It’s author interview time! I’m joined by Indie author, Val Collins, writer of psychological thrillers.
Hi Val, tell me a bit about you and your latest work.
I’m Val. I’m the author of ‘Girl Targeted’, a psychological thriller set in Ireland. I plan to publish my second thriller in February.
I was born in Ireland and have lived here all my life. Both my books are set here.
I started my working life as a Secretary/Administrator and then moved into HR. Because I’ve always worked in offices, I set my books in an office environment. My main character, Aoife (pronounced Eee-fah) worked in a HR office in ‘Girl Targeted’ and as a Secretary in my latest book.
When I was a kid, I wrote a lot of stories, but I stopped at about the age of ten. It had always been my intention to try writing again, but, somehow, I never got around to it. A few years ago, I was made redundant. Suddenly, I actually had time to myself for a change. What to do? My first thought was to try my hand at writing.
It came as a great thrill, but also a huge shock, to discover I was capable of stringing a few words together. I will always remember laughing out loud as I typed the first few pages of my book, amazed that it didn’t sound half bad. Of course, I had a long way to go before I was ready to publish.
I would have loved to continue writing full time but, unfortunately, bills need to be paid and I had to return to the workplace. I still write every day and I already have plans for my third book.
My latest work:
My new book is called Only Lies Remain. It’s a stand-alone thriller but it includes many of the characters introduced in ‘Girl Targeted.’
Everyone thought Danny Walsh deserted his family when his sons were young. But when Danny’s body turns up fifteen years later and his wife, Maura, is implicated in his murder, accusations and old rumours surface.
Aoife rushes in to clear her mother-in-law’s name. But why is it that Maura’s story surrounding Danny’s disappearance doesn’t quite add up?
Aoife’s investigation uncovers old secrets, long-held jealousies and lies upon lies. With every new revelation, Aoife realises she doesn’t know her family at all. Now her new boss is acting strangely, her best friend is more and more distant and her husband is no help at all.
With her support network crumbling and her family threatened, Aoife must race to keep one step ahead of danger before more innocent lives are lost. But how will she uncover the truth when only lies remain?
How would you Twitter pitch your novel?
Aoife needs a job. She needs to sort out her relationship with her husband. She doesn’t need to get dragged into a murder investigation. Especially one where both the victim and the murderer may be members of her own family.
What are your top 3 tips for aspiring writers?
Don’t wait for inspiration. It won’t come until you start writing.
Don’t expect to become rich. Most writers are poverty stricken.
Don’t give up.
What does success look like to you?
People I love, a roof over my head, enough food to eat and enough money in the bank that I don’t have a near heart attack every time a utility bill pops through my letterbox.
How do you choose your character names?
I write books set in modern times so naming characters is easy. I figure out the character’s age, google names that were popular the year he/she was born and pick one I like and/or that I think suits the character.
Do you ever Google yourself?
I did when I saw this question. I got a page full of info on Val Collins, a contestant on Survivor.
What do you do when you get stuck with your writing?
Sometimes if I can’t figure out where my story is going, I stop writing and do something mundane like cooking or cleaning. If I’m on my own and I don’t have anything playing in the background, ideas often come to me. The same is true of walking. It doesn’t work if I’m walking with somebody else, but occasionally on a walk to the local shop, ideas just pop into my head. It doesn’t work if I try to force it either.
How long does it take you to write a book?
Writing takes about six months but the editing process takes almost as long. It’s also considerably harder and far less satisfying.
What’s your main weakness as a writer eg. SPaG, continuity etc?
My grammar is far from perfect but I don’t worry about it. A copy editor takes care of those kind of mistakes. What concerns me is that I don’t plot. My books are thrillers so I start off knowing the victim, the murderer and the murderer’s motivation. Everything else comes to me as I write. Unfortunately, it doesn’t all come together neatly and I often have to delete sections that are no longer relevant. It would save so much time if I could plan it all out in advance.
What do you find hardest/easiest about writing?
Because I don’t plot, the easiest thing is letting the words flow and seeing where they take me. In one book I had intended a character to have a very minor role but she ended up taking over the book. That’s really fun. The hardest thing is having to delete my favourite parts when they don’t fit into the story that eventually emerges.
Describe your writing process in 3 words.
Deep breath, type.
If your book/one of your books got made into a film, who would play the main roles?
I wouldn’t be fussy. If somebody reading this wants to make any of my books into a film – hey, have at it. Just send me the cheque.
What’s been your biggest learning curve?
