Horsham's author's double life
Life has been said to imitate art and this is definitely the case for Rhiana Ramsey*.
“In some ways, writing is like this too. I don’t always know how the story is going to unfold or the ultimate denouement. Both police work and writing also involve planning and research, so there are some parallels.”
Having developed an interest in writing at an early age, Rhiana says she was drawn to both the sense of freedom and the power to control.
“I used to really enjoy creative writing at school, the freedom to use your imagination and conjure up fantasy worlds and stories,” she explains. “Also the power writing gives you in the sense that you can control what happens to your characters, and you can make anything you want to happen. I find that very appealing.”
Rhiana also attributes having lived in France from the age of 11 as having played a part.
“I didn’t speak a word of French, so for the first year or so, whilst picking up the language, I sat in the classroom and wrote short stories as a means of entertaining myself,” she reveals. “I believe this experience really served to broaden my imagination as my world became very internalised, which served as a form of escapism.”
Despite this strong foundation, Rhiana believes she didn’t consciously plan to write Sweet Oblivion, her debut novel.
“I just knew I wanted to write,” she smiles, “so one day I just sat down and started to type.
“At that time, I didn’t really know where the story was going to go; I just had a kernel of an idea for a story I thought would be interesting. Once I got started, however, and the ideas began to flow.”
So much so, Rhiana reveals the process offered up ‘lots of plot fragments and ideas’ for future works.
Allowing the story-telling to take the lead is something which clearly works for Rhiana who confesses she didn’t have a writing process when she began.
“I didn’t have a plan as to how the chapters would unfold, or even a clear idea of what was going to happen at the end – I had several alternative endings in mind,” she says.
“My writing style evolved as I progressed; I created a timeline of events, I gave each character a back story – even if this wasn’t included in the book – and I recorded all character descriptions and events on several sheets of paper that I pinned to a cork board above my desk, which greatly facilitated my writing process.”
When it comes to her advice for aspiring writers, Rhiana’s is quite simple: “Don’t give up and try to write everyday, even if it is just a few lines.”
However, she acknowledges, this isn’t as easy as it might sound.
“It is difficult to find the time to write whilst also having a full-time career and a young child, but I make a concerted effort to squeeze in as much writing time as I can, even if it’s just a few ideas jotted down in a notepad, or a couple of paragraphs typed up during a quiet few minutes,” she enthuses.
“I once booked myself into a hotel for a couple of days, just so I could focus on writing; this gave me the space and time I needed to kickstart novel number two, which I am currently working on.
“Write about what you know,” she adds, “read extensively and draw inspiration where you can. Also, don’t be afraid of receiving constructive criticism.”
Rhiana has taken this a step further, admitting she uses feedback – albeit it the positive – to inform her writing.
Another influence comes from her surroundings, with Rhiana stating the idea from the second novel came to her while walking on the South Downs.
“Sweet Oblivion is set in London as that is where I was working at the time, but I do find inspiration in Sussex,” she agrees. “I enjoy walking and running in the Sussex countryside and I find great inspiration during these excursions. Being outdoors in the fresh air, away from the negativity of my day job, I find my mind is free to wander.”
But the two aren’t completely separate as crime, which she works to fight as part of the day job, is also the foundation of her fiction.
“I am fascinated by psychology, particularly the psychology of killers and the experiences that shape them, so it feels natural to me to write fiction about this,” she reveals.
When it comes to future plans Rhiana admits, while she enjoys the police, she would like to become a full-time writer.
“I have many ideas for more books,” she confesses. “The opportunity to spend days at a time, expanding my own imaginary world and the stories that flow from it is very appealing.”
Sweet Oblivion is available now via amazon.co.uk
* Rhiana Ramsey is a pseudonym