What a lovely weekend for Anne Allen, with Dangerous Waters hitting #1 in the Amazon free book charts! It’s back up to £1.99 now (and worth every penny). As I mentioned last week, the third of Anne Allen’s Guernsey novels, Guernsey Retreat, will (officially) be published on 8 August, but I’m delighted to tell you that you can already purchase it for Kindle – the paperback will be available before the middle of August. Doesn’t this sound just wonderful?
Two violent deaths. Separated by time, but with a fatal connection…
A man loses his father. A young woman loses her mother. Both in tragic circumstances that lead, when they meet, to surprising revelations from the past.
Louisa needs to find the father she has never known, to warn him of possible danger – for them both. Her search takes her from England to Guernsey. Malcolm’s journey is more tortuous: conceived in Guernsey, he travels to Canada as a baby with his bereaved mother. Many years later he arrives in India, and from here he is led back to Guernsey to open a health centre at La Folie. This was his father’s home, where Malcolm was conceived, but never lived and where his father was killed at the start of the Second World War.
At the heart of the two deaths lie stolen jewels. Valuable enough to kill for. Twice.
Finding her father brings Louisa more than she bargains for, and her life is transformed, while Malcolm learns that life is, after all, for sharing…
I’m delighted to welcome Anne Allen to the blog to answer my questions about the first two books, and to tell us a bit more about Guernsey Retreat.
I’m full of admiration that you started writing later in life, and do it so very well – where did the impetus come from to actually start writing? Did you have Jeanne’s story in your head before you started capturing it in writing?
Thank you, Anne. The impetus had been slowly boiling over the years – if that’s not a contradiction in terms! I, like a number of writers, had often thought about writing and my ex-partner even bought me novel writing software. But life kept getting in the way until, finally in 2006, I decided I had run out of excuses and now was the time. The immediate impetus came from reading a book by Katie Fforde, one of many I had enjoyed over the years, and thinking I’d like to write something like this. I started by knowing I wanted to write a story based in Guernsey, where I had lived for many happy years, reluctantly returning to England in 2002. Once I had my setting I wanted an old house with secrets and then Jeanne popped into my head as the protagonist with a tragic past. The story was not fully-formed before I began writing and actually became more of a mystery than a romance. As the story revolves around love and loss it became quite painful for me at times, but also cathartic. I actually cried buckets writing a couple of scenes! But, as you know, Anne, there is a happy ending.
Your books are full of strong characters – I particularly liked Helene in Finding Mother, feeling for her through the difficult decisions she was forced to make. Do you have a personal favourite?
Well, I totally fell in love with Nick in Dangerous Waters, if that counts? As far as the women are concerned, I think Eve, from Finding Mother, is my favourite. I admire her spirit and the way she dealt with some harsh blows in life.
I feel as if I’ve travelled around the bays and eaten in the restaurants with your characters, and I’d love to attend a barbecue in Jeanne’s garden. The Guernsey setting of your novels is so vividly drawn – how long did you live there, and how often do you get to go back?
I lived there for nearly fourteen years and try to go over every year. My elder son still lives there and is now a qualified ‘local’, he’s been there so long. Since my books have been published I travel over a little more often to launch new books and attend The Guernsey LitFest. It’s helpful to walk and drive around as it refreshes my memory about the various parts of the island I mention in the books and to undertake any necessary research.
Is it important to you that they’re accurate around the geography, and the historical background?
Totally! I’m very aware that many local people and ex-pat Guerns read my books and would not want them being disappointed by any inaccuracies. I could just imagine the negative reviews!
You’re so good at writing about love and loss and the difficult decisions people sometimes have to make. Despite that, your books left me with a smile on my face and hope for the future. Is that feel-good factor important to you?
Yes, it is. An awful lot of books these days seem to focus on the grimmer side of life and can leave readers quite depressed. Life is far from perfect for most of us, and it’s no point painting a rosy picture if it’s totally unrealistic. But, through my work as a psychotherapist, I learnt how strong the human spirit can be as long as there’s hope. Hope for better health or love or whatever is needed and I aim to portray that hope in my books. I’m glad I left you with a smile on your face!
I know it’s not long now until we’ll be able to read your third Guernsey novel. Can you tell us a little more about it?
Called Guernsey Retreat it is a mystery romance: the mystery takes precedence over the love story. It begins with a violent death in Guernsey in 1939, just as war is declared and fast forwards to 2009 when a body is discovered in the grounds of La Folie, shortly to be opened as a natural health centre and retreat. The owner, Malcolm Roget, is the son of the man killed in 1939. A few months later, single mother Susan Canning, dies after a violent burglary at her home in London, leaving her only daughter Louisa to find not only the father she has never known, but why her mother was targeted. The story follows Louisa’s search which leads her to…Guernsey!
And will we encounter again some of the characters we’ve enjoyed getting to know?
Certainly – quite a few in fact. Not only is the main story centred on La Folie, which featured in Finding Mother, but characters from both my previous books make an appearance. So readers can get an update on their favourite people. Guernsey is a small island – 7 by 5 miles – so it’s entirely plausible that these type of connections exist. Anyway, it makes for a more interesting story! I realised while writing Finding Mother that I was, in effect, writing a series, and have now called it The Guernsey Novels series. All the books are stand-alone but, as you can see, there are links between them. I’ve already started writing book 4 – The Family Divided – and there will be familiar faces making an appearance. Due in 2015.
As well as writing, I know you’re an avid reader too. Have you read anything recently you’d like to recommend to others, perhaps a book you’d rather like to have written yourself?
I have eclectic taste in reading and often read books of various genres that I wouldn’t attempt to write myself. One writer who I would like to emulate is Linda Gillard. I recently read Cauldstane, a gothic mystery and romance. Linda writes beautifully and I’ve read two of her other novels. Cauldstane is set in a gothic Scottish castle and for me held shades of Macbeth – or rather Lady Macbeth – in the telling. Definitely worth a read!
Thank you Anne – I’m really looking forward to reading Guernsey Retreat. And, as chance would have it, I’m also a big fan of Linda Gillard’s writing – I’ve already read and reviewed Cauldstane (currently £1.99 for Kindle), and loved it as much as you did. The best of luck with your new book!