Friday, November 23, 2012

Interview with Diane Allen

I’m delighted to welcome to the RNA Blog debut author Diane Allen, who many of us know as the General Manager of Magna Books. Diane was born in Leeds and started her working life as a glass engraver. After taking time off to raise a family she found her real niche in life with a local large print publisher. She lives in the Yorkshire Dales with her husband and loves sharing time with her four beautiful grand-children. 

This is your debut novel, Diane, tell us how you got the idea, and what it was that particularly attracted you to the saga genre? 

I’ve always enjoyed history, especially local history and the tales told on my mother’s knee of families past and long since gone. So, it was a natural progression to elaborate and bend the truth into a story. I’ve always had a love of sagas, through my position at Magna Large Print Books and have appreciated the time and research that goes into writing them.

How did you devise the hero and heroine?

Oh, my heroine, Alice, I’m afraid there is a little bit of me in there. I lost my mother when I was not much older than Alice and I remember thinking along the lines of Alice, with my older brother always there for me. I also used to go walking up the fell to do my thinking, like Alice, and still do to this day. These are the only similarities, just thinking about what Alice gets up to in the graveyard further on into the book, believe me, I’ve never done what she gets up to on those pages. Shame on her!

My hero, Jack, is completely fictitious, he’s the perfect boy next door, the lad you never look at but then you slowly realise what a good catch he is.

The book is set in the Yorkshire Dales, was the choice of setting an easy decision for you to make? Did it involve much research?

Setting my book in the Yorkshire Dales was an easy decision. I love my Dales, it is where my heart is and where generations of my family were born. Research came easy with a family that soaks up history and facts like sponges to pass on to the next generations. Of course I had to check dates and fashions but a lot of it was knowledge of the area that had been handed down from past generations.

As the General Manager of Magna Books in Long Preston, how do you find time to write in your busy schedule? Do you have a secret hideaway or special time in which to write?

Through the daytime I give myself 100% to Magna and the Ulverscroft Group. However, once my youngest son left home to get married, I found myself getting bored with long nights of television or reading through the winter months. It was then I decided to try to write. Now I’m strict with myself. If I’m not too tired I make myself write at least two hours in an evening. I’m not always in the right frame of mind, especially if I’ve had a hard day in the office, and those are the days I know I’ll not be productive.

My hideaway I must confess, is my kitchen, I plug my laptop in, sit at my pine kitchen table, make countless brews of coffee and thank God that I’m not watching the football with my husband. It’s partly my husband’s love of football that is to blame for my new career in writing, bless him!

You can obviously call upon years of experience in the book industry, what advice would you give to an aspiring writer? 

Write about things you know, be true to yourself and above all keep your feet on the ground. Remember, that you are only as good as your last books sales.

Do you edit and revise as you write, or after you have completed the first draft? Which method works best for you? 

I do a little bit of both, I’m afraid my fingers and imagination sometimes do not communicate very well, to my astonishment. The blunders I sometimes make are unforgivable, so obvious when you go back to correct the first draft or read the previous evening’s work.

As Honorary Vice President of the RNA, do you think they have been successful in improving the standing of romance, or is there still more work to be done?
I think the promotion of romance has improved over the last few years. However, there is still work to be done and one must not lose sight of the many faces of a romantic novel.

Which was your favourite book as a child? 

I loved the Little Grey Rabbit books by Alison Uttley (showing my age now) and Enid Blyton. If your saga was turned into a movie, who would play the hero? It would have to be a young Sean Bean, because he’s a Yorkshire man, albeit from South Yorkshire and not the Dales.

So what next? Will there be a sequel to FOR THE SAKE OF HER FAMILY, or something new?

My second novel has just been accepted and continues the story of my Dales families, Mrs Dowbiggin the cook in FOR THE SAKE OF HER FAMILY making her appearance in the last few chapters as a young girl. At present it is called FOR A MOTHER’S SINS, but may change. I’m also forty thousand words into a third book, which continues with the same family.

1912 in the Yorkshire Dales and Alice Bentham and her brother Will have lost their mother to cancer. Money is scarce and pride doesn’t pay the doctor or put food on the table.

Alice gets work at Whernside Manor looking after Lord Franklin’s fragile sister, Miss Nancy. Meanwhile Will and his best-friend Jack begin working for the Lord of the Manor at the marble mill. But their purpose there is not an entirely honest one.

For a while everything runs smoothly, but corruption, attempted murder and misplaced love are just waiting in the wings. Nothing is as it seems and before they know it, Alice and Will’s lives are entwined with that of the Franklands and nothing will ever be the same again.

Available from all good book shops and many supermarkets, or Amazon.

Find out more about Diane Allen. 


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Thank you, Diane, for sparing time to talk to us today. We wish you every success with your new book.

Best wishes, Freda 

Interviews on the RNA Blog are for RNA members, although we do occasionally take guests. If you are interested in an interview, please contact me:


Beth Elliott said...

A very interesting interview, thank you, Diane. It's clear you put your heart and a lot of your own experience into that story. It also seems you have plenty of material for the following stories. I hope they do well for you.

Unknown said...

Sounds good, Diane - great setting, and I love novels that draw on family stories.

Penny Grubb said...

Fascinating interview, Diane. And thanks for the memories of Little Gray Rabbit. One of my early favourites, too.

Anonymous said...

Excllent blog Diane. From what you've told Val and me about the "goings on" in your beautiful part of the world you've enough material on your doorstep for another fifty books. We both hope your book's a best seller.