Romancing The Romance Authors with… Gilli Allan

Romancing The Romance Authors

The next fabulous author appearing on the blog to talk about writing romance is Gilli Allan.

Tell me a bit about the type of books you write and where you are in your publishing journey. Why romance?

Thank you for having me.

I am answering the first two questions together as they are linked.

Publishing journey sounds like a defined route from ‘Go’ to the winning tape. Mine has been more like a maze, which I am still blundering about in. I sometimes feel as much of a newbie now as I did when I started many decades ago when, on my first attempt, I amazingly found a publisher within a few months of writing ‘the end’!  But it was a false dawn.  I have been main-stream published, Indie, main-stream and then Indie again.  After many decades ‘in the business’ I am still waiting for my breakthrough.

As for the type of book I write….

My ambition as far back as infant school was to be a commercial artist like my dad. So, although I wrote continuously as a teenager, I regarded my outpourings as an expression of my own unsatisfied romantic (and romanticised) yearnings, not an early flowering of literary talent. And the stories, although full of love and longing, were quite dark. Even in my early thirties, the lightbulb moment was not in response to an urgent need to tell stories, but to find a possible alternative to going back out to work after I’d had my son.

It was only once I’d begun, with the serious intention of writing something publishable, that the obsession kicked in.

I initially chose romance because I thought, wrongly, that it would be easier to write than another genre and I did not believe myself capable of writing anything more mould-breaking.  But even in that first book I could not keep within the accepted ‘romance’ parameters of the time. The darkness I was attracted to as a teenager was still there. I wrote then and still write about contemporary women in challenging even heartbreaking situations. They deal with the slings and arrows of life in whatever way they can. They, and those around them, have back-stories that make them the people they are. They are not necessarily noble or perfect, rich or drop-dead gorgeous. They don’t always make good decisions. They trip and they fall.  But there will always be a developing love theme within the story.

What inspires your stories?

Real life is the inspiration behind my stories, but this doesn’t mean I always use my own experience or that I have a worked-out synopsis before I start. I begin with a sketchy idea about the main characters and their back stories, and the scenario in which they first meet. I then wind them up, set them going and see what happens. Often, I put them in a world I already have some experience of – as with Buried Treasure.  I have been involved with conference planning in an ancient university, so that was my set. I also have an interest in and a family connection to archaeology, so my research was not exactly easy, but it was accessible.

It is only when I am in the process of writing that real inspiration comes, but unpredictably in fits and starts. This technique is slow as I only gradually get to know my characters, which then involves a huge amount of backtracking and editing when, at a late date in writing the story, I realise something important that I need to explain, foreshadow or drop hints to.

Who are your favourite romance authors, past and/or present?

This is a bit difficult as I admit I don’t read a lot of romance.  There are the good old standbys – Austen, Heyer and the Brontés  – and I admit a youthful attachment to Ethel M Dell who was an extraordinary author for her time. Writing in the very early decades of the twentieth century – her books, full of turbulent but chaste emotions – were very appealing to naïve and innocent girls. But read with my cynic’s hat on, they are wonderfully funny.

But these days….?  Jo Jo Moyes, Lisa Jewell, Marian Keyes.

If you had to pick one romance novel for me to read, which one would you recommend?

I’m sorry, I can’t pick one.

Which romantic hero would you choose to spend your perfect romantic weekend with? Where would you go and what would you do?

Freddie from Cotillion, by Georgette Heyer. It took me a while in life, but I discovered it is far better to make friends with someone and only then fall for him, than to lust after the rake.  He is always handsome, always arrogant, always unreliable and always a narcissist – in love with himself more than he is ever in love with you.  Freddie and I would just hang out, and perhaps go for a trot along rotten row in a cotillion of course.


What is your favourite thing about being a member of the RNA? What do you think you have gained from membership?

I joined after I’d been published so never benefited from the NWS, but have always been glad of the friendship, the support and the terrific resource of information and help – from emotional difficulties right through the gamut to technical problems.  There is always someone who will offer a shoulder to cry on, give you a name of someone who is likely to know that pesky piece of info you can’t find, or a route to solve some horrid computer-based glitch.

What one piece of advice or tip would you give to new writers starting out in the romance genre?

I have one piece of advice – not particularly related to romance as such – but to writing in general. Don’t wait until after you’ve been to all the work-shops, lectures and read all the ‘how-to’ books.  Begin writing NOW.

Tell us about your latest book.

My latest book is Buried Treasure and you can buy a copy here.


In the early stages of carving out a career as an Events Organizer, Jane Smith arrives at Lancaster College (part of an ancient university) to scope it out as a possible venue for a conference she is organizing.But damaged by a disastrous first love affair and hyper-sensitive about her lack of education, Jane is constantly driven to shore up her fragile self-esteem and to prove herself.

Theo Tyler is a ‘desk’ archaeologist working as a part-time teacher at Lancaster College. His background makes him a curiosity to some – had his mother not been a rebel his own passage through life would have been gilded. The reality was chaotic and, in his young adulthood, further disrupted by a violent relationship.He hates people’s fascination in his ancestry and his unorthodox past, rather than in his present achievements.

There is no necessity for Jane and Theo ever to meet. He is part of the faculty, but she is there to meet and be shown around by the hospitality manager, so their first encounter is unplanned and unpromising. But Jane has a family connection to a significant historic archaeological discovery and Theo wants to organize a conference. Even with these possible points of contact, the gulf between them is far too wide ever to be bridged. Or is it?

Can a mystery, a possible conspiracy, and the missing evidence that could solve a puzzle, draw the threads of their lives together? After all, treasure is not always what it seems. 

About the Author

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Gilli Allan began to write in childhood – a hobby pursued throughout her teenage. Writing was only abandoned when she left home, and real life supplanted the fiction.

After a few false starts she worked longest and most happily as an illustrator in advertising, and only began writing again when she became a mother. 

Living in Gloucestershire with her husband Geoff, Gilli is still a keen artist. She draws and paints and has now moved into book illustration.

She was published by Accent Press, now Accent Headline, and each of her books, TORN, LIFE CLASS, FLY or FALL as well as the independently published BURIED TREASURE, have won a Chill with a Book Award.

Following in the family tradition, her son, historian and medievalist Thomas Williams, is also a writer. He is published by William Collins.

Connect with Gilli:


Facebook: Gilli Allan

Twitter: @gilliallan

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