Whilst on her way to work, Rachel Abbott was always plotting murders.
It almost came naturally to her, as she considered human nature and how certain people with deal with precarious situations.
Thankfully, Rachel’s weapon of choice is a pen as she has been busy writing crime thrillers for more than a decade.
After running her own interactive media company, she retired and moved to Italy.
It was whilst living in a converted 15th century Italian monastery that she discovered her love of murders, or more accurately, writing.
Opting for the self publishing route, she managed to buck the trend as her first book, Only the Innocent, topped the Kindle Direct Publishing charts for four weeks.
To date, Rachel has written eight full length novels and one novella which follows detective Tom Douglas as he solves murders, which are all self published.
She is also due to publish All The Little Pieces, with Wildfire Press, which will be released in autumn.
She has sold more than three million books worldwide, in 20 different languages.
The 66-year-old is now ready to unleash her ninth novel, The Shape of Lies, which is part of the Tom Douglas detective series.
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Rachel, who grew up on the borders of Lancashire and Manchester, says: “I ran 3T Productions, producing software, with floppy discs to schools and then moving onto digital formats and sold it in 2000.
“I always had a mad desire to live in Italy. I hadn’t actually been since the 1980s, but I knew I loved it.
“We had a look at properties and instead of buying a place with just enough room for the kids, we bought a derelict farmhouse monastery which had to be completely restructured.
“We were spending a lot of time over there and when I finally took early retirement in 2005, we went over to live there.
“Winters in Italy are cold and wet and I was at a loose end. I thought it would be nice to write. I used to travel to and from Stockport for work, plotting murders.
“I had always had an idea for a book but had never got round to it. This was my chance.
“I wrote my first book in about six weeks as I already had the idea. After that, it took three years to knock into shape and make changes. I did it for my own benefit. I had no plans to publish.
“I enjoyed it so much I decided to start writing another book, even though I wasn’t doing anything with the first one.
“I didn’t want to go through the lengthy process of getting an agent and publisher, as I didn’t think at my age, I would see this happen.
“I discovered three years after I wrote my book that you could upload books on Amazon yourself to be read on Kindle.
“I decided to have a go and see what happens, but because of my business background, I wanted to be successful.
“I wrote a marketing plan and spent three months putting it into execution. I was working 14 hours a day, seven days a week marketing the book through social media. I managed to get to number one for four weeks and that changed everything.
“Agents were now coming to me. Fortunately I sought out a really good agent, Lizzy Kremer. She was interested and has been my agent ever since.
“I decided to stick with self publishing as it was quite lucrative.
“I was absolutely stunned at how well my book had done and I continue to be. You have to work hard at it.
“I did lots of marketing on social media and grew my Twitter following.
“You can also spend money on advertising but I tend to stay away from that.”
Rachel says she loves spending her time plotting and working out the intricacies of human behaviour.
She says: “I just love writing. It is not about events but getting inside someone’s head and presenting them with a dilemma of ‘what would that person do in that situation.’
“I enjoy the plotting because they are quite complex. There is never just one thread. I like looking at different outcomes and how things come together.
“I like understanding the characters and seeing what motivates them and how they behave in certain circumstances.
“I get my inspiration from people. I have been around a long time and I pick things up. When I have a character with an evil mind, I can’t say that is someone I know, but I take a characteristic from someone and explode them into something more dangerous. If a man is following a woman around a room, it may be that he is in love with her, or I explode that into him being obsessed with her and being controlling. I pick up some things and wonder what would happen if it got out of control and there was jealousy and revenge. I take characteristics from the worst part of human nature and think about how things might impact one someone in their everyday life.”
Rachel is no stranger to exploring how vulnerable the human body is and facing near death experiences, as she suffers from severe sleep apnoea.
At one point, she stopped breathing up to 70 times in one hour.
She reveals: “When I was a baby, my mum used to prod me when I was sleeping.
“It has got worse over the years. I would wake up two to three times a night after stopping breathing. It panics my husband as he doesn’t know what to do.
“Before I was diagnosed I would wake up a couple of times in the night and I could not take any gasps of air. Normally I can take a gasp but I had stopped breathing for so long, my lungs had collapsed.
“I was sat on the edge of my bed taking tiny breaths before my lungs started to work again. It was very scary.
“As it was getting worse, I went to see my GP who referred me to a sleep clinic. The most severe was stopping breathing 30 times an hour, and I was not breathing 70 times, which is more than once a minute. I could be not breathing for anything from three seconds to one minute and that is pretty bad.
“I wear a breathing mask so it doesn’t happen any more.”
In The Shape of Lies, respectable mother, wife and head teacher, Anna Franklyn, is driving to work when a voice on her favourite radio phone-in programme shatters every hope that she has escaped her dark past. The caller on The One That Got Away claims to be her ex-lover, Scott, and in less than a week, he will expose her truth on air. But how is that possible when Scott is dead?
Meanwhile, the much-loved detective, Tom Douglas, needs to find the killer responsible for two brutal murders and unravel Anna’s web of lies to discover what connects her to both bodies.
The Shape of Lies, published by Black Dot, is out now, priced £3.48 for an e-book or £8.99 paperback.