Thursday, 3 December 2015

Listening To Your Inner Voice - Interview With Author Caron Allan

December is now upon us and before I begin a series of blogs to get you into the Christmas spirit I have the pleasure of posting my interview with Caron Allan. Caron writes murder mysteries as well as cozy mysteries and paranormal mysteries. She lives in Derby, England with her husband and two grown-up children and a varying quantity of cats and sparrows.
What resonated with me most about her interview was that in order to achieve her dream of being a writer she listened to her inner voice and not the negative voices around her. 

Author, Caron Allan

You write murder and paranormal mysteries. What drew you to these genres?

Like most people of my age, I grew up on Famous Five mysteries and all those kind of adventure and mystery books, and later I read the Aidan Chambers ghost stories—I’ve always enjoyed seeing mysteries and puzzles in life, and I always, always have to KNOW. When I was about 11 or 12, I graduated onto Agatha Christies and my mum also had a lot of Patricia Wentworths which she deemed suitable reading for a girl of my age. And I never looked back. I still read huge numbers of murder mystery novels by a wide range of authors. But I’m also very interested in history and so some of the books I’ve got planned for future release are set in the 1920s and 1930s, that inter-war period interests me immensely.
A few times I’ve tried to write romance but it didn’t work; by the time I get a few thousand words in, I’m itching to bump someone off. The paranormal stuff I see as an extension of the murder mystery with the elements of a ghost story thrown in, and they stemmed from watching ‘those’ TV shows with my daughter, and thinking, ‘why are the investigators so loud and so rude, and why don’t they wait for responses to their questions, if they truly believe something or someone is there trying to communicate?’

If you think about the days before you became a writer what has changed about your life?

Back in the days when I worked in an office, I used to think longingly of being a full-time writer. I thought I would be terribly glamorous and float about like a young Barbara Cartland, declaiming and dictating to minions who would take down my every word. Or that I would be seated on panels giving my opinions to the world. I also thought I would be rich—LOL!
One thing is true, I do love being a writer, though it’s still not a full-time job, and my office is miniscule (a converted cupboard!). But there’s nothing glamorous about jeans and a tee shirt and wearing my husband’s socks to try to keep warm at my desk. When I was young, I told people I wanted to be a writer, and they always laughed and said, ‘what, you!’ For many years I didn’t try and in fact at one point I burned everything I’d ever written. But it’s taken me 45 years to realise not only that I can be whatever I want to be, but also that I don’t have to listen to other people’s negativity. Now I write what I like and what I would want to read. It thrills me to the core to find that sometimes other people like to read what I’ve written.

Did you use any of your life experiences as inspiration?

I suppose in a way I have. Most of my stories are about very ordinary people, and often very mundane situations, which get transformed into something odd or unusual. There are a lot of women in my books, and strong relationships between them, as I was brought up for many years by a single mum, and had little interaction with men, and even though I’ve been married for over 30 years, and also have a lovely son and daughter, my relationships beyond my hubby and son are all with women, so in that way my experience has shaped my books. I always feel I’m talking to women, rather than men, not that I want to exclude men from my world, but I’m just more comfortable around women.
I have had a couple of ghostly experiences, but again they were so mundane it made me realise that not everything, even beyond the grave, is spectacular and dramatic. In a college where I had just started working, I went into the ladies loo before starting work on a particular morning, and there was a woman standing by the basins, wearing something floor-length and dark. I didn’t stare at her—you don’t, in the loo, do you? I just called a merry ‘good morning’ and went into the cubicle, thinking, ‘well that’s a bit rude, she didn’t answer.’ Then I wondered what she could be doing as there was no sound of hand-washing or anything, but I knew she hadn’t gone out as the door used to squeak really loudly. Then I came out of the loo, and she had gone. When I told my colleagues, they said they’d seen her too periodically. She was a ghost. I wasn’t scared, it was too ordinary to be scary. Other experiences of mine have been the same. Just—ordinary. A friend who died last year, who had been in a coma for a few days, appeared to me in my kitchen, just very briefly as I was making dinner one evening. I just turned away from the cooker and saw her there, then she was gone. So I knew she had died, and had a little weep because I’d been hoping she would recover, and I do miss her so much. But it was Friday evening and I decided to wait until Monday to ring the family to ask how things were. When I rang, they said she had passed away on Friday evening at about 6pm. But again, it was an odd mysterious thing in an ordinary setting.

If you could swap places with just one of your characters who would it be and why?
Book One of the Posh Hits Story

Ooh this is a tough one. I don’t know because the main character from my murder ‘mystery’ series, Posh Hits, the ‘hero’ Cressida loses her first husband and is devastated by his death. So I wouldn’t want to experience that. Plus, as will become clear to anyone who reads the books, she’s not a very nice lady!
Maybe I could swap places with Dottie, the protagonist from a new series of books set in the 1930s. So far it’s quite a genteel murder mystery, plus she earns a living as a mannequin or model, so she’s slim and tall and beautiful, whereas I am not! Yes, I think I’ll be Dottie Manderson, my 1930s heroine from Night and Day. Plus she’s young, only 20 years old.

What are you currently working on?

I’m spreading myself thin as always. I’m revising the third Posh Hits story, Check Mate, ready to be published in February (available to pre-order on Amazon J) I am also doing NaNoWriMo this year, as I have for several years now. This is the Night and Day one set in London in the 1930s, featuring Dottie Manderson who on her way to her sister’s house one November evening, finds a man lying on the pavement, clearly dying, and as she tries to help him, instead of giving her a clue to the crime, or a message for his loved ones, he sings a few lines from the song Night and Day to her, then dies. My NaNovels always need quite a bit of rewriting, as you write at such a speed with little regard for ‘form’, shall we say, the emphasis is all about banging the words down on the page. But hopefully that will be out in a year. There are always new stories, long and short, to write and blogs to write, and books to read, and my work as an editor and proofreader, and I have a mountain of stories I want to revise and rewrite and publish. Never a dull moment! There’s always more to do than time to do it in.

You can invite 4 characters from fiction, history or celebrity to your dinner table. Who would you choose and why?

But will they get on? So many literary detectives don’t function terribly well with people, so that’s a difficult area to choose from.
Obviously I’d have to have Elizabeth Bennett, as I love Pride and Prejudice, and I’d have Miss Silver from the Patricia Wentworth murder mysteries. Miss Silver is an elderly ‘private enquiry agent’ and she would knit and get into conversation with everyone, and if anyone got a bit big for their boots, Miss Silver would take them down a peg or two with just a look. And Elizabeth Bennett could be relied upon to help Miss Silver along with witty conversation. I’d maybe have Richard the Second from my favourite Shakespearean play there, if he would deign to grace my humble abode, because I love his big speech—I’d maybe get him to stand up after dinner and do it for us, in front of the fire. ‘I have been studying how to compare/This prison where I live unto the world…’ This is the one where he says those amazing lines ‘I wasted time, now doth time waste me’, which always leave me feeling humbled and emotional. It would be worth putting up with his pomp just to hear that. And fourth…maybe Ellis Peters’ Brother Cadfael—he could tell a yarn or two, I reckon. Plus he and Miss Silver could compare notes. He could talk about the Crusades with Richard 2 and enjoy witty retorts and jokes with Elizabeth. He always seemed to be not only a great detective but a sincere and caring human.
Blast, just realised, I should have chosen a celebrity chef, that way I wouldn’t have to cook…But then Miss Silver has a cook/housekeeper who makes wonderful scones…

Where to find Caron Allan:-