Featured Author: Sharlene Almond
Q: In three words, describe yourself.
A: Motivated, determined, empathetic.
Q: How many books have you written? How many of those are published?
A: I’ve written 5 books in total. Initiated to Kill is the only novel in the Annabella Cordova series that has been traditionally published. I have also written a New Zealand travel e-book called ‘Journey in Little Paradise’ that has been self-published.
Q: Tell me about how you come up with your titles for your stories. Do you create the title before or after you write the book, and does it ever change from the initial title?
A: I create the title after the book has been written. Except for my first novel, all my other books their titles have been changed after I have began the editing stage.
Initiated to Kill was the easiest title to come up with, as it is the main premise of the book. Two men, initiated into a powerful organization to kill.
So, when coming up with the other titles, while editing, I note down the main motives behind what occurs. With these notes, I come up with the title that best sums up the main motive or premise of the story.
Q: Out of all your characters in all of your books, who/what (sometimes a setting can also be an important “character”) do you think is the most interesting and why?
A: I might be biased here; I do think that Annabella Cordova is the most interesting. Her background, her having to overcome her inability to hear by using her other senses and reading body language to communicate with people.
Her past also reveals how closely linked she is to the events happening around her. This continues throughout all my novels. However, I do like her character progression in later novels, as she becomes tougher, more determined and capable.
I would agree that the ‘setting’ is an incredibly important and interesting character. All my novels are set in different locations, so it was important for me to show the culture, people, traditions and myths surrounding the locations I set my novels in. A great way to explore a country.
Q: Without quoting your back cover blurb, tell me about the last book you published.
A: The story takes the reader between 19th century Whitechapel, London and 21st century Seville, Spain. When Annabella’s roommate goes missing she gets tangled up in a network of conspiracy, university secrets, an infamous serial killer, and her own past reveals she is much closer to all of this than she realizes.
Initiated to Kill has plenty of flashbacks from past to present for all the main characters to create an in-depth insight to the psyche of the characters.
The historical part travels back to 19th Whitechapel where an artist’s apprentice wanders the gloomy streets, hunting for his next muse. Flashbacks from past to present for this character reveals the disturbed psyche of a narcissistic killer, whose psychopathic tendencies are unleashed when he is initiated into an organization to kill.
The novel then travels forward to Seville, where Annabella wrestles against the past, dredging up memories that led to her deafness, and utilizing her natural skills of reading body language to help Andres Valero unmask a killer that seeks to once again wreck havoc and instill fear in the world.
Although flashbacks in the novel may seem confusing at times, they are designed to create a detailed canvas of the character’s lives, and what lead them to who they have become, and what they do next.
Q: Quote your favorite line from one of your stories. Indicate the line, and then the book title.
A: There is a lot of lines that I like; however, I believe the first line in the Prologue of Initiated to Kill is one of the best, as it introduces the reader not only to the setting, but also to the way I write.
“The solemn lodge hid from unworthy eyes, unnoticeable forgotten place made of granite. Two Sphinx-like granite lions with women’s heads peered down from the entrance of the lodge. An ‘ankh’ adorned the lion’s neck entwined with a cobra. An image of a woman embellished the neck and breast of the other lion, speaking of fertility and procreation.”
Q: Tell me something about yourself that is separate from writing.
A: I love learning. I have studied a range of subjects – Beauty and Spa therapy, Animal Behavior, Pet Care and Nutrition, Dog psychology, Editing and Proofreading, Animal Photography, Criminology, Freelance Journalism. Cognitive Behavior Therapy, Neuro-Linguistic Programming, Body Language and Naturopathic Nutrition.
I’m currently studying to specialize in Post-traumatic Stress Disorder and Medicinal Cannabis and CBD.
Q: Who are your top THREE favorite authors?
A: Dan Brown, Jeffery Deaver and Jack Kerley.
Q: What is the last book that you read? (Not counting anything you wrote)
A: Revelation by C.J. Sansom – a Matthew Shardlake novel.
Q: When writing, do you have a system or something you plan, or do you just write?
A: I use word excel to plot out my chapter outlines. That way I know what I need to focus on researching and writing each day. It keeps me focused, and also ensures my novels follow a logical progression.
Q: Why do you write?
A: I’m probably drawn to writing because I love to learn. With my novels I have to research, thus learn about the location it is set in, the history and everything that is revolved around the history.
I like to go in-depth as possible, without weighing the story down with too much detail. I love history; so researching the historical element to my novels is incredibly interesting.
It’s fun immersing myself in another world, develop a connection to the characters I created, and be able to control how things progress and eventually turn out. Of course, with the historical element, certain things are out of my control, as I try to stick as closely as possible to the actual events, while putting my own twist to it.
Q: Do you currently have a WIP? If yes, what’s the title, and is it part of a series or standalone?
A: To me, anything that I haven’t traditionally published is still a work in progress. So, my second, third and fourth novel in the Annabella Cordova series is still WIP, as I am currently editing my second novel to prepare it to send to publishers. Then I will continue to edit the other two as well.
Q: Do you read your own work a lot? If so, what does it do for you?
A: Yes! The more I read it, the more I pick up on what to change, add or remove. A couple of months ago, I read Initiated to Kill in print. I loved it, as it felt brand new, rediscovering and remembering what I wrote.
And it also revealed that even now, there are things I would change about Initiated to Kill. So, reading them over and over again just tends to help me keep on improving my novels.
I do find it helpful to have a couple of months (if possible) between reads, so I approach the edit with a fresh perspective.
Q: As an author, I find that the hardest thing to write (for me) is the blurb that will be on the back cover or book’s description. When you write, what is the hardest line to write, the first line, the last line or the synopsis for the book?
A: It’s definitely the synopsis for the book. Trying to condense a massive writing project into a page or two, covering the main points and characters while trying to make it sound riveting and engaging is a pretty difficult task.
However, I find that using my word excel chapter outline helps me to cover the main points, then I just reword it to make it sound more interesting.
Q: If you could sit down and have a coffee (or your favorite beverage) with anyone, living or dead, from any era, any time, who would it be and why? (You can pick up to 3 persons).
A: J. R Tolkien would be my top pick. I would love to pick his brain as to how he come up with all those characters, the setting, everything about Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit. And what inspired him to create the ‘Elvin’ language in the books.
Gaius Julius Caesar. Get some ‘honest’ answers to everything that happened back then, what made him so determined to do everything he did? Were the Romans as bad as history states? What would he do differently?
Finally, probably one of my historical characters in my novels would certainly be an interesting chat. Jack the Ripper, Elizabeth Bathory, the Zealots in Masada, or the people that were affected by the Bubonic Plague. History is full of people I would love to talk to.
Q: What does it mean to be a “successful” writer?
A: To me it means to create something I can be proud of. I’m very pedantic, I’m my harshest critic, so if I’m not impressed, I will keep working on it until I am.
It’s also important to me that others also like my books. It is great being a published author; however, it is the reader’s opinion that also makes a writing endeavor successful. That’s not to say everyone will like my book, just that even if it is a small handful of people that do, then that is success to me.
Q: What do you want to accomplish, so when you look back at your life, you can say “I did that”?
A: I’m doing it, lol. I’ve already ticked quite a lot off my bucket list, from skydiving to swimming with sharks, all the way to successfully writing novels, and starting up my online businesses.
The thing that I would like to still do though, if health and finances allowed it, is to travel to the locations I have written about.
Q: Any final thoughts that you want to give to your fans or even future authors?