All books do an excellent job in delving into the mind of a killer, the crimes sadistic, and the on-the-edge-of-your-seat read.

Are there any characters that you write, that are based on you, or people you know?
The historical characters are all based on real characters. The majority of the characters and what happened to them is based on a true story.

Do characters and stories just pop into your head, or do you take your time thinking about them?
Sometimes stories just pop into my head. I could be watching tv, reading or exercising; then something just comes to me. Often I like to write ideas down so I make sure not to forget them. And during my research, more ideas and characters come to light.

But the actual writing tends to be my greatest inspiration. When I begin writing, and throughout the chapters, ideas keep on coming to me. I have a general idea of what my main characters are going to be. But the more I write, more ideas and images come to me, helping me to write a full novel.

Are you a panster or a plotter?
I’m definitely a plotter. For Initiated to Kill, I started the process by putting a few ideas together for the overall feel. From there a did a one-page outline from the beginning, to how I wanted it to end.

I also did character outlines – as in what they looked like, certain things about their personalities etc. Then I did character outlines of how they fitted into the grand scheme of things.

The last part of the process was using Word Excel to construct the chapter outlines. Writing out the chapters at the top of the document, then underneath a couple of sentences describing what should happen in those chapters.

Of course, throughout this process, I kept on researching, which just meant I kept adding to the chapter outline. Ironically, looking back at it now, the final product is vastly different to what I started with. However, the main characters have stayed the same.

Do you write often? Is it on a schedule, or whenever you feel like it?
I find what works best for me is to get some writing down early in the morning. Doing a workout, shower, coffee, then writing. When I’m starting a novel, several hours a day is ideal. I don’t like to write for too long, as my brain tends to switch off. So when I’m not writing, I study or do research.

However, sometimes I just get the urge to do a bit of writing. Whether it be at lunch, afternoon or evening. If something comes to me, I like to quickly put it on the computer.

If you could have any superpower or magical ability, what would it be and why? What would you do with it? And yes world domination is an acceptable answer.
I have to admit, being invisible would be pretty cool. Be able to walk in to any room, be around anyone without them knowing it. The information that could be gleaned would be great. Helpful to perhaps combine that with time travel. What I could learn about history by actually being there would be invaluable to my writing.

If you had access to a time machine just once, is there anything you'd go back and change? Either on a personal level or an historical event?
For me personally, I don’t really regret anything I’ve done, they’re all experiences that have made me who I am.

However, using a time machine to change some of the terrible atrocities that occurred in history. The hurt, the pain, the wars; yes, they might have shaped the world into what is it today, but it hasn’t changed it for the better.

Much about what happened in history could have been avoided, and most people would have been all the better for it.

If you could go anywhere in the world, all expenses paid, where would you go, who would you take with you, if anyone, and why?
Hmmm, that is a difficult question, as all the places that I’ve written about, I would like to go. But Seville and the different Islands of Greece are my top picks. I don’t necessarily have anyone specific in mind – but someone that likes to explore the culture, the history of the places we would go would be great. Not just doing the sightseeing, but getting a feel for the country, and the people as well.

What are your writing and personal goals for 2015 and beyond?
I have written four books, so may number one goal would be to have my second book taken on by a publisher.

With my studying, I’m aiming to become a qualified counsellor, and to specifically concentrate on PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder).

I’m also writing articles on Body Language, and soon articles focusing on Criminology and Sign language. So, to have more of my articles on blogs and other websites, would be great as well.

When is your next book coming out, and what’s it about?
As mentioned before, I’m hoping to have a publisher take on my second book. The Legend Returns follows from the aftermath of Initiated to Kill.

Annabella Cordova is asked to join a ruthless organisation to capture, torture and kill criminals; while having to battle her own need for revenge, and constantly being betrayed from the inside.

In the 16th and 17th century two people will forever mark a nation. Vlad Drakul, a warrior for God; his power and need for revenge fortifies a legend that infects a country. And Countess Elizabeth Bathory’s obsession for blood arouses her own psychopathic need to torture and kill young girls.

As Annabella comes closer to the truth, she exposes an ancient Roma tradition lead by a sadistic murderer, a castle filled with tortured, missing girls; and two psychopaths that are linked to the history of those that made Transylvania, Romania so famous.

What are you working on at present? Would you like to share a snippet?
Currently, I have just finished writing my fourth novel based around the Bubonic Plague. The historical aspect of this starts from where people think the Bubonic Plague originated from – China. From there, the story travels along the path of the Bubonic Plague, talking about it through the eyes of different characters; and how it eventually spread over Europe.
While the present-day element, is based on Annabella being sent to Greece, where it would seem a new strain of the plague has infected Greece.

The conspiracy element in this book is based around the believe that the Bubonic Plague was actually man-made; designed to change the world forever – bringing about a Revolution.

Are you a cat person or a dog person? Can you tell us about your pets?
Dog person. I have two Jack Russells. They are definitely my babies.

If you were able to quit your day job and write full time, would you, and why/why not?
Right now I’m studying; so studying, writing and marketing my book takes up all my time. But if I could write full-time I would. Work on my own schedule, and get paid doing what I love. Dream job.

Two men from two different generations, both initiated into a powerful organization that throughout history has sought control and uses their power for destruction. They leave behind a wake of murder, manipulation and ancient secrets.

The first man wreaks havoc in and around the Whitechapel district of London, England in the 19th century. While the other stalks his victims in the cosmopolitan city of Seville, Spain in the 21st century; knowing that only he could uncover the true motives of one of the world’s most infamous serial killers—Jack the Ripper.

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