Welcome to Tea and Talk at Sally Lunns Ali, it’s lovely to have you here. Now we are settled with tea and a great selection of cakes my first question, as always, is can you tell me about yourself?
Thanks for having me! Tea and cakes in Bath with a fellow writer – what better way to spend the day?
I’ve lived in Bristol since I was married (way back in the seventies!)and have always liked living here. My career was in college and university libraries and two of my jobs have brought me to Bath, which I considered having the best of both worlds. But I am of course a Scot, even though it’s forty years since I left and I still get quite emotional at sporting moments (come on Andy!) and at New Year when I have been known to drag people into the street for an eightsome reel.
How long have you been writing and what prompted you to start?
Well I had always had a secret (I don’t know why it was secret!) ambition to be a writer but other things always seemed to get in the way, or as soon as I began I would feel disheartened and stop again. Then around the time I passed 50 (ouch!) an acquaintance who knew me only by e-mail said I was ‘obviously a writer’ or words to that effect, and I felt galvanised to do something. I struggled for a while with poems and short stories then joined a writing class with Bath author Sarah Duncan. I realised she could teach me what I needed to know about the craft of making things happen on the page. After that things just clicked.
What inspired you to write A Kettle of Fish?
We’d been on holiday to Scotland and I had an urge to do something that would celebrate my Scottish roots. But I didn’t want it to be autobiographical, so I had to invent a much more modern heroine – and put myself in her head – which proved interesting!
Once you had finished writing it, how did you go about getting it published?
I did all the usual things in terms of pitching to agents (which I had also done with a previous novel) but could see that it wasn’t meeting their to my mind very narrow requirements. Then I had interest from a small publisher but was rejected because they already had something similar on their list. I felt like I couldn’t win! I was about to self-publish when I heard about Thornberry through a writer friend. They accepted the MS immediately.
Are you staying with contemporary writing or would you ever consider moving into a different genre? If so what would it be?
I’ve always consider myself a contemporary writer. Then I got interested in a Victorian photographer and suddenly I’m writing historical fiction. So that means I’ll have three books all in different genres Oops! I think it would be easier to approach agents if I could be more consistent!
Has your writing being inspired by any other author(s)? If so, who?
I’ve had different favourites at different times, and I suppose I aspire to emulate all of them in different ways: Penelope Lively, Ann Tyler, Carol Shields, Rose Tremain, Tracey Chevalier, Barbara Kingsolver to name but a few. Right now I’m having a Roman season with Robert Harris – fascinating. But in general I would say I have more favourite books – novels that feel like sublime examples of their kind – than favourite authors. I often fall out of love with a writer I thought I could rely on.
I read A Kettle of Fish and really enjoyed it. What is your next project?
The historical novel is keeping me very busy. My knowledge of Victorian Edinburgh where it is set was zilch before I began and so I’m just emerging from lots of research to start telling the story. In fact I like to have more than one project whenever possible so that if I get stuck with one (not unusual!) I can do something on the other. Our writing group is putting together an anthology to celebrate 400 years of Bristol Central Library later this year and so I’m working on a short story for that. I also write guest blog articles for a few websites as well as running my own blog.
And lastly, who would you most like to have dinner with and why?
Ooh, what an offer! I have been a big tennis fan all my life and might have to request John McEnroe. Not that I liked his tantrums, but I think he has become a fantastic commentator in all senses of the word. Ewan McGregor would be a close second, or Shirley Williams for her take on history and politics – past and present.
Yes, I think Ewan McGregor would definitely be one of my choices. Many thanks for coming along to Tea and Talk at Sally Lunns Ali, it’s been great having you here. And good luck with the new novel, I look forward to reading it!
You can find out even more about Alison and her work by clicking on the links below:
e-book and paperback from Amazon http://ow.ly/gP68R
Thornberry Publishing: http://www.thornberrypublishing.com/page10.htm
Author website: http://alibacon.com