Today I’m welcoming English author, Gilli Allan, to Celtic Connexions. I’ve asked her to share her author’s journey on her way to a 3-book contract with Accent Press.
But first, a little about the first book in the deal – Torn.
Jess has made a series of bad life choices and all have let her down.
Escaping London, she sets out to recreate herself in the idyllic countryside, and this time she wants to get it right!
She wants to lead a responsible, tranquil life with her young son Rory, but soon discovers stresses which pull her in opposing directions – conflict over a new bypass, between friends, and worst of all, between lovers.
Educated, experienced, and pragmatic, James is a widowed farmer whose opinions differ from, and enrage, Jess. His young shepherd, Danny, is an uneducated and inexperienced idealist. Jess is attracted to them both, and realizes if she wants her idyllic countryside life to survive, she must choose her Mr Right.
You can buy Torn at amazon.co.uk and other amazon sites.
‘Art’ was where I was headed in life. This was the accepted wisdom in my family, despite the fact that my primary hobby, when growing up, was writing. When I started Art College at sixteen, I stopped writing altogether. I’d outgrown all that soppy stuff.
After some years of working in advertising I married. It was feasible to continue working from home as a free-lance artist after my son was born, but it would have been difficult. We lived outside London, and this was before email, even before PCs. What else could I do? I took up writing again, but this time with the serious intention of being published. And that first manuscript, parcelled up with brown paper and string, return postage inside, was taken on by a new publisher almost immediately. My second swiftly followed.
My publisher, Love Stories, was trying to fill a niche for unconventional women’s fiction – love without the rose tinted glasses – characterised by the Press at the time as, “The thinking woman’s Mills & Boon”. But this ambition failed – thwarted by distribution and marketing problems. In those days, if books didn’t make it onto the high street, they couldn’t be bought. I never felt the failure of ‘Love Stories’ as anything to do with me. I had no doubt I would soon find another publisher and began sending out my next, heavy typescript when it was completed. But, after an interval of months, back it would come, with less than fifty pages, thumbed.
After joining the RNA I refined this procedure. I now knew that publishers only wanted to see the first three chapters, and I began to make multiple submissions, but as before, back came the rejections. Instead of writing a new book, I spent much of my life – between these ‘submission episodes’- editing and re-editing the whole of the old one. Reinvigorated with optimism, “Surely this time…?”, I would then send my submissions – several in a batch – but now to literary agents. I’d eventually learned that publishers preferred not to receive material direct from wannabes. They wanted the wheat pre-sorted from the chaff. Unfortunately, I was chaff. Gradually I’d absorb the message that my book was a ‘dead horse’ (apologies for mixed metaphors) and stop flogging it!
There were times when agents expressed interest. For brief periods my self-belief revived a little. Maybe I wasn’t a self-deluded idiot. But when those agents also failed to find a publisher, their attitude towards me and my books changed, and I was on my own again.
It was the E revolution that seemed to throw me a life-line, but even self-publishing didn’t provide the complete answer. The effort needed to raise the visibility of one book above the growing sea of others, is daunting. E-publishing certainly made me savvier about social networking, and helped to establish a Gilli Allan profile, but although I was selling some books, and was rewarded with glowing reviews, I wasn’t selling in enough numbers to bother the taxman.
But… In my experience, when things happen, they happen quickly! I attended the RNA conference in July 2014. There I talked to Hazel Cushion, founder of Accent Press, and told her a little of my history. No more than a matter of weeks later Accent Press had contracted to publish my 3 ‘Indie’ books. TORN came out in December; LIFE CLASS and FLY OR FALL are due out later this year. Although I know it’s true, I can scarcely believe it. The hoopla of Christmas between then and now has added to my sense of suspended reality, and the fact that I am, again, an author with a mainstream publisher, has yet to sink in. I’m now waiting to be hailed an over-night success!
Gilli Allan started to write in childhood, a hobby only abandoned when real life supplanted the fiction. Gilli didn’t go to Oxford or Cambridge but, after just enough exam passes to squeak in, she attended Croydon Art College.
She didn’t work on any of the broadsheets, in publishing or television. Instead she was a shop assistant, a beauty consultant and a barmaid before landing her dream job as an illustrator in advertising. It was only when she was at home with her young son that Gilli began writing seriously. Her first two novels were quickly published but when her publisher ceased to trade, Gilli went independent.
Over the years, Gilli has been a school governor, a contributor to local newspapers, and a driving force behind the community shop in her Gloucestershire village. Still a keen artist, she designs Christmas cards and has begun book illustration. Gilli is particularly delighted to have recently gained a new mainstream publisher – Accent Press. TORN is the first book to be published in the three book deal.
You can connect with Gilli at these links:
Thanks for stopping by today, Gilli and telling us about your author’s journey. I wish you huge successes with Torn and all of your books – written or still waiting for you to put ‘pen to paper’ so to speak.