Anne Allen, author of the Guernsey Novels has kindly accepted my invitation to be interviewed (by me!) on my humble site. I say this because I do feel humbled in the presence of such an exquisite writer. That means, I’m going to have to behave during this interview. Oh dear! How on earth are you going to manage that? Remember the… (Shut up, muse!) Erm… So without further ado.
Anne, you live on the beautiful Devon coast and the setting for your books is idyllic Guernsey. Could you expand upon what inspires you to use Guernsey as the backdrop for your stories?
I lived in Guernsey for nearly 14 years and loved it. In fact, I fell in love with the island as soon as I arrived the first time for a holiday. For me, it was as if I had ‘come home’. It was with a heavy heart that I returned to England in 2002 and when I then thought about writing a novel a few years later, it was the obvious place for the setting. At the time I did not realise I would end up writing a series; in fact, it was not until my third book that the penny dropped! I continued to visit the island regularly, both to see the son I had left behind and my friends. Guernsey is so rich in history as well as the natural beauty that it continues to inspire me after seven published books. Long may that continue!
Maybe the dropped penny will bring someone good luck if they are fortunate enough to pick it up. 😊 Anyway, when I read and reviewed your fifth Guernsey novel, Echoes of Time, which by the way remains a steady favourite of mine. (For those of you who don’t know, Echoes of Time won my coveted Diamond Book Awards in 2017 which was no easy feat giving the calibre of authors and books entered that year) I was awed by how easily you tied two different timelines: That of Olive in 1940’s German-occupied Guernsey and Natalie in 2010 through the use of dreams and paranormal activities. So I don’t give anything away, could you tell us more about this work and the challenges you encountered while writing it?
Echoes of Time was my first dual-time story and to be honest I wasn’t sure how I was going to write it. After a bit of trial and error, I realised the best way was to write each part in one go rather than flit from one story to the next and then interweave the chapters when I had finished. That was also tricky as I had to make sure there continued to be an easy flow from one timeframe to another and that Natalie didn’t ‘encounter’ something from the past before it had happened! I did enjoy using a little bit of ghostly intervention as it provided an extra frisson of suspense.
The ghostly intervention most certainly worked for me. I found it to be an effective way of tying the two timelines. This brings me to your latest novel in the Guernsey series, The Inheritance. This work also crosses two different timelines: That of Eugenie who is a copyist for the great Victor Hugo in the 1800s and of Tess in 2012. This time you chose to use a diary to connect the two. How is it that you can so flawlessly write between two different timelines? Does having a connection between two different places, Devon and Guernsey help in any way do you think?
Well, The Inheritance is my third dual-time story and I am getting into my stride now! This was harder than the others as the Victorian period was so different from the Occupation years, in terms of culture, language and everyday life. I had to immerse myself in that era in order to write the diary and must have succeeded as by the end of the book I had even convinced myself Eugénie was a real person like Victor Hugo! I am not sure that my connection between Guernsey and Devon plays a part; it could be I’m a bit of a split personality!
I get the reference to a split personality. It’s kind of like the relationship I have with my muse. Did someone call for me? (You’re imagining things again, Muse.) Moving on… Another thing I really like about your Guernsey series, Anne are the book covers. They complement each other as a series and more importantly the stories within. How do you come up with them?
I always start with a real Guernsey image as the background and then use particular images to represent the story. My cover designer, Jane Dixon-Smith, is brilliant at putting it all together once the images are chosen and I love them all. My favourite, though, is The Inheritance, as Hugo is so striking behind the girl in the red jacket (representing Tess)
I agree. Do you have an upcoming release or anything else in the process?
I have just started working on book 8 – as yet untitled – which is another dual-time, going back to late 18th/early 19th C when privateering and smuggling were prevalent in Guernsey. I hope to publish it next year.
Sounds most intriguing! Finally, Anne, and I have to ask: Have you ever thought of writing a Devonshire series?
Good question! I have been asked this before, but at the moment I am dedicated to writing stories of my beloved Guernsey.
,It’s not surprising someone beat me to the last question, Anne. Stop lying, you had hoped to be the first and only one to ask her that! (Shut up, Muse!)
Thank you ever so much for dropping in, Anne… Anne Allen, everyone!
Links to Anne and her books:
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Anne-Allen/e/B007R2XGJG