Consider this interview a break and enter.
I break in and steal your know how. Consider this a hit and run. I want what you have. So put up.
Ainslie I’ve read ( I almost wrote stolen) Floored, which floored me utterly. Sorry bad pun.
Like with Grease Monkey Jive you really get into the characters’ heads, make them so three dimensional I think about them afterwards and wonder how they are doing. The only other time that’s happened to me was when I read IT by Stephen King.
So spill. How do you do it? I’m not leaving here until you give me a hint, the low down, the how to, the…well how the bloody hell do you do it?
I wish I could give you satisfaction in a Rolling Stones kind of way. I fear I’m going to disappoint.
I assume I only do what everyone else does. I try to be in a character’s head in a hardline kind of way. But the how, hmm, you got me. I don’t have detailed character bios, I don’t interview them or do anything clever and useful that I could pass on. I frequently forget what colour eyes and hair I give them.
In my day job I have to be good at reading people, good at anticipating what they’re thinking, what they’ll do from very little information, perhaps that’s helping me now.
I often think I don’t go deep enough, that I don’t create enough distinction between characters. I’m always refining to try to create the points of distinction between various characters book to book. It has to be more than just their back story, it’s down to words and gestures and that applies to secondary characters as well.
So you have Will in Detained, who is a total control freak and Fetch in Floored, who has that tendency but is so aware of it he mitigates it with humour and he never shuts up unless he’s brooding.
Will’s sidekick is Bo, loyal and shy, with a fierce streak. Fetch’s boss is a guy called Stud, a quintessential tough guy. After Fetch I wrote a guy called Mace who is so taciturn he barely talks at all. He was a huge challenge to get on the page, because he had very little dialogue and I love writing dialogue. In writing Mace I was ensuring I didn’t write Fetch again, because he was so much fun it was tempting to simply write him again and again.
I have a great beta reader team and like you, they want characters who live off the page. They seriously hammer me if I have a character do or say something they think unworthy of them. I rely on them to keep me and my imaginary friends honest.
In terms of secret sauce, maybe that’s it, very good beta readers who know how to wield a whip.
Next, secret. How do you make your books so long and still keep me entertained. I usually don’t read long books unless there’s magic, vampires, a few worlds to fall into and out of and so on.
I think that goes back to a warped equation of value. I was always a huge reader, but I didn’t have a champagne budget, so I’d go for the biggest books for the least money on the assumption they’d tell a sweeping, engrossing story and keep me entertained for longer. I was such a cheapskate I never read short stories because what was I going to do with that next hour.
I suspect I’m trying to emulate that, which is probably awkwardly old fashioned in the ebook era when pricing is different and it’s often harder to tell at point of purchase what the length of a book is.
But I’ve just dodged the question in politician style. I guess the answer is I like a big canvas and I tend not to write the more common tropes which can be a useful shorthand. Without the romance standards and without a world build I have to write long hand, deep character and unexpected storyline to sustain interest.
Again the beta readers help. Our rule is that they stop reading when a story bores them. That way I know where it’s gone off the track and can come back and redefine what’s happening on the page so it carries the story forward with enough pace and pathos to hold interest.
You don’t write explicit sex scenes (I hope that’s not a spoiler) and yet I could feel every touch every look that Sean gave Cait. I reckon you had me all set up and panting for an explicit sex scene, but I wasn’t disappointed with what you did give me. Two things. How do you do that? And why do you do that?
Really! Fantastic. You’re right, I don’t. But only because I don’t think I can! It’s a comfort and competence thing rather than anything else. But it’s also a bit of a resistance to the notion that sex is a thing for bodies and beautiful ones at that. I like it to be a thing for brains which means approaching it differently.
And have I mentioned competence? I’m always worried about being too purple and so inexplicit you might miss what’s going on. Bad sex awards, yeah I could be a candidate if I’m not careful.
The current manuscript pairs two folk who lust after each other but are such a bad idea they don’t act for the entire story. There is probably only one sex scene in the 100K odd that’s planned. Remains to be seen if I can keep the tension between them high enough that readers don’t simply lose interest and fall asleep and that talks to your next question.
Please don’t let me leave empty handed.
Last secret. How come I have to stop living while I read your books?
Isn’t that the best kind of read, absorbing to the point it takes over. Yes!
I always wanted to be able to do what my favourite authors do for me, but I think it’s hard work and then a good measure of luck for it to comes off.
My beta readers complain of the same thing and when they do I know I’ve got something. They’ve just read a manuscript for me and gave it a solid good, not great. No one complained of not getting enough sleep. Alarm bells rang all over the place for me. So on that particular story, it’s back to the drawing board big time.
I’m really hopeless at sharing secrets aren’t I? I promise I’m not holding back. I just don’t have any secrets. It’s just me and the blank page, and too much coffee and not enough exercise, hour after hour, day after day. Yawn, I’m boring myself!
Well darn. I’m not a good crim. It was a nice try but I’ll have to do surgery to get what she’s got.
The blurb to Floored is below. I couldn’t resist reading it.
They’re a car crash waiting to happen…so why do they keep crashing into each other?
From the moment Fetch gets knocked off his Harley, crawls into Driver’s car and offers her an obscene amount of money to drive him from Sydney to Perth — no questions, no names, no chit chat — they’re stuck with each other. By the time they arrive, they’re stuck on each other.
It’s lust at full throttle, with no seat belts. It could be more, but he’s a fake and she’s a liar. They’re both neck deep in crime, and only one of them is on the right side of the law.
Available from http://www.escapepublishing.com.au/product/9780857991492
Ainslie is on the web