In honour of the RNA’s 60th Anniversary we’re interviewing some of the many volunteers who work hard behind the scenes to keep the organisation, website and blog running smoothly. Today, Ann Evans, who has taken over the Hints & Tips for New Writers blog each month – something she said she really enjoys doing – is in the Hot Seat. Ann write romance novels under the name of Ann Carroll.
Welcome Ann. Can you tell us a little about your historical romance, A Place to Belong, which is now available as a print and ebook. What was the inspiration behind the book?
The inspiration behind this book began really with the theme of not belonging. Not quite knowing where you fit in. I really wanted to write a story set in a different time period too, so I chose the 1830s, probably not the best era for romance, as I’ve since been told by publishers that Regency is by far the more popular period in history to write in.
It’s the story of Lily Baines, aged 18, who lives with the wealthy Westfall family. Her mother, Lilian was a maid there. She died in childbirth and the family brought Lily up, not as a servant but not as a family member either. Hence her feeling of never quite belonging.
When Jude Mitchell arrives as a potential suitor to flippant and flirty Prudence Westfall, Lily finds herself falling for him despite her better judgement. Very soon their mutual attraction causes the most dreadful change in Lily’s circumstances until she really doesn’t belong anywhere. Could life get any more difficult and painful?
A Place to Belong was originally a Pocket Novel for My Weekly and a large print Linford Romance. The paperback and ebook versions are independently published under my business partnership name of Words & Images UK.
It sounds a fascinating read, Ann. What was your journey to publication?
I started writing when my three children were young, just as a hobby. I took a writing course with the London School of Writing, which I found to be excellent. The first thing I had published was a letter to the editor, earning me £1.50. From then on, I wrote articles and short stories galore which in the main seemed to get published and I found myself writing regularly for Dogs Monthly for about 20 years, the Coventry Telegraph for 13 years and regular slots with other magazines. Trying my hand at writing novels, I wrote seven books before finally finding an agent and getting an acceptance with Scholastic Children’s Books. I’ve since had about 30 children’s books published.
You sound a very prolific writer! Who were your favourite childhood authors?
Lewis Carroll was my first inspirational author because my maiden name was Carroll, and when I spotted Alice in Wonderland in the library, I was amazed and excited that there was an author with my name. Possibly this was the first inkling that maybe one day I’d like to see my name on a book in a library. Reading Alice and enjoying the colourful illustrations was fascinating. But it doesn’t stop there! Just a few years ago, I was researching my family history, and discovered that the parish church close to where my dad and his forefathers grew up in Sunderland, was the church which Lewis Carroll – Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, would regularly visit, being friends with the clergy there. I can well imagine him thinking: “Hmm, I need an alias for my stories, let’s have a look at these gravestones and see what surnames we can find. Ah ha, Carroll now that’s a fine name!” Well, I can dream!
As a teenager I enjoyed the writing of James Hadley Chase. He wrote around 90 novels, half of which have been made into films, he writes exciting, fast moving, page-turning stories, usually set in gangland America or the sleazier back streets of London. I loved his characters and the dire predicaments they got themselves into – usually through greed or lust, or one of the other deadly sins! Perhaps not suitable for an impressionable teenager, but I loved his fast moving, exciting style – and I do feel his influence reflected on the pace of my children’s books years later. But imagine my surprise about five years ago to get a phone call out of the blue from the man living in the London house where James Hadley Chase was born. He had a Civic Plaque to be unveiled and wanted a writer with some connection to JHC to unveil it. He Googled writer and James Hadley Chase and up popped a blog I’d written about being inspired by him (very much like this one). So, I got to unveil the Civic Plaque of my writing hero!
What an amazing moment! If you could give your younger self any advice what would it be?
I made this the subject for my first RNA Hints & Tips Blog, and that is, when you get a rejection, read it carefully. In my early writing days a rejection letter got a swift glance, and the manuscript was then stashed away to gather dust. Rejection is rejection… isn’t it? No, not always. I’ve since learned that if there’s something specific the editor picks on as a reason for rejecting, then see if you can make changes to make it acceptable. I’ve done this on a number of occasions in more recent years which has led to success. If only I’d done it earlier!
That’s a great tip. Is there any other advice you would give to aspiring authors.
The above point first off, and secondly don’t run before you can walk which has also been a topic for my Hints & Tips blog. Learn the basics of good writing first so you’re not repeating the same mistakes over and over. And these mistakes can be anything from not setting out dialogue correctly, poor punctuation, head hopping, not looking out for repetition, superfluous words, anything. So, get the basics under your belt first.
Coventry writer, Ann Evans writes in a variety of genres: children’s books, YA, reluctant readers, adult crime/thrillers, non-fiction magazine articles – and romance. Her romance books are written under her maiden name of Ann Carroll.
To date she has had three romances published as Pocket Novels (D C Thomson) and Large Print books (Magna/Ulvescroft) also available now in paperback and ebooks. Altogether she has written 38 books with a couple of the children’s titles picking up awards along the way.
Ann started writing as a hobby when her three children were little. The hobby gradually became a career and a way of life. She was a Feature Writer for her local newspaper, the Coventry Telegraph for 13 years, having ‘sneaked in the back door’ when they advertised for local Grassroots reporters. Once she’d got her ‘foot in the door’ she went on to become a staff Feature Writer. “Best job ever,” Ann says, as each week she wrote about Food & Drink, Gardening, Pet SOS, and Family Days Out.
As well as being a member of the Romantic Novelists Association, she is also a member of the Crime Writers Association, the National Association of Writers in Education, the Society of Women Writers & Journalists and the Coventry Writers Group.
Buy link for A Place to Belong: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Place-Belong-Ann-Carroll/dp/B08GB7ML4L
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