Welcome to my monthly blog. On the first Monday of every month I feature an Indie Author and ask them to tell us a little about their working process. My guest today is Gilli Allan, who writes ‘realistic romantic fiction’. So make yourself a cuppa, get comfy and let’s get chatting to Gilli. 😊
Gilli Allan began to write in childhood – a hobby pursued throughout her teenage years. 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.
Her books TORN, LIFE CLASS and FLY or FALL are published by Accent Headline. And all of her books, including BURIED TREASURE, have won a ‘Chill with a Book’ award.
Following in the family tradition, her son, historian Thomas Williams, is also a writer.
Welcome, Gilli. It’s a pleasure to talk to you today. Can you tell me have you ever been traditionally published? What made you decide to become an Indie Author?
When I first began writing seriously (with the intention of trying to get published) I was successful very quickly. Too quickly I now feel; I was given unrealistic expectations of the changing world I had entered. My small independent publisher went out of business. It didn’t occur to me I would have any difficulty finding a new publisher. By then I had two books to my name. But no other publisher wanted to take a chance on my brand of realistic contemporary romance. I had three novels with no home to go to by the time the Kindle revolution began. It was a no-brainer. I went Indie.
Can you explain to us the main difference to you as an author, between the two?
After several years of indifferent performance, my three ‘Indie’ books, TORN, LIFE CLASS and FLY OR FALL, were taken on by Accent Press, where I am afraid to say, they continued to languish. By the time Accent Press amalgamated with Headline (creating Headline Accent) I had a new novel ready to go, Buried Treasure, which I decided to again publish independently.
When I was still green about the publishing business, I thought it would be far better to have a publisher. A publisher would take on the burden of promotion and marketing. I have learnt the hard way that it is only a favoured few authors who get support from their publishers, so these days there is probably little difference between published and Indie when it comes to raising your profile and becoming ‘seen’ in an overcrowded market. But what you do have as an ‘indie’ author is choice and control. You are the decision-maker about title, cover, when you are published and ‘how’ your book is described and the amount of promotion and marketing it receives.
Can you talk us briefly through the processes of publishing your book?
First you have to write your book! Then polish and edit it until it is as good as you can make it. But though it might be a jewel in your own eyes, you must get a second set of eyes on it. It is far too easy to miss typos and errant commas, and to read what you expect to read rather than what is actually there in the script. Spellcheck is good but is not something you can rely on. It won’t select the correct spelling for the context. Their/there/there is an obvious example. You would be wise to get your book professionally proof-read. As for formatting – there are various ways of doing this. You will find advice on the Internet. You can have your script professionally formatted. Or you can use a programme such as Scrivener. I am not computer savvie but I find the Kindle app is all I need. It is very clear and user friendly. And when in doubt I use my own tried and tested ’trial and error’ method.
How do you decide on the cover and title for your books?
I have found a title fiendishly difficult to come up with, or it falls into my lap immediately. The one thing I can say, is that once the title is right, I know it. The title Buried Treasure was a little easier to arrive at than some have proved to be. What could be more exciting than the idea of discovering buried treasure? But the title is, of course, a tease. The story has a background theme of Archaeology, so the concept of actually digging in the earth for something material that has an intrinsic value is implicit in the title. But ‘Buried Treasure’ also acts as a metaphor for the break-through of obstacles in life and the discovery of truth and happiness.
As for covers: I have an art background; I went to Art College and worked as an illustrator in an advertising design studio in my former life. So, full of misplaced confidence, I designed my own covers. Even the first two which had a publisher! Of course, the covers of TORN, LIFE CLASS and FLY OR FALL had to change once they were republished by Accent Press. But I went back to designing the cover myself when it came to Buried Treasure. This, however, was almost certainly a mistake and I made the decision to change it and to employ a professional, a year after publication.
However arty you think you are, and however pretty or striking the cover you’ve come up with is, is it going to “speak” to the book buying public? Book covers are like anything. They’re subject to fashion. Whether you like it or not, a professional designer has his or her finger on the pulse of what sells in which genre. I am proud of the cover for Buried Treasure. It was produced by Cathy Helms of Avalon Graphics https://www.avalongraphics.org/ with whom I was able to discuss and collaborate. So I do feel a have some input into the resulting artwork.
