Welcome to a new edition of CentreStage! Today I have a very special guest–the one and only Gilli Allan. Gilli is publishing her fourth (!) novel today, and hers is a journey towards publication full of twists and turns, knocks and setbacks, and new beginnings. Find out about Gilli’s brand of determination, persistence and good cheer… Give it up for the lovely…. Gilli Allan!
Gilli, congratulations on launch day! You must be really proud. It’s a pleasure to have you on CentreStage today. Why don’t you start by telling us a little bit about your publishing journey?
Hi Nicky, thank you for hosting me on your blog. I may be here to publicise my new book, LIFE CLASS, but first I want to tell you a bit about myself and share a common experience I, and other writers, have to contend with….
When I meet new people I am often faced with the comment: ‘Ooh, I’ve always meant to write a book one day … when I’ve got the time.’
Fair enough. Good for you, I think. It’s a remark which is almost impossible to respond to because it carries several implications. Perhaps I’m too sensitive, but the headline meaning seems to be: Writing is easy and anyone can do it. Well, yes. Most people can write, in the sense of putting words down on a page and stringing them together into sentences. The second inference might be that writers are lazy, self-indulgent types, who don’t have enough real work to occupy them. All they do is drape themselves on sofas all day, eating chocolates and daydreaming. If only!
Oh Gilli, I am so with you! Someone asked me recently what I do when the boys are at school. I said, “why, I write. Books, you know?” And the person looked at me and persisted, “yes, but what do you really do?” Go figure. Shrug it off, move on. Some folks won’t get it.
But I digress. You were saying…?
I didn’t start writing seriously, by which I mean writing a complete novel with the intention of getting it published, until I was married and at home with my three-year old son. Had I known the amount of work involved, even I would perhaps have thought twice before starting the project. My novel was written long-hand and extensively edited and corrected–line after line scored through, with arrows to revised inserts written above the original or up the margin. Where it all became too confusing, I cut out and stuck passages of rewritten text over the old. When I’d finished the first draft I bought a reconditioned, sit-up-and-beg Olivetti typewriter. The typing was slow and error-strewn because I am not a typist and because this process was the book’s second edit. The finished pages were still marred by crossings out and crusty with tippex. So I typed it up and edited it yet again. It took ten months to get to a draft I was happy to show the world.
Impressive process. I love your style–real paper-based work, a labour of love and persistence. Hats off to you!
My first completed book, Just Before Dawn, almost immediately found a newly established publisher. Called Love Stories, it was aiming to provide intelligent, unconventional, un-clichéd stories about love and relationships. My writing fitted this remit perfectly. Sadly, after publishing my second novel, Desires & Dreams, Love Stories folded. The publisher was unable to get the promotion, marketing and distribution to gain success for itself or its authors.
What a stroke of bad luck for you! Where do you go from here, Gilli?
I reckon most of us writers openly or perhaps secretly covet a mainstream publishing deal. After all, publication is validation of the creative impulse which made you give a year or more of your life to it. You want people to read what you’ve written. You want to feel you haven’t been wasting your time. But for the majority of us, there is no easy road to this goal. You are more likely to get a publishing deal if you’re already famous and, preferably, young and beautiful. The walls you need to climb to get a mainstream publishing deal grow higher and harder all the time. I know. I’ve beaten my head against them ever since the demise of my first publisher.
Even the e-revolution, which looked like the answer to all our dreams, has the capacity to bite back. If you self-publish, it’s very hard to gain the profile necessary for healthy sales if you’re not a ‘name’ or if your book doesn’t fit a sub-genre, easy to categorise and market. So, having self-published my book, TORN, in April, 2011, I was delighted to find an e-publisher by late that summer, who wanted to take on my next book, LIFE CLASS. I signed a contract in the autumn, but by January this year they told me they’d stopped trading. This is why I self-published LIFE CLASS.
What an odyssey! I admire your persistence and your resilience… hang on, what’s that you’re saying?
Exactly. Resilience. To become a published writer you need resilience. You need to be tenacious, obstinate, persistent and obsessive. In other words, bloody-minded. You need to be like a ‘wobbly man’ ̶ one of those figures with a heavy rounded base. Though they do fall over if punched, they don’t stay down. They swing around and bob back up again. Wish me luck.
Good luck, Gilli! Your hard work will pay off, and you are already un-put-downable… as are your books. Let’s take a look at LIFE CLASS!
A story about art, life, love and learning lessons
The class meets once a week to draw the human figure. For four of its members, life hasn’t lived up to expectations. All have failed to achieve what they thought they wanted in life. They gradually come to realise that it’s not just the naked model they need to study and understand. Their stories 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 attitude confirmed by the disintegration of her own relationship. 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, whose sole 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.
LIFE CLASS is available in Kindle edition from Amazon NOW! But there’s more! Look at what Gilli has to offer to celebrate the launch of LIFE CLASS:
Yes, Nicky, there is more! To coincide with the launch of Life Class, and for a fortnight only from MAY 1, I am discounting the price of TORN to an astounding 77p!
You can escape your past but can you ever escape yourself?
TORN is a contemporary story, which faces up to the complexities, messiness and absurdities in modern relationships. 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……
Jess has made a series of bad choices. Job, relationships and life-style have all let her down. But by escaping the turmoil of her London life, she is putting her young child first. This time she wants to get it right, to devote herself to being a mother. In the country she will find peace, simplicity and the good life, won’t she?
But a beautiful environment does not guarantee a tranquil life. There are stresses and strains here too – the landscape she looks out on is under threat, new friends have hidden agendas, two very different men pull her in opposing directions – and in the face of temptation old habits die hard. Despite her resolution to avoid entanglements, she is torn between the suitable man and the unsuitable boy.
TORN, Special 77p offer, for a fortnight only to celebrate the launch of Gilli Allan’s latest book, LIFE CLASS.
Thanks so much, Gilli, for this amazing offer and for visiting CentreStage on your launch day. Many congratulations, and best of luck! Now there’s only one thing I’d like to know: where can we find out more about you and your books?
Well, Nicky, I am all over the Internet! Visit me on the Gilli Allan blog, on Famous Five Plus, or on the British Romance Fiction blog. You can find me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter, and I am also a Goodreads author!
Fantastic! You rock! Come back some time and tell us how it’s going…