When the eBook of Anything For Her came out in November 2017, it was given a 24 day blog tour to which I contributed a number of pieces, either interviews or specifically created blogs. In case you did not see these the first time around, I’m going to introduce them to this blog page over the next few weeks, with kind permission from the blogger/reviewers themselves.
The first comes courtesy of the lovely Hajar, whose blog “Bookishly Ever After” is always well worth a visit. She interviewed me and left a lovely review which was one of the first I received for AFH. You can imagine how pleased I was to get it.
INTERVIEW WITH HAJAR
It’s my utter pleasure to welcome to Bookishly Ever After, the incredibly talented G.J. Minett, the author behind one of my favourite psychological thrillers of 2017, “ANYTHING FOR HER”, which is expected to be released on 30/11/2017. I hope you will enjoy reading this Q/A as much as I have enjoyed putting it together.
Many thanks to G.J. Minett for taking the time to answer my questions!
What genre are your books?
They’re usually described as thrillers but I’d like to think they straddle a few genres. I’d probably go for psychological drama and suspense with a touch of noir and hope that doesn’t come across as too pretentious. It does though, doesn’t it?
What draws you to this genre?
A couple of things really. For one, I enjoy reading that sort of book and the temptation has always been there to see if I could produce something I know I’d enjoy as a reader. The main reason though is that all my writing starts with a character. When I wrote The Hidden Legacy I’d been carrying Ellen around with me for weeks and just needed to find a story which would enable me to show her off to the readers.
The same happened with Owen Hall in Lie In Wait and with Billy Orr in Anything For Her and maybe the reason it’s taken me so long to get around to planning book 4 is the fact that I came up with a storyline first and struggled for a while to find the character I needed. Got there in the end though – a good character will always find a way through eventually.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
Very good question. I think most writers feel they have a book in them that they would like to write if they could have a free shot at it, but the bottom line is that this is a business. I’m paid up front by my publishers to produce something they can be confident the readers will want to buy. The financial risk lies with them and, if the book bombs miserably, they lose out and I probably won’t be offered another deal.
Once you are firmly established, it may be possible to spread your wings a little and produce something startlingly original and way outside the constraints of the genre with which you’re generally associated, but even then you have to be careful not to disappoint readers who have come to expect a certain type of book. These are still early days for me and I’m a long way from feeling comfortable about proposing a move of that sort. My role, as I see it, is to aim for originality within a framework that is familiar to any readers who are good enough to stick with me.
No serious moans from me on that count so far.
Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?
Possibly . . . but I’m not sure how effective that writer would be. I know there are several who seem to write in an almost totally dispassionate way and yet still produce passages that leave a marked impression on the reader, but that’s a testimony to their skill levels rather than an indication that the emotions weren’t there in the first place.
Very often, the hardest thing for a writer is to convey strong feelings without overdoing it. I can think of at least one scene in each of my novels so far that I had to re-write more than once – notably the hospital scene in The Hidden Legacy – because it didn’t strike the right note. It’s so easy to let things slide into the mawkish and sentimental because you’re pushing just that bit too hard for sensitivity.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
In all honesty I didn’t do a great deal for either The Hidden Legacy or Lie In Wait, largely because I was lazy enough to use geographical locations I know so well. I’m fortunate to have a couple of friends whose husbands have been able to help me out with police procedure (any egregious errors are definitely mine!) and I used the internet quite a bit to research illnesses and legal technicalities. Even then, I was taken to task by a lady who described The Hidden Legacy as (and I’m paraphrasing her) an excellent debut novel by an author with no understanding of probate law – guilty as charged!
Anything For Her however was a bit of a departure for me as I actually researched the location. I spent three days in Rye, Camber Sands and Winchelsea, getting to know the area and assigning specific places to the scenes I’d been building in my imagination for several weeks. I’d love to say that my publishers paid for me to fly out to New England for the scenes set on Peaks Island but that was the result of a family holiday a few months earlier. As soon as we saw the place, I knew it was what I needed and I just expanded on the notes I made at the time, using google maps to refresh my memory and fill in gaps.
The short answer, I guess, is that I’m not a great researcher. I rely heavily upon the fact that what I’m writing is FICTION and if I have to bend a few details to make the story work, I’m happy to do it, as long as it’s keeping the reader hooked.
What did you edit out of this book?
Possibly not as much as I did from the previous one. The whole editing process is such a crucial part of producing an effective novel and its usually less adversarial than you might imagine. In Lie In Wait I was asked to remove several scenes involving a character I liked very much and my natural instinct was to argue vehemently but the more we discussed it, the more I grew to understand I was in the wrong – so out they went.
