I first met Anna at the Bold Strokes event in Nottingham last year – she was one of a number of charming people to grace that weekend. So glad she agreed to guest here at my blog to celebrate her debut release, Highland Fling.
What inspired you to start writing?
Back in 2012, I stumbled upon a seminar held at De Montfort University, Leicester, run by Bold Stokes Books editor Victoria Villasenor. BSB authors were in attendance reading from their latest novels. It was a real lightbulb moment for me. I just thought I should be doing this!
Do you have another job, paid or otherwise, apart from being an author? If so, how do you juggle your time?
My background is in Museum/Heritage work. Up until fairly recently, I was part of a fantastic project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund called Untold Stories. Untold Stories recorded over one hundred oral histories from LGBT people in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland. As part of this project I am really proud to have written and curated one of the few UK permanent LGBT exhibitions, now housed at Leicester’s LGBT Centre.
Right now, I am concentrating on writing my second novel, Love’s Portrait, due out next year, along with celebrating and promoting the release of my debut novel Highland Fling. So I have my hands full!
What does it feel like watching your first book fledge and leave the nest?
It is a mixture of joy, pride and of course nervousness! Highland Fling is very special to me. I love the characters and adore the setting of the Scottish Highlands. There is something very honest and heartfelt about Highland Fling, the characters are not afraid to show their flaws and hang-ups. I love their awkwardness, their humour and above all their struggles. I really hope that readers enjoy it.
Are you character or plot driven? What do you do if one of your characters starts developing at a tangent?
I’m character driven. Highland Fling began by imagining a woman living and working in the Highlands, what her life was, who she loved. Then I gave her someone to love and together they built their story.
The process to writing Highland Fling was very free flowing. I had no overarching plan, or outline, the story developed as I wrote. I followed my characters allowing them to become themselves and to tell me their story. In other words I allowed, even at times encouraged them to go off tangent. That said, it wasn’t a particularly efficient way of working!
My second novel, Love’s Portrait, in contrast has a deadline and an agreed outline. There is very little wriggle room for my characters to go off tangent, so I’ll be gently keeping them in line. This is a new way of working for me. It will be interesting to see which method I end up preferring!
If you were in a tight corner and had to rely on one of your characters to save you, which would it be and why?
This is a really interesting question and it depends on the tight corner. I think Moira Burns, the outdoorsy capable Scot, who drives a Land Rover, chops down trees, and is kind of no-nonsense would be my first choice if the crisis required a practical hand. Although Eve’s best friend Roxanne Barns could always be relied on to rescue an awkward social moment with her humour and disarming candour. And then if I needed simple words of wisdom to guide me through then I would turn to Eve Eddison every time.
If you had no constraints of time and a guarantee of publication, what book would you write?
Honestly, the one I’m writing now – Love’s Portrait. It combines my love of museums, and LGBT history, with a modern day love story. The essence of the story is that a museum curator and museum benefactor fall in love as they discover a painting’s tragic past. It has the potential to be really beautiful.
Is there a classic book you started and simply couldn’t finish?
Yes. The Well of Loneliness, by Radclyffe Hall. It is the main protagonist Stephen’s use of the word Invert that upset me when I first attempted to read it. It seemed such a negative term suggestive of a disorder of which one should be ashamed. I can’t see myself returning to it now either.
What’s your favourite lesbian book? And why?
Annie On My Mind by Nancy Garden. Annie is a young adult book written in 1982. It tells the story of two 17-year-old New York City girls, Annie and Liza who fall in love. It is my favourite book because it was the first lesbian romance I read. I was a teenager at the time and it meant the world to me. Its message to ‘let love win not ignorance’ is so consoling.
What’s your next project?
I have written a short story called Hooper Street which will be published by Bold Strokes Books in June 2017 in the anthology Girls Next Door. Currently I’m working on Love’s Portrait, a contemporary romance infused with a love story from the 1800’s. Love’s Portrait will immerse readers in an emotional journey, as the characters fight not only for love but also for our LGBT heritage. I hope it will be beautifully visual and sensual, as the past meets the present and emotions run high.
‘On vacation in the Scottish Highlands, Eve Eddison falls for the enigmatic forestry officer Moira Burns, despite Eve’s best friend’s campaign to convince her that Moira will break her heart.’ Published by Bold Strokes Books.