Listening In is a series of author interviews, featuring authors whose works have been transformed into audiobooks! Wendy Walker is a best-selling psychological suspense author who has had her work translated into twenty-three languages, been optioned for film and television, and, most recently, had her latest release turned into an audiobook! What Remains is a thrilling and emotional novel that brings together “psychological suspense and cop dramas,” and is narrated by the talented and award-winning narrator Gabra Zackman, alongside award-winning actor Peter Ganim.
Wendy Walker is the author of the psychological suspense novels All Is Not Forgotten, Emma in the Night, The Night Before, Don’t Look for Me, and American Girl. Her novels have been translated into twenty-three foreign languages, topped bestseller lists both nationally and abroad, and have been optioned for television and film. Wendy holds degrees from Brown University and Georgetown Law School. She is a former family law attorney with training in child advocacy and has worked in finance and several areas of the law.
Please tell us more about What Remains! Why should we listen to it?
What Remains is a taut emotional thriller that crosses the genres of psychological suspense and cop dramas. It was a passion project for me, inspired by real life events. The audiobook is absolutely phenomenal! The performers were chosen to bring the characters to life, and their performances do exactly that. Most of the book is written in first person, so you will feel like you are with Detective Elise Sutton as she fights to keep her family safe. And the second narration – well, you’ll have to listen to find out!
Could you please tell us about your career as an author? What first drew you to writing?
Even though I stumbled into writing after pursuing other careers, I feel that I was born to tell the stories that are in my novels. I was initially drawn to writing for two reasons. The first was practical. I was a new mother looking for a career that would give me flexibility to be with my children. I had been a corporate litigator, and that field no longer fit the vision of my life I had after my first son was born. After I started writing, and really, after I wrote my first psychological thriller, I knew I would never look back. I’ve always been drawn to stories about the difficult parts of the human experience, including trauma and emotional journeys. Writing psychological suspense allows me to explore these things, and also use my legal skills to develop complex plots. I have definitely found my home!
You previously worked in both finance, and as a practicing attorney. Have you found there to be any similarities in writing novels and your previous careers? Are there major differences that you enjoy?
Working in finance and the law allowed me to develop some very useful skills that I now use when constructing a plot. Being able to piece together devices, such as red herrings, forensic evidence, disclosures from character dialogue, and twists at the end, is central to the books that I write. I approach the process in the same way that I used to lay out a legal brief or a sales memo for an acquisition. More importantly, my work as a family law attorney gave me both experience and knowledge in many areas of psychology. I draw from this with every book that I write.
We’d love to hear about your writing process. Please elaborate!
It always starts with an idea. And those can come from many different places. With What Remains, I was listening to live interviews of witnesses to a crime committed in a public venue. From there, I begin to develop both the characters and plot. Many authors can begin writing at this point. But not me! I have to have a detailed plot outline before I can begin. I make a list of the disclosures that need to be made throughout the book and then put them in the correct order and assign them to chapters. Then I’m good to go! I usually write one chapter a day until I have a first draft. From there, it’s a lot of revising to get things right!
What drew you to Psychological Suspense? When did you know it was the genre you wanted to write?
I had no idea how much I would love writing, psychological suspense until I dove in eight years ago. I have never looked back since! I love everything about this genre. From crafting the complex plots that require putting together a puzzle for the readers, to taking deep dives into psychological conditions such as narcissism and other personality disorders, to my peers in this field, who are endlessly supportive and fascinating.
Where is your favourite place to write?
Please don’t judge me, but I have to write with my feet up, on my laptop, with a tray of coffee and treats at my side! I find it very daunting to face a blank screen. This is especially true when I am excited about the story I’m writing, and can’t wait to see it come to life on the page. I can’t type fast enough, which is a problem, because I never learned to type! For some reason, setting myself up the way I might if I were reading a book or watching a show, I can trick myself into thinking that I’m not actually working! The other aspects of being an author, which involve promotion, social media, and written interviews, I can do at my desk.
Describe your writing style in five words or less.
Dark. Emotional. Twisty. Taut. Psychological.
Any advice for emerging writers?
How much time have you got? I have lots of advice for new writers! I suppose the most important thing is to read everything that you find interesting. This will help you develop your skills and also guide you into the kind of stories that you want to tell yourself. Next is to understand the business. Most fields in the arts do not have a clear path to success, so it’s important to have a good plan that allows you to write, but also live! And then finding your “voice” so that your work will find an audience is absolutely essential. There is so much information available now online for new writers. It’s a great time to be entering the field!
What do you do when you experience writer’s block or reader’s block?
If I’m stuck on a plot point, I have to do something else. It’s the one aspect of writing that I can’t force. The answer will always come when I’m doing something unrelated to writing and my thoughts are not on the problem I’m trying to solve. It’s so frustrating! But then it’s amazing when that elusive twist or turn suddenly appears. If I’m stuck on the actual writing, I will make myself get something on the page to move forward and stay on schedule. I know I will be able to go back and revise. As long as I can lay down the tracks, I can push through the moment I feel blocked. It’s always interesting to come back to something the next day and find that it’s not nearly as bad as I thought the day before! Sometimes it’s actually really great. But that’s like life isn’t it? Everything is how you perceive it.
What has been the most exciting part of having your novels transformed into audiobooks?
It’s so exciting each and every time I experience my work through the performance of someone else. The way they choose to emote and express the words I’ve written is usually different from how I experienced them in my own head. At first, it was disconcerting to listen and hear the difference. But now I find it absolutely fascinating and magical. For me, it’s a chance to see how my story is being felt by others. What could be better than that?
Gabra Zackman, an award-winning narrator, and Peter Ganim, an award-winning actor have been casted to narrate What Remains. Did you have any say in who was casted? Was having a duel narration important to you? What made Zackman and Ganim right for the job?
Gabra and Peter did an amazing job! I was given the opportunity to weigh in on different performers and they were absolutely the right choices for the two narrations in the book. Gabra performs the narration of Elise Sutton‘s story. Her voice and performance truly capture this character. I can’t say much about the other narration, but Peter does a fabulous job performing it, and when you finish the audiobook, you will know why he was absolutely perfect for this role. It was very important to have both of these performers for the book. The second narration is a key part of the plot and the twist at the end. Making sure readers and listeners know that they are distinct is an important aspect of hearing the story.
Please recommend an audiobook you absolutely adored!
What are you reading (or listening to) right now?
I’m currently reading an early copy of Jean Kwok’s The Leftover Woman which is out this October. I read an early draft over a year ago and I am loving the final version. It’s a literary thriller with feminist undertones, and the brilliant writing that we have come to know and love from Kwok.