Today’s guest on my celebratory drinks tour of this year’s RONA nominees has been shortlisted in the Shorter Romantic Novel category for her novel, A Proposal to Risk Their Friendship, it is author… Louise Allen.
Louise, welcome to the blog. Thank you for joining me for drinks this evening. First things first, what are you drinking?
Thank you for asking. And let me say now, before the effects of a glass or three make me forget, thank you so much for inviting me along! I’d like Champagne, please, although I’ll probably regret it in the morning.
If we weren’t here in my virtual bar tonight, but were meeting in real life, where would you be taking me for a night out?
Assuming it’s a lovely starlit night, we’ll borrow a boat and go out to Blakeney Point, a sand spit off the Norfolk coast, and sit in the dunes listening to the seals and the sea.
If you could invite two famous people, one male and one female, alive or dead, along on our night out, who would we be drinking with?
Sir David Attenborough for charm, wisdom and the fact I’m sure he’d make sure we all got back safely however much we drank (and I think he’d like the seals) and Mary Shelley – we’d talk about her and her writing and political beliefs and not mention Byron and Shelley once.
So, now we’re settled, tell me what you are up to at the moment. How and why did you start it and where do you want it to go?
I’ve made a start on another of my time travel/Regency romance/mysteries. I began the series this is linked to as a displacement activity from writing Regency romance and find it enormous fun – I enjoy my first person POV modern-day heroines. As I write into the mists and am a complete anti-plotter this is a bit of a challenge when writing mysteries, but at least I do know with this one Who Dunnit.
What has been your proudest moment since you started writing and what has been your biggest challenge?
Proudest was possibly the time I got an email from a reader who told me she’d had such a draining and emotionally shattering day at work – she cared for children with severe problems – that she was on the point of giving it up. She’d read one of my books cover to cover through the night and it had helped her feel calm and positive again. I love that connection with readers and the knowledge that I’ve created something that entertains, or touches or resonates with them. Biggest challenge? Oh, the halfway point with any book when I’m convinced that I’ll never work out what’s going on/what motivates any of my characters/what the devil I think I’m doing pretending I can write etc etc. That can last as far as the end of the first draft!
What is the one big thing you’d like to achieve in your chosen arena? Be as ambitious as you like, it’s just us talking after all!
I’ve been writing for so long that, looking back, I’m not certain whether or not the first book was written with a quill pen. I think I’m at the point where all I wish for is to continue to enjoy my writing and to produce another book that readers enjoy.
What are have planned that you are really excited about?
Personally, an entire year packed with holidays that have been postponed over the past few years for one reason or another. On the writing front, the book that’s doing its best to write itself in my head: it has a hero who is seriously disturbing my sleep.
I love to travel, and I’m currently drawing up a bucket list of things I’d like to do in the future. Where is your favourite place that you’ve been and what do you have at the top of your bucket list?
Antarctica, without a doubt – utterly beautiful, awe-inspiring and really emotional. And so fragile. Top of my bucket list is Iceland and, fingers crossed, we’ll be there this year.
Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself.
I’m William Shakespeare’s fourth cousin eleven times removed.
Wow, what a fantastic thing to be able to say! Books are my big passion and central to my blog and I’m always looking for recommendations. What one book would you give me and recommend as a ‘must-read’?
Just one? I looked wildly at my bookshelves and thought of finding a wheelbarrow, then I spotted M. R. James’s Collected Ghost Stories. Normally I avoid horror stories, but if you haven’t come across James, you’ll be blown away by his ability to conjure atmosphere with words. He’s a master of “show (or in his case, “hint”) don’t tell”.
‘I was conscious of a most horrible smell of mould, and of a cold kind of face pressed against my own…’
Considered by many to be the most terrifying writer in English, M. R. James was an eminent scholar who spent his entire adult life in the academic surroundings of Eton and Cambridge. His classic supernatural tales draw on the terrors of the everyday, in which documents and objects unleash terrible forces, often in closed rooms and night-time settings where imagination runs riot. Lonely country houses, remote inns, ancient churches or the manuscript collections of great libraries provide settings for unbearable menace, from creatures seeking retribution and harm. These stories have lost none of their power to unsettle and disturb.
This edition presents all of James’s published ghost stories, including the unforgettable ‘Oh, Whistle and I’ll Come to You, My Lad’ and ‘Casting the Runes’, and an appendix of James’s writings on the ghost story. Darryl Jones’s introduction and notes provide a fascinating insight into James’s background and his mastery of the genre he made his own.
So, we’ve been drinking all evening. What is your failsafe plan to avoid a hangover and your go-to cure if you do end up with one?
I stagger down to the beach and breathe deeply – provided the wind doesn’t knock me over in my weakened condition. If we set out to sea, which is a mile down the road, the nearest land we’d come too is Siberia. That’s a cure for the thickest head.
After our fabulous night out, what would be your ideal way to spend the rest of a perfect weekend?
Doing as little as possible, preferably with a book to hand. I quite fancy spending it up on the battlements of Kingswear Castle on the shores of the Dart estuary. The views are fabulous, one can dip the flag to passing shipping and there’s the prospect of an excellent fish dinner in Dartmouth in the evening. It’s a Landmark Trust property if you fancy trying it.
Louise’s RONA-shortlisted novel, A Proposal to Risk Their Friendship, is out now and you can buy a copy here.
An unconventional friendship
Could ruin their reputations…
Respecting each other’s desire for independence, Lord Henry Cary and writer Melissa Taverner enjoy an uncomplicated friendship. Henry finds her amusing, intelligent company, but she’s also an attractive woman and he’s alarmed to find lust sneaking in… Having always viewed marriage as a cold matter of convenience, Henry dare not risk their friendship with a proposal. Yet when their closeness sparks rumours, he might not have a choice!
Louise’s next book due out is The Earl’s Mysterious Lady, due in July. It’s a second chance at love story with a runaway bride and a brooding hero and you can pre-order it here.
Louise Allen is the author of over seventy novels, almost all set during the “long Regency”, as well as nine historical non-fiction books. She has been nominated several times for RNA Awards and has won the Shorter Romantic Novel category twice.
She lives on the North Norfolk coast with her husband, who understands the duties of a Romance Husband perfectly – from the production of well-timed G&Ts to knowing when not to ask “How is it going?”
When she isn’t writing she loves to travel, although the laptop usually goes along too and she once found herself wrestling with a Christmas novella on the deck of a boat going down the Brahmaputra River in decidedly un-Christmassy temperatures.
Connect with Louise: