Their backgrounds could hardly be further apart, their expectations in life more different. And there is nothing in the first meeting between the conference planner and the university lecturer which suggests they should expect or even want to connect again. But they have more in common than they could ever have imagined. Both have unresolved issues from the past which have marked them; both have an archaeological puzzle they want to solve. Their stories intertwine and they discover together that treasure isn’t always what it seems.
– When and where do you prefer to write?
At the beginning of my writing career I wrote longhand in multiple notebooks, with miles of crossings-out, arrows and bubbles, and a collage of sellotaped alterations. I then transcribed it, editing as I went, onto an old sit-up-and-beg typewriter. Since my first computer (an Amstrad) that is what I invariably wrote on, in my study – usually, if it’s going well, from mid-morning until late afternoon.
And it hasn’t changed since. When the weather is good, I’ve tried writing outside on a laptop, but have never found a satisfactory system that sufficiently eliminates glare from the screen. And I can’t seem to think so clearly, or make alterations so easily, when I have a notebook on my lap. The desktop computer may have changed a few times over the years, but my habits haven’t.
– Do you have a certain ritual?
No rituals, no routine apart from the degree of obsession that has gripped me.
– Is there a drink of some food that keeps you company while you write?
Black coffee. I usually stop to eat, but in extremis a tomato sandwich or an orange.
– What is your favourite book?
This is an impossible question to answer. I’ve had different favourites at different times of my life. I also have a bad memory, so whatever I name is only from the list of books that springs to mind at the time I’m asked. Recently I was deeply impressed by the book ‘Us’, by David Nicholls. This is a novel that made me laugh more than any other novel I’ve ever read. But it is also incredibly touching, poignant, warm and inciteful about love, the human condition and relationships. I would particularly recommend it to any parent of a son.
– Do you consider writing a different genre in the future?
I am not the kind of commercial writer who could turn his or her hand to anything. The only genre I might consider trying to write is crime, but I don’t think I ever will. I’m convinced I’m not clever enough and, by writing it, I fear I’d spoil my enjoyment in reading it. Although I do write romantic fiction – in other words there is always a love story in my stories – I do not write ‘romance’. I need to write truthfully about the world I see around me, without a sugar-coating. I very much enjoyed a comment from the review of my book, TORN, from Anne Stormont. “….No gush or slush…!”
– Do you sometimes base your characters on people you know?
I rarely base a character on anyone real, or only in the form of a rough cut out. For instance, there are two sisters in LIFE CLASS. I have a sister, Jan, so, in a broad-brush way, Fran and Dory were initially Jan and me. But I swapped our characteristics. Then, as the book progressed – as any book progresses – my characters told me what they were like. Only then was I able to flesh them out in ways that were uniquely individual.
– Do you take a notebook everywhere in order to write down ideas that pop up?
I’m afraid I don’t as a general rule, nor do I possess a tablet or a smartphone. On the rare occasions I do take a notebook – like going away on holiday or doing something entirely out of the ordinary – I often return with little or nothing written in it. I always have a pen on me when away from home, so if I have an idea or overhear some priceless interchange, there will inevitably be a till receipt or business card somewhere in my handbag I can note something down on!
– If you had the chance to co-write a book. Whom would it be with?
It’s a hard question. I should probably say my sister, Janis Allan. She has recently begun writing, and although she has moved onto her third book, she is not confident enough to send her work to publishers or even to self-publish …. yet!
The multi-published author I most identify with in the themes and subjects she is willing to challenge, is Jo Jo Moyes.
– If you should travel to a foreign country to do research, which one would you choose and why?
My first thought is Mach Pichu in Peru. Just because I’ve always found the landscape and the history breath-taking. But I’m not a writer who sends her characters to exotic places for their romantic adventures. I would need a slam-dunk plot idea to justify such a jaunt.
My current WIP (title not yet established) is about the world of costume design. I have one character, a young actor, who goes out to LA to work on a film. There are, at most, two chapters set there. Because I have never been there, I have now read five books about the place and the industry it’s identified with. But nothing is as good as going to a place. So if money was no issue, and introductions to the world of movies and its employees was on offer, I’ll go to Los Angeles please.
Thank you, Gilli Allan and Rachel’s Random Resources.
About the author
Gilli Allan began to write in childhood – a hobby pursued throughout her teenage. Writing was only abandoned when she left home, and real life supplanted the fiction.
After a few false starts she worked longest and most happily as a commercial artist, and only began writing again when she became a mother.
Living in Gloucestershire with her husband Geoff, Gilli is still a keen artist. She draws and paints and has now moved into book illustration.
Currently published by Accent Press, each of her books, TORN, LIFE CLASS and FLY or FALL has won a ‘Chill with a Book’ award.
Following in the family tradition, her son, historian Thomas Williams, is also a writer. His most recent work, published by William Collins, is ‘Viking Britain’.
Social Media Links