Author of the seven books in the Guernsey Novels series, Anne Allen has a love of historical fiction. Each of the Guernsey books features an engaging stand-alone story, but each of these stories are linked by setting and characters—an interesting approach to series writing! I had the opportunity to interview Anne about all things books and writing. Here’s what she had to say!
The Guernsey novels are linked but stand alone. What inspired this creative choice? Have you ever considered a more series-typical narrative?
To be honest, I did not set out to write a series and only realised I was when I wrote the third, Guernsey Retreat. Duh! In the beginning I had a hazy outline of the first story, Dangerous Waters, and knew it had to be set in Guernsey where I had lived for many happy years but had recently left for personal reasons and returned to England. In effect, the opposite of my main character, Jeanne, who was born in Guernsey and left at 16 after a family tragedy. Then the idea for book two, Finding Mother, began to form and it seemed natural to set it in Guernsey as well. At that point I wasn’t thinking of bringing in characters from the first book, but they simply turned up! When I wrote Guernsey Retreat, the die was cast and previous characters popped up as if pre-determined. From then on I realised I was, in effect, writing about the life of the island and its residents, new and old. It never became an option to focus on a single main character who led the narrative through all the books.
You’re now quite an experienced author. How has your writing style and process changed?
My style has developed over the years, as one would expect. I didn’t think of ‘style’ or voice when I wrote the first; I simply wanted to write the story. With the help and guidance of my editor, Liz, I learned what worked and what didn’t and realised I always had to have a connection with past events which impacted on the story in the present day. This became even clearer with my fifth book, Echoes of Time, which is dual-time focusing on the German Occupation and the present day. My books are slightly darker now, covering issues such as domestic violence, but there is always a satisfying ending!
My process has changed little over the series as I’m basically a planner although characters have been known to surprise me ☺
What would you say to other hopeful writers? Any top tips for future authors?
In order to write you have to read first and as much as you can. If you hanker to write a particular genre, then concentrate on that initially. It also pays to include works by successful best-selling authors to get a feel of what constitutes good writing. And write what you would like to read, don’t write to fit in with a current trend. Most importantly, have fun!
History is a big part of your storytelling. What other periods/events are you interested in reading and writing about?
I have a great love of the Tudor period and am absolutely fascinated by the ancient Romans and Greeks and their wonderful mythology. As regards writing, however, I’m more likely to stick with the Georgian or Victorian era as I have been researching those times recently.
What’s next? Will we be seeing more Anne Allen books soon?
Number 8 is in the pipeline, but it’s proving a slow process. Unfortunately, the pandemic is not improving my powers of concentration and inspiration. The working title is The Travelling Bag, and it’s a dual-time and time-slip story set in modern and early 19th Century Guernsey. In the present day, Lucy is back home in Guernsey after her marriage breakdown and death of her baby girl. Still grieving, she is staying with her grandfather in his lovely old villa which seems to be haunted by a woman, Mary, from the early 1800s. Lucy begins to ‘slip back’ into Mary’s life and experiences her ancestor’s own loves and losses.
You can stay up to date with Anne on Twitter. You can pick up the Guernsey Novels from Booktopia, Book Depository, Dymocks, or QBD, or you could support a local bookstore. You can also check them out on Goodreads.
Thank you to Anne Allen and the publishing team at Fly on the Wall Press for allowing me to share this interview.
What are your favourite historical reads?
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