This interview with Anne Allen marks the presence of an author who belongs in the company of writers able to deftly bring a place to life. I was instantly taken with the island setting of her novel Dangerous Waters. My review of her book highlighted the book as capturing “An Intriguing Sense of Place.” I highly recommend Anne Allen’s novel and look forward to her future publications.
Giveaway: Two randomly drawn commenters to this blog post will receive a free eBook of Dangerous Waters.
1. Please provide a brief synopsis of your book.
Dangerous Waters is a romantic mystery set in Guernsey, one of the small British Channel Islands near the coast of France. It follows the loves and losses of Jeanne Le Page, a thirty-something who left the island 15 years before after a family tragedy. She is now forced to return after her grandmother’s death. The old lady has bequeathed Jeanne her cottage but she doesn’t want to live there, planning to sell it and leave again. Heartbroken after the recent end of a relationship as well as her grandmother’s death, she is feeling completely lost. But then Jeanne starts to unearth secrets going back to the German Occupation, together with the truth behind the unexplained tragedy which cost her so much. As Jeanne begins to fit the pieces together she faces danger from an unexpected source. . . .
2. Tell us a little bit about what motivates or inspires your writing.
I write because I enjoy making up stories! It’s a brilliant way of controlling people and events which isn’t possible, or desirable, in real life. The fun part is deciding how your main characters are going to achieve what you want them to, in spite of the problems or setbacks that face them. I loved writing ‘compositions’ at school and was an avid reader from early on but I didn’t see myself becoming a writer until recently. Although I’d long had an ‘itch’ in the back of my head to write a book, life got in the way and I had to earn a proper living. Then, about 7 years ago, I won a national writing competition with a true-life story and this gave me the confidence to start my novel, Dangerous Waters. I had lived in Guernsey for nearly 14 years and, although now back in England, I was still in love with the island and it seemed the obvious setting for my book. I’m fascinated by old houses and the secrets they hold and this became paramount in my story, together with the exploration of how someone copes with tragedy and finally finds peace of mind. My work as a psychotherapist had given me great insight into how people ‘tick’ and the sort of traumas that beset ordinary people.
I feel that writers can offer readers glimpses into other worlds that might otherwise be closed to them. They can travel the world from their armchair and learn about different cultures or just enjoy an interesting story that takes them away from their own problems – the proverbial escapism. I know that’s why I love books so much! There’s nothing better than being totally engrossed in a good book.
3. It’s hard to pick just one, but what do you consider your favorite novel and why?
It’s very hard to choose! But, I think it would have to be The Quincunx by Charles Palliser. I read it some years ago and recommended it to everyone I met for ages afterwards. It’s brilliant – very like a Dickens/Trollope novel, with overtones of Bleak House. It’s a long, complex story about the inheritance of John Huffam, set in late Victorian England. It’s full of rich characters and great descriptions of events and places and kept me hooked to the last page. I felt quite bereft when I’d finished it! I think that’s how a good story should be – keeping you wanting to find out more and really rooting for the protagonist(s). There’s no way that I could ever emulate Palliser’s writing but I do try to write a good story, although rather less intellectual.
4. What is the name of your blog and what can readers expect to find there.
I only have a small blog on my website which I started after my book was published. It’s really more of a personal diary and not a ‘proper’ blog such as yours, Jeri. I do aim to set one up sometime but just don’t have the time to get stuck into blogging while promoting my novel and writing my second book. I realise I should have started a blog even before my book was published and do recommend other writers to do so.
5. Are you traditionally published or self-published?
I’m self-published. I only went this route after spending most of the past 6 years trying to get an agent. Fortunately, in that time self-publishing has become much more acceptable and indeed has some benefits over traditional publishing. I do like to feel more in control of the process, including choosing my own book designer, who was brilliant. I’ve used a company, Matador, which is part of a traditional publishing group, Troubador in the UK. This has given me the best of both worlds as they have distributors for the paperback and offered a PR service which helped with marketing. They also formatted the ebook version for me. The downside is that it’s not cheap and you have to sell a lot of books to recover costs. I’m now about to re-print so the sales have gone pretty well.
6. Can you offer one or two helpful tips for fellow writers when it comes to marketing and publicity?
Well, prepare for a lot of work! Writing the book’s the easy bit in comparison. I came late to promoting myself and the book, not starting anything until after it was published. It’s much better if you start promoting yourself and your writing months beforehand. That way, your name is ‘out there’ and, if you have a blog, you’ll have loyal followers keen to buy your book. I’ve built up a good following on Twitter and have found a lot of bloggers and reviewers that way. These are essential to raise your profile. I’ve contacted loads of reviewers and most have agreed to read and review, posting their comments on Amazon and Goodreads. It’s also useful to take part in author interviews (like this!) as readers love to learn a bit more about you.
7. Describe your writing background.
I studied for my degree in Humanities with the Open University, which is undertaken by correspondence, involving a great deal of essay writing over the years. Even when the tutors didn’t agree with my conclusions, they always complimented me on my style of writing! It was good practice which, I’m sure, has helped me with my fiction writing. I’ve also attended workshops and evening classes aimed at writers, as well as conferences. To be honest, I’m not sure how much I benefited from these as I did find that some writing ‘rules’ were contradicted. The same applies to the many ‘how to’ books I read – I got very confused! I think it’s better to just write from your heart and then use your head to edit.
8. What does your drafting and/or editing process entail?
With my first book I wrote the first draft fairly quickly, over a few months. The story flowed quite well once I’d established my outline and where I wanted to take the story. I was quite disciplined and wrote for several hours a day. Not being a member of a writing group, I was limited with regards to feedback, but I did use a friend as a beta reader. Although this was really helpful, I later realised I needed a professional eye and paid for critiques over a period of time. The benefits were worth the cost. As for editing, I mostly self-edit but have had help from a friend. I think I’ll employ a professional editor with my next book, though.
9. What future projects can we look forward to?
My next novel, Finding Mother, is coming along, albeit slowly at the moment. It’s the story of a young woman who, as her marriage crumbles, seeks to find her natural mother. She feels the need to understand herself and her roots while re-evaluating her life. I also cover the back stories of her mother and grandmother who have both been hiding secrets from each other for years. The grandmother’s story goes back to WWII when she was evacuated to England from Guernsey, which is the predominant setting again (I really love that island!). There are also excursions to Jersey (part of the Channel Islands) and Spain.
10. Is there anything else you want your potential readers to know?
I’ve always been fascinated by people’s relationships – whether with partners, family or friends. For me they form the very basis of one’s life. If someone dear is lost to us then the impact can be huge. Both my central character Jeanne and myself have suffered such a loss and I have great empathy with her. My loss was different as it was my husband who died suddenly while young, not my parents, but it marked a huge change in the way my life was to progress. And, of course, my children lost their father while they were small. I think Dangerous Waters was a form of therapy, a catharsis for my own pain. But I did write a happy ending.
You can connect with Anne via her website.
Is there anything else you would like to know about Anne Allen?
Please share responsibly. Jeri Walker, 2012.