I’m really pleased to welcome Anne Allen to the blog today. I reviewed one of her Guernsey novels, The Family Divided, last year though unfortunately I haven’t had time to read her latest. You can read my review here. You can find our more about all Anne’s books here: http://Author.to/AnneAllen
Thanks for joining me Anne. First of all, would you tell me a little about yourself?
My day job was, until recently, that of a psychotherapist in private practice. It was a wonderful privilege to help people wrestling with sometimes quite overwhelming problems and the work probably provided some inspiration for my books. But I didn’t start writing until ten years ago and was too busy as a single mum of three even to think of writing, although it was always a dream. I also dragged my poor children around the country while searching for the ephemeral ‘fresh start’, which didn’t happen until we arrived in Guernsey in 1988. Here I met like-minded people, interested in the spiritual side of life as well as the more mundane and the island itself is beautiful. We remained there for more than twelve years, before a brief stint in Spain, and then I returned reluctantly to England and a few years later picked up my pen, no longer responsible for my offspring. Although the youngest hovered under my roof a little longer! My first foray into writing was a 500 word Tru-Life story for a Prima competition, and I won £500 in M&S vouchers.
What inspired you to start writing?
Winning the Prima competition boosted my confidence, and I was drawn to write a book centred on my beloved Guernsey. I’d not only left a number friends behind but my elder son and still visited at least once a year. With the setting sorted, I then decided on a family tragedy and a cottage with secrets. It was great fun writing the story, partly because at the time I didn’t know how a book should be written and wrote far too much!
Tell me about your journey to publication
It wasn’t smooth! Realising I needed professional advice, I sought out a literary critique service who promptly suggested deleting chunks – about 10,000 words in all. After re-writing, I couldn’t afford another round of expensive advice and joined the RNA (Romantic Novelists Association) in their fab New Writers Scheme and stayed in it for another two years. Each year I received a detailed report from a professional writer and I continued to hone my craft. Then began the fruitless pursuit of an agent, despite some encouragement along the way. By now it was 2012, self-publishing had become respectable, and I chose Matador Publishing to publish my baby, ‘Dangerous Waters’.
Along the way, I had started writing my second book, ‘Finding Mother’, and I published it under my imprint in 2013 and have since published another three books, collectively called ‘The Guernsey Novels’.
In a nutshell, what is your latest book about?
‘Echoes of Time’, released in August 2016, is a time-slip drama in the style of a Barbara Erskine novel. Partly set during the German Occupation in Guernsey during WWII and partly in the present day, it follows the stories of Olive in the 1940s and Natalie in the present. Their connection is the farmhouse Natalie has bought, a re-build of the old, partly destroyed house that had been empty for many years. The previous owner, Olive, had disappeared at the time of a fire and no-one knew what had happened to her. Her grandson, Stuart, who she’d never met, now lives in the converted barn next to the farmhouse and they form an uneasy relationship once Natalie experiences problems of a ghostly nature in the house.
How did you come up with the title for your book?
It just seemed to fit the story!
Do you have a work in progress just now?
Yes, ‘The Betrayal’, another time-slip as I loved writing the last one! Again, the backstory happens during the Occupation, but this time the central figure is a man who is betrayed to the Germans by a ‘friend’ for the sake of his valuable art collection, including a Renoir. In the present day, twins Freya and Nigel buy an antique shop which, unknown to them, had been bought after the war by the thief and became the hiding place of the stolen art.
What’s your favourite book you’ve read in the past few months? Or favourite three if you really can’t choose!
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed ‘Crimson Shore and ‘The Charter’ by Gillian Hamer and ‘Palomino Sky’ by Jan Ruth
If you were on Desert Island Discs, what one book would you take with you?
Gosh, one book wouldn’t be enough! But one book I could happily read again (and might follow all the twists and turns better) is ‘The Quincunx’ by Charles Palliser. A contemporary author, but writing in the Victorian era in the style of Trollope and Dickens and so complex you should take notes.
How can people follow you or connect with you on social media?
And finally, if you could be a character in any book you have read, who would it be and why?
I know it’s a cliché, and probably too tied up with Colin Firth (!), but I’d quite like to be Lizzie Bennet in Pride and Prejudice. She’s not only proved right in the eyes of the world, but D’arcy has to admit he’d made a misjudgement and almost begs her to marry him. It’s a no-brainer!