Indie House Books is pleased to present an interview with Anne Allen. Anne is the author of Dangerous Waters – Mystery, loss and love on the island of Guernsey and she graciously agreed to let us to ask her a few questions that we are sharing with you. We hope you enjoy what Anne has to say.
IHB: Briefly describe your journey in writing your book.
Anne: I’ve always had an ‘itch’ in the back of my head to write a book and friends had for years told me that I should. I think this was more to do with the fact that my life could not be described as boring! I did, in fact, start to write my life story but somehow just couldn’t get into it. I may have another go one day when I no longer have to protect the guiltyJ Ironically my first stab at ‘real’ writing was an entry into a UK national competition run by Prima magazine a few years ago. They wanted a 500 word true-life story describing a life-changing event. My mother ‘pushed’ me into entering, thinking it was a fiction piece they wanted and thought it would encourage me to get on with writing a novel. Anyway, from being a reluctant entrant I emerged as the winner and collected £500 of M&S vouchers. Not bad for starters, I thought, with my eye on the bigger picture of novel writing. I was encouraged to realize I could write and so began my journey as a novelist.
IHB: What inspired you to write your first book?
Anne: About the time of winning the competition above, I had just finished two books which stuck in my mind. One, by Katie Fforde, centred on an old house which needed renovating, but the young woman who had inherited it had very little money. The other book, by Joanne Harris, was set on a small French island. It reminded me of Guernsey, one of the British Channel Islands, where I had lived for many happy years, although I was then back in England. A story using these elements started to develop in my head and it went from there!
IHB: What do you hope readers will take from your writing?
Anne: Well, I hope that they finish the book – Dangerous Waters – with a feeling of ‘that was a good story and I loved the ending’ or something similar. I delve into the impact of love and loss on people’s lives and my central character, Jeanne, has had more than her fair share of loss. By profession I’m a psychotherapist so have had great personal experience of helping people who have suffered tragedy. As I have myself in my own life. This means that I was able to empathize with my characters and could make it more ‘real’. Also, my great love of Guernsey shows in my writing and it could be considered one of the ‘stars of the show’. And there is a happy endingJ
IHB: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
Anne: I learnt that writing a book is harder work than I thought it would be! The first draft went quite smoothly but the edits and re-writes- well! And I also learnt a lot about myself and how I reacted to the situations my characters found themselves in. For example, I became very emotional and cried when describing a couple of events which occurred. I was quite shocked at how involved I felt but can only hope that it’s a good sign for a writer to react like that. Also, I learnt that subconsciously I had chosen characters who reminded me of people I knew, but with mixed up characteristics so no-one character was a real life person.
IHB: What genre do you write in? Is there more than one?
Anne: My only published book, Dangerous Waters, is a romantic mystery so really a cross- genre. The novel I’m working on now is more a romance/drama/saga. So again I don’t settle for one distinct genreJ
IHB: Do you hear from your readers? What is their most asked question?
Anne: I do hear from my readers and it’s lovely to receive their comments. They don’t usually ask questions – except to ask when my next book will be published – but just say how much they enjoyed the book. What more can any author ask!
IHB: Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? What do you do to overcome it?
Anne: Yes, I do. Sometimes I know where I want the story to go but struggle with the process. Or it might be that a particular scene is proving difficult, particularly if it’s based on the interaction of two people. I usually walk away, have either a short break, such as making a cup of coffee, or take a few hours off. At its worse it can be days! I also find that reading a good novel helps, gives me inspiration or ideas for whatever I’m struggling with.
IHB: Do you use outlines?
Anne: I draw either a sort of flow chart or write a long list of how I see the story progressing. With my first novel I put the lists under different chapters as a way of reminding myself of what needed to be covered within each chapter. It didn’t always go according to plan, of course! But it was a good way of keeping some control over the pesky characters who thought they knew betterJ
IHB: Where can people find out more about you and your writing?
Anne: I have a website which, at the moment (February 2013) covers both my work as a psychotherapist and my work as a writer. I am in the process of setting up a new website which will be focused solely on my writing. The web address will be the same – http://www.anneallen.co.uk
IHB: Is your book self-published? What are your thoughts on traditional versus self-publishing?
Anne: Yes, it is. I used a British company, Matador, which is part of a traditional publishing company named Troubador. This meant that I had the use of their marketing and distribution services which are so important for indie writers. But it wasn’t cheap and I still make most money from selling my books direct to outlets or readers. I spent years trying to interest an agent in my work but kept receiving rejection letters, although a couple of agents were encouraging. The pros with self-publishing are that the author is more in control of the process, for example the book cover design, layout and price charged. My books are available as paperbacks and eBooks. The cons are that a writer has to arrange and pay for, editing, proof reading and marketing. Traditional publishing can raise an author’s profile as it’s easier to get media reviews but at the end of the day it’s all down to marketing. Even a traditionally published author has to undertake a great deal of marketing. At least self-publishing does enable writers to see their work in print and build up a following they might otherwise not have had.
IHB: What do you do when you’re not writing?
Anne: Naturally I love reading, but seem to find less time for it now I’m busy writing. I like to switch off with a good drama on television or go out with friends for a film, a chat and a laugh. Also, I’m a besotted grandmother of two little ones so that can eat into my free time. Being with them is very therapeutic and freshens me up for the next chapter.
IHB: What’s next for you?
Anne: My new novel, Finding Mother, is the story of a young woman, Nicole who, as her marriage reaches a crisis point, seeks to find her natural mother. She feels the need to understand herself and her roots while she re-examines her life. Also covered are the back-stories of that mother and the grandmother who have both hidden secrets for years. The setting is predominantly Guernsey (shows how much I love that place!) but there are excursions to both contemporary and wartime England, Jersey and Spain. I’m looking to publish Finding Mother this year and again it will be available in all formats.
IHB: What kinds of books do you like to read?
Anne: I love mysteries, thrillers and romance. I’m too old for ‘girlie’ stories and appreciate books which describe more mature relationships. I particularly enjoy anything historical.
IHB: Please give us a brief synopsis about your current book and when and where it is available.
Anne: ‘Oh my God, what’s happening to me? After all this time, please, not again!’
Jeanne Le Page, gripped by fear and panic, struggles to breathe as the ferry arrives in Guernsey – the island she had fled fifteen years before, traumatized by a family tragedy.
Now she has to return after another death. Her beloved grandmother has bequeathed Jeanne her old cottage. She intends to stay just long enough to sell her inheritance. Deeply unhappy after the recent end of a relationship, she has no desire to pick up her old life in her birthplace.
Jeanne is shocked to find that the cottage holds a secret going back to the German Occupation. She becomes drawn into learning more, delaying her planned departure. At the same time, while unveiling the truth of what happened to her family, she puts herself in mortal danger.
Jeanne has to relive the tragedy as the ghosts continue to haunt her. But over time the island works its magic, encouraging her to live and love again . . . .
Dangerous Waters is available worldwide from Amazon and other retailers. In the UK it can be bought from WHSmith, Waterstones and independent bookshops.