Interview with Author Sharlene Almond

My guest today is author Sharlene Almond. Hello! Welcome to Writing in the Modern Age! It’s such a pleasure to have you here. 

Hi, thank you so much for inviting me on your blog today!
Of course!    
Can you tell us a little bit about your book? When did it come out? Where can we get it?
Initiated to Kill tells the story of a secret society, an infamous 18th century murderer, a conspiracy to undermine those in power, and a man’s vengeful agenda to achieve what he seeks.

An initiation that welcomes those into the Brotherhood, welcomes another that purposes could not have been foreseen. A man initiated to carry out work to fulfil a vendetta deep inside him. A man initiated to kill.

Annabella Cordova came to Spain after her mother was killed and her father disappeared. A childhood accident has caused her deafness, but in her silence she has developed the ability to tell when someone is lying by reading facial and body expressions.

When her best friend goes missing, she finds herself amidst a plot that plans to fulfill what failed years ago. 

Through the hypothesis of Patricia Cornwall, a man’s life is unmasked that may finally answer – Who was Jack the Ripper? Through centuries a Prince, a doctor, a butcher have been in the spotlight, but now another man, an artist, Walter Sickert may take center stage.

Throughout the novel, a psychological profile is created to examine if this artist really could have been Jack the Ripper. Did he hide his crimes in his art? Grown up spoiled, maimed by a condition, blaming women for his deep seated anger.

His obsession involving himself in crimes that those that initiated him could not have foreseen.

What drove him to it? And is it possible that the Freemasons were behind the Jack the Ripper killings all along? Was the Prince, doctor, butcher and police commissioner all part of what became one of the most infamous unsolved murders?

Meanwhile, Detective Andŕes Valero has returned from mandatory leave after killing a man that tried to rape and kill his fiancé. The request for his return outlines his own fate. His investigation leading him to men that prey on vulnerable woman, Seville University that holds century-old secrets, and to a society that far outreaches any other.

The detective’s investigation leads them to Seville University, and Mr Murillo, the headmaster of the University. The nervous man belies the fact he is hiding something, his walls adorned with paintings of reputable character. One in particular, ‘Ennui’, by Walter Sickert, plagues the mind of Valero.

There is another that cannot be forgotten. A student that frightens not only the female students, but the teachers. A man called Demetrio, that is obsessed with Celestina, and carries his own dark secrets that are used by another to unveil his plans.

As the weeks go on, the taunts begin. Every six days a female student disappears, followed by a delivery of a package that mimics the taunts of Jack the Ripper.

As Annabella and the detectives come closer to the truth, Annabella’s life is in this man’s sights; leading Annabella's past to resurface.

Initiated to Kill was released 01/14/15, and it can be purchased on Barnes and Noble, as well as Amazon. I also have several print books that I am selling via my Facebook Author page.

Such an intriguing premise! 

Is there anything which prompted this book? Something that inspired you?

History is something I love. The fascinating world that at times seems unbelievable. I love the research that goes into writing history, and how much I learn through that research. It also tends to inspire more ideas to flow as I do my research.

I’ve always had a notebook where I’ve jotted down ideas that I want to write about. One idea caught my attention about the occult and murders around it, and when I started research on it, things fell into place.

I didn’t really have something in particular that inspired me, but I’ve always enjoyed reading thrillers/mysteries, so that’s what I wanted to write about. The more research I did, the ideas just kept flowing. But it wasn’t until I started to edit Initiated to Kill, that I began to see how interesting it would be to include the historical element to it.

Going from past and present enabled me to explore a whole other dimension, and give more meaning to the present-day plot line. The Jack the Ripper angle was only supposed to be a quick mention, but reading more about the conspiracy angle that surrounded it, I knew I had to write about it.

I didn’t want it to be like other Jack the Ripper books or movies, something different, someone different. Patricia Cornwall’s book, The Portrait of a Killer, reveals another suspect to the never-ending discussion of who this infamous killer was.

And so, I delved into the mind of a killer. Detailing about this man’s life, going into the psychological workings of this eccentric artist and bringing him to life. As the characters lives are written almost like mini sub-plots, a lot is revealed about the inner psyche of the characters.

It's always fascinating to see where the muse takes us!

Let me ask a different question.