That learning to write takes time and that it can’t be done properly without professional help. I started writing as a hobby. I did a lot of free online courses and googled every possible aspect of writing, but it wasn’t enough. I finished the first draft of my book and it was okay, but it needed a lot of work. My problem was I had no idea how to improve it. I tried doing a writing course. I learned a little, but the course was too generic. I needed someone to give me concrete examples of how I could improve my own novel. That’s when I discovered the mentoring programme in Cornerstones and I realised that if I was ever going to publish something worth reading, this was the help I needed. It took almost a year but I learned so much. One of the things I was struggling with was creating suspense. By showing me just two examples in my own story, my mentor (Debz Hobbs Wyatt) taught me how to create tension. Now it’s an effort not to end every chapter with a cliffhanger.
Do you prefer pen and paper, or is everything on the computer?
I can’t imagine how anybody ever wrote an entire novel with a pen and paper. Even my shopping lists have to be on my phone. If I try to write out a list, I end up with a jumbled, crossed out mess with indecipherable scribbles where I ran out of space and tried to cram in extra items. I don’t even want to imagine what my handwritten book would look like.
What’s your favourite book?
At different times in my life I have loved different books. I’ve also read a lot of different genres. My bookcase is full of books I once loved but I wouldn’t be interested in reading them again e.g. P.G. Wodehouse. I still have ‘Gone With The Wind’ which I bought (and couldn’t put down) when I was fifteen, but I don’t see myself reading that again either.
I went through a stage of reading everything by Oscar Wilde. I also went through a Phillipa Gregory and a Sophie Kinsella stage.
I’ve read thrillers since my teens. My first was an ancient copy of Agatha Christie’s ‘Cat Among The Pigeons’ which my grandmother gave me when I was fourteen. It had been lying around her house for decades. I still have the earlier books of Lee Child, Elizabeth George and Linwood Barclay. I kept a few Harlan Coben books too. But thriller books are constantly coming on the market so I like to try out different authors. That’s probably why I’ll never get to the end of my ever growing tbr book pile.
How do you relax?
Lots of different ways. Writing relaxes me (if I’m not at the editing stage). I love running, but only on a treadmill. It’s so much easier than running on a hard surface. I also like walking in the countryside or by the sea, reading and watching old episodes of Friends. And, of course, the answer to most of life’s problems – chocolate!
And now for some silly questions just for fun…
Tea or coffee?
I don’t drink either. Anti-social, I know, but I don’t like the taste. Actually, the only things I really enjoy drinking are freshly squeezed orange juice, strawberry shakes and coke floats.
Beer or wine?
I don’t like beer. It’s not sweet enough. I like wine (preferably sparkling wine) with a meal but I can’t drink it on its own.
Chips or curly fries?
What are curly fries? Fries twisted into a curl? I like fries very occasionally (we call them chips). I prefer chips (we call them crisps) but the snack I adore is chocolate. I’d eat nothing else if it was possible to do that without killing myself.
Puppies or kittens?
Puppies. Kittens make me nervous (so do cats).
Summer or winter?
Summer. I don’t like the cold. (Or the rain for that matter, but there’s plenty of rain here all year round).
Where do you turn when you can’t trust your friends, your peers,
your own husband?
Aoife is a contented newlywed, temping while she awaits the birth of her first child. When her agency asks her to fill in on a temp position, Aoife witnesses a horrific tragedy at the office—one that will change the course of her life forever.
Three months later, now employed full-time at the same workplace, Aoife’s learns that the ‘tragedy’ she witnessed was actually a cold-blooded murder. When she decides to investigate, Aoife discovers that everyone in the organisation has secrets they are desperate to protect. Even her friends cannot be trusted.
An attempt on Aoife’s life proves that somebody is going to extraordinary lengths to ensure the past stays dead and buried—and Aoife along with it.
What’s more, Aoife’s personal life is beginning to unravel. She’s positive she has a stalker but everyone thinks she’s imagining it. Her husband is turning into a stranger who doesn’t care that his wife’s life is in danger, even her mother-in-law is keeping secrets from her.
Convinced that solving the case is the only way she and her daughter will ever be safe again, Aoife rushes to uncover answers to a shocking scheme of greed, betrayal, and murder before the killer silences her for good.
Val wrote stories when she was very young but was an impatient kid and had an unfortunate tendency towards perfectionism. When, at around the age of ten, she
A few years ago, she decided to try her hand at writing again and Girl Targeted was the eventual result.
Girl Targeted is set in Ireland where she has lived all her life. It’s set in an office, an environment she knows well as her entire working life has been spent doing office work. She’s worked for small and
Thanks so much, Val for joining us. You can connect with Val here: www.valcollinsbooks.com. And if you’d like her to let you know when she’s running promotional offers, or when her new book is available, you can reach her through the ‘Contact Me’ page, or by clicking here: http://bit.ly/2Tlj1hQ.