Kev’s Author Interviews Presents…
Teignmouth, Devon, UK
A Short Bio
I live in Devon but originate from Rugby. Finding early on in life that I loved the sea, I spent most of my adult years moving from one coast to another. My happiest time was spent in Guernsey where I lived for nearly 14 years and my books are all set on that beautiful island. Until recently I was a psychotherapist but have now retired to write full time. So far I’ve published Dangerous Waters, a romantic mystery, Finding Mother, a romantic family drama and Guernsey Retreat, another romantic mystery, forming The Guernsey Novels series. A fourth, The Family Divided, will be published on 15th June 2015.
Kev: What is your latest book about?
The Family Divided follows Andy Batiste as he searches for the truth behind the split in the family. His grandfather, Edmund, was murdered shortly before the end of the Occupation in Guernsey, after being labelled a traitor. He left a young widow who didn’t realise she was pregnant when she fled to France weeks later having been cast aside by her husband’s family. Edmund’s younger brother subsequently inherited the family estate instead of Edmund and when his son James moves to Guernsey years later, he gets nothing. Andy wants his father to receive his due inheritance and rightful place in the family.
Andy is helped in his search by Charlotte Townsend, recently divorced and enjoying her second visit to the natural health retreat at La Folie. Charlotte, a publisher and newbie writer, has been struggling with her novel and when she learns of Andy’s quest, is eager to help and together they embark on the search for the truth.
Kev: What is the main genre of your book?
Kev: Who is your target audience?
Mainly women, but men have been known to enjoy my books!
Kev: Who or what influenced you to write it?
All my books are set in Guernsey and the island itself is a major influence on the stories I write. Guernsey has a unique history in that it was the only part of Britain to be occupied by the Germans in WWII. This lends itself to tales about something which happened at that time impacting on the present, as is the case in The Family Divided. My other inspiration was a friend of mine who is part of a local Guernsey family, owners of what was a farmhouse together with lots of other properties in the area. But the story bears no connection with the real family!
Kev: Did you do any specialised research for your story?
Yes. Although I researched the Guernsey Occupation for my first book, Dangerous Waters, I needed to learn, in more detail, how the Germans and the Guernsey police force operated. And about the informers known to snitch on their neighbours as well as various legal issues pertaining to inheritance. A bit complex at times!
Kev: What challenges did you face while writing the story?
The biggest challenge was writing a story which was believable bearing in mind the issues mentioned above. I had to change the plot a couple of times after speaking to a legal expert. Also, one of the characters is diagnosed with cancer and I found the consequent story a bit difficult to write as a close family member was recently diagnosed with the disease.
Kev: Who is the protagonist?
The main character is Charlotte Townsend, a lady pushing forty, a divorced publisher who is in Guernsey to find her bearings after a stressful period. But sharing the limelight is Andy Batiste, a member of the local divided family. He’s an architect, long-divorced and a bit of a workaholic.
Kev: What would you say is the protagonist’s greatest weakness or obstacle and why?
Charlotte is unsure of herself, both as a woman and as a would-be writer. She was left by her husband for a younger woman which has dented her self-confidence and she’s hit writer’s block with her first novel. Bad combination!
Andy has a chip on his shoulder over the way his family has been treated and has always felt to be the ‘under-dog’.
Kev: What would you say is the main antagonist’s greatest strength?
It’s difficult to determine who exactly is the main antagonist as Charlotte and Andy are dealing with their own inner demons to some extent. But the external antagonist is Harold, Andy’s great uncle, and his strength lies in the fact he was presumed to be the heir of the family property, now worth millions.
Kev: Could you provide a short passage from your book to give us a taster?
The small boat bobbed up and down as the waves splashed gently against the sides and the two men on board adjusted their rods.
‘I heard your cousin Dave is up for assault again, hurting the other guy pretty bad, so they say,’ Jim Batiste remarked, fitting a chunk of bread on his line. ‘He could go down again for it.’
