Thursday, 3 May 2012

Ladies & Gentleman - the lovely Gilli Allan

Last year I was invited to review a fabulous book called Torn by Gilli Allan, and my review can be found here. On May 1st Gilli launched Life Class and I know that myself, along with many others, will be eagerly awaiting my copy of this book.  Gilli very kindly agreed to answer some questions for me and let me be a little bit nosy about her life and her writing. 

Thanks so much for joining me today Gilli.  Congratulations on the launch of Life Class.

Thank you for asking me, Kim

Can you tell us a little about when you started writing?

Influenced by my older sister, I began to write in childhood. It was a hobby pursued throughout my teenage. Writing was only abandoned when I left home and real life took over from the fiction.

What is your education and work background?

I did not go to Oxford or Cambridge. Instead, after leaving school at sixteen, with only 5 indifferent GCE passes, I went to Croydon Art College.  (Maybe not one of the more prestigious schools of art, but Croydon fostered the disparate talents of some notable alumni,including Ray Davies, Malcolm McClaren and Mervyn Peake.)

I did not work on any of the broadsheets, in television or publishing, but did a variety of jobs - shop assistant, beauty-consultant and barmaid. I also had a job which consisted of picking up American tourists and sending them on a free guided-tour of London which culminated in lunch at the Hilton. The unsuspecting tourists were then subjected to an intense sales-pitch, selling Florida real estate. I was no good at this ‘commission only’ job and, unsurprisingly, didn’t enjoy it.  I was very relieved when I eventually landed the job of my dreams, working as an illustrator with an advertising design studio. I eventually went free-lance.

So when did you startwriting again and what sort of journey have you had?

I married Geoffrey Williams, and resumed writing while my son, Tom, was a toddler. My first ever completed novel, Just Before Dawn, was published less than 2 years after I finished the first draft. My second, Desires & Dreams, followed it less than a year later. But my publisher was new and it was small. It failed to achieve the required marketing push and wide distribution which would have given its authors - and itself - any real prospect of success.Though they were available in libraries, I never saw my novels in any bookshop, other than in my home town. The publisher ceased to trade within a few years. This was the period when the world of publishing was changing from a gentlemanly vocation to big business.

Since those days I’ve continued to write what I have always written - unconventional, subversive and surprising stories, which never follow the current band-wagon. My books - women’s contemporary relationship fiction - do always have a love story at their core but they do not have predictable, join-the-dots-plots. I have failed to find a new publisher. Either it’s because my reputation has been tainted by the demise of my first publisher, or it’s because I cannot fit my stories into an easily promotable pigeon-hole. I couldn’t even find and keep a literary agent.  I’ve been through 3 or4.

In the interim there was a brief flirtation with a POD publisher, who made my first two books available in paperback. This was not vanity publishing.  No money changed hands, but I was misled about the amount of marketing and promotion they would do on my behalf. This publisher failed after a few years even though my two books are still, theoretically, available in this format.  

Inspiredby receiving a Kindle for Christmas 2010 - and despite being technologically challenged - I grasped the ‘e-publishing’ baton last spring, and self-published my fifth novel, TORN.  In 2011 I was taken on by a new e-publisher, Lysandra Press. They were due to bring Life Class out in the New Year, 2012. I grew worried when I’d not heard from them for several weeks over the Christmas period. In January I received the news that they had folded. Lysandra was a one woman band, and the woman who had set it up suffered a series of domestic and family problems which came to a head at that time. It wasn’t until March that I received back from them their partially edited version of Life Class.  Since then I have been re-editing and checking and formatting and designing the cover. Life Class was published on May 1, 2012.

WhenI came to write the book, no research was needed for the ‘life class’ aspect of the story. I’ve attended one for many years. I also still draw and paint, and design Christmas cards. As for the rest of my life - I finally stopped working as an illustrator in advertising when I thought my career as a writer had taken off. Sadly it returned to the ground! Since those days I’ve been a school governor, a contributor to local newspapers and was one of the initiators of the successful community shop in my village.

