On Author’s Circle today, meet Alana Woods, the Intrigue Queen of thriller fiction, to talk about writing, life and her book, Imbroglio.
Hi Alana, thanks for dropping in and letting us have a peek into your life.
So, what’s Imbroglio about?
It’s a suspense intrigue thriller set in modern-day Australia with the action taking place mainly in Sydney. The two main characters are Noel Valentine, a Sydney PR consultant and David Cameron, a charismatic but shady blow-in Noel saves from a horrible death in a burning car. And, hand on heart, I can say I was so focused on my David Cameron it never occurred to me it was also the UK PM’s name. I’ve been a bit red-faced about that oversight on a few occasions since the book was published.
Ha ha. Intriguing coincidence.
What’s your favorite line from your latest novel? Why?
I know this is more than one line but it’s a passage I particularly like because it instantly conveys me to the beach early in the morning when the water’s still calm and the air retains its overnight coolness. I spent my youth on the beach swimming and this evokes so many early mornings for me.
Twenty minutes later she was crawling back with regular unhurried strokes. The water was calm this morning with rolling humps that retained the surface sheen. Crystal splinters, glittering in the early morning sun, arched rhythmically with each upsweep of her arms. In a direct line with her belongings she halted and without pausing breaststroked leisurely to a point where she could wade. He watched her walk the long stretch over wet sand to dry while removing goggles and cap. When she was ten paces distant he rose to his feet, uncoiling like a diver in reverse.
Do you have any strange writing habits?
Sorry, but no. I either sit at my kitchen table so I can look out at the bushland behind our house and tap away on the laptop. Or I sit in the lounge with the laptop on my lap and facing the window so I can look at the distant mountain ranges and skyline while I think. Totally boring.
What does your day look like?
Falguni, I’m suspicious that you’re purposely asking questions designed to make me look boring!! But I’m going to sidestep and say it depends where I am in the world. If I’m in the UK visiting my daughter—which we do every year—you could find me on top of the highest peak in the Lakes District, or in a pub soaking up the atmosphere and warmth from the open fire while downing a cider or two. See, I can be interesting.
But if I’m home I’m a routine tragic. Every morning John and I walk over the fire trails and climb the local mountain—a little one—at the back of our house. It only takes an hour but it’s strenuous and we feel virtuous for the rest of the day. After that it’s housework etc. And writing and writing-related stuff in the afternoon. After dinner it’s put the feet up time in front of the TV with a wine. Red or white, doesn’t matter.
What’s your favorite book by another author, and why?
I don’t have one favourite book. I have a favourite author: Dorothy Dunnett. Sadly she died a few years back so there’ll never be anything new from her to anticipate. I discovered her Lymond series back in 1974 and was a devotee from that moment. Even so far as to attending a gathering in her honour in Edinburgh, Scotland—I’m in Australia—in 2000 with my oldest daughter, who is also a fan.
Why do I like her work? Her stories, characters and locations are fascinating, the complexities have to be read to be appreciated, and her language is exquisite. She wrote both historical and contemporary fiction. King Hereafter, the story of MacBeth, is breathtaking.
Dunnett and her books will immediately go on my TBR list. I
do love historicals too...ala Philippa Gregory.
On a different note, if your book becomes a movie whom
would you want to play the hero and the heroine?
I’m going to surprise you by not choosing Nicole Kidman or Cate Blanchett for Noel and Hugh Jackman for David. Totally the wrong types, as well as now being too old for the roles. When the time comes I’ll have to check out the up-and-coming Australian actors for the perfect fits. I used to think Heath Ledger would be perfect. I would have loved to have him do the audiobook edition because his voice was gorgeous. But obviously I put him out of my mind after he died.
Sounds like a plan. So, howw did you become a writer? In
other words, tell us YOUR STORY.
I’ve never not written. I was one of those kids who liked English lessons and essays. But I got serious the day I finished reading what I thought was an absolute stinker of a book. I threw it down in disgust and said, ‘I can write better than that!’ And my husband John uttered those fateful words: ‘Well, why don’t you.’ The rest, as they say, is history. I think there’ve been a few occasions in the intervening years when he’s wished he’d kept his mouth shut! J
What is your best marketing tip?
