I’m talking to author and illustrator Gilli Allan about her publication journey this week. Gilli writes honestly about modern relationships and is published by Accent Press. Morning, Gilli, can you tell us how you became a published author?
The idea that I could write the story I wanted to read came to me indirectly, via my fifteen-year-old sister. She managed to finish her Regency Romance, but didn’t attempt novel writing again until after she retired. My imagination and energy completely failed after only three or four illustrated pages of my own ‘book’ – I was only ten after all – but the writing seed had been planted.
It remained dormant for a couple more years, but pushed its shoots up into the light when I was a young teenager. Even at the time I considered my hobby more a form of sublimation than the expression of ambition. In my real life, love and romance was a very distant, even unachievable, prospect. So, my burgeoning emotions were poured into my many unfinished novels.
But my own fascination was with a darker, more contemporary world than that depicted by Georgette Heyer. It was a world I had no experience of, and my characters never progressed beyond kissing and cuddling. I never took seriously the idea of writing as a profession. Writers were clever, educated people. I was neither. I left school at 16 with just enough exam passes to get me into art-college.
In my early adult life, I stopped writing. My career was in advertising where I worked as an illustrator. It was only when I stopped work to look after my son, and wanted to find something I could do at home to earn money, that I experienced the light-bulb moment.
“I know! I’ll write a Mills & Boon romance!” At the time I had no idea how many people have had the same thought and how difficult an ambition it is to achieve.
‘Just Before Dawn’ didn’t so much fall off the Mills & Boon rails – rather its wheels never touched them in the first place. The book opened with a single girl miscarrying her unplanned pregnancy! But I became so entranced by the process that I didn’t care. Once I’d opened the door to my imagination, I had to write the story that was begging to be written. It was the first novel I ever finished, and it was accepted by a publisher (unsurprisingly it wasn’t Mills & Boon) within 4 months of completion. They also published my second novel, ‘Desires & Dreams’, only a year later. But, but, but… this isn’t the end of the story.
How often have you heard the homily – ‘if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is’? This was in the pre-digital age; the publishing company was a new venture and it was very small. It couldn’t fight its corner in an increasingly aggressive publishing world where small publishers were being gobbled up and ‘big’ was the watchword. My books failed to get into high street stores and, unsurprisingly, did not sell well. Eventually the publisher folded.
Then began my many years in the wilderness. I continued to write, but could get no further. I was banging my head against brick walls that only seemed to grow higher, harder and thicker. I joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association but despite their wonderful support, I still could not interest agents or publishers.
With the advent of digital publishing, and the Kindle became affordable and, more importantly, it became easy and free to self-publish, I decided to grasp the opportunity. Despite being very ‘untechie’ I began to format my books and to design the covers. I managed to upload the first, TORN, without problem in 2011. LIFE CLASS and FLY OR FALL followed.
It might be relatively easy to self-publish these days, but it is not easy to raise the profile of your own book above the myriad of others and convince the buying public to select it. Although my reviews have been wonderful, and all three won Chill with a book Awards, the numbers sold were disappointing.
I was very happy when Accent Press took me on and re-published my three books in 2014 and 2015.
I have a new book, waiting in the wings which I hope will be published soon.
A wonderful story, Gilli, congratulations on your three ‘Chill with a Book’ Awards, and your contract with Accent Press. Can you tell us a bit about your new book?
Is not always what it seems
Educating Rita meets Time Team, when the conference planner meets the university lecturer. Their backgrounds could hardly be further apart, their expectations in life more different, and, more importantly there is no wish or reason on either side that they should ever connect again. But they have more in common than they could ever have imagined. Each has an archaeological puzzle they want to solve. Their stories intertwine and they discover together that treasure isn’t always what it seems.
I include an image I have come up with which MAY be the cover of the book, but watch this space. I could change my mind.
It looks intriguing, Gilli!
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 as well as writing real-life based romance novels
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’.
Here are some of Gilli’s books
You can purchase her books here:
LIFE CLASS: http://myBook.to/LifeClass
FLY OR FALL: myBook.to/GilliAllan
Remember to drop in next week to see how Kerry Watts became a published author.