When did you know you wanted to write? Or has it always been a pastime of yours?

Since I can remember, I’ve always loved to write. Whether it be short stories, essays for subjects, and even short poems. Reading and writing have fascinated me as it allows an escape to a whole other world, letting the imagination run wild, and creates complex characters to play out convoluted plots.


Do you have any favorite authors yourself, Sharlene? 

James Patterson, Dan Brown, Jeffery Deaver, Karin Slaughter, Stephen White, Jack Kerley, and Michael Marshal are all authors that I enjoy reading. All authors do an excellent job in delving into the mind of a killer, the sadistic crimes, and delivering an on-the-edge-of-your-seat read.


Do you write in a specific place? Time of day? 

I usually write in my lounge, where I can look out the screen door and let my mind wander a bit. The ideal writing time for me is definitely in the morning. After a workout, shower and breakfast, I usually start around 8.30 a.m. or so, and continue with breaks up to lunch.

All right.

Are there some words you'd like to impart to fellow writers? Any advice?

I stick to what I love. If I love writing and entertaining people, then writing will never be a waste of time. Yes, there will be rejections and criticisms countless times, but as the saying goes, ‘whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’

I take note of constructive criticism so I can improve on my writing. Every bad review may also have some valuable advice that I can take on.

I also keep persisting. I have received a lot of rejections, unfortunately, but it goes with what I do. Because I love to write, I never know what might happen.

I have found a good query letter is also key. I need to be able to hook the publisher pretty quickly. A query letter shouldn’t be long-winded, but get straight to the point.

In the end, it’s easy to fit into the popular genre, it’s harder to actually write what I enjoy writing if it’s not so popular. However, like many books now, in which once upon a time they weren’t popular, one never knows what might pique the readers’ interest, making writing even more exciting, which is my main motivational philosophy.

I use a basic plot outline for every novel – The Snowflake Method.

This is my favorite, and, in my opinion, most useful tip for authors. And not just ones that are starting out. I have used this for my second, third and fourth novels. In my opinion, a good novel needs a detailed plot outline. You can just sit down and write; however, if you haven’t created an outline, the structure may be all over the place.

And you might waste time trying to think up what you want to write each day for the chapters. Events may not be cohesively linked. Using the Snowflake method helps to arrange all my thoughts and ideas. And in word excel, it makes it easier to rearrange chapters, and add to them, without having to do that after I have done all the writing.

Also, the chapter outline basically helps to schedule in what I need to focus on each day, by using the section under chapter headings to write a few sentences on what I want the chapters to include.

I will, of course, add to the chapter outline, remove other things. et cetera. However, this just gives a great starting point. And it means I can even add what research I have collected so it fits into the story better.

The other aspect I find important is Research, write, research, and write. This is the stage when I actually intend to flesh out a novel. Researching before, during and even after the first draft is not only useful for getting more ideas, but it makes it easier to remember facts when I am writing, so I am as accurate as possible.

I find the best way to prevent writer’s block is to have plenty of research to work from. That way I can pick and choose what I find necessary to include, and helps me come up with a wealth of ideas.

Ooh, love all this advice!

Thank you so much for stopping by to visit us here today at Writing in the Modern Age. It was wonderful having you!  :)

Readers, here is the blurb for Initiated to Kill.

Two men from two different generations, both initiated into a powerful organization that throughout history has sought control and uses their power for destruction. They leave behind a wake of murder, manipulation and ancient secrets. The first man wreaks havoc in and around the Whitechapel district of London, England in the 19th century. While the other stalks his victims in the cosmopolitan city of Seville, Spain in the 21st century; knowing that only he could uncover the true motives of one of the world's most infamous serial killers—Jack the Ripper.

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Here is an excerpt from the book.