What was the inspiration for your latest book?
I don’t get inspiration, as such. I think about what and who I know, experiences I’ve had, what I am interested in, what resources are easily available to me (I’m lazy) … and then I mull them over. There must be a story in here somewhere, I think.
When I begin a book I only have a few bare bones. Stick figure sketches of the primary characters (and a sketch of their back stories); the scenario in which they meet; and some generalised themes of the story. How my characters will then interact with one another, and how the story unfolds is an unknown until I begin. That is where inspiration strikes and I gradually begin to receive flashes of knowledge – sometimes small, sometimes huge story altering revelations – about where the plot is leading me.
The elements I started with in Buried Treasure, were Archaeology, an ancient university, and a young woman who is making her way as an events’ planner and a part-time teacher of early medieval history and archaeology. Both have damaging relationships in their past which have scarred them. Both have an archaeological puzzle they would like to solve.
How did you go about your research for Buried Treasure?
Although I never went to university (let alone an ancient one!) I used to be involved with the organisation of a yearly conference at Queens’ College Cambridge. This gave me my scenario and my heroine’s job. Jane Smith, who is very conscious of her lack of education, is planning a conference, the first of her new career at a ‘made up’ college of an old university
She has always had a personal interest in archaeology. This thread suggested itself to me because a member of my own family dug up the Mildenhall Treasure from his farm in Suffolk, during WW2. It is a collection of Roman silver dinner-wear, now in the British Museum. http://gilliallan.blogspot.com/2020/06/my-connection-to-mildenhall-treasure.html . In researching what is now known about the treasure’s ‘discovery’ I uncovered a great deal more than was ever known at the time by my immediate family. And the true story is still far from resolved. Amused and intrigued I still incorporated much of the story (although in Jane’s case the discovery was a Viking Hoard), including the rumours and unknowns that swirled around my uncle Syd’s discovery.
Though my hero and heroine are very different people, from very different backgrounds and levels of education, this thread gave them a point of contact.
My son, Thomas Williams, https://tjtwilliams.com/ is an academic historian/archaeologist. He is the author of Viking Britain and Viking London. My hero, Theo Tyler is not an author, but he is what is commonly known as a desk archaeologist. It was in talking to my son about his own discipline, that the character of Theo and the field of archaeology in which he specialises became clear. My son was an invaluable resource of information about his subject and with him I worked out the archaeological thread of the story.
I said I was lazy, but although I had my research resources very close to hand, I can say – hand on heart – it was the most difficult of all my books to write.
Thanks for such an interesting and informative interview, Gilli. Buried Treasure sounds intriguing. I hope it soars.
You can contact Gilli here:
Is not always what it seems
“I found Buried Treasure a compelling read. It was so many things: a love story, a hunt for clues to lost secrets, and a fascinating look at how our past experiences shape us, and how we can heal even after damage. The characters were wonderfully well drawn. ” Clare Chase
Despite her insecurity and lack of self-confidence Jane Smith has taken on the most daunting job of her career. While the single-minded and ambitious Theo Tyler is in no mood to make allowances.
Within the precincts of the ancient university the first meeting between the conference planner and the academic is accidental. She thinks he dismisses her as ill-educated and shallow; if he thought about it at all, he would assume she sees him as stuffy and out-of-touch. Just as well there is no reason for their paths ever to cross again.
But behind the armour they’ve each constructed from the unresolved scar tissue of past relationships there is far more to be discovered about these two. Jane has reservoirs of strength and determination even she didn’t know she possessed, and Theo is a far more complicated and sensitive individual than he cares to expose.
They have one thing in common, a passion for archaeology, and each is on a quest.
As their stories intertwine their determination to uncover the past reveals more than expected, proving that treasure is not always what it seems
Buy link: mybook.to/BURIEDTREASURE
More books by Gilli Allan
Headline Accent cover Indie Cover
Headline Accent cover Indie cover
Headline Accent cover Indie cover
Find Gilli’s other books TORN, LIFE CLASS and FLY or FALL at author.to/GILLIALLAN
Karen King – Writing about the light and dark of relationships.
Amazon Author Page: https://tinyurl.com/y2q5audb