Gilli Allan: Life Is Not A Fairy Tale

Life is not a fairy tale…..

Gilli Allan Author Photo

Gilli Allan

When I was a child I was entranced by the idea of magic.  I believed in fairies (and Father Christmas) for far longer than is reasonable or rational.   I talked to the fairies in the garden and they answered me.  I admit I never actually saw one, but I suspected – because pansies have faces – that they lived in the pansies. So I talked to the pansies and they’d nod or shake their heads.  Proof.  And as I got older, even though I kind of knew it was all nonsense, I stubbornly clung to the faith, more because I wanted it to be true than really believing in it.

And, of course, my favourite reading was fairy stories.  I can still recall the smell and feel of those books.  I had a volume of Hans Anderson’s fairy stories – a Collins classic, with the dark green plasticised cover. And I had a volume of the collected stories of the Brothers Grimm.  This was a heavy, old hardback, with thick, deckle edged pages the colour of weak tea, and I suspect the famously ‘grim’ stories had been heavily expurgated, to make them more suitable for young minds. I don’t recall ever being frightened or disturbed, but I do recall being disappointed about the way many of these classic tales (Anderson’s and Grimm’s) concluded.

I was always making up stories, peopled typically with knights and ladies, princes and princesses, and fairies of course.  But I didn’t write anything down until I was nearing the end of primary school, and even then it was my big sister who gave me the idea. She was writing a Regency romance, and it suddenly struck me that writing it yourself was the perfect way to make a story turn out the way it should.  This is how I caught the writing bug.

Throughout my teenage years I wrote ‘books’.  I never finished anything.  But what interests me now, looking back, is why I was I writing the kind of story I was writing. I read Georgette Heyer, Daphne DuMaurier, even Jane Austen. Young Adult didn’t exist as a genre in those days and – other than adult fiction, which I moved onto fairly swiftly – historical romance was all that seemed to exist for teenage girls.  But unlike my sister, I wasn’t interested in writing in that style. I was far more strongly drawn to write darker tales, set in the present, of self-destructive bad boys, rescued and redeemed by the love of a girl who sees the good in him. I suppose I was influenced by pop music, films, TV and teen comics (although these were disapproved of in our house and I rarely read them).

In some ways, I think I still write in the same vein.  I am no longer romantically drawn to the haggard hero, at deaths door, either through his consumption of drugs or drink, or as a result of a horrific motorbike accident due to speeding. (This was never due to weakness or degeneracy, by the way. He would have been lured into these self-destructive behaviours to “forget” some tragedy in his life.)  But even though I’ve left these poor emaciated and emotionally damaged wraiths behind, I still prefer to write contemporary stories about people with faults and failings and emotional baggage. I write stories with an edge about real contemporary life.

I used to describe my books as gritty, but came to realise this conveys the wrong impression.  I’m not Martina Cole.  Despite my teenage tastes, I don’t write about ‘Crims’ and ‘Toms’ and seedy lowlife. I’ve never lived in that world and I don’t know it.  I don’t even watch East Enders.  But I don’t shy away from issues. I prefer to write as truthfully as I can about real people in a world I recognise, dealing with the stuff we all may have to deal with. A world where people don’t always make the right decisions – where actions have consequences – where we muddle along and sometimes, all we can hope for is the best. What I write is ‘romance for grownups’. This is not to say there are no happy endings.  There may not be a transformation scene, where the beautiful, but innocent and humble heroine is given the sparkly crinoline and marries her handsome, rich and perfect prince. But in my books there is hope, and a light at the end of the tunnel. There may not be a promise of happy ever after – who can guarantee that in real life – but, by the book’s conclusion, my heroine is always a good deal happier than she was!

 

FLY or FALL

Gilli Allan FOF CoverEleanor – known as Nell – thinks of herself as a wimp.  Even though her life has not been easy, she clings to the safety of the familiar. Married young and dependent on her teacher husband’s wage, Nell has stayed at home, in Battersea, with her children and her increasingly invalid mother.  Following the death of her mother the family’s fortunes suddenly change.  Trevor, is wildly enthusiastic about their ‘move up in the world’; he plans to give up teaching and move house away from London.  Nell, however, is gripped by a nebulous fear of some unknown disaster waiting to trip them all up, but her husband, steamrollers her objections.

