Author Spotlight: Rachel Amphlett
Describe yourself in one word:
What is your background with regard to writing?
I used to write a lot when I was a teenager, but then started playing guitar in bands and that became my focus for about 7 years. During that time, I worked as a sub-editor on legal and economics journals, so I kept my hand in, and I’ve always been a voracious reader. I moved to Australia in 2005 and a few years later, started craving a creative outlet again as I’d quit my last band and hadn’t played live for three years, so I joined Queensland Writers Centre and did some courses with them. I began by writing short stories, and after some of those were shortlisted for international competitions or were published, it gave me the confidence to write my first novel, White Gold.
When did you first begin writing with a view of embarking on a career as a published author?
I think it was about halfway through writing White Gold. When I finished it, I uploaded it to the Autonomy site (a bit like Wattpad), and received so much encouragement from other writers that I began to realise I might have a chance. I approached some agents in the USA and UK, as well as here, and although they were incredibly helpful with their feedback, the majority of them simply said their publishing clients weren’t looking for manuscripts in that thriller genre. The others wanted to make a lot of changes to the story which I didn’t agree with, only to have it languishing on someone’s desk for two years, so I stopped pursuing that avenue. That’s when I started researching self-publishing – and I haven’t looked back since.
Before Nightfall begins with the central character Kate Forster embarking on a new and dangerous career that requires specialist pre-deployment hostage survival training given by Finn Scott. Unfortunately for Kate, her training does come in handy after she’s kidnapped and held for ransom. What inspired this concept?
Before Nightfall really came like a bolt out of the blue for me, in all honesty. I’d just published my second thriller, Under Fire and we were in the UK to visit family before a week’s holiday in Malta on the way back. I think it was probably because I was so relaxed that I was open to more creative ideas – it’s often the way with me. Anyway, the opening scene just popped into my head one day. It felt so real that I could even put myself in Kate’s shoes and sense the hessian sack over my head. Of course, then I wondered how she’d got into that situation, and the ideas flowed from there. On our last full day in Malta, we were on a yacht travelling up the coast around Comino and Gozo – we’d taken books to chill out with and I had my notebook with me as usual. By the time we got back to harbour in Sliema, I’d plotted out the entire manuscript and my hand was falling off! The first draft only took 9 weeks to complete – I don’t know if I’ll ever write something that fast again, but it was an incredible experience.
Throughout the story, you seamlessly weave in several twists and turns that are completely unexpected and unforseen. How do you plot out a novel with so many plot-twists?
When the structural editor read a very early draft of the book, he said I made things too easy for Finn, so I went back and looked at the conflict in every single scene. Poor Finn –by the time I’d finished, I’d managed to thwart every single one of his original plans! I enjoy the challenge of writing something that will surprise readers – that’s what I like about reading books in this genre. I enjoy the fact that you can read a book and try to guess what’s going to happen, and how the good guys are going to win, but you’re not always right.
As an avid reader of suspense, Before Nightfall, conjured thoughts of master storyteller, Sidney Sheldon. The elements of suspense, romance, internationally-set locations and action-adventure are all prominent. What do you feel has most influenced your writing?
Thanks, I appreciate the compliment! I’m guilty of overlooking Sidney Sheldon when I’m asked to list my favourite authors but I read all his suspense novels as a teenager, along with Jack Higgins and Dick Francis. I’m an avid reader of everything by Lee Child, Robert Crais and Michael Connelly, but I envy authors such as Ken Follett and Robert Harris who seem to write whatever they like, in any era that takes their fancy! I’ve also got heaps of books by Matthew Reilly, James Rollins and Daniel Silva on my shelves so they’re the ones who influence the action-adventure international flavours of my own writing. Then there are the romantic suspense authors I admire: Helene Young, Sandy Curtis, Bronwyn Parry, Cherry Adair, Linda Howard and Sandra Brown. I’m also discovering more of our own home-grown contemporary romance talent so the shelves are bursting with books by Amy Andrews, Rachael Johns and Charlotte Nash as well. Of course, everyone is always recommending books to me so the list grows… this is what I mean when I say I’m a reader first, and an author second – there are just too many books, and too little time!
