Interview with Sharlene Almond
Elle: So, what have you written?
Sharlene: I first put my hand to writing in my Freelance Journalism course; researching and writing a range of tourist articles on places in New Zealand, and Top Wineries in New Zealand. Along with my training in Dog Psychology, I also wrote articles about Dog Behaviour and Health.
Additionally, I wrote health articles on Fibromyalgia, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Stress and the Health benefits of tea. Because I’m studying Body language, I’ve started a series on how to interpret body language and facial expressions. All of which can be found on my blog, along with reviews on novels - https://sharlenefreelancewriter.wordpress.com/
I have also done interviews, and written articles on writing, and an article on Elizabeth Bathory; who features in my second novel for other blogs.
However, it was when I finally decided to write my first novel, that I personally think I found my calling. Initiated to Kill is the first novel in my Annabella Cordova series. A psychological thriller that is partly based on a true story; combined with conspiracy and a deaf art student. The novel delves into two serial killer's psyche - one in 19th century London, and the other present-day Spain. What drove them to do it?
Annabella Cordova quickly becomes embroiled in the conspiracy involving the university she studies at. When her roommate goes missing, it becomes very personal. Her ability to read facial and body language in people leads her to discover parallels from an earlier century.
Every six days a package arrives at police headquarters, where Andres Valero gradually uncovers a conspiracy resembling one attempted centuries ago.
In 19th century London, a man, an artist roams the streets of Whitechapel for his prey. But who was this infamous serial killer? His childhood background, the man that transforms into a killer. Explore the psychological workings of a killer that was never apprehended – Jack the Ripper.
Initiated to Kill unmasks two serial killers - initiated into a powerful organisation to kill.
I have written in total four novels in the Annabella Cordova series, and looking to have my second one published.
Elle: Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special?
Sharlene: Firstly, I wanted to make Annabella Cordova unique, something that caused her to stand out amongst other characters. I’ve always been fascinated with how body language and facial expressions can reveal what may be going on in a person’s head. So, I thought creating her to have the skills to accurately read people, and using those skills in the investigation on the missing girls.
That way Annabella can be intimately involved with the case, without being a detective, or interfering.
However, I didn’t want to stop there. I enjoy creating characters that are damaged, their past messy, but connected to present day events. I knew pretty much straight away what I wanted next from Annabella. Because of a childhood trauma, Annabella is completely deaf. And has to be able to read lips, do sign language, and interpret body language and facial expressions. Basically having to use her other senses to get by.
I do have to keep on reminding myself she is deaf throughout the novel, as it is quite easy to slip up.
Additionally, her past, especially that involving her father and mother, causes her to quickly become involved in the conspiracy
that spanned a century.
It was also quite fun to make her a Art student. As I did a lot of research on different paintings, especially those painted by Nicolas Poussin and Guercino; as these two artists were rumoured to have hidden meanings to their paintings.
Elle: What genre are your books?
Sharlene: The series is part historical/21st century psychological, international thriller.
Elle: What draws you to this genre?
Sharlene: The thriller genre is exciting to read and write because it is designed to ‘thrill’. It doesn’t necessarily need to be violent, but something in thriller novels are intended to keep the reader on their toes.
The international aspect allows the reader to travel along with the character, taking the characters to different parts of Europe and beyond. Almost creating a travel article, but just in a novel format.
Choosing to have Initiate to Kill and the other books in the series as a psychological thriller just came naturally. I’ve always been fascinated with psychology, in particular, criminal psychology. So my novels basically create a criminal profile of the killers; including their childhood, how and where they grew up, their young adulthood, and finally their crimes. All connecting the dots to how, and possibly why they became what they were.
I’ve also done this for my main characters, so the reader gets a in-depth insight to the characters, and hopefully better understands them, and connects with them.
Finally, the last part (and personally the most interesting to research) is the historical aspect. It was only by accident I decided to include this genre in my novels. Merely by finding through my research how a historical conspiracy was connected to the main storyline. From there, I chose to include that in as well. And I’ve always enjoyed studying history, so this makes the novel even more interesting to research.
Elle: Where do the your ideas come from?
Sharlene: For Initiated to Kill, I already had written a sentence for a story idea. I decided to run with that, and as I did more research, the more ideas that came flooding in. And like I mentioned above, the historical aspect on Jack the Ripper with the connection to the Freemasons – history had already written that. I just expanded on it. Bringing the characters to life, and using the real events to create a fictional, and hopefully, exciting read.
With my other novels, I tend to base it first on a country I want Annabella to go to. From there, I research the history of that country, in particular, the myths or conspiracies that were rumoured to have taken place there. I then use the historical aspect to garner ideas for my present day plot.
