My interview today is with mystery writer Anne Allen. Her books include Dangerous Waters, Finding Mother, Guernsey Retreat and The Family Divided. They all have dozens reviews averaging 4.5 stars. Anne was kind enough to speak with me today about her writing process, the Guernsey Novels and what lies ahead for her next book. Thank you for joining me today Anne, let’s get right to the Q&A.
“Originally interviewed for The Bandwagon”
- When did you to start writing? What inspired you?
In 2006 I was a reluctant entrant (pushed by my mother!) into a writing competition run by Prima magazine. They wanted a True-Life story of 500 words and I won the first prize of £500 of M&S vouchers. This was a great encouragement to start writing properly, something I’d often thought about but not had the time or necessary inspiration. I was inspired to write a story based in Guernsey where I’d lived for nearly fourteen happy years until returning to England. An idea began to germinate concerning a young woman who had suffered a tragedy and later inherited an old cottage with a secret. I do love secrets and mysteries!
- What have you found most difficult about being a writer?
Procrastination! When I do finally overcome it, there can be times when I know roughly want I want to say, but can’t find the right words or phrases. Writing is something that can’t be forced: if your mind is a blank then there’s no point sitting there staring at the screen. Which I do! I’m improving, though, and can spend hours tapping away when the proverbial muse returns.
- What’s your writing process? (i.e. where you write, favourite time of day or music, etc)
I have a small study that was originally a single bedroom and all I can see is the roofs of the houses opposite and a section of sky, so not much to distract me. Mornings tend to be taken up with emails, social media and marketing/promotion and, not being a morning person anyway, I tend to write in the afternoons and early evening. Caffeine wakes me up and keeps me going. I do like music but find vocal tunes can be distracting unless I’m trying to create a particular mood, such as ‘romantic’. I love the Pachelbel Canon and find it soothing as background music.
- What genres do you typically read? Any favourite authors?
I read an eclectic mix of books, from historical mystery to modern thrillers and contemporary women’s fiction. I’m too old for chick-lit but do enjoy books which explore grown-up relationships, even more so if set in a beautiful location. My favourite authors include Erica James, C J Samsom, Robert Goddard, Barbara Erskine and Maeve Binchy.
- What advice would you give aspiring writers?
To write for yourself, as a way of expressing yourself while having fun. It feels great to complete a ms, a bit like giving birth, but it may or may not see the light of day. The important thing is to simply write and see where it takes you. I had a lot of fun writing my first book because I was writing to prove I could. In the back of my mind I played with the idea of finding an agent and seeing it published, but it wasn’t the main motive.
- What are you currently reading?
‘Midnight Sky’ by Jan Ruth. This is the first book of hers I’ve read and I’m hooked. The main characters are two sisters with messy relationships and conflicts which I can relate to.
- What’s next? Are you working on anything right now?
I’m writing the fifth Guernsey Novel, Echoes of Time, which I hope to see published by early summer. It’s a little different to my others as there’s a ghostly element. Before starting this book I read Barbara Erskine’s ‘The Darkest Hour’ which has provided plenty of inspiration. The story is a dual timeline and I’m following that in my book. The central protagonist, Natalie Ogier, returns to Guernsey to escape an abusive ex-boyfriend and buys a cottage built on the site of a derelict and secluded farm. Her only immediate neighbour is Stuart, a descendant of the original owners. Not long after she moves in Natalie hears voices and experiences bad dreams and she becomes unsettled. It becomes clear something happened at the farm years before which is echoing down to the present.
The woman involved in what happened is Olive, Stuart’s grandmother, who went missing in the 80s when the farm burnt down. Her story, set mainly during the German Occupation in WWII, is told as a background to the present day, but the main focus is on Natalie and Stuart.
Anne was born in Rugby to a Welsh father and an English mother. As a result she spent many summers with her Welsh grandparents in Anglesey and learnt to love the sea. Now she is based in Devon to be near her daughter and 2 small grandchildren. Her restless spirit has meant a number of moves, the longest stay being in Guernsey for fourteen years after falling in love with the island and the people. She contrived to leave one son behind to ensure a valid reason for frequent returns. Her younger son is based in London – ideal for city breaks. By profession Anne is a psychotherapist who long had a desire to write and Dangerous Waters, her first novel, was published in 2012. It was awarded Silver(Adult Fiction) in TheWishingShelfAwards 2012.
The Guernsey Novels
To date there are four books in the series: Dangerous Waters, Finding Mother, Guernsey Retreat and The Family Divided. They are standalone stories but are linked to each other. Characters from one pop up in others allowing readers to discover what has happened to them over the years. All the books offer a mix of drama, love and mystery and include a reference to the German Occupation and the Second World War. More details can be found on my website or on Amazon. The paperbacks can be ordered from any good bookshop.
Twitter – @AnneAllen21
Amazon Author Page (To buy books) http://www.amazon.co.uk/Anne-Allen/e/B007R2XGJG