In August 2022, I held a very successful launch of my novel
The Making of Annie-May at Waterstones, Swansea
Thank you to all those who came along. And huge thanks to Fiona Gordon, the MC.
Here are some lovely comments by local writers I admire:
'Extremely well written, ... really engrossing, and the dialogue ... was brilliant.'
'It was a great event and well worth coming out for. What you had to say about your novel's evolution and characters was fascinating. I was listening to what everyone was saying amongst themselves afterwards and it was all very positive.'
mobile: 07985 650746
Q&A s from the Book Launch
Q. Tell us something about this story. How did it start?
A. This was supposed to be the story of a woman, succeeding in her career but feeling she didn’t deserve it, that it was all luck, constantly afraid that she would be found out. When I outlined this to one of my daughters, she nodded and said, ‘Oh, she’s got imposter syndrome!’ I’d never heard of it. I didn’t know it was a ‘thing.’ I know better now! But I thought – back to the drawing board! My story certainly has elements of my original idea, but it’s much broader than that. There’s love, romance, and an illicit affair; there’s tragedy and joy, secrets and lies; It’s about relationships – man & woman, mother & daughter, friends & colleagues. Basically, I write about relationships and events. And that’s what this is.
Q. You have set much of the story in a time of great upheaval in Wales. Why did you do that?
A. It’s obviously easier to set a story back in time, because we know what was happening then; it won’t ‘date’ as easily as something set in present day, as the world is changing at such a pace.
But that’s not the only reason. I like to give my readers a timeframe to relate to, by referring to the fashions, to music in the charts of the time, but also to current affairs, national and world events; I look at how these events impact on my characters, some of whom may be directly involved, but most who aren’t.
I chose the 1980s and 90s in the Welsh mining area for much of the setting, because this is something I know about first hand.
Q. How important is research when writing about the past and how do you go about it?
A. More important than I’d thought! I needed to get my dates and places right for national and world events. I wouldn’t sound authentic if I had the wrong dates for Elections or the Suez crisis. And I needed to know the laws and rights that were in place at the time. Of course, Google is my friend when it comes to research. But I made sure that the sources were authentic ones. The Parliamentary website is very useful for finding out when various laws came in; local government records and newspaper reports of the time can give a local perspective. The Women’s Aid website was a wonderful resource too, providing some astonishing facts: for example, that marital rape wasn’t classed as a crime until 1991.
Q. Is there an element of autobiography here? Can we see Alana Davies in this book?
A. We’re always told, ‘write what you know.’ I knew the place and the time; of course I used some of my own memories and the events I remember, and I used experiences of other people who were close to me, just as a starting point for some characters and settings.
But this is story, with a beginning, a middle and an end, unlike real life. I used a lot of imagination too! It’s fiction, it’s not an autobiography. Whatever my daughters may think!
Am I in it? No, I’m not. My main character isn’t me, even if some of her life has parallels with mine. But I’m not Annie-May!
Q. Why did you write this as ‘Book 1’ and Book 2’?
A. Book 2 was intended as a sequel. It allowed me to add some colour and richness and a backstory to what may be seen as minor characters, and to expand the major ones. It answers some questions from Book 1 that the reader may not know are questions – perhaps prompting a reader to go back and read Book 1 again. It’s the sort of device that I like in a book, and I hope that others do too.
Q. Who do you think this book will appeal to?
A. It may be tempting to classify this as a woman’s story – because it has a woman as a main character, because it has love and romance in it. But there are men in many of these relationships too! And they have emotions and sensitivities, some of which I’ve explored here, some in quite some detail.
The events I write about affect everyone, and just as it’s wrong to assume that the love and romance will only appeal to women, it’s wrong, too, to assume that the political elements will appeal only to men. None of us would do that, right?
Q. Which authors have influenced or inspired you?
A. I think every book I’ve ever read has had an influence on me in some way or another. Hilary Mantel I love, Douglas Stuart, and lately Emma Donaghue.
But the one author I would pick out is JK Rowling. In particular, the Harry Potter books. Yes, not what you may have imagined! But her ability to create a whole world – a world I can believe in – blew me away.
The way she must have planned it out so that her Book 7 makes references to Book 1 – planting clues back then that we weren’t aware of. So clever!
And her belief in her writing and her story – she didn’t give up, no matter how many knock-backs she had.
Q. Has your experience in studying Creative Writing made you consider writing in other genres? Eg fantasy, science fiction etc?
A. I know that fantasy stories are hugely popular, and I’ve had the privilege of publishing some stories like this for others. I would have said it’s unlikely that I would write anything in that genre. But having told you how much I love the wizarding world of Harry Potter I don’t think that’s the case! And I do like a bit of time-travel. So who knows!
Q. What will your next book be about?
A. Currently, I’m studying for a Master’s degree in Creative Writing, and I’m moving on to my dissertation. I was really pleased to find that my thesis can take the form of a novel – or part of one. So that’s what I’m doing at the moment. That book will be set in Ireland and Wales, covering most of the twentieth century, concentrating on the role of motherhood in the lives and events of a set of families throughout much the 20th century. Plenty of events in that timeframe, starting with the Easter Rising of 1916.
Q. And finally - what advice would you give other aspiring writers who feel they have a book in them?
A. I’m no expert, but I would say this:
Just write. Write something every day. And read. Read. Read.
Don’t get bogged down in style and genre – get your story down. You’ll be editing it – again and again – and you can tidy it up later.
If you’re worried about grammar and syntax – don’t. An editor will help you with that, AFTER you’ve written your book.
Get your settings and your characters sorted first – plot will come. I didn’t believe that either, but it’s true!
And - it’s not too late!