Hi Lavinia! Tell us a bit about yourself
I’m a 30-year old author who wants to share the worlds inside my head with everyone. This is a journey I have been on for almost ten years now. My new adult novel, “Edge of Glory” is going to be self-published this summer, and will be followed up by my crime fiction series, “Beyond Dark”.
The theme woven through many of my books is survival. We survive adversity, trauma, hardship and obstacles every day. Through my books, I want fellow survivors to know they aren’t alone. We are in this together. You matter. It is okay to hit rock bottom, to fall, but we don’t need to unpack and live there.
Writing is what helped me survive, and continues to do so. It has been my life-saving foundation. Now, I want it to reach you. I want it to reach the rest of the world for fellow survivors to know that you aren’t alone. If you like what you read, please consider joining my Patreon for more exclusive content and sneak peeks into future projects.
• Book title: Beyond Dark: Belladonna
• Genre: Crime fiction
• Synopsis: Murder, mafia and mayhem.
Alyssa Rawkesby is a Canadian criminal profiler who specializes in the demented minds of female serial killers. At a time when her personal life is crumbling, her career is at its peak. She gets called in to help detectives with a notorious female killer murdering young women in the local entertainment industry. While simultaneously working a mafia case that has one of her closest colleagues undercover, she gets assigned a new partner, Thayer Volikov. They learn to work together while Thayer comes to terms with his own past and Alyssa continues a fight against her own mental illness.
• Publish date: Dec. 22, 2019
• Publisher: Wattpad (for now)
What was the defining event that made you start writing?
My childhood was a traumatic one. I survived a decade of various types of abuse. I don’t know the single event that made me start writing, but from a young age, it was a form of escapism for me. It was what maintained my sanity as a kid when I was forced to grow up much too soon. We moved around lots, too. I was the new kid at school basically every year, which made it difficult to hold on to any hobbies or get invested in something like band or sports. Writing is something I have always been able to take with me wherever I go.
What other writing have you done?
I have dabbled in various genres. I used to write dark fantasy, horror, and also write poetry. My other series is called “Edge of Glory’, a new adult fiction about a group of friends who want to be a rock band and escape the adversities of their lives.
What makes your writing unique compared to others in the genre?
“Beyond Dark” is unique in that my female main character, Alyssa, is a criminal profiler who specializes in female serial killers. We hear lots about Ted Bundy, the Zodiac, Jack the Ripper and the male serial killers who are so prominent in discussions. But fatal women like Genene Jones, Karla Homolka, or Elizabeth Bathory – easily one of the most vindictive female killers in history – don’t always get brought up. Alyssa herself is the daughter of a serial killer. Her father murdered around 60 young girls in and around Alyssa’s fictional hometown in Manitoba, Canada. So, the criminal mind is something she has been dangerously close to all of her life. But, as she says at one point, male serial killers get repetitive. In her time at the FBI, she became fascinated with deadly women and how complex they are. Probably because in her own mental issues, she knows how easy it can be to cross that line into this dark place where one is capable of anything.
What made you choose this genre?
I have always loved true crime. Growing up, my mother watched the various series of “Law & Order” and many true crime shows like “Unsolved Mysteries”, “America’s Most Wanted” and others. Her current favourite show is “Live: PD”. I was exposed to this morbid fascination when I was young and it carried over into my writing. My personal favourite show has always been “Criminal Minds”. Sadly, it just ended this week, and I spent the final episode crying my eyes out. That show got me interested in criminal psychology. It taught me character building and many aspects of crime writing. I’ve wanted to start a crime fiction series for years but didn’t really get to it until the last couple of years since I got divorced and had more writing time. I guess it was simply the genre I was always meant to fall into. And I love it.
What’s the basic plot of your book or series?
The basic plot follows Alyssa and her new work partner, Thayer, as they learn to trust each other on the job while hunting the notorious Belladonna killer, who is poisoning women in the local entertainment industry. Overall, the series as a whole focuses on the backstories between Alyssa and Thayer.
Of course, we have Alyssa’s serial killer father and her abusive mother, from which she’s spent years recovering and managing her resulting mental problems. She is also recovering from a time in her life when she wasn’t a nice person. She hurt a friend who meant the world to her and they lost contact when she left the FBI to return to Canada, so we watch her deal with the guilt and regret from that time of her life. We watch her build her foundation after her romantic relationship falls apart, all while she’s focused on taking down serial killers. She truly wants to make a difference and save lives – she chose this career for a number of reasons when she was younger. She’s a fascinating character in her complexity, flaws and how she comes to terms with her life.