The familiar anger coursed through Andy’s veins. ‘Dave’s always been a waste of space. He brings the family name into more disrepute than my grandfather ever did. And he was innocent,’ he growled, the image of his cousin’s grinning face overlaying his father’s in front of him. He had history with Dave, the cocky grandson of his great uncle. When they met as boys Dave had been quick to remind him how he was the one from the wealthy side of the family and Andy was a nobody. The taunts had inevitably led to fights which Dave, bigger and heavier and playing dirty, always won. As the image faded Andy watched his father throw out the line with an expert flick. Something he had never managed as well, in spite of hours of Jim’s patient tuition.
His father screwed up his eyes against the sun, checking the float was where he had meant it to be. Satisfied, he turned to his son.
‘You’re right about Dave. It’s a good thing his father didn’t live to see how he turned out. The trouble is that mother of his has spoiled him rotten. Never had a firm hand. Not like you,’ he said, grinning.
‘Right there, Dad! I never got away with anything. And Mum was just as strict,’ Andy said, straight-faced.
They both laughed. His mother, Yvette, was a pussy cat where her only child was concerned.
Andy threw his own line over the side of the boat and, for once, the rod made a graceful arc over the water. Settling back on his canvas stool, he allowed himself a moment to admire the sandy bay of Moulin Huet basking in the warm September sun. He liked this spot where his father’s boat was anchored; just in from the Mouillière rock. When he was a boy his parents had often picnicked on the beach and he loved to swim out to the rock to prove how strong a swimmer he was.
‘Don’t suppose you’ve seen Dave in a while, have you?’ His father’s voice brought him back from his happy memories.
‘I’m not likely to, am I? Not only does he spend much of his time incarcerated in Les Nicolles with the other island reprobates, but when he’s out he wouldn’t speak to me any more than I would him. I despise his family for what they did to my grandmother and…and you and Mum,’ he said, aware of a hot tide of anger flowing to his head. That bloody family! Somehow they had swindled his father out of the Batiste estate, and hadn’t even acknowledged him as one of the family. Under Guernsey law at the time, as the eldest son, Jim’s father Edmund would have inherited the whole lot after old man Neville died if he hadn’t been killed so young. After his death Jim was the natural successor, not Dave’s grandfather Harold, the younger brother.
Forcing himself to take a deep breath, he studied his father, now engrossed in lighting his pipe. A wiry sixty-four-year-old, with hands calloused from years of hauling fishing nets, his face bore more lines than usual. He looked tired and Andy wondered if his back was bad again and wrecking his sleep. He should never have had to work so bloody hard! If it wasn’t for that bastard Harold…Feeling his chest tighten again, he took another deep breath before saying, ‘Dad, I wish you’d explain why you weren’t acknowledged as the natural heir when you arrived from France and–’
Jim’s eyes flashed. ‘How many times do I have to tell you I’m not prepared to discuss it! Ever. It’s history and not your business.’
‘But it is my business! Apart from the fact I’d have liked to see you and Mum enjoying the comfortable lifestyle you were entitled to, I’d have not had to endure the taunts of being poor from the boys at school, including that…that toerag Dave.’ Andy fought hard to control his temper. He didn’t want to fall out with his father, particularly when they were fishing together, always something he enjoyed.
Jim seemed to shrink in front of his eyes. ‘I’m sorry, lad, for what you had to put up with. It’s not what I wanted or expected when your mother and I came over here. But can we put it aside for now and concentrate on the fishing? I’d been looking forward to coming out with you today,’ he said, a pleading look in his eyes.
Andy nodded, reluctantly accepting once again the subject was closed. For now. But perhaps one day…
A strong pull on his rod announced he had caught something.
‘Dad, I’ve got the first bite! And I reckon it’s a big one.’ He managed a smile as he reeled in the line, the anger easing with the chance of a catch.
‘Good on you, lad. We might have fish for supper after all,’ Jim said, puffing on his pipe.
Andy had to hold on tight as the fish fought to free itself but slowly he won the battle and reeled in a dark grey slithering fish, grabbing it quickly as it landed on deck.