Now in her early thirties, and living in an unfamiliar landscape away from old friends, Nell feels cast adrift.  She is increasingly aware that Trevor is no longer the man she married, and their young teenage twins, Jonathan and Juliet, are grumpy and difficult. The women she meets, Felicity and Katherine, seem shallow and promiscuous. The new house is unwelcoming and needs modernisation; she’s thrust into a continuing chaos of rubble and renovation.  Patrick, one of the men working for the building firm, is infamous as a local Lothario, but he doesn’t make a pass at her. At first she’s grateful – she’s not that kind of woman – but her feelings towards him grow increasingly confused and ambivalent.

When Nell takes a bar job at the local sports club, she is exposed to an overheated atmosphere of flirtation and gossip. Influenced by her new friends and the world in which she now moves, she begins to blossom and to take pleasure in the possibilities which seem to be opening up for her. She meets and forms a deeper friendship with the quirky, new-age Elizabeth, a very different character to her other friends.  As Nell begins to enjoy herself and to become enthusiastic about her life, it seems her husband is on a downward trajectory, on the opposite end of a cosmic seesaw.  When she is pursued by a beautiful and enigmatic young man, called Angel, she is tempted into behaviour she would never previously have imagined herself capable. The earthquake, felt as a tremor of apprehension at the start of the story, rumbles through her life and the lives of those around her.  When the dust settles nothing is as she previously understood it.

FLY OR FALL follows the dismantling of all of Nell’s certainties, her preconceptions and her moral code. Unwelcome truths about her friends, her husband, her teenage children and even herself are revealed.  Relationships are not what they seem. The hostility between brothers is exposed and finally explained. And the love that blossoms unexpectedly from the wreckage of her life is doomed, as she acknowledges the hair’s breadth between wishful thinking, self-deception and lies.

By the conclusion of FLY OR FALL everything has altered for Nell, the woman who doesn’t like change. But she has rebuilt herself as a different person, a braver person, and she has embarked with optimism on a totally transformed life, a life that offers the chance of love.

Biography

Gilli Allan started to write in childhood, a hobby only abandoned when real life supplanted the fiction. Gilli didn’t go to Oxford or Cambridge but, after just enough exam passes to squeak in, she attended Croydon Art College.

She didn’t work on any of the broadsheets, in publishing or television. Instead she was a shop assistant, a beauty consultant and a barmaid before landing her dream job as an illustrator in advertising. It was only when she was at home with her young son that Gilli began writing seriously. Her first two novels were quickly published, but when her publisher ceased to trade, Gilli went independent.

Over the years, Gilli has been a school governor, a contributor to local newspapers, and a driving force behind the community shop in her Gloucestershire village.  Still a keen artist, she designs Christmas cards and has begun book illustration. Gilli is particularly delighted to have recently gained a new mainstream publisher – Accent Press. FLY OR FALL is the second book to be published in the three book deal. The first was TORN, published in 2014, and LIFE CLASS is coming out later this year.

 

Links

To connect to me:

http://twitter.com/gilliallan  (@gilliallan)

https://www.facebook.com/GilliAllan.AUTHOR

http://gilliallan.blogspot.co.uk/

Books:

TORN: MyBook.to/gilliallansTORN (universal or  http://www.amazon.co.uk/Torn-Gilli-Allan-ebook/dp/B00R1FQ1QE)

FLY OR FALL: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Fly-Fall-Gilli-Allan-ebook/dp/B00XXZJ43S/

Dear Auntie Romaniac… My Hero Needs Help!

Dear Auntie Romaniac,

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I’d love some advice on how to make my hero irresistible. What traits make you as a writer and a reader fall in love with heroes and how do you translate that on the page?

Laura.