What’s next from GilliAllan?

Fly or Fall will be my next book to be published, the date is so far unspecified.

So tell us more about LifeClass which has just launched.

The class meets once a week to draw the humanf igure. For four of its members, life hasn’t lived up to expectations. All have failed to achieve what they thought they wanted. They gradually come to realise that it’s not just the naked model they need to study and understand. Theirstories are very different, but they all have secrets they hide from the world and from themselves. By uncovering and coming to terms with the past, maybe they can move on to a different and unimagined future.

Dory says she works in the sex trade, the clean-up end. She deals with the damage sex can cause. Her job has given her a jaundiced view of men, an attitudec onfirmed by the disintegration of her own relationships. The time seems right to pursue what she really wants in life, if she can work out what that is. Love doesn’t figure in her view of the future – she’s always been a clear eyed realist – yet she finds herself chasing a dream.

Stefan is a single-minded loner. His only and overriding ambition is to make a living from his sculpture. So how the hell did he find himself facing a class of adults who want their old teacher back? Although love is an emotion he long ago closed off - it only leads to regret and shame - it creeps up on him from more than one direction. Is it time to admit that letting others into his life is not defeat?
Fran - Dory’s older sister - is a wife and a stay-at-home mother without enough to keep her occupied. On a collision course with her mid-life crisis, Fran craves the romance and excitement of her youth. An on-line flirtation with an old boyfriend becomes scarily obsessive, putting everything she really loves at risk. 

Dominic- has lived his life knowing all about sex but nothing about love. If he can only find his mother perhaps he can make sense of his past. But perhaps it is a doomed quest and it’s time to look to the future? By accepting the help and love that’s on offer here and now, he has a chance to transform his life.

That sounds fab Gilli.  As you know, I loved reading Torn last year, can you tell us a little about that story too?

I try to write honestly about modern relationships. In Torn I do not shy away from the messiness of life, or underplay the difficulties to be faced by single parents who seek to rebuild their lives. Life is not a fairy tale; it can be confusing and difficult. Sex is not always awesome; it can be awkward and embarrassing, and it has consequences. You don't always fall for Mr Right, even if he falls for you. And realising you're in love is not always good news. It can make the future look daunting......

By quitting Londonand leaving behind the turmoil of her old life, Jessica is putting her youngson first. This time she wants to get it right. In the tranquillity of the country she can concentrate on being a mother.  But life is never that simple.The country does not offer romanticised ‘good life’ idyll she pictured. There are stresses and strains here too. There’s conflict over a proposed bypass, conflict between friends with very different agendas, conflict between her own nature and her good intentions. And in the face of temptation old habits die hard.

FromMay 1, the price will be slashed.

Well thanks a million for joining me Gilli, and sharing your story and more information about you and these great reads with us.  I’m certainly raring to read Life Class now. 

You canread more about Gilli at her websites Http:// Http://


busana muslim said...

Great post,I really like your article

Gilli Allan said...

Thank you, Busama.

Gilli Allan said...

And many thanks to you, Kim, for inviting me onto your blog. Gilli x

Margaret James said...

Great interview! I loved Torn and am looking forward to reading Life Class.

Jenny Twist said...

Fascinating interview, Gilli. So nice to learn a bit more about you. I think the books look wonderful

Sandy Nachlinger said...

Great interview, Gilli. It was fun learning more about you. Like your other fans, I enjoyed reading TORN, especially since it wasn't a one-size-fits-all romance. LIFE CLASS is at the top of my TBR list.

busana muslim said...

Great post,I really like your article

Gilli Allan said...

Thanks everybody. It's really touching to have such kind supportive friends. i half expected my book launch to be a damp squib, but i have been very cheered by the response I've received.

Thanks again. Gilli x

Susan Roebuck said...

Very informative interview - your books sound wonderful, Gilli

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