Shalini Boland lives in Dorset, England with her husband and two noisy boys. Before kids, she was signed to Universal Music Publishing as a singer/songwriter, but now she spends her days writing suspense thrillers and dark adventures (in between doing the school run and hanging out endless baskets of laundry).
Q: Who is the real Shalini Boland?
A: I’m a mum of two boys, and a workaholic! I write novels and run a book promotion business and am trying to allow myself more time to do fun things, but it’s a struggle. I keep being drawn back to my laptop to write/answer emails/run my business etc. I really need a better work/life balance.
Q: In another life before kids, you were living in London signed to Universal Music as a singer and songwriter. Now you live in Dorset, away from the hustle and bustle of city life. Do you miss that life that you had before becoming a writer? Do you think that you will ever go back to that life once the kids have flown the nest, or is that part of your life that is a past chapter? Would you say that your story writing was a natural progression after being a songwriter?
A: I loved that part of my life, but now it’s as though it happened to another person. It was a great lifestyle when I was in my twenties, but I wouldn’t want to go back to it. I love my family life too much. Even when my kids have flown (scary thought) I can’t see myself going back to it. My life has evolved with books rather than songs.
Once I became a mother, I couldn’t bear going up to London and leaving my kids, so I left that part of my life behind. Writing novels started out as simply another creative outlet for me. It wasn’t until several years later that I eventually decided to try and publish.
Q: As a mother of 3 too many kids myself, I have always said, “Life doesn’t change when you have kids, it stops.” My children are now all adults, but yours are still fairly young. How do you balance family life with your author life and what challenges do you face in doing so?
A: Wise words, Kathryn! Life as I knew it did stop for a while and it was a huge adjustment. Especially as I had children in my thirties, so was already used to living a ‘selfish’ life. Like I said before, I’m working hard on trying to get a better work/life balance. We go out as a family every Saturday. I’ve also decided to cut down on my writing during the school holidays. This precious time at home with them goes so quickly, I need to make the most of it. That means that during the school day I have to use my time wisely and get as much done as I can.
Q: You have now published 10 books, many of which cover a number of different genres. You have written stories involving vampires, dystopia, time travellers and of late, written psychological thrillers. Did you start off writing one genre and then progressed to the others or did you deliberately write different genres to cater for different markets? Is there a common thread that unifies your stories in each of these genres?
A: I wrote YA to start with as those were the stories I wanted to tell. They weren’t specifically aimed at the teen market, but it just so happened that they were 12+ rated, so that’s where they fell in marketing terms. Although, the majority of my YA-book readers are adults – I’d say my readership is split 70/30. My psychological thrillers are more adult in content, so it made sense to brand them as such.
Q: Is there a particular genre that you see yourself remaining in, or will you continue to move between the genres? Is there a genre that you haven’t written in yet, but still wish to? In which genre do you feel most comfortable when writing?
A: At present, I’m brimming over with ideas for thrillers, so I’m pretty sure I’ll stay with this genre for a good while. But I’ve also had a yearning to write an adult historical novel with a supernatural twist. So maybe I’ll do that one day.
Q: I noticed that you enlisted The Girl from the Sea as a Goodreads Giveaway. What was your experience with this type of promotion? Would you do it again and why? What has been the least successful method of book promoting over the years?
A: I always offer my new releases for a Goodreads giveaway. Entrants will usually mark the book ‘to read’ so it gets the word around. And it’s also something interesting to tweet and post about. My least successful method of promotion so far is Amazon sponsored ads. I’ve never lost money on them, but I’ve only made a few dollars so it’s been a waste of time for me. Maybe I’m just doing it wrong!
Q: Your latest book release on 20 October, 2016 was The Best Friend which is another psychological thriller. Tell us about this book. What inspired you to write it and how long did it take you to write? What is the most challenging part of releasing a new novel and how do you ensure its success?
A: It’s about Louisa, a normal mum who puts her son into a private school. She makes friends with one of the mothers, but the relationship doesn’t turn out quite how Louisa envisaged. The novel looks at those feelings of insecurity many women have around other women who are perceived to be prettier/wealthier/more stylish etc. It’s a tale of paranoia, revenge and murder. The inspiration was taken from the school environment. I’m lucky not to have come across too many toxic alpha mums, but they do exist!! The story took me around a month to conceive and plot, and two further months to write.
The whole process of writing and releasing a novel is challenging. I’m always beset by doubt until the first independent reviews start rolling in. Will it sell? Will people like it?
Success is never ensured, and there are many different definitions of success. As long as I’m happy with the story, it’s edited, the cover and blurb are strong, and I’ve planned out a good amount of promotion for my launch, then that’s all I can do. I just have to do the work to the best of my ability and hope it pays off. Sometimes it does, occasionally it doesn’t. But I try to learn from the failures and enjoy the successes.
Q: Did you ever edit anything out of a book that you regretted? Do you have any ideas for the next book and what insider info can you give us on this?
A: I never edited anything out of a book that I regretted. However, I wish I’d added an extra chapter in one of my novels to give more of a sense of closure. I loved the ending when I wrote it, but a few readers weren’t happy how I left it.
My next novel is a psychological thriller called The Millionaire’s Wife. Due out in the spring it’s about a happily married woman who sees a news report about a murder and realises her past is about to catch up with her in a terrifying way.
Q: If you were forced to give up one thing to be a better writer, what would it be?
A: Social Media – such a time suck!!
Q: In conclusion, if you had to start your writing career all over again what would you have done differently? What do you wish you knew then, as you know now?
A: We probably haven’t got time for the things I would have done differently. So many things. I would have plotted out each and every novel rather than flying by the seat of my pants and hoping everything would turn out for the best. I would have scheduled my time better. I would have paid money for a decent editor earlier – they are worth it! Mainly, I wouldn’t have stressed so much about reviews. You can’t please everybody so there’s no point letting a bad review knock your confidence. You just have to write the story the way you want to write it and hope people enjoy the ride.