Don’t angst about it. It can swallow you up to the point where that’s all you’re doing and thinking about. Devote a specified amount of time to it and then get on with writing.
Why write what you write? As in romance or suspense or
When I began to write novels I tried various genres. I’ve always enjoyed reading historical fiction so I tried a Tudor period story first. Discovered it wasn’t for me. Next I tried young adult. Ditto. After that I gave Mills & Boon style romance a go. Again, not my oeuvre. Those three manuscripts are still at the back of the cupboard but I’m going to have to destroy them. I’d cringe with embarrassment if anyone decided to publish them in my absence.
When I wrote my first contemporary story, Automaton, I was working for the Australian Commonwealth Reporting Service and I spent most of those five years sitting in the Supreme Court recording criminal trials. The storyline developed from all that I witnessed. And after I wrote it I realised that contemporary suspense intrigue was THE ONE.
Is there a certain scene you find difficult to write? Eg: Racy or
action etc.? Why?
We-e-ll, sex can be a bit iffy, can’t it, in that you’ve got to be so careful not to make it a turn-off rather than a turn-on. Or worse, make your reader roll their eyes or outright burst out laughing. I’ve tended to skirt that danger by not being explicit. But I now avoid it altogether; keeping the reader outside the closed bedroom door and using their imagination has a lot going for it.
Is your writing character-driven or plot-driven?
Most definitely character driven. They’re what I like to read as well. Plot driven can easily become boring … in my opinion.
Naturally, in part you are all your characters (they come from
your head) but which of your characters is the most like you?
Or resonates in you the most? Why?
Noel Valentine from Imbroglio resonates the most. She’s vulnerable but she’s plucky; I’m positive that if I were put in the same situation I’d dive under the covers and pull them over my head. But not Noel; she sees something wrong and wades in to see if she can put it right.
My daughters say they can see a lot of me in Elisabeth Sharman in Automaton. At least, they say her mannerisms are all me.
What do you wish to convey through your writing?
I have a wish to entertain. I like nothing better than people contacting me to say they got caught up in my stories.
What can we expect from you next?
In 2013 John and I were in Italy for our oldest daughter’s wedding. I had my best jewellery with me because I obviously wanted to wear it, plus Simone has asked if she could wear some as her something borrowed. Two days before the wedding it was stolen. It took me some time to get to the point where I could think rationally about it, but I’m now writing a book based around it. The robbery is the starting point, based on fact. The rest is my imagining what might have happened afterwards, in a different time and world. It’s a story in four parts; I’ve just finished part 1 and am currently doing some reworking.
After that I really have to get back to the third thriller that is already written and sitting in a drawer waiting for a rewrite.
To end let’s try a Rapid Fire round. Your answer should be
the first word/s that pops into your head when you think of:
There are plenty of people I admire, but heroes? No.
When my children were growing up I wouldn’t accept ‘hate’ from them. The strongest negative I would accept was ‘Dislike’ or, at the most, ‘intensely dislike’. So, I don’t hate anything. However, I do intensely dislike all the hate currently flooding the world.
Thank you once again, Alana, for being here and talking to me
and my readers.
More about Alana Woods:
Alana Woods ... Intrigue Queen of thriller fiction. I toyed with 'thriller queen' as an author description but my novels are much more suspense intrigue to my way of thinking. I don't believe in cheap thrills, I like them to have depth.
I'm a storyteller from way back but not a prolific producer like other authors. It can take me years to be satisfied with the quality of a story and my telling of it. I put a finished manuscript in a drawer and forget it while I write another. That way, when next it sees the light of day—which can take years—it's like reading something new and any flaws jump out at me. I've written more than I've published—if I'm not satisfied with them they don't get published.
I have two suspense intrigue novels (thrillers), a short story collection and a writing guide for budding authors published to date.
Quality is the name of the game—my career was as a professional editor—and it’s what I aim for. I have a Bachelor of Arts in Professional Writing and a Graduate Diploma in Communication. I was serious about being the best I could be.
Visit my website and send me an email, I'd love to hear from you. Let me know what you think of my books and if they're suspense-intrigue enough in your opinion.
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