Gradually, all the aspects come together. My novels are not designed to create ‘copy-cat’ killers, merely the historical killers are connected in some way to the present day killers.
Elle: What is the hardest thing about writing?
Sharlene: Admittedly, it is the rejection when approaching publisher and reviewers. I enjoy all aspects of the writing process, even the editing, as I tend to use that process to get more creative with the wording and characters.
After putting so much effort into the books, it is quite hard to be rejected. However, it has caused me to develop a pretty thick skin, and because I enjoy writing, I wouldn’t stop for anything.
Elle: What is the easiest thing about writing?
Sharlene: Allowing the creative juices to flow. Sitting down and letting out all my ideas. Reading the research, and creating a novel from that. The ideas tend to flow rather easily, so far. And expanding on them is the fun element in writing.
Elle: If your latest release is part of a series, tell us a little about the series?
Sharlene: Initiated to Kill is the first novel in the Annabella Cordova series. All the novels are based around Annabella Cordova as she travels to different parts of the world, and uncovers historical conspiracies and sadistic killers.
The other three novels I have written all expand on Annabella’s life, and how her father plays into the plot-line. Because of what happened to Annabella in Initiated to Kill, she joins a organization that was designed to capture, torture and eventually kill their targets.
The series has Annabella investigate different cases with her unorthodox methods, and develops her character all the more. By the fourth novel, Annabella has changed considerably.
The historical aspect to my second novel is based around Elizabeth Bathory – supposedly the first female serial killer, and connects with the present day killer when girls go missing in Romania, and are found dead with bite marks.
The third one in the series is based on the mass suicide of the Jews at the fortress – Masada. The present-day events are linked to those suicides, and in particular, to a young Jewish girl that escaped the suicide pact, only to be taken as a slave to Rome. Annabella is sent to Eypgt when a body is found with Egyptian symbols are discovered on the body, and various organs are removed.
While the fourth one is my biggest project yet. I take the reader along the path of how the Bubonic Plague spread to Europe. Beginning in China, the historical characters bring to life what is was like back in the Middle Ages, and how the plague spread. The conspiracy element is based on the premise that the plague was man-made. From this concept, I have created the modern-day storyline that once again a plague sweeps the world; taking Annabella to Greece, and to where her past collides.
Elle: Tell us a little about you as a person.
Sharlene: I live in the countryside of Auckland, New Zealand with my two Jack Russells. Both as a hobby and hopefully as a paid author, I spend my days writing. When I’m not writing, I have dabbled in quite a few courses that have taken my interest.
First studying as a beauty and spa therapist, I decided to go further a field, and study Dog Psychology and Animal Behaviour. I still had other interests I wanted to explore, which lead me to study Editing and Proofreading, along with Freelance Journalism.
Although, Freelance Journalism provided me with a writing backdrop, I still wasn’t completely satisfied. Always having a interest in psychology, I went for a course in Criminology. This began the process of wanting to learn more about people.
I certainly think at this point I was just addicted to learning, gaining as much knowledge as I could. Learning about people wasn’t quite enough. Another element that I wanted to explore, and have as my Plan B in case writing didn’t provide me with what I needed. I thought along the lines of becoming a counsellor. Which then lead me to study Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for two years, and expanding on that with learning Neuro-Linguistic Programming, and currently Body Language.
If I’m not writing or studying, I tend to spend a lot of time marketing my first novel.
Elle: Besides writing what are your favorite things to do?
Sharlene: As mentioned above, weirdly enough, I actually enjoy studying. But my other interests include photography, intense interval training, baking (and of course, eating); as well as getting out and socializing, and putting my dancing shoes on.
I would certainly like to travel a bit more, especially to the places I have written about in my novels.
Elle: Do you have a favorite movie and/or book?
Sharlene: There are far too many books to choose from, but a really good psychological thriller tends to grip my attention.
In terms of movies, I especially liked the Batman series with Christian Bale – Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and The Dark Knight Rises. Dark, gripping, with the characters all a bit messed up.
Another movie that I watched a little while ago was the Equalizer, with Denzel Washington. That was certainly an exciting watch.
Two men from two different generations, both initiated into a powerful organization that throughout history has sought control and uses their power for destruction. They leave behind a wake of murder, manipulation and ancient secrets.
The first man wreaks havoc in and around the Whitechapel district of London, England in the 19th century. While the other stalks his victims in the cosmopolitan city of Seville, Spain in the 21st century; knowing that only he could uncover the true motives of one of the world’s most infamous serial killers—Jack the Ripper.
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