Friday, February 4, 2011

Author Interview with Louise Allen

I’m delighted to be interviewing Louise Allen today, a fabulously successful writer on Harlequin’s list. I love your website Louise on which you say you find the Regency era an endlessly fascinating era full of contrast and change, danger and elegance, luxury and squalor, but tell me how you first got started?

Badly. I am an awful example of how not to do it. I was aiming at HMB and assumed that a) anyone reasonably literate can do that. b) I will earn lots of money immediately. c) I don't need to actually read any examples first. It was a very steep learning curve but after that first sharp shock of realising I'd been an absolute idiot, I slogged away until I was accepted. Had never heard of the RNA until after I was published. Wish I'd joined sooner!

To plot or not to plot? How much of a planner are you?
Mostly I'm a pantser after a lot of brooding on the characters. But I had to do very detailed plotting with the other 5 authors who made up the Regency Silk & Scandal continuity team and I am plotting in detail with the current wip which is set in late 18thc India because that is new ground for me.

What do you think an editor is looking for in a good novel?
Good storytelling with an original twist and an author with a "voice"

Where is your favourite place to work?
At my desk in my writing studio (Husband calls it The Shed) in the garden in Norfolk where I can be endlessly distracted by watching the birds.

Do you write every day? What is your work schedule?
Everyday that I'm "in". I work out how many words, on average, I need to write each day to finish a week ahead of deadline and then do at least that many every day. If I do more then they go in the "bank" against unplanned distractions. I also revise the day before's work first.

Which authors have most influenced your work?
I honestly don't know. There are a lot that I admire greatly and try and learn from, but I try not to be influenced.

What is the hardest part of the writing process for you?
The awful sinking feeling about half way through when I'm convinced it is utter tripe and I've finally hit the rocks. I usually cheer up again about three-quarters of the way through, which is probably down to self-delusion and red wine.

How do you promote your books?
Website, blogs, Twitter and talks.

Do you have interests other than writing?
Travel, gardening, family history and researching history on the ground - the Great North Road at the moment.

What advice would you give a new writer?
Stick with it, learn to accept and understand constructive criticism, study the market and decide where you are aiming your book.

Tell us about your latest book, and how you got the idea for it.
My latest is actually a two-in-one called Regency Pleasures which contains The Marriage Debt and the Model Debutante. They've been out of print for several years but I'm very fond of them. (Mills & Boon February). The Marriage Debt came from reading about women during the late 18th/early 19thc who married condemned men because their debts would then die with their husband. Working out how to hang my hero was a challenge! The Model Debutante is about a young woman who models nude for an artist and I'm not too sure where that one came from.

Can you tell us something of your work in progress?
I became fascinated by the early British experience in India after a trip to Kolkata last year and I used the wreck of a returning East Indiaman to trigger the three stories in my Danger & Desire trilogy that is out from August onwards this year. Then my editor suggested something set entirely in India and that is what I am working on now. It will be set in the 1780s, which is earlier than usual for me and I'm hoping that my hero and heroine are going to produce a son to be the hero of a Regency novel eventually. And, of course, this is a wonderful excuse for research so I'm just back from two weeks in Rajasthan where I've been studying the princely places in detail, riding on elephants and getting into the mood.

Finally Louise, all your books are strong on research so perhaps I can ask you more about that another day, but for now tell us what made you decide to write a non-fiction book.

I had done a lot of walking in London researching for my novels, accompanied by the 1814 street map and an 1807 guidebook. I found I had pages of notes and realised that they could be linked into some interesting walks. I'd enjoyed exploring, so I thought that others would too, either on the ground or from their armchair - and from the responses I've been getting, I was correct! And I also have a big collection of Regency prints of London, so it was good to be able to share those.

Thank you for your time and expertise. To find out more about Louise visit her website.
Walks Through Regency London - available from my website


Sue Moorcroft said...

Riding on elephants? I am obviously NOT setting my novels in the right places.

Great interview.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Very interesting interview. As a new Regency author (May 2011), I definitely need to add that non-fiction book to my collection, Louise!

Margaret McPhee said...

Lovely interview. Researching history on the ground sounds like fun, and I'm intrigued by your new Indian setting.

Lousie Allen said...

Rosemary - contact me on if you'd like a copy

Phillipa Ashley said...

Great interview - and a relief to know that even a brilliant, experienced author sometimes hits the rocks mid-wip. The elephant riding is very impressive too!

Sheila Norton said...

Yes, there are obviously some disadvantages to writing contemporary fiction set in Essex! My research is more likely to involve riding on buses than elephants! Very interesting interview.