Gilli Allan shares , My Writing Process, with Famous Five Plus
If only I knew. Plots only reveal themselves to me gradually, when I am actually in the process of writing a book. (The denouement of TORN, only resolved itself when I was within two chapters of the end.) Before I start I will have the characters plus their sketchy back-stories, as well as the initial scenario in which they come together, but that’s it. Typically, I have to commit to writing a book while I still have only the faintest notion of where it’s going and how it’s all going to turn out.
This little trot around the houses is a diversion. I am not going to give you an over-view of the untitled book I am due to start writing any minute because I can’t. All I can tell you is that - currently - I am planning to write a culture clash novel. In brief Academia meets TOWIE or perhaps Time Team meets Educating Rita.
2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
It’s hard to be objective about your own work, isn’t it? Had I done Eng Lit at A level or University, I might be better able to deconstruct my books. All I know is that the style of my writing IS different from other writers of relationship/romantic fiction. I wish it wasn’t. I have always wanted to find another author I can compare myself to. It would have made life easier over the years. Any suggestions welcome.
It is far simpler to tell you what my stories are not, rather than what they are, but I have taken on this challenge so I’ve got to try. My books are ultimately romantic - very romantic in my view - but they are not conventional ‘romance’. They’re contemporary stories about believable people with flaws, preoccupations, problems and difficult relationships, who have to negotiate their way through a recognisable and sometimes uncomfortable world. I’ve sometimes called them ‘love stories for grown-ups’.
I am grateful to Lyn Sofras (Manic Scribbler) for the following quote from her review of LIFE CLASS.
“What makes Gilli Allan's stories unique is their sense of honesty, of gritty realism mixed with a little twist of magic. They take me out of my comfort zone and make me face up to aspects of life it's usually easier to ignore.”
3) Why do I write what I do?
This is probably the hardest of all the questions to answer. There are few writers who can turn their hand to any genre with equal enthusiasm and success. Most of us, I suspect, have a particular bee in our bonnet, that drives us to write what we write. Can you imagine Katie Fforde suddenly inspired to write sci fi, or Anna Jacobs to write blood and guts urban thrillers? But what is the trigger that impels us to set off in the individual direction we choose?
Though I loved the Brontés, Austen and Heyer I’ve never felt the urge to write historicals. Though I now read thrillers and murder mysteries I’ve not been tempted to delve into forensics or police procedures. I used to enjoy J G Ballard’s early science fiction, but I’ve never been inspired to create my own dystopia. Mervyn Peake’s ‘Gormenghast’ trilogy is a favourite all-time read, but his fantasy world is so perfectly realised, anything I could dream up would only ever be a pale imitation.
When I started to write it was the damaged hero I was interested in. In every favourite TV programme or novel, the hero would be wounded at some point. The handsome prince, the cowboy, the ‘Red Indian’ brave, the knight in armour brought low by their injuries, was a very powerful and moving image for the pre-pubescent Gilli.
The heroine’s role in the story was always to minister to his wounds and ultimately to save him. When I started to write my own stories, they centred on wounded war heroes, leather-clad motor-cyclists involved in horrific accidents, drug addicted pop-stars. As I grew older, I no longer needed a physically damaged hero, psychological torture was sufficient, which possibly explains my love for Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment.
I can perceive this dark thread still running through the books I write. My characters need to be fully fleshed out and to carry with them the damage and burdens of past mistakes. I’ve obviously got a sadistic streak!
4) How does your writing process work?
At last an easy-peasy question! Two word answer. It doesn’t.
Perhaps I should explain. I have no routine. I am totally undisciplined. I write when I am in the mood, unless.........
Beginning a new book is ghastly. There is always something else that is more urgent. Emails need answering, there’s shopping, ironing or gardening to do. Being a ‘seat of the pants’ style of writer, the opening chapters of a new book compares to a weary trudge through an impenetrable forest, in deep fog, with a sucking bog underfoot ... until the story begins to come alive. Once that has happened, routine and discipline is what I have to impose on the rest of my life. Forget the housework and the social networking, writing down the story which is unfolding in my imagination is totally compulsive. It is all I want to do.
I was once told that to be a writer you have to have an obsessive personality. I’m not sure if it’s true of everyone, but it’s certainly true of me.