What one character trait will most endear both Kate and Finn to your readers?
I do like Finn’s one-liners, the way he speaks to people he doesn’t like – he doesn’t suffer fools, that’s for sure. It’s a reflection of his fierceness, the lengths he’ll go to in order to protect someone he cares about. A lot of his voice simply popped into my head when I wrote a scene – it was a natural part of the writing process.
With Kate, it was really important to me that she wasn’t portrayed as a damsel in distress – I wanted her to grow as a character during her ordeal, and become stronger for it. One reviewer said she’s got “grit” and that made my day – it’s exactly what I was aiming for.
One thing you’d like readers to know about the romance genre…
It’s one of the most creative, friendly and inspiring genres to write in – even my novel, Before Nightfall fits neatly into romantic suspense, so I get the best of both worlds writing a thriller with romance elements. The romance authors I’ve met since I began my writing career have been incredibly enthusiastic and generous with their time and advice.
If you weren’t writing, what would you be doing?
Studying photography or getting back into my guitar playing. It would definitely be something creative, and I do miss playing in bands – I simply don’t have the time to do everything these days!
What’s next for you?
I’m about halfway through the first draft of my next romantic suspense, and I’ve nearly finished the first draft of a standalone thriller which is a bit different for me – the writing is more mature (in that I blow up less stuff!) so it’s going to be a bit scary seeing what readers’ reactions are to it. The plan is to bring out both next year, in order to free up some time to research and write the third in my Dan Taylor thriller series and publish that in 2016. I’ve got another idea bubbling around in my head for a further romantic suspense already, and I’m really tempted to try and write some shorter category fiction too but I think I’m going to run out of time…
Favourite snack whilst writing?
Hommus and chopped tomatoes on rye crackers. You just have to be careful the crumbs don’t fall between the keys…
What advice would you give your 16-year-old self?
Ignore everyone’s advice and stick to doing the City & Guilds Journalism & Radio course!
What do you find easiest to write? And, the hardest?
Action scenes are easiest to write, but I do appreciate the need for pacing in novels, so sometimes the slower scenes can be hard. It’s a delicate balance to slow things down without them becoming boring. And trying to get those twists in the plot so even my structural editor doesn’t see them coming can be a fun challenge!
Favourite travel experience?
Only one?! That’s hard! Okay, I’m going to say Cuba – it was truly amazing and everything we imagined it to be. Walking around Havana with all the old 1950s cars, the smell of cigars, old buildings, the colourful markets and street artists, sitting in a bar watching the world go by… brilliant.
Number one thing to do on your bucket list:
I don’t have a bucket list; I just do stuff when it springs to mind and the opportunity presents itself. And I have no desire to chuck myself over an incline attached to a piece of elastic, or jump out of a perfectly good aircraft!
Milk, dark or white chocolate? Milk – those red Lindt ones!!
Red, white, bubbly? White for summer, red for winter
Salty or sweet? Salty
Beach or mountains? Mountains
Give or receive? Give
About the Author:
Rachel Amphlett previously worked in the UK publishing industry, played lead guitar in rock bands, and worked with BBC radio before relocating from England to Australia in 2005. After returning to writing, Rachel enjoyed publication success both in Australia and the United Kingdom with her short stories, before her first thriller White Gold was released in 2011. Rachel’s Dan Taylor thrillers White Gold and Under Fire and latest standalone thriller, Before Nightfall are all Amazon bestsellers.
“If they move you, they will kill you.”
Kate Foster is quick to forget the advice from a pre-deployment hostage survival course once she’s catapulted into a new job in Eastern Europe, despite the good-looking instructor. But a simple day’s task in Istanbul six months later goes horribly wrong.
Trapped and alone, her only hope of survival is the man who trained her – ex-FBI Hostage Rescue Specialist, Finn Scott.
For Finn, it’s his worst nightmare. Kate was the one person he almost let into his heart. Haunted by memories of a failed hostage rescue, he is thrust into a situation beyond his control. Now, against a sinister adversary whose ambitions will split apart Eastern Europe, Finn must overcome his demons to prevent an international catastrophe, and avoid losing Kate forever.