January, 1888

The solemn lodge hid from unworthy eyes, unnoticeable forgotten place made of granite. Two Sphinx-like granite lions with women’s heads peered down from the entrance of the lodge. An ‘ankh’ adorned the lion’s neck entwined with a cobra. An image of a woman embellished the neck and breast of the other lion, speaking of fertility and procreation.
    Fervent men slowly made their way up the three levels of narrowing steps, passing under the two Egyptian swords with curved serpentine blades, and through the two tall bronze doors.
    One man glanced up as he ascended the steps, silently mouthing “the temple of the Supreme Council Freemasons,” made of brass letters and set into stone. He looked toward the plaque cut into stone, “Freemasonry Builds Its Temples in the Hearts of Men and Among Nations.”
    Stone columns grew tall, high above the entrance and partially concealed an image of an Egyptian god, backed with radiating sun and flanked by six large golden snakes. He entered into the lodge entirely made of marble, exotic wood and statues carved from gold.
    The offices, dining room, Council room, temple room and meeting room were decorated with many symbols, especially the serpent, and portraits of famous and influential men lined the walls. The lights shone above the men, resembling stars in the dark blue sky. And the golden serpents slightly watched in the blue heavens.
    The dark-headed man slowly removed his clothes and put on the long black robe, placing a hood over his head to partially conceal his face.
    In the recesses of the ancient temple, an ornately decorated room is filled with candles, lighting the way for the men filing in. Dressed in long black robes, hands pressed solemnly together, slowly the row of men trudge into the Temple room. Each with their face down and instinctively form a large circle in the room. 
    The room fell with a deathly silence, then ‘knock, knock, knock.’ The Worshipful Master spoke, “You will admit him in the name of the Grand Architect of the Universe, and let him be placed in the West.”
    Gradually the door creaked open, and a young man enters with a black robe and the left knee and breast exposed. The young man’s face covered by the dark cloth and led around the circle by a rope around his neck. The candidate is lead to the oath of secrecy where the Worshipful Master stands. A sword is pricked to the candidate’s left breast.
    “As this is a prick to the flesh at this time, so may the remembrance of it be to your conscience hereafter, should you ever attempt improperly to reveal any of the secrets with which you are about to be entrusted.”
    The group silently watch as the candidate is instructed to kneel with his left knee bare and bent, his right foot forming a square and the body being erect in that square. The left hand supports the Volume of the Sacred Law, compass and square and right hand placed thereon.
    “ ‘Vouch safe Thine Aid, Almighty Father, Grand Architect of the Universe, to this our present conviction. Grant that this Candidate for Masonry, now kneeling before thee, may dedicate and devote his life to thy Service, and become a true and faithful Brother amongst us. To this end endue him with such a competency of thy Divine Wisdom, that assisted by the secrets of our Royal Masonic Art, he may be better enabled to display the beauties of true godliness to the Honor and glory of Thy Most Holy Name.’ ”
    “ ‘I do most solemnly and sincerely promise and swear to have my throat cut across, my tongue torn out by the roots, and my body buried in the rough sands of the sea at low water mark, where the tide ebbs and flows in twenty-four hours ... should I ever knowingly or willingly violate this my solemn oath or obligation as an Entered Apprentice Mason. So help me God.’ ”
    The young man is then presented with white gloves and escorted to the pedestal in the East to become an Entered Apprentice.
    Throughout the ceremony the dark-haired man’s heart skipped excitedly. Another man would join them, and this man would be the one. He had done a lot to encourage them to allow this man to be initiated.
    He would help him achieve their ultimate goal and reign supreme.

A candlelit chamber houses a secret meeting where four men sit around a table, each wearing the long black robes and only talking above a whisper.
   “The time has come to make our stand and proclaim to our Brothers that it’s time. It’s our time to cause such a panic, that people will not know whom to turn to. That the reliance on religion and government will pass. It’s our time to take control, and whoever does not stand behind us will fall.”
    “Yes, we must give a sign to our Brothers that can only be recognized by them, but will shock the world over again.”

Sounds like quite a read! Add Initiated to Kill to your Goodreads bookshelf, readers! :)

We'll be sure to check out this historical fiction/psychological thriller novel

Get it now!

Author Bio

I live in Auckland, New Zealand with my partner and two Jack Russell’s (my babies). Historical based movies and documentaries are some of the useful tools to give me ideas for my next books. I have a diploma in Body Language and Criminology, enabling me to understand and portray my main character - Annabella.

At 32 years old, I also have diplomas in Cognitive Behavioural therapy, Freelance Journalism, Editing and Proofreading and Naturopathic Nutrition. These qualifications give me the ability to better understand the human mind, writing about it in a manner my readers can understand and connect with. 

Currently, I am studying to specialize in Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, Dialectal Behavioural Therapy, and Medicinal Cannabis.

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