On The Table Read, “The Best Book Reader Magazine in the UK“, author Anna Willett talks about her writing career and the story of her new domestic thriller novel, Lost To The Lake.
Written by JJ Barnes
I interviewed Anna Willett about her life and career, what inspires her writing, and the creative writing process behind her new book, Lost to The Lake.
Tell me a bit about who you are.
I’m a family person first and foremost, but I’m also a writer. I’m based in Western Australia, a place I see as the perfect backdrop for my books.
When did you first WANT to write a book?
I’ve always wanted to write, but for a long time, my aspirations only went as far as short stories.
When did you take a step to start writing?
I had so many ideas for stories, one in particular that kept growing. About ten years ago, I made the decision to write a book. It felt like a monumental task and I wasn’t completely sure I could turn the idea into a novel length story or even if I was capable of going the distance and producing something so ambitious.
In the end, I took the plunge and started writing. The first book was a paranormal horror story and although I was immensely happy to have completed it, I set it aside and began another novel. This time I wrote a thriller.
How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?
My first thriller, Backwoods Ripper, took about a year from beginning to release. The writing took about four months. I was very fortunate in that the first publisher I queried, liked the book and saw value in my work and things moved forward quite quickly. Since then, I’ve stuck with the same publisher and had another fourteen books released. Some have taken considerably longer than four months, but I’ve never stopped writing (I take a three week break between books).
How long did it take you to complete your latest book from the first idea to release?
My latest novel, Lost to the Lake took about seven months from inception to publication.
Focusing on your latest release. What made you want to write Lost To The Lake?
Lost to the Lake is a domestic thriller which deals with marriage, secrets, murder and domestic violence. I wrote this book because I like exploring the dynamics of relationships and taking the small things that most couples face; secrets, money issues, baggage and differing ambitions, and taking them to the extreme. I wanted to take this story to a place where we’ve seen similar things on the news and wondered how people can get to such a horrendous situation. How can an ordinary life go so far off the rails?
I also like diving into the insecurities and doubts that people face when they are out of their depth and feel trapped. In difficult situations, people don’t always make the right or even the logical decision. I try to create characters who aren’t heroines or heroes, just flawed people in extraordinary situations.
What were your biggest challenges with writing Lost To The Lake?
As I’ve said, creating believable characters is always a challenge. No one is one thing, there are layers and background, wants and needs. There has to be a balance between the forward movement of the plot and character building. It’s a bit of a fine line where the balance is everything.
The book also contains some sensitive subject matter. All my books contain sensitive issues, that’s the nature of writing crime. But while it’s necessary, I shy away from gratuitous violence but not from the grim reality of the crime.
Who or what inspired you when creating your Protagonist?
I enjoy creating strong, but flawed female MCs. Most human beings are capable of being strong and weak at the same time. They are a cross work of altruism and selfishness and that contradiction is fascinating to explore.
No one person ever inspires a character, but I do take snippets from people I’ve known and met over the years.
Who or what inspired you when creating your Antagonist?
The antagonist is, in some ways, more difficult than the protagonist. As I’ve said, no one is one thing and the villain, can’t be all bad. Or at least they must have reasons and history, their own rational and self-belief. They can’t just be bad for the sake of it. There has to be believability. In Lost to the Lake, the main antagonist (there is more than one) is very much a type, at least on the surface. When I say a type, I mean a type of person I’ve met many times.
What is the inciting incident of Lost To The Lake?
A home invasion that goes wrong – very wrong. In the aftermath, a couple, Marty and Beth find their lives in turmoil. Secrets are revealed and a fork in the road turns into a non-stop series of bad decisions.
What is the main conflict of Lost To The Lake?
Trust and doubt.
It’s a simple question; How far would you go for the person you love? What would you do when the wrong decision could mean losing everything you care about? At the heart of the book is trust and doubt.
Did you plot Lost To The Lake in advance, or fly by the seat of your pants and write freely?
I don’t plot. I have the idea and know where I want the story to go, but to some extent, I let the characters and events lead me. I always know where I’m going but sometimes the journey surprises me.
Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did Lost To The Lake need?
I always edit my own work and then work with an editor I’ve had for a number of years. I then turn the manuscript over to my publisher and there is another editorial process. During the final stages, I’ll be asked to review edits and make any suggested changes. I know some writers dislike editing, but I quite enjoy the process.
What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a story?
Start writing! Get the story on paper and then worry about how to turn it into a novel. If you don’t have a story, there is nothing to polish. You can’t fix what you don’t have.
Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?
I’m working on a new thriller that will bring back a familiar character. It’s a police procedural which always takes a little longer because there is so much research and a great deal of information to keep track of.
And, finally, are your proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?
I’m very proud and grateful for my accomplishments. In terms of writing, I’ve been very fortunate to find a good home for my books and people I can work with. It has been hard work, late nights and lost weekends, but it is absolutely worth it.
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