Interview – Anne Allen, author of Dangerous Waters
Self-Publisher’s Showcase: Today we are joined by Anne Allen, author of the romance novels Dangerous Waters and Finding Mother. Welcome to the Showcase Lounge, Anne.
Anne Allen: Thanks, it’s great to be here!
SPS: For any of our readers that haven’t come across your work previously, can you take a moment to tell us all a little about yourself and where your love of writing came from?
AA: I was born in Rugby, virtually the middle of England, to a Welsh father and English mother. I learnt to love the sea from a young age as we spent the summers with my grandparents in Anglesey –recently made famous as the base for Prince William and his wife Kate. I spent many years moving around to be by the sea, living nearly fourteen years in Guernsey where my books are set.
As an adult I had a variety of jobs, including being a lab technician, computer operator and insurance broker before finally training as a psychotherapist and hypnotherapist in my thirties. By then I had sadly lost my husband and had three young children to raise alone so any free time was in short supply. I’d always loved reading and writing, having enjoyed writing essays at school and for my Open University Humanities degree.
Once my children had fled the nest, I started to think about writing a book myself – surely it couldn’t be that hard? With more time on my hands ideas began to buzz in my head. I started writing Dangerous Waters about seven years ago; originally for the sheer fun of writing. Then I got hooked! After numerous re-writes, edits and lots of time spent chasing agents, I took the plunge to self-publish in 2012, and haven’t stopped writing since.
SPS: What are your perfect writing conditions, and how often do you write?
AA: The best writing conditions include knowing I don’t have anything else urgent to do, which definitely includes housework! I like to know I can sit and write in peace for as long as I wish. But I can be easily distracted if the ‘Muse’ is playing hard to get. I usually write every day with the aim of achieving 500 words or more. Doesn’t always happen!
SPS: Your two works thus far have both been romance novels, with Dangerous Waters also having a dose of mystery. What do you think led you to write in your chosen genres?
AA: I’m particularly interested in relationships, something which figured a great deal in my work as a therapist. I feel comfortable writing about issues such as love and loss and how people cope with tragedy. These themes figure in all of my books (am writing the third now). But I’m also a great believer in the Happy Ever After ending.
SPS: Can you put your finger on the moment where you decided that you wanted to publish your work?
AA: It was after I’d received a professional critique of Dangerous Waters, pointing out all that needed to be improved, but also saying my ms. had potential to be published. For a while I saw myself rising to the giddy heights of BestSeller Lists, but then it was back to reality…
SPS: Your debut novel was Dangerous Waters. Can you tell us what someone could expect if they picked up a copy?
AA: Set in Guernsey, it’s the story of a young woman, Jeanne, who lost her family in a tragic boating accident when she was 16 and fled to live with an aunt in England. Fifteen years later she returns unwillingly after the death of her grandmother, having inherited her cottage. Jeanne doesn’t plan to stay, just wants to sell the cottage and leave. But events conspire to keep her on the island and she becomes wrapped up in solving two mysteries; one centred on the cottage and the other concerning the truth behind the tragedy. The earlier mystery encompasses events from the German Occupation.
SPS: What sort of woman do we find when we first meet Jeanne Le Page?
AA: Jeanne is extremely unhappy; she’s not only lost her beloved grandmother, but also been dumped by a long-term boyfriend. Not a great combination!
SPS: How accepting is she when new thoughts of love enter her life?
AA: Still scarred by her ex’s behaviour, Jeanne is reluctant to enter a new relationship, although she is torn when an old crush enters her life.
SPS: Which other characters can readers look forward to meeting on this journey around Guernsey?
AA: There’s a lovely couple, Molly and Peter, who were friends of her parents and who offer much needed support. A little group of girlfriends, some from her schooldays, and a couple of men vying for her attention. Quite a mix!
SPS: There are elements of mystery surrounding events on the island. How easy did you find it to balance this with the romance? Was the plan to make it a romance first and a mystery second or vice-versa?
AA: I’m not sure! I knew I wanted more than a ‘mere’ love story, there had to be secrets and a mystery. I think the different elements simply blended together without too much planning.
SPS: Your most recent publication is Finding Mother, a tale of family relationships and love. Where did the inspiration come from for the story?
AA: The theme is adoption and finding one’s ‘lost’ family. I’d recently read a novel which focussed on siblings looking for their birth mother and this played on my mind. At the same time, I also happened to read a newspaper article by a man who had traced his birth mother when he was in his 50’s so the two things meant only one thing – I had to write my own novel along similar lines.
