Stop Standing in Your Own Way
An interview with Elizabeth Haynes
by B. Lynn Goodwin
ďÖeven in the darkest corner there is still hope if youíre able to look for it.Ē --Elizabeth Haynes
LG: Did your work as a police analyst inspire the story, and how long were you imagining it before you signed up for NaNoWriMo?
EH: My original aim was to explore how it felt to not be believed; but having read many crime reports dealing with violence in relationships, and the complex nature of how these can be investigated and prosecuted, I saw the opportunity to examine how things aren’t as clear cut as people might think, that walking away from these situations isn’t always an easy option. This all evolved as I was writing, I’d like to say I planned it that way but I didn’t!
LG: I love that evolution. I've always wanted to hear how someone went from a finished NaNoWriMo draft to a manuscript suitable for a major publisher. Can you tell us the steps in your revision process?
EH: Into the Darkest Corner was the first story I really finished, and so the revision process was completely new to me. I ended up working on the first third of the book over and over again, each time getting frustrated with it and thinking it was pointless. My publisher in the UK, Myriad Editions, gave me some really great suggestions of things I hadn’t thought of - even before they offered to publish it. Having a fresh perspective on it made all the difference.
Myriad specializes in bringing debut authors to the market, so they work differently than a lot of larger, more corporate publishers. I can honestly say the book is completely different thanks to my editor, Vicky Blunden, and the ideas she had for developing the story. I know my route to publication is unusual but the lessons I learned apply to others; you have to share your work and be prepared to listen to feedback, even if you can’t see the benefits of making changes. The editing process can be long and tortuous, especially if you don’t edit as you go along, like me - but it’s worth the effort!
LG: What are the most useful pieces of writing advice you got during this process (other than read in your genre and write daily)?
EH: I don’t think I would ever have shown my writing to anybody if it hadn’t been for my cousin Michael. Back then, I thought admitting I’d written a novel would provoke hysterical laughter - but what he said to me included things like, ‘if not now, when?’ and ‘what have you got to lose?’ Writing novels and getting published isn’t just something that happens to other people. It happened to me, and if I can do it (as a normal, everyday sort of person, with a regular job and a family and laundry to do) then you can too. So the advice I’d like to pass on is this: stop standing in your own way!
LG: What messages do you hope readers will get from Into the Darkest Corner?
EH: Tempting as it is to say that I hope people will realize that domestic abuse is more common than you might realize, and that for people in those situations there is no easy escape, really I’d like people to see it more as a story of courage and recovery, and that even in the darkest corner there is still hope if you’re able to look for it.
LG: To what do you attribute your success and what are you working on now?
EH: Into the Darkest Corner has been a success thanks to word of mouth, as it had very small beginnings and has come a long way since then. Lots of lovely people around the world have talked about it and passed it on, and I am very grateful for that. I’m still amazed when people email me to let me know that they loved Catherine’s story.
I’m currently editing my fourth book, which is the start of a police procedural series. In the meantime, my second book, Dark Tide, is about to be released in the USA and Canada. In contrast to Catherine, the heroine, Genevieve, isn’t afraid of anything - which makes her naïve and vulnerable because she’s reckless. I hope people will like this one too. I try to make sure all of my stories are very different from each other, which is a bit of a risk but keeps me challenged.
LG: I’m so impressed with how you’ve plunged in and kept on going. Please keep writing and sharing these stories that no one can tell in the same way you do.
Learn more about Elizabeth Haynes on her website, http://www.elizabeth-haynes.com/index.html. She’s well worth watching.
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April 2013 - June 2013
Why do some contemporary women stay in abusive relationships? Is it that the abuse escalates gradually, that the manís apologies overshadow the abuse, or is it something that defies rational explanation?
When young Catherine Bailey meets charismatic Lee Brightman, she can't believe her luck. Heís gorgeous and almost too perfect to be true.
But what begins as flattering attention and passionate sex shifts into a dark, violent nature that terrifies Catherine. Disturbed by his increasingly erratic, controlling behavior, she tries to break it off; she turns to her friends for support and is stunned when they don't believe her. Increasingly isolated and driven into the darkest corner of her world, Catherine tries to flee.
Four years later, her body has healed while Lee is in jail, but the trauma of the past still haunts her. Her attractive new neighbor, Stuart Richardson, encourages her to confront her fears and sparks unexpected hope for a normal life.
Elizabeth Haynes will make you think about psychological terror in new ways when you read her gripping debut novel, Into the Darkest Corner. Here she discusses her background, her work, and her advice.
LG: Was it your work or something else that led you to NaNoWriMo in 2006?
EH: A friend introduced me to NaNoWriMo in October 2005. As soon as I heard about it, I knew I would have to take part. It felt like the excuse Iíd been waiting for my whole life. I didnít have much of a plot and consequently ended up changing from a romance to a serial killer thriller after about 15 pages. It was pretty dire for a first attempt but I managed 50,000 words and felt a big sense of achievement.
LG: Reading that makes me smile. How did you discover the structure of the book, and how did you keep track of escalating scenes and growing fear? In other words, how do you plot?
EH: Actually I avoid plotting when Iím writing the first draft. I start with a little idea and let the story unfold as Iím writing. This helps to keep my interest as I want to know whatís going to happen next! The downside to this approach is that, when Iíve finished the first draft, the editing process is much longer. I end up re-writing, often changing major plot themes, and this is when I think about suspense and not giving too much away early on.
LG: What motivates a character like Lee to manipulate and dominate? Is there anything Cathy could have done to avoid him?
EH: Lee is motivated by his own insecurity and vulnerability. Unfortunately for Catherine, he is also good looking and charming, and itís only through experience in life that we develop a gut instinct whether to trust new people. He pursues Catherine, not just because she attracts him, but also because she is isolated by not having a family - he wants someone who will be utterly connected to him to the exclusion of all others.
LG: You show Cathy's OCD and Lee's instability and violence well. Can you share your techniques for doing that?
EH: Some parts of the book were difficult for me to write, having built an emotional connection to these fictional characters. The violence is graphic but, sadly, I know from my work that these things are happening every day. To have turned away from those scenes would have felt like a denial for the people who are going through it. I have to get involved in these subjects, to really feel them, to be able to write about it with any sort of authenticity.
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We’ll probably do another Scintillating Starts Contest in the fall. The deadline will probably be November 1, 2013. Check back for more details.
WriterAdvice seeks flash fiction, memoir, and creative non-fiction running 750 words or less. Enlighten, dazzle, and delight us. Finalists receive responses from all judges.
DEADLINE: Submit to the 8th WriterAdvice Flash Prose Contest by April 18, 2013.
JUDGES: Former prizewinners, Marcelle Soviero, JLSchneider, and Madeline Stevens are this yearís judges. Read their pieces and biographies by clicking on the Archived Contest Entries button at www.writeradvice.com.
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Four more of our seven endorsed writers selected from
WRITER ADVICEíS SCINTILLATING STARTS CONTEST
have their work posted on FLASH
Those earning a Writer Advice Endorsement
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James A. Roberts, II
Beverley Burgess Bell
WRITER ADVICE ANNOUNCES ITS 8TH FLASH PROSE CONTEST
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