The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Anne Allen

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The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Anne Allen

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Summary: We really enjoyed Dangerous Waters: Mystery, Loss and Love on the Island of Guernsey so we had plenty we wanted to talk about when author Anne Allen popped in to see us at Bookbag Towers.
Date: 16 May 2012
Interviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee

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We really enjoyed Dangerous Waters: Mystery, Loss and Love on the Island of Guernsey so we had plenty we wanted to talk about when author Anne Allen popped in to see us at Bookbag Towers.

  • Bookbag: When you close your eyes and imagine your readers, who do you see?

Anne Allen: Women of all ages who enjoy love stories with a twist, an element of mystery. Perhaps those who have had personal tragedies which they've overcome and can relate to how other women cope- or not! - with the vicissitudes of life. Having said that, some of my readers have been men so perhaps my audience is wider than I'd intended! When I wrote Dangerous Waters I had been immersed in books by women for women (for example, Joanna Trollope, Joanne Harris, Katie Fforde), as a form of therapy after the end of a long-term relationship. I was a long way from my friends and needed to connect with other women, no matter how vicariously. Writing the book became the logical next stage in the healing process.

  • BB: I can empathise with all that, Anne. I really enjoyed Dangerous Waters and I thought that Jeanne Le Page made a great heroine but for me the star was the island of Guernsey. Do you know it well? How can anyone bear to leave it?

AA: Yes, I do know Guernsey really well having lived there for many years. I wasn't born there, however, and arrived as an outsider, three children in tow, in 1988. I had fallen in love with the island the year before, having spent two weeks holiday with friends I'd met in England but lived in Guernsey. I managed to go over for a few days at a time over the next 12 months and soon came to the conclusion that this was where I wanted to be. It was a combination of the beautiful scenery- incorporating big sandy beaches, cliff top walks, sheltered coves, the magical island of Herm, winding lanes - and the fantastic people I met. I felt as if I truly belonged somewhere for the first time in my life. But it wasn't plain sailing, as a non-local I had to live 'Open Market' which was both restrictive and expensive and it was four years before I was granted a licence to live in 'local' property. By then I felt truly rooted in Guernsey and never envisaged leaving. Life, however, can throw us a curved ball and several years later that is what I had, reluctantly, to do. It was hard, particularly as this is where my friends are, but I contrived to leave my older son there, giving me a good reason to return as often as possible. I was there two weeks ago for the book launch and felt I made a stronger re-connection than I'd done for some time. In spite of the awful weather of heavy rain and strong winds Guernsey was still beautiful.

  • BB: What was the inspiration for Dangerous Waters? You have a neatly-constructed plot which has obviously taken a LOT of work. Was the book a long time in the writing?

AA: I wrote the initial draft in 2005/6 after having been inspired by Joanne Harris's Coastliners'. This was a story about a small island off the coast of France which sounded like a cross between Guernsey and Herm. It sparked the idea of setting a novel in Guernsey which I felt had to be a love story with an 'edge'. My heroine, Jeanne, emerged quite quickly as someone who had experienced tragedy and I wanted her to overcome what life had thrown at her and find the strength to turn her life around. I then began to visualise a story reflecting similarities between Jeanne's life and that of her late grandmother. The plot developed fairly quickly from there and I wrote the initial draft in about six months, working several hours a day. As a 'newbie' author I was naive enough to think that that was it, finished. How wrong can you be! After seeking the help of professional editors I re-wrote the book several times and nearly six years to the day, the book was finally published.

  • BB: That would explain something else which I noticed in the book - you really understood the way in which the publishing industry worked! I sensed a love of the sea too. Does it play a big part in your life?

AA: Yes, yes yes! It hasn't always done so as I was born in Rugby, as far from the sea as you can get in the UK. However, my father was from Anglesey, North Wales and as a family we spent every summer holiday there until my teens. So I think the sea is in my blood and I've spent most of my life trying to get close to it. Guernsey, being an island, definitely hit the spot! It was there that I had my first experience of boats and used to love going out with friends in their small cruisers. I also, briefly, took up crewing for a guy with a yacht who insisted on an all-female crew for some reason . . .  ! I've lived near the sea in Spain since then and that was pretty good too - so much warmer! Back in England I'm now in Devon, by the sea again, which is a reasonable compromise, I guess, after Guernsey and Spain!

  • BB: I was impressed by your knowledge of hypnosis and your understanding of fear and panic. It was obviously far more than research - do I sense a professional interest?

AA: For many years I've been a psychotherapist specialising in hypnotherapy. I've worked with hundreds of clients in that time and it's been an eyeopener to me just how many people do suffer from panic attacks. Hypnosis has proved invaluable in helping people uncover the underlying cause and becoming healed.

  • BB: Where and how do you write? With music or without? Which parts of writing do you enjoy the most and which would you rather not have to do?

AA: I'm someone who needs to be comfortable in order to write so it's usually at my desk or a table. I do like music in the background but nothing too 'loud'. I enjoy writing the plot outline, imagining the various characters and their unique stories and how they will interact with each other. It's also fun deciding what happens to the main protagonists, it gives me a feeling of being in control - something not always apparent in real life! I find the continuous re-writes hard work - I just wish I could get it right the first time!

  • BB: I loved the recipes in Dangerous Waters. How did you come by them? Do you enjoy cooking?

AA: The recipes are fairly standard local ones passed down through the years. They crop up in several Guernsey cookery books. The French ones I researched on the internet as appropriate to the mid-19th century. I do enjoy cooking if I've got family or friends to cook for, I tend to be a bit lazy if it's just for me. I will, occasionally, go through my numerous recipe books for something I really enjoy as a treat.

  • BB: What are you reading at the moment? What’s your favourite book of all time?

AA: On The Street Where you Live by Mary Higgins Clark - I really love her work. My favourite book has to be The Quincunx by Charles Palliser. It has everything - drama, mystery, convoluted plots, fascinating characters. It's a huge book so you need plenty of time to curl up with it - ideal for dark winter nights!

  • BB: Thanks Anne - that's a couple of books for us to look out for. You’ve got one wish. What’s it to be?

AA: If it can be personal, then I'd like my second career as a writer to take off and lead me to new adventures - and financial security!

  • BB: What's next for Anne Allen?

AA: I started my second novel, 'Finding Mother', a few years ago and it has languished in the cupboard too long. As we speak, it's been dusted off and on my desk ready for action. It's the story of a young woman who, after a life-changing event, decides to trace her natural mother and along the way uncovers secrets going back two generations. Another tale of love and loss set primarily in the Channel Islands and with echoes from WWII in England.

  • BB: We'll look forward to seeing that Anne - and thanks for taking the time to come in and chat to us.

You can read more about Anne Allen here.

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