Meghan: Hi, Anna. Welcome welcome. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Anna Willett: I love my home life. I’m married to a man I met when we were both in high school and we have two adult children still living at home as well as two German Shepherds who spend a great deal of time relaxing on the couch. It sounds chaotic and it is – but in a good way.
Meghan: What are five things most people don’t know about you?
- I love Zombie movies.
- I’m terrified of flying, but I do it regularly.
- I was once a contestant on Wheel of Fortune.
- I don’t know how to ride a bicycle.
- I love quiz nights and trivia contests.
Meghan: What is the first book you remember reading?
Meghan: What are you reading now?
Meghan: What’s a book you really enjoyed that others wouldn’t expect you to have liked?
Anna Willett: Gone with the Wind. While it’s not my usual sort of read, I love it and have read it more than once. The writing is flawless and the characters are unforgettable.
Meghan: What made you decide you want to write? When did you begin writing?
Anna Willett: It’s something I’ve always known I wanted to do but never took seriously until about seven years ago. At the time, I’d had double knee surgery and after reading my stock pile of books, I decided to take the plunge and start a novel.
Meghan: Do you have a special place you like to write?
Anna Willett: I have a small desk under a window in our mostly unused sitting room. It’s quite a peaceful space where my dogs can watch me write.
Meghan: Do you have any quirks or processes that you go through when you write?
Anna Willett: No real quirks but I do have a process. When I get an idea for a new book, I start a new document and make a list of everything about the book that I know so far. Over the next few weeks, I’ll fill in a few more details. When I have a clear picture of the plot, I outline the main characters and the first few chapters. I really don’t need more than a brief plan and I’m ready to go.
Meghan: Is there anything about writing you find most challenging?
Anna Willett: The first chapter always comes easily but the next ten thousand words takes the longest to write. In that first part of the book, it’s as though I’m getting to know my characters and that takes time. Once I hit forty thousand words, I’m usually flying along.
Meghan: What’s the most satisfying thing you’ve written so far?
Anna Willett: My first published novel, Backwoods Ripper. When it was finished, the story was everything I’d hoped to achieve and the first publisher I sent it to, accepted it and offered me a contract.
Meghan: What books have most inspired you? Who are some authors that have inspired your writing style?
Anna Willett: As an avid reader, it’s difficult to name one, but many authors have inspired me. The Silence of the Lambs is one of my favourite books, I’m in awe of Thomas Harris’ talent as a writer. I’m also influenced by great writers like John Steinbeck and Stephen King. I’ve read everything Karin Slaughter has written, she’s an amazing talent.
Meghan: What do you think makes a good story?
Anna Willett: The perfect amalgamation of story and characters; one without the other doesn’t work. A story can be original and have all the elements of a fascinating tale, but with wooden or even worse, clichéd characters, it’s never going to grab me. I suppose that’s why writing a book is so challenging; all the necessary ingredients have to be present or it’s never going to appeal to readers.
Meghan: What does it take for you to love a character? How do you utilize that when creating your characters?
Anna Willett: I enjoy, and try to create characters that are authentic and flawed. It’s not enough for a character to make certain choices or act in a specific way, there has to be enough back story and thought process to make a character’s choices believable if not wise. I also like characters that have a sense of humor, even in the midst of danger or crisis and these are the things I endeavor to bring to the characters I create.
Meghan: Which, of all your characters, do you think is the most like you?
Anna Willett: I don’t know if any one character is like me, but they all have a sense of humor and an understanding of the absurd. During some of the most difficult times in my life, I fall back on my dark and quirky sense of humor to lighten the mood or just give everyone the chance to take a breath, that’s what I give my protagonists.
Meghan: Are you turned off by a bad cover? To what degree were you involved in creating your book covers?
Anna Willett: I’m not so much turned off by certain covers but I do make judgments based on the images.
My publisher comes up with the covers and while they have the final say, I’m included in the process. Usually I’m presented with five or six images and asked for my feedback. Of my nine novels, my favourite is the latest cover for, The Woman Behind Her. There’s something evocative about the image and I adore the colours.
Meghan: What have you learned creating your books?
Anna Willett: So many things! I feel like I’ve taken a seven year master class in all things related to the business of creating books. And, every time I think I know all there is, I learn something new. One thing I do understand is the importance of interacting with my readers. While writing is a solitary pursuit, authors and readers are more connected now because of social media and so it’s never been more important to share with readers. It’s also never been a better time for writer’s to get to know their fans. So, I’m learning more and more about newsletters, fine tuning my website and discovering new ways to connect with fans of my genre.
Meghan: What has been the hardest scene for you to write so far?
