Meet AJ Campbell, author of Leave Well Alone
We're thrilled to introduce to you our inaugural Thriller Women guest AJ Campbell whose debut novel Leave Well Alone is available now from Amazon.
"That bone-chilling winter's day when my brother returned home for good was when I first contemplated murdering my mother..."
How far would you go to protect your family?
AJ answered our questions about thriller writing, self-publishing and her hopes for her future career.
TW. What attracted you to thriller writing?
AJC: My favourite genre to read is psychological thrillers and so that's what I wanted to write. The human mind and how different people react to each other, and interact in society, fascinate me. I often read stories online and in newspapers and question what drives people to do the things they do.
TW: Who are your favourite thriller authors?
AJC: I'm a big fan of Claire Mackintosh, Shari Lapena and Lisa Jewell, and an even bigger fan of Agatha Christie.
TW. What tips do you have for people writing their own thriller?
AJC: In my opinion the characters in thriller novels, especially psychological thrillers, are as important as the plot. Ensure that you know all your main characters, especially the protagonist and antagonist, inside out. Know their backstory, what they eat for breakfast, what clothes they wear, where they shop, what makes them tick. If you decide to self-publish ensure you get a full structural edit first.
TW: Why did you decide to self-publish?
AJC: To cut a long story short I got very near to getting an agent but it didn't work out. It took me the best part of a year to get that close and in the meantime I was three-quarters of the way through the first draft of my second novel. I'd started looking into self-publishing and I thought that by the time I secured an agent and then a publisher I could have both books out there if I self-published.
TW: Can you tell us how you went about it and the pros and the cons?
AJC: I followed the Jericho Writers video series and the selfpublishingformula.com 101 course. For me, the biggest pro of self-publishing is that I own the process and, therefore, the results. But the negative side to this is that everything is up to me and often this is a scary place to be - especially when you are starting out. I worked with an editor for a year before I self-published Leave Well Alone. I also hired a professional cover designer and then a copy editor before go-live, but apart from that all decisions have been mine to make alone. I made a couple of mistakes but I got there in the end. Now that I've gone through the process once, next time it will be a whole lot easier.
The downside is that I will never see my novels in WHSmith or Waterstones but I'm OK with that. Plans are afoot to get it into bookshops. It's also extremely hard work as self-published authors have to do everything themselves to start with (until they can afford to outsource) from the production and finances to the sales and marketing in addition to continuing to write their next novels. And then there's the IT sound of things. Goodness me, the number of times I've wanted to pull my hair out with all the new software I've had to learn - marketing platforms, website set-up, email service provider and graphic design, book distribution systems, typesetting - things that I never even considered when I started out.
In my opinion you also need to keep active on social media. I run a virtual bookclub via Facebook (AJ Campbell's Reading Corner) and am active on Instagram. I also have Twitter and Pinterest accounts but am not so active on these. This whole social media side of things is extremely time-consuming but I have learned so much. In addition I've fathomed Facebook ads and am currently working my way through the minefield of Amazon ads. I'm also building great relationships with my readers, which is a real positive. I formed a great ARC team for Leave Well Alone, which has grown considerably as more readers have joined after contacting me to ask when my next book is coming out.
Then there's the financial side of things. I had to take the risk with paying upfront for the editing, cover design and typesetting costs, but luckily, with my sales and income from Kindle Unlimited, I'm nearly at break-even point. Therefore all profit going forward will be mine.
I guess a good analogy is self-employed vs employed. It's what suits each individual author. Now that I've gone through the turmoil once though I'm really glad I did it as it has paved the way for self-publishing my next novel, Don't Come Looking. I am also working on a cosy mystery series and hope to publish the first of these in 2021.
TW: Any exclusives about Don't Come Looking?
AJC: It features the protagonist from Leave Well Alone eight years on. That's all I can say at the moment!
TW: Where would you like to be in five years?
AJC: By 2025 I would like to have published five books. There, it's in writing now!
Quick fire questions
TW: Cosy crime or violent thriller?
AJC: Cosy Crime.
TW: Books or Netflix?
AJC: Books every time!
TW: Agatha Christie or Ruth Rendell?
AJC: It has to be Agatha. Sorry Ruth!
TW: Writing or typing?
AJC: Typing. My writing is too scruffy!
More about Leave Well Alone
A broken family. Skeletons in the closet. Lives in danger.
When Eva's brother Ben announces he has found their mother, Eva is determined to have nothing to do with the woman who abandoned them eighteen years ago to a traumatic childhood in foster care. Eva is happy now, in a loving relationship with rich and dependable Jim, and she is pregnant.
Nothing can change Eva's mind. Her eyes are firmly on the future. But when her baby is born with a serious hereditary illness she is forced to confront both her mother and her past. Eva begins to find forgiveness but as old secrets and layers of deceit emerge she makes a shocking discovery on a USB leaving her fearing for her baby's, Jim's and her own life.
How far will Eva go to protect her family?