Lucie: Hi Laura, this is a fab question. For me, both as a writer and a reader, I need my hero to be real. I don’t want him to be this perfect example of what men should be – because that isn’t real, it isn’t identifiable. He needs to have flaws. Not massive, oh my God I can’t believe you would do that flaws, but everyday flaws that us humans have. He needs to have a journey that will make him, in my eyes, be irresistible. There’s nothing more attractive than a man who works hard and makes the most of his life. Life is hard, obstacles are put in our way to test us, so show me that in a hero and show me that he will work hard to overcome these, and I will love him!  I don’t want a ‘perfect’ man – what is that, anyway? Yes, good looks, humour and the like are great qualities to have, but you must get the personality and rawness of his character there, too. As for translating it on the page, I would just say write it real. Don’t sugar coat things or skip over it, tell it how it is and indulge in him. We all love a bit of indulgence :-)

Jan: I like my hero to be caring, respectful, strong enough to take decisive action when needed yet not too proud to reveal his innermost concerns, even if only to me. Someone with a great sense of humour who can take a joke at his own expense too. Protective, loyal, well-mannered, hardworking, self-assured enough to stand by his beliefs. Someone who would ‘have my back’ in public even if in private he was miffed with me!  I suppose as far as translating these things onto the page goes, I would take each character trait and create a scenario  that showed both sides of it. With ‘caring’ for instance, I’d have him show that side of himself to the heroine or to sub-characters but, equally, show it in the way people speak of him to others; their love or regard for him as a person. Of course, as Lucie says above, a good-looking hero always ups the temperature, but it’s the inner qualities, I believe, that make him more credible and irresistible. Sigh …

Sue: Yes, to all of the above. I like my heroes to be real in the sense that they are not perfect. There needs to be something in his character that challenges the heroine, a side that will appeal to readers, so that the reader is rooting for him too, despite any flaws he may have. I think the trick is to remember that the hero has two love interests in the novel; that of the heroine and that of the reader. 

 

 

Guest Post – Gabrielle Mullarkey

 

 

Today, we welcome to HQ, Gabrielle Mullarkey …

 

Gabrielle Mullarky

 

Gabrielle’s contemporary romance novels, Hush Hush and A Tale of Two Sisters, were originally published by Town House & Country House/Simon & Schuster respectively.

Corazon Books republished Hush Hush as an e-book in November 2014, with A Tale of Two Sisters scheduled for 2015.

Gabrielle, a journalist by profession, also writes short stories regularly for women’s weeklies, and facilitates creative writing for wellbeing and therapeutic purposes.

Hush Hush in a nutshell

Reclusive widow Angela is afraid to dip a toe back in the job market – let alone the dating game. But egged on by her bossy mother and her best friend, she resolves to find a job and even try a solo holiday – which ends with a luggage mix-up and an encounter with a rugged Irishman called Conor.

Back home, Angela is keen to take her new romance slowly, particularly as Conor’s (non-holiday) baggage includes the original ‘child from hell’ and an ex-wife who’s less ‘ex’ than Angela expected.

But there’s a deeper reason for Angela’s acute self-doubt – a trauma in her past that threatens to overshadow her chance of happiness, even as it lies within reach.

The fine line…

Hush Hush and my second novel, A Tale of Two Sisters, were printed in 1999 and 2001 respectively, so seeing my writing reincarnated as e-books (and updating it accordingly) has been like greeting old friends, as well as revisiting myself at a different time in life.

 

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When I started Hush Hush, I was living in Ireland by accident rather than design, after I’d met an Irishman while on holiday over there – which kind of inverts the process in the book, Angela meeting her beau on her way back from holiday!

Not that it was an overnight decision to relocate. It took five years, a mini career crisis and a lot of arm-twisting to take the plunge.

However, as I’m second-generation Irish, family and friends discounted   serendipity and assumed I’d implemented a long-nurtured cunning plan: return to roots, snag ethnically suitable specimen, learn to play the bodhran, develop love of Guinness, master Irish dancing, reclaim and celebrate heritage.

