Anne Allen’s first novel Dangerous Waters was published in 2012 and was awarded Silver(Adult Fiction) in The Wishing Shelf Awards 2012. Her second novel Finding Mother was runner-up in Family Sagas in the 2013 SpaSpa Awards and her third novel in the Guernsey series, Guernsey Retreat, has just been published. It seemed like a good time to catch Anne and ask her a few questions about her work…
Three novels in as many years; that’s some work rate! Tell us a little about your writing process.
Actually, Paul, I’m not as fast as it may appear!! I wrote the first draft of Dangerous Waters in about 6 months, eight years ago. Then I sought professional critiques before approaching literary agents and this dragged on for years. Once I had decided to self-publish, things speeded up and my book was published within months. However, I have managed to spend more time writing in the past couple of years resulting in Finding Mother and Guernsey Retreat being published 10 months apart. I have retired from being a psychotherapist and love writing so much that it is my main daily occupation – apart from social media, marketing and promotion and, of course, publishing. All of which take up far too much time. Re the actual writing process, I do aim to write something every day, 7 days a week, but it doesn’t always work out. I’m not hooked on word count, preferring to write for as long – or as little – as feels comfortable. I’m already working on Book 4 in The Guernsey Novels, The Family Divided, and am aiming at publishing late spring 2015. That way I can reclaim my summer for the first time in three years ☺
How important is Guernsey for you as a setting for your novels?
Without Guernsey there would be no novels! Or, at least, they would be completely different. When I wrote Dangerous Waters, it was my homage to an island both loved and missed. I had no idea this was the beginning of a series of stand- alone stories set in Guernsey and thrilled that readers love the concept, asking when the next book will be out. I feel strongly that the island has so much to offer the writer in regard to potential stories, thanks partly to its rich history and beauty. Readers who have never visited Guernsey do seem to fall in love with it after reading my description of its scenery and the lifestyle. I think VisitGuernsey should pay me a commission!
Could you tell us a little about the Wishing Shelf Awards, for which you received a silver medal?
Yes, of course. It’s a fairly new award scheme set up in the UK by a children’s author, Edward Trayer, specifically for independent authors. It is open worldwide, as long as the books are in English. The focus is more on children’s books, which are read by schoolchildren who then rate the submitted books. But there is a section for adult books, both fiction and non-fiction, and these books are voted on by readers groups, both in the UK and Sweden, where Edward lives. Anyone interested can find out more here www.thewsa.co.uk.
I notice that you have accrued an enviable number of reviews for your first two novels. Do you seek out reviewers and if so, how do you go about this?
I learnt early on that it pays to build up a relationship with book bloggers and now have quite a few who are happy to read and review my books. It takes time and a lot of patience as some bloggers do not reply to review requests, and even if they do agree to review, it can take months for that to happen. Good bloggers/reviewers have long TBR lists so I try to spread the net wide, including the US, Canada, Australia and anywhere there are English-speaking bloggers. Having said that, many of my reviews are from unknown readers, which is lovely.
I’ll lend you my time machine so you can go back in time and meet one famous writer. Who is it going to be?
Choices! Choices! I think it would have to be Charles Dickens. He wrote such interesting stories and his characters were beautifully drawn. Would love to know more about his writing process – planning, characterisation, plot sequence.
What strategies have you found to be useful whilst promoting your novels?
I’ve found other writers to be very supportive and have learnt a lot from how they promote their books. Social networking certainly plays a part, but it must not be all about promoting our own books. Twitter is good for some promotion, tempered with interesting tweets about other subjects, and it is a great way to connect with other authors. I prefer facebook as it’s more visual and I enjoy the fun videos and images posted by my friends. I have my author and book pages for posting anything to do with my writing so I’m not bombarding friends too much on my timeline.
On the odd occasion when I’ve run a free promotion, I’ve used specific services to achieve the highest number of downloads. Bookbub is good but tends to be fussy about which books to include. Other sites are both cheaper and more inclusive. It still involves a considerable amount of effort and time to set up, but worth it for the increase in exposure. Or that’s what I tell myself! I have noticed that now I’ve published three books it is becoming easier to get noticed, by readers and retailers. So, roll on number four!