This is a really exciting post for me because Andrea was one of the first authors I confided in about wanting to start a blog. She was extremely supportive and agreed to back me when I decided to take the dive into my own form of writing, so its really special featuring her here now. I received a copy of 14 Days To Die via NetGalley and was absolutely blown away by how fantastic it was. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it and you can enter to win a signed copy HERE. If you missed my review, you can find it HERE.
Q&A with A.B. Whelan, author of 14 Days to Die
1) When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer? What has your journey been like getting there?
I don’t remember ever wanting to be a writer. In my late-twenties, I was a stay-at-home mom with a baby and a toddler when I decided to write down the unique story of how mommy and daddy met during their naptime. I believed that it would be a great story for them to read when they came of age. One thing led to another and I continued writing, but after a while I turned my hand to fiction. Then Amazon Kindle was introduced and I started self-publishing. I knew nothing about promoting books or getting reviews back in those days. However, I did spend countless hours on feeble attempts to make my books stand out in the sea of self-published books, with little to no success. I’ve never had an aggressive marketing strategy, yet year after year I gained more followers and faithful readers who asked for more books from me. My first success came with my psychological thriller, 14 Days to Die, a story about a struggling soccer mom who finds her husband is cheating on her and has hired a man to kill her. Since the book was released, I’ve been invited to book club meetings and receive emails from readers telling me their life stories. The book gained positive attention before its release so I hoped it would sell well. I didn’t anticipate how many people would connect to the protagonist, Sarah. It’s an extraordinary feeling to know that people go through a range of emotions when reading my book. If only a few readers take a step back to look at their own marriage from a different perspective, or start doing more to make their marriage work, or seek ways to be happier in their marriage, then I consider my work a huge success.
2) Where did the inspiration for your psychological thriller “14 Days to Die” come from? What was the process like writing it?
I’m married with two children and spend most of my time on soccer fields, in the kitchen, at grocery stores, and at kid’s parties. I’ve made the voyage from businesswoman to homemaker. I’ve experienced all the ups and downs through it all. I always wanted to write a book for women like me, where the protagonist says things that many wives think but never verbalize. Unfortunately, my idea didn’t make it to text for years. One day I was watching an episode of CSI: Las Vegas, where the husband and his young lover hire a hit man to kill his wife. The very same day I started writing 14 Days to Die.
3) When you wrote the bathroom scene with Sarah and Bruce, did it make you feel uncomfortable? Did it come from personal experience?
Actually, my beta readers suggested tuning down the bathroom scene a bit because it was too detailed. I followed their advice, as I don’t usually write graphic scenes like that, but for some reason I became caught in the moment while writing the specifics. I’m sure some emotions came from personal experience, some from movies that influenced me, like the relationship between Kevin Costner and Madeleine Stowe in Revenge. Their romance was so powerful and pure and I wanted to deliver the same emotions to my readers.
Also, I believe that after Sarah found out her husband had been cheating on her, supporting his lover at the expense of his own family, and hired a hit man to kill her for the insurance money, she went through some serious personality transformation. If you have ever been cheated on you know that at first we sometimes blame ourselves. We try to find a reason why. Then we seek to obtain some type of confirmation for our worth. We try to prove to ourselves and the world that we are still desirable. After the emotional roller coaster ride we start looking at our life and future more rationally. That’s exactly what happened to Sarah. She’s was looking for confirmation and Bruce picks up on her signs. When Bruce reaches out to her, she lets go of all her responsibilities and gives in to pure emotions.
4) Why didn’t Sarah just go to the police and report her husband?
She was ashamed. Women many times stay in abusive relationships because they are too ashamed to tell others about their situation. She was worried about her family’s financial future if Mike went to prison. If you have been out of the typical workforce for over a decade, it’s quite difficult to get back on the hamster wheel. Sarah was emotionally destroyed, insecure, and lost. She made many mistakes before she figured out the right thing to do. Yet even when you do your best, you sometimes still find yourself out of time.
5) The readers seem to be divided by the ending. Many loved it, while others hated it. How do you feel about the readers’ responses about the ending?
What I wanted with the ending, and with the entire novel, is to make the readers feel something. Many times I read books that are safe, equally with the story and the language. I like books that make me angry, happy, sad, or even frustrated because they make me feel a whole range of emotions. That’s what I seek in a book. I tried to deliver the same quality with my story, especially the ending. So either people loved it or hate it. Yet ultimately it means the same thing, they cared about Sarah and what happened to her.
6) What did your husband think about your book?