Of course, there was no such grand plan (I wish!). I simply met someone when I wasn’t looking, I can still only play Chopsticks on a piano, Guinness doesn’t agree with me, and as a child, I was possibly the worst Irish dancer. Ever.

But a funny thing happened as I started to write Hush Hush: while both characters and plot – which I wanted to be absorbingly twisty – were pure fiction, my conflicted feelings about my identity did begin to edge into the pages, many such sentiments expressed through humour (my natural default setting). However, it was only when interviewed or questioned about the book after its publication, that I thought about this osmosis, and wondered how deeply it affected my writing generally.

Since then, my research and training in creative writing for therapeutic purposes has introduced me to the adage that writing fiction helps us ‘say the unsayable’, perhaps without even realising we’re doing it – or that we considered such self-exploration ‘unsayable’ in the first place.

I still don’t set out to plunder my life directly for incidents or anecdotes, but I also know there’s a fine line between fictionaliser and recollector. In Hush Hush, Angela’s mistakes, triumphs and misunderstandings were sometimes directly my own. For example, just like Angela, I really did have a summer job in a factory where I managed to print all the clock cards upside down!

So, all these years later, it’s fascinating to look back and compare the writer who wrote Hush Hush with the one writing this post. Lots of wonderful writers have influenced me down the years and continue to do so (everyone from Robert Goddard to Laurie Graham), but I also continue to be an enduring influence on myself – and hopefully, a rich resource of ever-surfacing memories.

 

www.gabriellemullarkey.co.uk

Connect with Gabrielle on Twitter  @authorgabrielle

 

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Hush-Gabrielle-Mullarkey-ebook/dp/B00PCLGF9W

Life Cycle of a Writer – Lucie Wheeler

Hello!

The time has come for me to give you lovely people a round up of what I have been up to since I last posted.

Whilst I haven’t got exciting news like a book deal or a competition win, I feel over the last few weeks my writing has taken a huge change in direction – for the better!

For a while now, I have been playing about with my writing to find where I belong. It takes a little time, as a writer, to find your place, your ‘voice’ as some call it, and realise where you fit in. Whilst I thought I already had, I think the way in which I have moved forward so quickly since January has proved that finally, I know who I am. Whilst romance always plays a huge part in my stories, I have come to realise that the stories I want to tell are more relationship based books, family dramas, domestic stories. My stories always have an issue based plot whether it be a young woman dealing with grief and depression, or someone in a violent relationship desperate to escape. Or even a couple entering into IVF not realising the devastating effects this could have on their already rocky relationship. These are everyday issues that everyday people fight. I write about ordinary people finding their modern day fairytale ending.

So, realising that my writing had taken an alternative route, meant a total overhaul of my image. I had been promoting myself as a romance author, and whilst that is still true, I didn’t feel it gave my followers a true definition of who I was and what I write. So, after discussions with my agent and a few of my writing friends, I decided to re-launch myself:

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I feel this describes me much better. With this reinvention, came a shiny new website and an author page on Facebook. Please do pop over and have a look at both – and feel free to ‘like’ and subscribe if you want to!

Now I had a lovely website, a stronger presence on Facebook and Twitter and a plan. It was then time to sort out my submissions.

In my last post I told you about ‘Love Hurts’. This book has now been retitled as ‘Fractured Love’. I have completed another edit of FL after some tweaking by my agent (Sarah) and it has now been sent off to be proofed by her. Head over Heart, which was my first completed novel, is now undertaking a huge re-write to reflect my new ‘real life, real love’ route. When I first wrote HoH, I was still very much concentrating highly on romance being the main factor and it was lighter than it needed to be. When I finished FL, my agent and I agreed that HoH needed a complete overhaul to match the pace and quality of my latest novel. My writing has developed ALOT since I wrote my first book and this rewrite needs to reflect that. I am excited about the new direction I have taken and I cannot wait to work this into Sophie’s story.

I have also written a brief outline of the next book that I am to work on. This is currently untitled but it will focus on IVF and the effects – both good and bad – that it can have on some relationships.

