It’s a pleasure to welcome Jaye Ford to the blog this month. Jaye’s first novel, Beyond Fear, was published in 2011, and she is about to publish her fourth (yes, fourth!) book, Already Dead. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Jaye’s answers to my questions, and I defy you not to want to pick up her book after you’ve read this blurb:
Journalist Miranda Jack is finally attempting to move on from the death of her husband by relocating up the coast with her young daughter, Zoe. Then a single event changes everything.
On a Monday afternoon as she waits at traffic lights, a stranger jumps into her car and points a gun at her chest.
Forced to drive at high speed up the motorway, Miranda listens to the frantic, paranoid rants of Brendan Walsh, a man who claims he’s being chased and that they’re both now running for their lives.
Two hours later her ordeal is over in the most shocking fashion. Miranda is safe but she can’t simply walk away – not without knowing the truth about that terrifying drive.
As a journalist Miranda has always asked questions. But this time the questions are dangerous – and the answers might get her killed . . .
Congratulations, Jaye, on the publication of Already Dead. The blurb is terrific – how did you come up with the idea for the story?
Like all my books, Already Dead is a compilation of ideas.
The main character, Miranda Jack, had been percolating for years as someone who investigates but who isn’t an investigator, who has skills for asking questions but no professional reason to get involved, who is pulled in by her circumstances – and who would bring to life my own fondness for asking too many questions.
I had seen a lot of media coverage about soldiers with PTSD and wanted to recognise some of the battles they face at home, as well as explore some of the issues within a crime setting.
The carjacking that begins the book came from a real incident – a woman was carjacked at knifepoint near where I live a few years ago. While I watched the helicopters overhead and listened to the sirens of the police chase, I was thinking, how awful, but also what is that like? – which is the place most of my stories start.
Your books are all described as suspense thrillers. Do they have any recurring common themes, and did you always plan to write in this genre?
I love to write about ordinary women thrust into danger who must find the strength of will to survive. That theme is in all my books as a kind of analogy – a scary, dramatic one – of the tough times in our lives and what it can take to dig deep enough.
I also cast women as the ‘hero’, giving them a chance to do all the fun running and hitting and brandishing of weapons. I was tired of reading about women that were either waiting to be rescued by the cool guy or playing his sidekick. I also wanted to write about women like me (mothers, friends, colleagues, neighbours) so my stories are often about why and how an average woman might be pushed to doing that.
I’d always wanted to write a thriller but my first attempts at a full novel were in romance – I thought it would be easier to get published and I didn’t think I had a calculating enough brain to write crime. But after about seven years of not getting published, I decided it was possible I was going to be the only person who ever read my own words so I might as well have a go at the book I really wanted to write. That was my first published novel, Beyond Fear, and the lesson in that was to write what I want to read. By the way, one of my romantic comedies was later published (Just Breathe by Janette Paul).
Which other writers inspire you?
Nicci French for being queen of the ‘every woman’ thriller. Michael Robotham for putting heart in the psychological thriller. Lee Child for writing great action and justifying a tough-man’s rules. Wendy James for using women and their domestic lives for edgy crime stories. And Raymond Chandler for just being cool.
The twelve month deadline is hard work and real life has a habit of whittling back the time even more – I have children in far-away cities and aging parents who need me around. I spend most of my year writing the first draft, leaving about a month for rewrites, and trying not to panic about time running out.
I’m not sure there’s any way to making the writing part easier. Stories are complex, messy, intricate things – and they should be, it’s what makes good fiction. But after experiencing the creative process over a few projects, I think I’m getting better at dealing with the ebb and flow, and not panicking about it – too much!
I try to remind myself that the beginning is always slow, the word rate increases in the back quarter, the ending often writes itself … and that there is always a black hole when the story falls apart.
That sense of ‘Oh my God, I’ve only got that long’, can really kill the creativity so I also try to keep to my writing schedule as much as possible, not beating myself up if I don’t get down a thousand words in a day but not slacking off either if I double it.
The rest is just tying myself to a chair and writing – that seems to work.
When you reach a roadblock in your writing, how do you get going again?
I try to figure out what the problem is – whether it’s with me or the story. Usually it’s me so I start there. I have a tendency to sit at my desk too long and sometimes I just need a break, so I go for a walk or do something non-writerish for a while. If I’m having trouble concentrating and it goes on for a while, I try a new work routine to freshen up the creative process – exercising at different times of the day, writing at a café or somewhere else in the house, finding small jobs to break up my time at the computer.
If that doesn’t help, I figure it’s a problem with the story. Sometimes it’s a quick fix to go back over my character motivations and conflicts and straighten it up. Other times it’s the ‘black hole’ and I realize a major element of the story has fallen apart.
The black hole used to freak me out but I know now to just keep picking at it, both on the screen and in my head. I write extra bits and pieces to sort through ideas, like character backstories and the secrets I’m keeping from readers, and just keep drafting with new dialogue or action. I also keep scenes going around and around in my head when I’m not at my desk, letting my mind find different pathways. Mindless activity is great for that – chopping vegetables, ironing, walking, driving. The process has taken weeks at times, but, man, it feels great when a ladder is finally chucked down the hole and I can climb my way out.
Now that Already Dead is about to hit the shelves, are you working on another book?
Yes! I’ve been signed by Random House to write my fifth thriller, called Dead Sleep and scheduled for release in September next year. It’s about a woman who keeps dreaming about a man breaking into her apartment. She’s trying to start her life over and learning that she can change surroundings but she can’t change herself.
It’s a bit of a crazy time really. I finally get to talk to readers about Already Dead but my brain has already moved on to another story. I feel like I need two heads.
What else are you feeling passionate about at the moment?
My kids. Possibly it’s a little strange now that they’re in their 20’s but they both moved out of home not all that long ago and it’s great seeing their very different paths to independence. My son has been travelling the world for almost two years and I’ve been able to live vicariously through him and use him as an excuse to go to Europe twice. He’s coming home soon and bringing a keepsake from Germany – his lovely girlfriend! My daughter moved to Melbourne at the beginning of the year with plans to make lots of friends and get a cool job in the city – both of which she’s done!
I love book recommendations. Tell me about one book you have loved in the past year.
The Lost Girls by Wendy James. Wendy is a friend and I got to hear some of the story as it was being written but it did nothing to dampen the experience of reading it. It’s engaging and intriguing to the end, it made me feel for every character and is just beautifully written.
And what are you looking forward to reading this year?
I read mostly crime, both because it’s my job and I like it. At the moment, I’m looking forward to reading Michael Robotham’s new book, Life or Death. I’ve also got Sue Grafton’s last installment to her alphabet series, W is for Wasted, waiting for me. I enjoy trying new authors but it’s always great to go back to the ones I know and love.
Finally, where can people go to find out more about you and your books?
For information about me and my books, go to my website at: www.jayefordauthor.com
To see what I’m writing and doing, go to my author Facebook page at: www.facebook.com/JayeFordauthor
Win a copy of Already Dead and the suspense 3-in-1 Secrets and Lies, which includes Jaye’s first novel Beyond Fear, and my own Come Back to Me, along with Caroline Overington’s I Came to Say Goodbye. All you have to do is make sure you’re subscribed to my newsletter, and leave us a comment below telling us which book you are looking forward to reading next. The winner will be announced on 1st September 2014. Best of luck!