Today I’m delighted to be joined by fellow Romantic Novelists Association member Gilli Allan, whose new release Life Class has just been published. Firstly, here’s a bit about her…
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 novel, JUST BEFORE DAWN, was quickly published, but the publisher was small. Unable to gain market share, it closed within a few years of the publication of her second book, DESIRES & DREAMS. After a time in the wilderness, Gilli eventually 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 begun book illustration. Gilli is particularly delighted to have recently gained a new mainstream publisher – Accent Press. TORN was published in 2014, and FLY OR FALL earlier this year. LIFE CLASS is the last book to be published in the three book deal with Accent Press, and was released on 24th September.
And, here’s the blurb;
Life Class is about art, life, love and learning lessons….
Four members of an art class meet once a week to draw the human figure. All have failed to achieve what they thought they wanted in life. They each come to realise that it’s not just the naked model they need to study and understand. Their stories are very different, but they all have secrets they hide from the world and from themselves. By uncovering and coming to terms with the past, maybe they can move on to an unimagined future.
Dory says she works in the sex trade, the clean-up end. She deals with the damage sex can cause. Her job has given her a jaundiced view of men, an attitude confirmed by the disintegration of her own relationships. The time seems right to pursue what she really wants in life, if she can work out what that is. She moves back from London to the country town where she grew up and where her sister still lives, yet she remains undecided whether to make it a permanent move. She’s always been a clear-eyed realist ̶ love doesn’t figure in her view of the future – and yet she finds herself chasing a dream.
Stefan is a single-minded loner whose overriding ambition is to make a living from his sculpture. So how the hell did he find himself facing a class of adults who want their old teacher back? If he can sell the big old house he’s inherited, he’ll be able to concentrate on his work and maybe give up the part-time teaching job. Love is an emotion he long ago closed off ̶ it only leads to regret and shame ̶ but it creeps up on him from more than one direction. Is it time to admit that letting others into his life is not defeat?
Fran ̶ Dory’s older sister ̶ is a wife and stay-at-home mother without enough to keep her occupied. Her husband’s early retirement plans throw her into a panic. She sees her life narrowing into staid middle-age. On a collision course with her mid-life crisis, Fran craves the romance and excitement of her youth. An on-line flirtation with an old boyfriend becomes scarily obsessive, putting everything she really loves at risk.
Dominic is a damaged child. He has lived his life knowing all about sex but nothing about love. If he can only find his mother perhaps he can make sense of his past. But perhaps it is a doomed quest and it’s time to look to the future? If he can grow up enough to accept the help and love that is now being offered him, he has the chance to transform his life.
Q. Ooh, it sounds really interesting! Tell us more Gilli. Is Life Class part of a series or a stand-alone book? Have you got plans for a follow up? And what inspired this book?
This is a stand-alone book and I have no plans for a follow up at present.
Inspiration is hard for me to write about because I do everything backwards. I may have a scenario and an idea about some of the characters in a story, but I need to put metaphorical pen to metaphorical paper before inspiration – if that’s what you can call it – starts kicking in.
I have attended a life class forever, it seems and I had thought for a long time (before Pat Barker published hers) that ‘Life Class’ was a great title for a novel, conveying, as it does, two different concepts. I knew a lot about the subject, having attended a life class, under a variety of different teachers, for many years. And the title works as a metaphor. I could tell the story of some of the people who come together at the class who, through the course of the unfolding narrative, re-evaluate their pasts, re-examine their attitudes and move forward with a different mind-set. But … I didn’t have a plot.
I began by thinking about the jobs I might give my main protagonists. One of my friends worked at the time as a lab technician in a sexual health clinic. Not only was it an unusual job to give a heroine, but it occurred to me that someone in an occupation like hers, could easily make damaging assumptions about the clients who come into the clinic. That was the single initiating thought that was the genesis of Life Class, but it was only the start. I had then to think about the other three main characters – their occupations and back-stories. It was only when I had established those in my mind that inspiration – or what if? – began to happen. I was then able to begin weaving my threads together into the story that became Life Class.
Q. Well, everyone has their own process, and I don’t think any particular one is right or wrong; it’s personal to the author 🙂 So, how long did Life Class take to write? Also, can you give us any interesting facts about any research you did for this book?
It was a long process because I was unable to find a publisher. Every rejection prompted re-evaluation, and the book underwent further revisions before, eventually, I self-published. I found the promotion and marketing side very stressful and I was very pleased when Accent Press offered me the republishing deal.
For reasons too complicated and boring to go into, I decided to make the art tutor in Life Class a sculptor. I had dabbled in modelling with clay, but never pursued it seriously. I felt I needed to get some proper hands-on experience and improve my understanding of the process of creating and casting a sculpture. I was lucky enough to have met a local sculptor, Ian Rank-Broadley. I talked to him at length about the practicalities of being a sculptor, and gained some insights into how he felt about his art.
Through the Romantic Novelists Association, I know the author, Linda Mitchelmore. Her daughter-in-law, Elisabeth Hadley, is a sculptor. I was lucky enough to be able to attend a three day sculpting workshop with Elisabeth, which further broadened my understanding of the discipline.
That sounds amazing Gilli, I’d love to try something like that day. I just need to find the time! Thanks so much for dropping in, and good luck with the book.
You can buy or Life Class at Amazon via the following links
Or through Accent Press at https://www.accentpress.co.uk/Book/13659/Life-Class.
And you can find out more about Gilli at http://gilliallan.blogspot.co.uk/
or via @gilliallan or https://www.facebook.com/GilliAllan.AUTHOR or
Hope everyone enjoyed learning about Gilli’s new release. See you for a catch up soon.
Until then, happy reading and writing,
Love, Nikki x