Whilst my books are not directly linked, I do have a theme running through them all which ties them together. Because of this, I will be submitting them as a series this time round. And hopefully that submission will be soon. Just a few last minute tweaks and reads before Sarah hits SEND. Fingers crossed for me…

Another exciting turn that my writing has taken recently, is the development of a CHILDRENS SERIES! Writing for children is something that has also been an ambition of mine. I work in a nursery with 0-5 year olds in my day job and I love working with the little ones. So I think it was a natural development that my writing was bound to take. I will reveal more of this as it unfolds but at the moment it is very much in the early developmental stage. Because I plan to aim this series at both the fiction market as well as the educational market, I am doing lots of planning and research first.

Another hurdle I have come across with this is the decision of whether to have a separate pseudonym for my children’s books. Whilst I don’t write erotic fiction or anything like that, I do approach hard hitting issues and swear etc in my adult novels. So would it be best to create a whole new persona to promote my children’s books with? What do you all think?

I have also been more active in the competition stakes recently, entering my most recent novel into both the Lucy Cavendish Annual Fiction Prize and The Bath Novel Award.  Entering competitions is something that I haven’t really done much, but it was something I vowed to do more of this year. So that was where I started. I am also going to try to write more flash fiction/short stories to send into magazines and competitions, too.  It is all part of my being more proactive!

All that is left to say is that I shall be attending the Romantic Novelists’ Association Summer Party this year so I do hope to see a lot of you there!

Happy writing!

Lucie x

PS. My ironing pile has also resumed residence on my spare bed… I wouldn’t be able to call myself a writer if I didn’t have a horrendously large ironing pile and/or an overdue list of housework chores.  Come on, you know I’m not the only one…

Life Cycle of a Writer: Receiving that Magical News.

Well, since my last update, things have gone ever so slightly crazy. Wonderfully crazy! All in all, it has been  a sparkling six weeks.

On February 14th, I found out that my first novel ‘As Weekends Go’ had been shortlisted in the Choc Lit  and Whole Story Audiobooks Search for a Star competition.

I’d made the final six!

Cue stupid grins and shrieks aplenty at both Chez Brigden and Romaniac HQ.  It was going to be an extra special Valentine’s Day.

I then discovered I’d made the final two!

Which, naturally, called for fizz and chocolates …   20150314_131337

And THEN … on Saturday March 14th (I’ve decided I rather like the number 14!)  came the official announcement that I’d won the Search for a Star Competition

I can’t describe how elated I felt. Choc Lit would be offering me a contract. As Weekends Go was really going to be published.

It was a mad, mad day – lots of celebratory hugs and loving, supportive messages, both off and online. Mum and Dad came over, bearing choccies and flowers.  I had some fab cards, tweets and emails from family and friends, and messages of welcome from head of Choc Lit, Lyn Vernham, the whole team and the lovely authors.

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I’ll admit that, on the Monday morning,  when I logged on to see a special surprise post from my fantastic Romaniac buddies,  I was  bit of a blubbering Briggy!

More good cheer followed when my older sister treated me to a yummy congratulatory lunch.

 

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And then this week, I saw my first published Press Release. To say I am excited about the future is putting it mildly. I know I’ve said it before, but I truly am thankful for all the love and wise words of support and encouragement I’ve received from everyone, especially Mr B who has been  chief cuddler, co-editor, sounding board, morale booster, tantrum-dodger and counsellor extraordinaire all rolled into one. I will also be eternally grateful to my Romantic Novelists’ Association   New Writers’ Scheme reader, whose suggestions and advice when I originally submitted my novel for critique, were invaluable.

As Weekends Go is a contemporary multi POV tale – three interwoven stories – about two couples and the emotional havoc created during and beyond their eventful weekend clash of agendas, involving a ‘girls only’ trip to York, a Brighton sales conference and a Spanish stag do.

I can’t wait for you to meet the cast.

Thanks again,

Jan  x

 

 

 

 

Anniversary Celebrations and Giveaway!