He decided not to read the book, but as I was writing it, I shared several parts of it with him. I was raving about the great ideas I had for Sarah getting back at her cheating husband. He thinks I have a bizarre mind but I take that as a compliment. Although, I believe he does check his toothbrush before using it.
7) What did your family and friends think about your book?
My mother-in-law is a huge fan of my romantic fantasy series but she couldn’t stomach this one. She asked if I could really poison someone with Selenium. I’m not sure she was worrying about her son’s future or planning something for her ex-husband, regardless it was an interesting conversation.
My friends who read the book love it! They really opened up to me about their own marriages. We would laugh about the laundry, the toothbrush, the laxative. Marriage is such a serious thing and as such it’s good to make light of it sometimes. It was great to see that so many wives have the sense of humor you need to make a marriage last.
7) Why did you pick an Italian man as a hit man? It’s quite unusual. A reader would expect someone more Eastern European.
I’ve spent a year in Italy with my family and when I began working on 14 Days to Die I decided to weave my experiences into the story. There is also an interesting story that I believe influenced the character of my Italian hit man. One day I asked my husband to take me to a local gypsy quarter in Vicenza, Italy because I wanted to take pictures for a book I was working on. A few men in the camp noticed us on the street taking pictures. They jumped into a car and drove after us with squealing tires. We engaged in a street race, where at some point they pulled up next to us and started yelling at us and throwing stuff at us. My husband was so cool-headed and brave that they eventually backed down and gave up on the chase. We pulled over to a safe place and my husband looked at me and said, “One day you’ll get us killed for your stupid stories.” We nervously laughed and drove off. At that moment, I decided to have an Italian villain in one of my books and 14 Days to Die was a great opportunity to do it.
8) What do you think readers would ask themselves after finishing your book?
I believe most marital problems originate from the lack of communication and the lies they tell each other. So I believe readers ask the question: Could there have been a different outcome for Sarah and Mike’s if they only had talked to each other?
9) Are you working on your next novel? If so, can you give us any insider tidbits?
Yes, I’m working on my next thriller. The story is set in Southern Californian suburbs. Only this time, I have written about a serial killer from three points of view: a mother of three with a cop husband, a single psychologist whose future has been laid out before her by her rich and dominating parents, and a childless Swedish nanny who married into money but paid a heavy price for it. These three women connect and come together to take down a killer the police can’t identify. There are also flashbacks from the killer’s past that propels the story forward. The book will be available this fall.
If you could only bring one fictional book on a deserted island, what would it be and why?
Since my survival skills are very basic, I’d prefer to bring a practical non-fiction book such as an ultimate survival guide or a wilderness guide. I’d need help on how to start a fire, to recognize edible plants, to set traps, to build shelter, and so on. Otherwise, I’d probably pick Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe, or Lord of the Flies by William Golding. Stranded on an island alone, I’d find it useful to read about people who suffered the same fate and survived. Sometimes knowing that you are not alone is the only thing that can keep you mentally and physically strong.
If you could sit down to dinner with five people, past or present, who would you choose and why?
Jesus Christ. He is the only one who could make sense of all the terror and wickedness in the world. I’d love to know if the great compassion and great violence humans are capable of was in the original plan or it was just something that manifested itself over time. In my young adult series, Field of Elysium, I explore the idea of living on a planet where people don’t have the gene for violence. Although it’s not a utopian novel, I enjoyed exploring different theories that might make it possible.
Hitler. I’d love to try to talk some sense into him. I’ve read a biography on him when I was creating the tyrant in Fields of Elysium. Meeting him would be an interesting opportunity to show him the devastation his ambitions caused humankind. I wonder if knowing the effects of his actions would change the way he looked at the world and the people in it.
James Cameron. I admire him as a storyteller and movie maker. He goes into cellular depths and does exhaustive research to create authentic and interesting worlds and characters. I have a framed Avatar movie poster on the wall in my office to remind me every day to be a better storyteller.
J.K. Rowling. I’d like to pitch my middle grade book idea to her and ask her to co-write it with me. A girl can dream, can’t she?!
Pharaoh Ramses. There is so much mystery about the ancient Egyptian civilization. Who would be better to offer some insight than the master builder himself? When I was building the world of Arkana in Fields of Elysium, I used references to ancient worlds like Egypt and Greece.
A. B. WHELAN writes young-adult science-fiction and fantasy. She is the author of the Fields of Elysium series. She lives in sunny California with her husband and two children.
14 Days to Die is her first thriller.
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