Elizabeth Haynes lives in Kent, South East England, and works as a police intelligence analyst. The role involves looking at crime to establish patterns in offending a criminal behavior, and making recommendations for enforcement to enable the best use of available resources. Her experiences in the police force have not directly inspired Elizabeth’s plots—although it definitely made it easier to write a reasonably authentic crime novel.
Her 2008 NaNo-novel, Into the Darkest Corner, is being published by Myriad Editions in the UK on February 14, 2011. A French edition (Presses de la Cite) and a German edition (Diana Verlag) will follow.
Her 2010 NaNo-novel, The Revenge of the Tide, is scheduled for publication by Myriad Editions in Spring 2012.
Under a Hunter’s Moon, originally written for NaNoWriMo in 2007, will be published by Myriad Editions in 2013.
Can you tell us a little bit about Into the Darkest Corner and The Revenge of the Tide, and where the concepts for the novels came from?
All of my NaNoWriMo novels have sprung from a germ of an idea. Into the Darkest Corner started off with the terrible feeling of not being believed; what if you were the only person who knew for a fact that someone was bad, but everyone, from the police to your best friend was convinced otherwise? The idea grew from there into a tangled plot about the darker side of relationships, the need to escape, and the long term effects of experiencing a traumatic event.
The Revenge of the Tide started out with another “what if” and was inspired by the houseboats moored on the River Medway near to my home. I wondered what it would be like to wake up to a knocking sound in the middle of the night and go out to discover a body washed up against the side of your hull. From there I had the idea ‘what if’ the character recognised the corpse, but couldn’t tell anyone who it was. Unraveling that little puzzle was the central theme.
I’ve always read crime fiction and thrillers, but never thought I could actually write one until I first took part in NaNoWriMo in 2005.
How complete were the novels by the end of NaNoWriMo 2008 and 2010, respectively?
At the end of 2008 I had a total of 60,419 words of Into the Darkest Corner written and for the first time I had a beginning, middle and end, and a plot that I thought might be worth revising. I spent a long time trying to edit it myself and I would never get beyond the first third before I would think it was pointless and give up on it.
In 2010, knowing that I had an advance and that The Revenge of the Tide would hopefully be published, I took three weeks’ leave from my regular job and worked very hard at writing. I had 50,000 words after 14 days, and by the end of the month I was at 74,220. My first draft was finished by 19 December at a total of 90,000 words.
Do you tend to plot your writing in advance or do you prefer to fly by the seat of your pants?
I have tried both and I find I get bored if I plot things in advance. I like to be surprised by the characters and by the twists and turns of the plot and I believe if I get excited writing it, then hopefully people will find it exciting to read. Of course, the result is that I have to go back and untangle everything once I know how it’s going to finish.
What, if any, revision regimens do you swear by?
I have never been any good at editing and I have to rely totally on other people’s ideas for changing bits that don’t work. Sometimes someone will suggest a solution which will spark off a completely different idea, but one I would never have had without discussing the plot out loud. In the publishing world, deadlines for revised drafts are often surprisingly distant (when you’re used to a 30 day deadline, that is) so I ask for deadlines to force myself to work on the revisions.
What was NaNoWriMo 2010 like for you?
At first it was a bit scary, since I’ve always done this for fun; this time I was being paid to come up with something good. I was terrified my editor would hate it and I would end up being a one-book-wonder. Once I got emotionally attached to my characters, though, I knew it would be alright. Even if the publisher ended up not liking it, I liked it and that meant I wanted to carry on writing.
I got to meet up with some Wrimos I met at write-ins last year, as well as some new people, and they were terrifically supportive. Having the time off the regular job also meant I got a taste of what being a full-time writer might be like, and it was bliss.
How did you come to find out about NaNoWriMo, and what convinced you to participate?
A friend on my blogging site told me about it in October 2005. As soon as I heard about it, I knew I would have to do it—I needed no convincing. I’d never managed to write anything longer than 25,000 words before because I never had a reason to. NaNoWriMo gave me the excuse to do something I loved that had always had to take a lower priority in my life.
Do you have any advice on writing or revision for NaNoWriMo participants?
The NaNoWriMo experience is a very personal thing and there are no right or wrong ways to tackle it—so I won’t say “don’t plot beforehand” or “write in the mornings” because that won’t work for everyone. I would say though that it is great fun to do, you have nothing to lose by doing it—what’s 30 days?—and the rewards from it are great. Completing it boosts your self-confidence as a writer and a human being, you meet some great people and learn a lot about amazing random stuff through the Forums, and you might, you just might, end up with a brilliant novel that’s all yours.