SPS: What are the catalysts behind Nicole setting out to find her birth mother?
AA: Nicole is married to a very successful, charismatic TV presenter, Tom, who attracts women like bees to nectar. Unfortunately, he’s found it hard to be faithful and when Nicole discovers that he has, again, betrayed her, it’s the last straw. She decides it’s time to find out more about herself, what makes her ‘tick’, and to do that she determines to trace her natural mother.
SPS: With her journey taking her through Spain, Jersey and Guernsey, does she ever lose hope of finding what she is looking for?
AA: A little, but she’s more concerned about what she finds out rather than when.
SPS: Are you a believer in writing about places that you have lived/visited to make the story more authentic?
AA: Definitely! I know it’s so much easier these days for writers to trawl the internet to discover ‘facts’ about places they don’t know, but to my mind nothing beats the knowledge gained from having lived in or visited a place. Guernsey, for example, is a place dear to my heart and I still visit as often as I can.
SPS: Do you feel there is scope with either of your novels to revisit them in the future to extend the stories of Jeanne or Nicole into future works?
AA: Interesting that you should ask that! Finding Mother does have a link with Dangerous Waters, although not strictly a series. I decided, with my second book, to bring in some of the characters from the first, for a kind of ‘cameo’ appearance. Also, there is a major character in Finding Mother who might end up with her own book one day. And again, there are links from Finding Mother to my third, my work in progress.
SPS: If we can take a moment to look at your book covers. Can you tell us a little about how they came about and how much say you had in the design?
AA: I’m so pleased and lucky to have found a wonderful cover designer, Claire Siggery. She very quickly tuned into my vague thoughts for the cover of Dangerous Waters and it was a joy to work with her. She encouraged me to download images that appealed to me and she came up with rough ideas until we eventually both agreed on the final version. It was slightly heavier going with Finding Mother as I hadn’t a clue what I wanted initially and poor Claire went up a couple of false paths before it clicked. The use of the maze was her idea and I think it works beautifully. The distant horizon is a real image of Guernsey – I wanted it to be authentic J
SPS: We are big fans here at The Showcase of a good book trailer. What made you decide to use the medium and who was involved in the process of making them?
AA: I think trailers are a brilliant way of showcasing books and was very keen to have my own. This trailer was inspired by a wonderful time-lapse video of Guernsey by Kaspars Delackis, who very kindly gave me permission to use it. I found the editor through Claire, my jacket designer, and between us we came up with the final result, which I love!
SPS: What we can we expect next from the pen of Anne Allen?
AA: My third novel, Guernsey Retreat, is a romantic mystery, set in…!! The story revolves around the big, old house which features in Finding Mother, and concerns two deaths. One in Guernsey just prior to the German Occupation and the other 70 years on in London. The deaths are linked and the story follows a young woman, Louisa, in her search for the truth behind the recent death. One or two characters from Finding Mother will be putting in an appearance…
SPS: Was the Self-Published/Indie-Published route always your preferred route for your work?
AA: Not at all! I didn’t even consider it initially, as it wasn’t at all the accepted route it’s now become.
SPS: Has the experience so far been all that you thought it would be?
AA: Well, it’s been a lot more hard work than expected! An indie writer needs to be Jill (or Jack) of all trades, which takes time, work and money. But on the plus side, it’s great to be in control of every aspect of the publishing process and know that it’s (virtually!) all my own work. With a little help from my friends J
SPS: If you could give one piece of advice for someone looking to get into writing, what would it be?
AA: By all means, if you love writing, then write. But write for the love of it rather than with an eye on a large bank balance. Very few writers achieve huge success, but if it does happen to you, then congratulations! You will have earned it.
SPS: Before we bring this interview to a close, it’s your chance to name-drop. Anyone who you feel is deserving of more recognition at present or someone whose writing you have recently enjoyed? Now is your chance to spread the word…
AA: I’ve enjoyed so many books from new authors it’s hard to choose! But I did very much enjoy ‘House of Silence’ by Linda Gillard, who’s written several novels and worth looking out for.
SPS: Thank you for joining us today Anne, and all the best for the future.
AA: And thank you! I’ve enjoyed our chat. Now, can I please get back to my ‘proper’ writing?!
SPS: For more information on Anne Allen and her work, please do visit her Author page here.
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