CHEERS!

CHEERS

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Can you believe it? Today, The Romaniac blog is a whopping three years old. Three years! We have had the most amazing journey over those years, both with each other and with all you lovely lot, too.

When we launched our blog, back in February 2012, we never imagined we would receive such a warm, welcoming response from everyone. It has been truly amazing.

Over those three years we have each grown as individuals. Some of us have won awards, some of us have bagged an agent, some of us have started new careers and taken writing into a new direction. There are some of us who have taken the plunge and crossed genres and even those who have decided to write in a few different ones. A few have had publishing contracts and we’ve even given talks!

We’ve each had our ups and our downs, but you have all been there, standing firmly by our sides and supporting us throughout it all. For this, we are truly thankful.

One of the things we have achieved as a group, was the publication of our first Anthology, Romaniac Shorts. A collection of 22 short stories rmshrt1563x2500pxand flash fiction, penned by all 8 of our lovely Romaniac girls. There is a real mix of genres throughout our Anthology, a little something in there for everyone’s liking. All our proceeds are split between Dyslexia Action and the Romantic Novelists’ Association and we are delighted to be sending each a cheque this month for the first year’s royalties.

Which brings me onto the exciting giveaway we have. In celebration of our three years on the blog, we are giving away a fantastic book bundle. The bundle consists of a SIGNED copy of Romaniac Shorts (signed by all 8 Romaniacs), Follow Me Follow You (Signed by Laura James) Closing In (signed by Sue Fortin.), together with tea, coffee, hot chocolate, biscuits and a mug; ideal reading companions.

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All we are asking of you, to be in with a chance of winning this book and gift bundle, is to do one/or all of the following:

LIKE our Facebook page and comment ‘I’m in’ (link HERE)

COMMENT on this blog post with the words ‘I’m in!’

RETWEET the giveaway tweet on Twitter.

*The competition will close at midnight on February 20th and a winner will be picked at random shortly after. Due to postage costs, we are afraid that we can only offer this to UK participants this time. Apologies to those unable to enter, we thank you for your understanding and support. *

All that is left to say is a huge THANK YOU to each and every one of you for your continued support and encouragement over the last three years. Here’s to many, many more.

Love,

Romaniac Logo

Roving Romaniac: Mumsnet’s Get Published Day

It’s not often I get out and have to form comprehensive sentences. To be honest, I think I may well have lost the ability, having been allowed out and managing to boom ‘hello’ a few times without anything else following.

Yes, I’m a mum. I have twin toddlers who’ve created a made up language. I talk to myself. I answer back. I go occasional days without any other adult interaction. So an entire day with other human beings in the same situation was comforting. Also mind-blowing. The setting was enough to make me happy.

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Having been supplied with tea, coffee, biscuits, fresh fruit (all of which we could eat and drink unhindered), we were treated to a day covering the work of the Janklow & Nesbit Agency, how to make the right impression in covering letters, a panel of editors, an editorial masterclass, an author panel and a one-to-one.

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Photo courtesy of Hellie Ogden

 

Much was covered during the day, but I came away with these impressions:

  • The Janklow & Nesbit Agency works hard on behalf of their authors
  • Having a foreign rights agent can be the making of an author’s career
  • They’re eager to find new talent as part of the Mumsnet competition
  • It’s important to keep on writing
  • There are a lot of mums/nans out there with considerable talent and drive
  • That my laugh is ridiculously staccato and loud, given high enough ceilings

On the way home, I saw this slogan on a poster and thought, yes, that’s exactly what today was about…

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And because I am a mum of twins, and rarely get to eat all of my own food this also happened…

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The wine glass is out of shot and mostly empty!

I’ve no doubt, in the two Get Published days that have taken place, someone who has attended will be shortlisted in the Mumsnet competition. Whilst everyone waits to hear, I’ll be looking up words like Linear and Exposition. They obviously hadn’t factored in that I’ve been teaching the girls that cows ‘moo’ for the past month.

Catherine xx