With Anything For Her there were just a handful of scenes which were cut and I was happy to go along with the decision from the outset because I knew my editor was right – of course! I did argue the case for retaining some others and we agreed in the end to keep them but do a lot of pruning because I was guilty as usual of ‘overwriting’.
I’ve no complaints at all regarding the outcome of any of my novels. The editing process has served me well because all three books are much the better for the input of someone with far greater experience and less emotional attachment to the original first draft.
How do you select the names of your characters?
You wouldn’t believe how hard this can be – for me, at any rate. You’d think it should be so easy – just go to a names website, scroll down and pick the ones you want. Maybe I’m too fussy in this respect but I almost always end up changing the names several times because they just don’t sound right for the characters I’ve created. When they come to me, it’s often as a pairing – Owen Hall just dropped onto the page from nowhere. So too did Eudora Nash and Frank O’Halloran. In my latest however, I was happy with Billy for quite a while but he changed surnames several times before I hit on Orr as the right one, and even now I couldn’t give you a definitive answer as to why that felt right.
I think I need to get out more.
What was your hardest scene to write?
That’s really hard to say. From the technical aspect, the hospital scene in The Hidden Legacy was chaIlenging because I initially wrote it from Ellen’s point of view before trying something much more ambitious and switching to Barbara. The fact that she is in a coma and unable to see, hear or respond to anything going on around her made it a bit of a gamble but I was so pleased with the way it turned out. Even now I get immense pleasure from the audience response whenever I read it to them.
In terms of how long it took to write, it would have to be the opening scene from The Hidden Legacy because that was originally part of the dissertation for my MA in Creative Writing at the University of Chichester and took me around three months! It was worth it though because it won a national competition and was responsible for helping me to make the breakthrough.
The best answer I can give however is that most scenes are hard to write. So much depends on my mood when approaching it. I have days when I sit down and everything just flows for some reason. Others I’ll sit there and keep hitting ‘delete’ because nothing is coming out the way I want it to. I’d say it’s about a 75/25 split in favour of struggle most of the time – I just keep going because I know the good days will make it worthwhile.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
I’m currently expected to produce a book a year. I spend April – August working out who the character will be, September/October writing the detailed plan and November – March doing the actual writing. It’s very different from how I always used to write. Once upon a time I picked up a pen and notepad when the mood took me. Now I have to adopt a much more disciplined approach to the whole business because that’s what it is at the end of the day – a business. I’m still enjoying the challenge though.
Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just to see where an idea takes you?
I’m an unremitting planner. There’s more than a little OCD in the way I go about most things so it’s no great surprise that I have to come up with a detailed plan before I write anything.
Some of this is because my starting point is a character, not a plot. Once I know the character so well that I can identify her/his weakness, I’m then in a position to start exploring situations that will put that weakness to the test and that’s where the story comes from. Ellen knows nothing about her father and is fiercely protective of her children. Owen has never understood how Abi could have married Callum, the one person more than anyone else who was responsible for what he had to go through in his teenage years. Billy Orr . . . well, I’ll let you work that one out for yourself when you get a chance to read it.
I may know the characters inside out but unless I manage to include all those tiny fragments of information that have made the person real to me, the poor reader is never going to know her/him as well as I do. For that reason, I plan scene by scene before I write a word. I knew with Lie In Wait that it would have 83 scenes and I knew what each one would do, not just to move the plot along but also to reveal some aspect of the principal character.
That doesn’t make this the right way to write though. There are authors I admire hugely who have openly said that they prefer to write a particular scene and then see where it takes them. Each to her/his own.
What is your favourite motivational phrase?
GET OFF TWITTER – THE BOOK’S NOT GOING TO WRITE ITSELF!
“Bloody hell, what a thrilling ride that was!
I haven’t given a 5 star-rating in what seems like forever but here you go Mr. Minett, here is your 5-well-deserved-stars.
This book was incredibly addictive. I honestly failed to put it down more than once and that’s when I knew I was in for a treat; I wasn’t disappointed.
The plot was absolutely brilliant and the characters, oh those wonderfully-developed characters. They were witty and raw, and the author somehow managed to make me care so much about most of them and then empathise, which felt so wrong and yet so right. As you can see, I’m still utterly confused and I love it!
The twists and turns in this story kept me on the edge of my seat and the ending, well that was the icing on the cake. That bloody ending managed to make me feel things I wasn’t ready to feel; needless to say I loved it.
At this point, I’m not even sure I need to add a recommendation but just in case somebody out there was still looking for one, then please go ahead and pick up this book. I assure you, you won’t be disappointed!”