Thayer, on the other hand, comes from a mafia family background and narrowly escaped to start all over and pursue a law enforcement career, wanting to emit light back into the world he feels he took so much from. He has a sketchy past but he is doing his best. He really respects and looks up to Alyssa. We watch his transformation from being an unsure rookie to a confident profiler and Alyssa’s best friend. He understands what it’s like to have once been an undesirable person and having to accept that as part of one’s history. So I weave together serial killer cases with a mafia storyline in order to layer the stories of these two characters.
Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
A bit of both. I want each case Alyssa and Thayer work to stand on their own. They need to be memorable or readers lose interest. But with that said, the character’s backstories are so layered into the series overall that there is that connection between each book. The backstories don’t always get the spotlight but there are always moments where something will remind Alyssa of her mother and it makes her pause. Or something in a mobster that reminds Thayer of himself from so long ago and it haunts him all over again. Those moments become the intricate details that connect the series overall.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
There is SO much research that goes into this series. Much of my initial research upon starting a book revolves around the characters. I always start with character profiles. So, for example, with Alyssa, I had to do a massive amount of reading in order to understand her mental disorder and its spectrum. It is so important to get those details right and not misrepresent things like that. With Thayer, I based his backstory on one mobster’s son from history, so I did an incredible amount of research on that. I already had a background of researching the mafia and serial killers, so much of my research now happens as I go along. Mostly to ensure accuracy in details like decomposition, forensics, profiling, injuries, setting, or whatever else comes up.
Honestly, research is one of my favourite parts of writing, though. I love soaking in knowledge. I love reading and learning new things then using that knowledge in my books. As much as reading is escapism, I also believe readers should be able to take something away from the reading experience. Be it a moral lesson, questioning the world or something as simple as facts they didn’t know prior. When we take something away from reading, we’re more likely to enjoy the experience.
Have you read anything that made you think differently about fiction?
I read an article recently about Strong Female Leads and how we need to think differently about how we create female characters, how we need to get away from the Strong Female Lead and simply create human beings. Character building is a big deal to me, it’s one of my specialties, so it really resonated with me and makes me look at female characters differently and how I personally can contribute to putting better female characters into the literary world.
If you didn’t write, what would you do for work?
I am not a full-time writer yet, actually, so I do have a day job. I’m a high school janitor and I work evenings. It enables my night owl lifestyle. I write best at night. I legitimately sleep better during the day than I do at night. Something about those late hours is simply calming and allows my muse to come out and play. Maybe it’s because my phone finally shuts up or my work day is already done and I can just focus on writing. I’m working towards becoming a full-time writer, though. I don’t want to be cleaning up after unruly teenagers for the rest of my life. It’s a job for now.
Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
What is your favorite childhood book?
Oh, “Harry Potter”. Specifically the third book, “Prisoner of Azkaban”. As an abused kid, I related strongly to Harry wishing someone would come save him from that cupboard under the stairs.
What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
Outlining/plotting. I do only as much as necessary and otherwise I wing it. I just roll with what happens. I find that when I do outline, I never stick to it anyway. It isn’t until the second or third draft that I outline and restructure the book accordingly. But I can’t, for the life of me, outline beforehand. How do people do that? I am both baffled and awed by writers who can do it.
Does your family support your career as a writer?
My mother totally reads the “Beyond Dark” series and pesters me constantly about when the next chapter is going up on Wattpad! She’s an amazing supporter that way.
If you had to do something differently as a child or teenager to become a better writer as an adult, what would you do?
Honestly? I wouldn’t have gotten married. That held me back so much. It was a toxic marriage and it actually resulted in me not writing near the end of said marriage and after it was over. That’s four years I could have had to focus on writing and pursuing my dreams instead of trying to fit into a sense of normalcy where I didn’t belong.
Do you believe in writer’s block?
I do not. I believe that sometimes we need to step back from writing if it’s overwhelming or feeling like a chore, if you need to focus on your mental health or other aspects of life. But if you’re stuck? Write through it. Often it’s insecurity and self-doubt and sometimes we just need to shatter that and simply keep writing. Terrible writing is better than none at all. You can’t edit or fix a blank page.
Favourite food: Spaghetti.
Favourite drink: Coffee.
Silliest saying: “You’re a turkeynoodle.” – a saying my English grandfather used to say. I was incredibly close with him.
Best holiday spot: Home.
Favourite song at the moment: This one is so hard! I have over 4000 songs in my Spotify library. I am a music addict, so I have many favourites. Lana Del Ray “Hope is a Dangerous Thing for a Woman Like me to Have” is one of my current favourites for writing. I am a rocker girl/metalhead at heart though.
With writing, are you a plotter or (seat-of-your) pantser? Oh, pantser. It’s ridiculous, really.
Star Wars or Lord of the Rings: Lord of the Rings.
Best superpower: Writing when WAY past the point of over-exhaustion. Because if I don’t write when I am tired, I wouldn’t write at all. I am a permanently exhausted night owl.
Number one thing to do on your bucket list: Visit England.