Thursday, 8 January 2015

Author Inspiration: Gilli Allan

I'm delighted to welcome lovely author and artist Gilli Allan to my blog today. Gilli was recently taken on by Accent Press who have reissued the first novel, Torn, in a three-book deal. It is a realistic portrayal of a modern woman’s struggles with life and love. Gilli very kindly agreed to write about the inspiration behind the story, so I’ll gladly hand over to her once I've shared a little of what the novel is about.


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.

Torn is available now from Amazon UK and Amazon US

Welcome to the Reading and Writing blog, Gilli, and thank you so much for being a guest who writes her own post!

What Inspired Me To Write TORN?

For me inspiration is never a single bolt from the blue. I am an “into the mist” writer, and the process of coming up with a new story is usually uncertain and haphazard. The initial idea can emerge from anywhere - something seen, heard, read or remembered - and on the face of it, it might seem insignificant; often, under examination, it can fade and crumble. But sometimes an idea grows stronger, as one thought prompts another, like the links in a chain.

The original seed for TORN was a momentary impression on a car journey, which imprinted itself like a snapshot in my mind's eye. I was the passenger and had just a split second to register a turning on my side of the road. A narrow lane sloped steeply down to the centre of a village which the main road had apparently been upgraded to by-pass.

I bet those villagers were pleased to have the main road re-routed, I thought. Followed swiftly by, but I doubt the people who lived along this road were so delighted! I went on to reflect that life is rarely black and white. There are always two, or more sides to every story. 

I began to think about a woman, Jessica, who arrives in a small hamlet in the English countryside. Only after settling-in does she discover that a contentious bypass to the nearby market town is planned. On its own this sounds like a pretty thin and boring storyline. I agree. It is, until other threads are added, pushing the by-pass theme into the background. 

The first thing I needed was an explanation for why Jess had made the move away from London. The memory popped into my head of an altercation I’d witnessed, between a man and a woman, on the pavement of London’s SW16. I suddenly knew that Jess had a ‘past’ and was escaping an abusive relationship. But surely her instinct might then be to lie-low, avoiding social contact? If so, there wouldn’t be much of story there. So I decided to make her a single mother. For the sake of her young son, she has to interact with the local community. Inevitably she begins to build friendships, but the friends she makes have opposing views - not just on the subject of the bypass but about life in general - which pull her in different directions. Jess wants to put her past behind her, to devote herself to being ‘just a mother’, but she is attracted to two very different men. Will she resist temptation?  

So TORN is a cocktail. The primary ‘inspiration’ of the bypass is the basis of the plot, which is then enriched and deepened by many more ingredients - some of which are based on personal experience.  After all, if in doubt about where next to go with a story-line, what better than using a real memory to trigger a variety of “what if....?” directions? There was my son’s grumble about an unfairness at his nursery school; a night-time drive through a country town just before Christmas; an incident recounted to me by a friend who had taken her young child walking on a local hillside; that warring couple previously referred to, and many, many more. But all these memories and experiences have been nipped, tucked, tailored or embroidered until they are no longer recognisable as autobiographical... But then I would say that, wouldn’t I?

Thanks so much for such an interesting post, Gilli – it’s fascinating to see all the elements that have gone into the development of such a strong story.

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 resumed book illustration. Gilli is particularly delighted to have recently gained a new ‘proper’ publisher - Accent Press. TORN is the first book to be published in the three book deal and Gilli confidently expects to become an ‘overnight success’ any day soon.

You can connect with Gilli on her Blog, Facebook and Twitter


Anonymous said...

How interesting to hear how your story developed, Gilli. I love the premise, and the idea of the heroine being torn between two such different characters. The storyline of the bypass makes an interesting backdrop. Congratulations on your three book deal!

Kit Domino said...

Lovely post and so pleased for Gilli to have been finally taken on by a publisher - she deserves it. I love all her books and Torn is one of her best!. x Kit

Gilli Allan said...

Thank you Helena and Kit. I am delighted. Joining Accent feels like I've come home after too long in the wilderness.

Gilli Allan said...

And I should say thank you to Rosemary, who has allowed me to waffle on!

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Thanks for visiting, Helena, and leaving such a lovely comment!

Many thanks for dropping in, Kit - Gilli does deserve this indeed!

It's a pleasure to host you here, Gilli!

Joanna said...

A lovely post and a book that sounds really fascinating - congratulations on the fabulous three-book deal. Thank you, Gilli and Rosemary. I shall love reading this. xx

Vikki said...

Congratulations on the three book deal. It's interesting to read how you used real life experiences to inspire aspects of the story - it sounds an interesting read

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Many thanks for your lovely comment, Joanna!

Thanks for leaving a comment, Vikki!

Teresa Ashby said...

A lovely post, Gill and Rosemary, it is always interesting to read about the inspiration behind a book, thank you. Congratulations on the three book deal xx

Rena George said...

Can I just add my congratulations to everyone else's for that great book deal, Gill. It was lovely to read the inspiration behind your story.

Gilli Allan said...

Wow, Joanna, Vikki, Teresa and Rena! Thank you so much for choosing to visit Rosemary's blog and read my post. And thank you for kind comments. The book deal has been a long time coming!
As for 'inspiration', there is always more I could say on that subject, but it would be a book in itself! And anyway, some things are private.


Patsy said...

Being able to see there's always another side to things is a useful skill for a writer.

Gillian Stewart said...

I love to hear the inspiration behind books. This is particularly evocative. Congrats to Gilli!

Gilli Allan said...

Thank you Gillian and Patsy.
To be a writer you have to be like a sponge - absorbing ideas and impressions all the time. You also have to be, in my opinion, broad-minded and tolerant. But being able to see another point of view doesn't mean you have to agree with it.
TORN is about a woman who can't make up her mind, or rather, her views change as the story progresses. In the end, she follows her heart. It's up to the indivdual reader (not me) to say if she's made the right decision. gx

Melanie said...

Thanks for sharing the inspiration behind Torn, Gilli. I'm looking forward to hosting you on the 18th.

Nicola said...

Many congratulations Gilli. I will be downloading Torn tomorrow. Rosemary's summary has left me wanting to know more. Thank you, Rosemary.

I loved this post and could especially relate to the way in which inspiration evolves. Wishing you continued success!

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Many thanks, Teresa!

Thanks for your comment, Rena!

It is indeed, Patsy!

Thanks for dropping by, Gillian!

Hi Melanie - good to see you!

Many thanks for your lovely comment, Nicola!

Gilli Allan said...

Thanks Nicola. Delighted you've downloaded TORN, but my heart is now in my mouth!
Look forward to hanging out with you the 18th, Melanie.