‘Black bream. A good weight too. About 3lbs, I reckon. Make a good supper, it will.’
Andy grinned at his father as he expertly pulled the hook from the fish’s mouth and dropped it in the water bucket.
‘Do you want it for you and Mum? Or are you planning on catching your own supper?’ he asked, his grin broadening.
Jim was saved from answering as his own line gave a quick pull and he braced himself to reel in his catch. The fish flashed silver in the sun as it was dragged through the water.
‘Grey mullet, about 4lbs,’ muttered Jim as he finally grabbed the fish and, after removing the hook, dropped it in the bucket with the bream.
‘So neither of us will go hungry tonight, Dad. Happy to stay a bit longer and stock up the freezer?’
Jim nodded. ‘Not too long, though. My back’s been playing up lately. I don’t want to have to pay a visit to the osteopath again. He charges an arm and a leg and I’m not convinced it does me much good.’
Andy knew his father did not have much spare cash; his only income was the State Pension and his wife’s meagre earnings. And he was too proud to accept financial help from his son.
Kev: When you write, do you write off-the-cuff or do you use some kind of formula?
I wish there was a magic formula! I map out a brief outline of the plot and any sub-plots first and then write short bios for the main characters. As I begin each chapter I jot down what I want to cover and then write in full. But sometimes the characters take over and it doesn’t go according to plan!
Kev: How do you deal with writers-block?
I walk away. It might mean a short break, like making a cup of coffee, or much longer as in a week or more. In the interim I’ll allow my mind to mull over ideas until it makes sense again and then I can get back to writing.
Kev: Preference for writing: Day or Night?
My best time is from late morning until early evening.
Kev: What is your process for editing your work?
I complete minor edits as I go along but the major re-write occurs after I’ve completed a first draft. Then it’s sent off to my editor who invariably suggests further improvements.
Kev: How do you come up with your book covers?
I work closely with my cover designer. My original designer worked on my first three covers and I really liked them. However, I was recently advised by best-selling Indie author, CJ Lyons, that I needed to create a recognisable theme or brand, and I’ve just had the covers redesigned by Jane Dixon-Smith. All the covers have background images of Guernsey scenes, appropriate for a series called The Guernsey Novels ☺
Kev: Do you think the book cover is important?
Definitely! It’s what catches the reader’s eye and if they don’t relate to it might be less likely to read any blurb. The cover needs to indicate the genre as the title alone might not do that.
Kev: Which publishing platform do you prefer and why?
At the moment my books are all available as kindle ebooks and paperbacks. I haven’t tried the other ebook retailers because it would mean leaving KDPSelect, but it’s something I will look at now I’ve published four books. The paperbacks sell particularly well in Guernsey and I love seeing them on display in shops.
Kev: Do you face any daunting obstacles during the publishing process?
Yes, I find formatting a big headache. I seem to get in a mess with the paperback template no matter how careful I am. I cheat with the kindle version by hiring a wonderful girl on fiverr. But there’s a new Word plugin I’ve been trialling with the company behind it and it could make publishing a breeze.
Kev: What methods do you use to promote your work?
I’m pretty active on social media and have built up contacts with bloggers and reviewers for when it’s time to launch a new book. I also offer price promotions through sites such as BookBub, which result in thousands of downloads and, hopefully, new readers.
Kev: Do you have any advice for new authors?
Firstly, read as much as you possibly can, particularly books in the genre in which you write. You’d be surprised how many would-be authors admit to not reading a great deal. Reading will help you absorb other voices and styles and will provide a positive influence on your own writing. Secondly, keep writing! And thirdly, accept it’s going to be a long haul and you might never earn vast sums of money, but you write for the sheer pleasure of it, right?
Kev: Which social media platforms do you use the most?
The Family Divided-Amazon: http://amzn.to/1FBhzI0
Amazon Author Page: http://bit.ly/AnneAllen
Kev: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Anne Allen, Everyone!