Anna Willett: This answer goes back to what I’ve learned about creating books; if an author doesn’t like writing a scene, it will be evident in the work. That might not be true for everyone, but it is for me. If something makes me too uncomfortable, I won’t write it. I do this not because I’m a quitter, but because I want my readers to enjoy each scene as much as I enjoyed creating it.
Meghan: What makes your books different from others out there in this genre?
Anna Willett: One thing I never shy away from writing is the gritty stuff – the fear and the grim reality of violence. I also like to develop a sense of claustrophobia in certain scenes and stories. I like to think the thrillers I create have a harsh and creepy edge that you wouldn’t normally expect in this genre.
Meghan: How important is the book title, how hard is it to choose the best one, and how did you choose yours (of course, with no spoilers)?
Anna Willett: The title is extremely important as it tempts the reader to go further – to discover more. My titles are the result of a collaborative effort with my publisher having the final say. We often go back and forth with ideas until something amazing happens. With my latest book, The Woman Behind Her, I explained to my publisher the direction I wanted the title to take and from there, the perfect title was born.
Meghan: What makes you feel more fulfilled: Writing a novel or writing a short story?
Anna Willett: With a short story, you have to weave a compelling tale in maybe twenty pages. There’s an art to achieving something that’s satisfying to both the writer and the reader in so few words. While it’s definitely fulfilling to wrap a story up so perfectly that it can be told in twenty pages, I love the feeling that comes with finishing a full-length novel. It usually takes me between three and five months to write a novel and when it’s complete, it feels wonderful. It’s like coming to the end of a long journey where you’ve created something from nothing. If the book is any good, it’s a fantastic feeling.
Meghan: Tell us a little bit about your books, your target audience, and what you would like readers to take away from your stories.
Anna Willett: My books are thrillers that tip over into horror. Not in a supernatural way (not yet, but at some point soon). My stories are all set in Western Australia, a little known part of the world, but a place I consider to be the perfect setting for strange and dangerous happenings. Perth, the capital city, is the most isolated city in the world and so it is both a beautiful and dangerous local. If you want to know more about the forests, bush land, beaches and small towns, you’ll have to read my books.
I write about ordinary people and put them in extraordinary situations. My main characters are usually strong yet flawed women and my villains are complex and unexpected.
My target audience is anyone who comes willingly to a story and opens their mind to the possibility of being entertained, surprised and a little bit scared. I want readers to close my books feeling they got what the blurb promised.
Meghan: Can you tell us about some of the deleted scenes/stuff that got left out of your work?
Anna Willett: In my best-selling thriller, Unwelcome Guests, I removed two chapters. One chapter contained a surprising piece of information on the very last page and the other some background on how two characters formed a relationship.
Meghan: What is in your “trunk”?
Anna Willett: I have a complete novel; supernatural horror. In my humble opinion, I think it’s pretty good but I don’t know when I’ll do something with it.
Meghan: What can we expect from you in the future?
Anna Willett: I’m at the halfway point on a new book; the third in the Lucy Hush series. This one is set in the small coastal community of Savage Bay, a strange little bay where no one is what they seem to be and danger lurks everywhere including under the floorboards.
Meghan: Where can we find you?
Meghan: Do you have any closing words for your fans or anything you’d like to say that we didn’t get to cover in this interview?
Anna Willett: As always, I’m grateful to my readers embracing my books and coming along for the ride. I hope I never disappoint you.
Anna Willett is the author of Backwoods Ripper, Retribution Ridge, Forgotten Crimes, Cruelty’s Daughter, Vengeance Blind, and the best-selling thriller, Unwelcome Guests, as well as the Lucy Hush Series, which includes the Amazon best-selling Small Town Nightmare and Cold Valley Nightmare. Her new thriller, The Woman Behind Her, is available on Amazon.
Raised in Western Australia Anna developed a love for fiction at an early age and began writing short stories in high school. Drawn to dark tales, Anna relishes writing thrillers with strong female characters. When she’s not writing, Anna enjoys reading, travelling and spending time with her husband, two children and their dogs.
A woman alone. Watched. But by whom, and why?
When schoolteacher Jackie Winter inherits her beloved aunt’s house, she discovers that her close relative had been keeping a terrible secret.
As Jackie is drawn into her aunt’s past, all that was certain begins to fray. But she is destined to not experience this alone. Someone is watching her every move.
Then, there is a murder near the house. A cruel killing. Suddenly Jackie finds herself in the frame.
Trying to keep one step ahead of the police, Jackie turns her attention once more to the past, now certain there’s a link between her aunt’s secrets and the shadowy figure that plagues not only her days but also her nightmares.