How well do you really know the ones you love?
A dark and brilliantly funny look at what being a fly on the wall is really like, Life Without Me is Anna Legat’s debut novel.
Georgie Ibsen is a successful, cynical, fortysomething hotshot lawyer. She runs her life, professional and personal, with precision and clear purpose. She’s just made a breakthrough in a crucial case, her family is growing more independent … things couldn’t be better.
Until it all comes to a screeching halt when she’s involved in a hit-and-run and ends up in a coma.
Somehow, in her comatose state, Georgie is given unique glimpses into the lives of her nearest and dearest, their most intimate secrets: her boring husband’s intense involvement with a homely colleague, her son’s lovelorn yearning for his mother’s Vietnamese nurse, her fifteen-year-old daughter’s bad boy boyfriend, who just might be linked to the criminal mastermind involved in her last big case…
Life Without Me by debut author Anna Legat was published earlier this year by Accent Press, and is available in paperback and for kindle. I thought it looked really interesting, something fresh and different, and I’ll be reading and reviewing it soon. I had the pleasure of “meeting” Anna through the new Facebook group Book Connectors, and was delighted when she agreed to visit Being Anne to talk about herself and her writing.
Anna, welcome to Being Anne – would you like to introduce yourself?
Thank you, Anne, for inviting me – it’s such a pleasure and privilege to be here. I am a compulsive writer – it is a vocation and an incurable condition, a type of addiction one has to feed regularly and in ever increasing doses. In my time I have also been a silver service waitress, a lawyer and a school teacher. These pursuits have helped me stay rooted in reality and provided priceless material for my writing.
At present, I live in a small town in the West Country and teach in a village school, but I have itchy feet and an inquisitive nature which has taken me on many a journey around the world to such diverse places as South Africa, Poland and New Zealand, all of which at one time or other I would call home.
I really like the look of Life Without Me. Would you like to tell me a little more about it? Why should people read it?
Thank you, Anne! The concept for Life Without Me came from my mother eight years ago. It was a difficult time – my mother was dying of cancer, a prospect which I was finding impossible to reconcile with. She told me this, in so many words, ‘Stop fussing! Life will go on without me.’ And so it did. A few years later, Life Without Me was born.
It is a tale of consolation. We are all indispensable to our loved ones, but if one day we are no longer around for reasons beyond our control, we must rest assured that our loved ones will go on, regardless. It is also a tale of discovery – sometimes stark and shocking, sometimes heart-warming. Hopefully, the discoveries Georgie makes about her family’s resilience put her – and the reader’s – mind at ease. It is also a tale of bemusement – nothing is ever as bad as it seems.
I tried to write a light-hearted story, hopefully funny and thought-provoking at the same time, but mainly a story for those who need not worry that the world will end the moment we close our eyes.
Tell me a little about your path to publication as an author – I notice you’re published by Accent Press?
A bumpy ride, as many writers can vouch for! I have written a few books for children – for my daughter’s amusement – and self-published them under my real name. Life Without Me is my foray into writing for adults. I sent the manuscript to a few agents to begin with. I was delighted to receive initial interest from two of them, Laetitia Rutherford of Watson Little and Mildred Yuan from United Agents, but their interest fizzled out. Someone mentioned Accent Press. I gave it a go, and the rest is history! I found a tenacious editor, Greg Rees, who was prepared to work with me on the book, rather tirelessly, until the final product was to our satisfaction. I guess it was a lucky strike for me.
How did you start writing – was it something you’d always wanted to do? And when the moment came, did you just sit at your keyboard and write?
I have been writing since the beginning of time – my time, that is. My first book, composed at the age of 8, was a rip-off of Jules Verne. It featured dinosaurs, adventurers and my very own illustrations. In my teenage years I advanced to angst-ridden poetry writing, and when the dust settled and my career and family were prepared to take a back seat, I dived into full-length novels.
My moment comes after long days of concocting the story in my head, usually on lone walks or bicycle rides. Once that’s sorted, I sit down, open my laptop and start typing. During the course of typing, the plot usually takes several unexpected (even by me) twists and changes of direction.
And how do you write – are you fitting it round a busy life?
Luckily, as a teacher I get the perk of school holidays. That’s when I write. I could not fit writing into term-time – teaching isn’t something you can leave at the door when you come home from school. It’s a twenty-four-seven labour of love, so I can’t teach and write. Though occasionally, I steal an odd weekend for my sinful pleasure of writing.
You must be so delighted with your 15 5-star reviews on Amazon UK, but no reviews on Goodreads when I last looked. As an independent author, is getting the publicity and reviews difficult?
I am very grateful to the reviewers for taking the time and effort to provide their feedback. I absolutely treasure every word. Unfortunately, I am not any good at soliciting reviews so I cross my fingers and hope for the best.
Do you plan to remain independent, or is it your dream to secure that elusive big publisher book deal?
I am so thankful for my publisher, Accent Press, and for my wonderful editor, Greg Rees! They are very professional people, and extremely supportive. I really doubt I would receive the same level of personal care in a big publishing house. I would probably drop to the bottom of the great big ocean, never to emerge again! So no, I am not actively seeking a big publisher book deal. I am very happy where I am.
I can tell you’re also a reader – I’ve seen your book thoughts on Facebook. Tell me about your favourite read so far this year.
It will have to be Oh Dear Silvia by Dawn French. Someone told me about it because it featured a woman in a coma, just like Life Without Me. My first thought was, Oh no, Dawn French has plagiarised my book! (only joking). I was curious to read it, and once I had I didn’t regret it one bit. It is a story of redemption. It shows how people’s love is hardly ever misplaced. A wise, thought-provoking tale. Plus it has many hilarious moments and unforgettable characters. I cried, and I laughed through my tears.
What writers do you admire? if someone said “your writing reminds me of…”, who would you like them to mention?
Ruth Rendell, for her cool control of her prose, the intensity and complexity of her characters and for her social conscience. She is absolutely brilliant and if anyone ever compared me to her, I would need to sit down and catch my breath!
Joseph Conrad, for his depth and insight into the human soul. I love the way he layers, builds and unpicks his characters through their actions. He looks into the heart of human failings and is uncompromising in facing them. You have the feeling it is all personal for him, that he lived through it all himself and battled those demons with his own bare hands.
Sue Townsend, for her humour; she is so light on her feet when she writes, and at the same time she is so down to earth! Ian McEwan, for his thoughtfulness and for never following the beaten track, but always delivering new and original stories. Again, like the others, he studies the human condition in its raw, natural environment. I guess I do like a character-driven book.
So where will you go from here – are you already working on the next book?
Always! I have signed a three-book deal with Accent Press. It’s a series featuring DI Gillian Marsh and an array of ‘good people doing bad things’. Each of the books will touch on a different human weakness, ranging from the gullibility of an old spinster, through the mid-life crisis of a man with too keen an imagination, to the belated and misplaced atonement of a man with a guilty conscience.
I am also continuing working on a book called ‘Without Prejudice’, which has been in the making for the past twenty years. It spans continents and eras, starting in Nazi-occupied Europe and ending in the new South-Africa. As the title implies, it is a story of prejudice, but also of survival.
Thank you Anna – lovely to meet you, and I look forward to reading your book very soon…