Interview number two with indie author Rebecca Howie as part of
the blog tour for her second novel, A Woman Scorned.
If you cast your minds back to July you may recall that I interviewed a young indie author from Scotland called Rebecca Howie. Still a teenager at the time, Rebecca had one published YA mystery novel to her name, The Game Begins, which made it as high as 16th position in its category on Amazon’s charts. This week I have the pleasure of hosting her once again as a stop on her blog tour for the imminent release of her second novel, A Woman Scorned, book two of the Sam Beckett Mysteries series.
Rebecca is a very talented young writer with a bright future ahead of her. If you enjoy reading young adult and crime fiction you should definitely add her to your reading list; you won’t be disappointed.
When a therapist is found dead in her office, Sam decides to work with CID and Detective Marshall on the case, hoping that the dead woman’s troubles will be enough to help her forget her own. but with Dr Weiss’ perfect image slowly crumbling as the investigation progresses, Sam finds that she isn’t the only person hiding behind a lie, and that uncovering someone else’s could have been what led Dr Weiss to her death.
01. Your upcoming new novel, A Woman Scorned, is the second book of the Sam Beckett Mysteries series. Can you summarise for readers what the story is about?
It follows Sam on her return home, and her struggles to cope with what happened while working on the murder investigation of a therapist.
02. Can A Woman Scorned be read as a stand-alone story, or do readers need to have read book one of the series, The Game Begins, first?
My whole aim when writing AWS was to touch on the events of the first book, so I definitely hope it can be read as a standalone, as well as a sequel which won’t bore you to death with reiterating the stuff that happened last time.
03. I liken your book to Veronica Mars meets Taggart, with heavy emphasis on Taggart. How would you sell A Woman Scorned to potential readers?
The last few weeks have been a rush to get things finished for the release day, so I haven’t really had much time to think about it―but I’m definitely going to use your comparison now because Taggart’s a classic and Veronica Mars has loads of sass.
04. Was the experience of writing A Woman Scorned any different from your experience of writing The Game Begins? Was it easier or harder?
Definitely harder, because it was supposed to be a novel. The Game Begins was just a story I was working on like I’d done with countless others before it, so there was no pressure to plan or have it make any sense until I’d decided to publish it, and by then there was already a rough first draft for me to work with.
With A Woman Scorned, I knew I wanted to write a sequel and I knew I didn’t want it to ignore what had happened in the last book, so finding that balance between telling a new story and continuing the old one was extremely difficult for me, and especially because I’d told myself I was getting it finished before I turned 20, which gave me a deadline to work towards.
05. It’s unusual these days for authors to write in the present tense rather than in the past tense; was there a particular reason behind your choice to do so?
It wasn’t a deliberate choice, and every project I’ve worked on in the past has always been in past tense, so I don’t know why The Game Begins was any different. I know all the earlier drafts were in present tense, but I liked The Hunger Games being told that way because it kept the action more real, and I felt more immersed in the story than I would’ve if it had been told in past tense, so maybe it was a subconscious thing.
06. Did writing the story this way present you with any challenges that you needed to overcome?
It did a few times, and some of my earlier attempts were written in past tense. My problem was trying to work out where the story was going to pick up, but changing it to past tense just felt like cheating and giving up, and I didn’t want to do either because I’d already managed to write The Game Begins in present tense.
07. As a mystery author, your genre requires a certain degree of knowledge about police procedures, and forensics etc.; how much research did you need to do?
Not as much as you’d think. I’ve binge-watched a ton of crime shows, and although most of the ones I watch now are American, there’s a really great British one that revolves around cold cases, and when I was about twelve or thirteen, I could actually reel off that speech they make when they arrest someone, so for A Woman Scorned, my research was more focussed towards post-mortems and what Forensics can find out.
I did contact an ex-police officer who’s written reference books, and he was a great help, but a newish mystery author who was kind enough to reply to my email told me that he only really worries about correct procedure if it’s going to affect the story, but other than that, he doesn’t get immersed in technicalities, so I took that as permission to be lazy and just use the information I already knew.
08. How difficult is it to conceive a murder mystery that is hard for readers to solve, but easy enough to make sense once the question of “whodunnit” is revealed?
Very. I had no idea it was going to be as stressful as it was, but I got there in the end.
At the start, I was more concentrated on where the story was going to pick up and how Sam was coping with everything that happened, and although I knew who the victim was and how she’d died, I didn’t really know much more than that.
Some of the solution came to me as I was writing, and I thought including certain things would be clever, and others were a result of spending days shut up in my bedroom hunched over my desk trying to iron out the creases.
I have a whole notepad filled with timelines and character profiles and explanations, and lots of little scraps of paper with motives and persons of interest on them, but one of the most important things I learned while fabricating a murder was that keeping it simple was the best way forward―because if trying to understand the solution makes your head hurt, it’s going to make your reader’s head hurt too.
09. Your protagonist is a seventeen year old sleuth called Sam Beckett; did you base her on anyone you know?
Me. Sam was 17 in The Game Begins because I was 17 when I started writing it, and I couldn’t imagine putting an older character in her place.
10. Sam is a rather tragic figure in the book; what is it you enjoy about writing the character?
I like seeing how she deals with everything that life throws at her, and how she’s changed since The Game Begins. I’ve never written a series before, or a sequel, so it’s exciting for me to be able to look back on it and see how much Sam has grown.
11. Do you have any goals or hopes in terms of sales, Amazon chart positions or Goodreads ratings and reviews for A Woman Scorned?
The Game Begins got to 16th in its category within six months of being on sale, so if I could get anywhere near the top 20 again, that would be amazing.
12. How many more books do you plan to write for the Sam Beckett Mysteries series?
I have no idea. I like planning the books when I get to them, so planning ahead isn’t something I’ve done, or something I intend on doing.
13. Have you already started writing or making plans for your next book? If so how much can you reveal right now?
I’ve started making notes, and attempted a first chapter, but there’s a good chance it will change completely by the time I get anywhere near a proper storyline.
But I will say that Sam’s going to get a few shocks, and Marshall has his fair share of tragic backstory, too.
14. I recently read A Woman Scorned, and was very impressed that such an accomplished piece of writing was the work of a 19 year old. How long have you been writing for?
Years. It’s something I’ve always loved doing, and I can remember being the only one excited in English at the prospect of getting to write short stories.
There was a space of a few years when I’d stopped writing outside of school because I was more sensible as a ten year old than as an adult, and knew that you needed money to live on―and you wouldn’t get any as a writer―but after a friend told me about Wattpad and this thing called fanfiction, I started writing again, and I remembered how much I loved it.
I wouldn’t have published The Game Begins, or had the confidence to, if I hadn’t been posting on those websites, and I know my writing style definitely wouldn’t have progressed as much as it has if it hadn’t been for all the feedback I was lucky enough to receive, so I owe a lot to the readers on Archive of Our Own and Wattpad.
15. I think you have the potential to become the Elizabeth George for the YA generation; how would you prefer for readers to perceive you?
To be compared to any of the authors who inspired me would be enough of a reward, and to know that someone could compare my writing style to another of their favourite writers would be humbling.
16. While mystery/crime fiction is your preferred genre, do you have plans to write books in any other genre(s)?
I’ve tried writing romance and fantasy before, but neither held the same appeal for me. But I think after finishing Sam’s third adventure, I’ll probably try something else.
17. Where would you like your writing career to have progressed to five years from now?
I’d like to have another few books done, and to be able to write full time.
18. If a traditional publisher approached you wanting to acquire publishing rights for the Sam Beckett Mysteries, what would be your response?
I like the freedom of indie publishing, and I like having the final say in book covers and blurbs, and having someone tell me that I can’t write any more Sam Beckett books would be gutting.
And I can’t write to deadlines to save myself, so I don’t think that would make it any easier.
19. You know about my aversion for having my stories adapted for film or television. If the Sam Beckett Mysteries were to be adapted, would you prefer it to be on the big screen or the small screen?
Small screen. A few book-to-film adaptations use one book per series, like Outlander, and I’d be interested to see who they cast as Sam and Marshall.
20. One final question. If Sam Beckett went head-to-head with Veronica Mars during a murder mystery weekend, who would solve the mystery first?
I think if Sam met Veronica Mars, she’d probably be in awe of her dazzling personality, and Marshall would have to remind her that they’re supposed to be competing against each other.
* * * * *
I just want to say thank you to Rebecca for participating in another interview. Best of luck with release of A Woman Scorned, and I wish you every success with your burgeoning career. For you readers who want to know more about Rebecca, you can visit her blog and other social media hangouts via the links below. And a reminder that Rebecca’s debut novel The Game Begins is also available from Amazon.
THE GAME BEGINS
When her friend suggests she take a PI course to distract herself, Sam agrees, but she soon realises it won’t be as simple as she expected when her first case leads to a woman being killed, her husband accused of her murder, and a series of threatening text messages sent to her phone which lead Sam to believe that her father’s crash might not be the accident everyone thought it was.