This week we are fortunate to have Anne Coates in the office. She is the author of some deliciously dark and twisted tales as well as some extremely useful non-fiction books. Her latest ebook, A Tale of Two Sisters, published by Endeavour Press is available from Amazon. Just have a look to the left of the column.
Keith reviewed it on Amazon and gave it *****
Here is the first part of the review:
This is the second of Anne Coates’s books that I have read. I very much enjoyed the twists and turns of the tales in Cheque-Mate and Other Tales of the Unexpected and was looking forward to this one. I was not disappointed. Anne Coates knows how to keep you reading and the beauty of these ebooks is that you can quickly read them while on the train, in the dentist’s waiting room and then on the train home again. That is exactly what I did and she kept me enthralled all the time.
I am not going to print the rest, since that might give away some of the interview! You can check it out when you visit Amazon. So now, it is time to meet Anne.
Anne, thank you for coming in to the West Uist Chronicle office. Keith told us that you used to be his editor and that you are now a freelance journalist, non-fiction and fiction author. Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Yes I’ve been freelance for many years and before that worked as a staff journalist on several magazines. When I first met Keith I had a contract to edit Health & Homeopathy for the BHA. Keith wrote in his capacity as a doctor and then I learned that he too wrote fiction so our interests overlapped.
I was born in London but went to school in Harlow when my parents moved there. Then I went to Portsmouth Polytechnic (now a university) and Université de Rouen studying English and French. In fact Maupassant’s short stories have been quite an influence on my own writing. I just love the way he counterbalances two viewpoints and allows the reader to draw her own conclusions.
After I graduated, I moved to London and began my career at Transworld Publishers. So I lived in Ealing, then Fulham before crossing the river to East Dulwich when I worked at IPC. I love living in the capital and couldn’t imagine having a home anywhere else. London offers me the chance to indulge my passion for cinema, theatre, museums and galleries plus you can find lots of places to eat well at reasonable prices!
Why did you decide to become a writer?
I suppose like many authors I’ve always written – from a young age I started composing poems and I’ve always read voraciously. Writing has been a second nature to me but it took a while to find my own style and voice in fiction. Journalism and non-fiction feel less personal and more removed from the author although I do include my own experiences when relevant. I’ve written seven non-fiction books so far. The titles of my last two – Parenting Without Tears: Living With Teenagers and Parenting Without Tears Guide to Loving Discipline are linked to the website Parenting Without Tearswhich I founded about seven years ago and for which Keith has also written. Often my non-fiction work relates to a stage in my own life. I wrote Applying to University The Essential Guide(which I update annually) and University A Survival Guide when my daughter, Olivia, began life as a student.
We are both interested in your inspirations. Keith wondered if there could be an autobiographical element in your work. Can you enlighten us?
I was once given an excellent piece of advice: “Write your first book then put it aside so you can get rid of the ‘autobiography’ element.” However I’m guilty of using scenes and conversations from my own life. For example in my latest novella A Tale of Two Sisters (an ebook published by Endeavour Press) there’s a description of a wedding photograph. I still have a copy of it but I’ll leave you to guess which sister I was – the bridesmaid or the younger sister who wanted to be one! A Tale of Two Sisters began life as a much shorter story. Although the beginning and the end are almost the same, by making the narrative longer, other themes were introduced and I’d like to think the story became more balanced, and, like life, less black and white.
A lot of my short stories are focussed on family relationships which I find fascinating but they are not all autobiographical. Especially the murders! However when a neighbour tried to commit suicide and I found her, it affected me deeply and I later used the experience to create another story about two sisters: A Life Sentencein the collection Cheque-Mate & Other Tales of the Unexpected.
We like writing that leads us in one direction and then provides a twist. Your writing does that and I see in reviews that you have been compared with Roald Dahl. Can you give us a clue a to how you plot a story?
It is an amazing compliment to have been compared to Roald Dahl whose writing I admire immensely. The odd thing is that in conversation with my mother once I told her that when she died, I’d put her ashes in an egg-timer so she could keep on working and then that appeared in one of Dahl’s televised stories!
With my short stories, especially Cheque-Mate & Other Tales of the Unexpected, I start off with a situation and then think “what if..?” So the news that a famous person who had been adopted had discovered a natural sister she hadn’t known about made me think about how one would feel if an unknown sister was “unacceptable”. I was pleased with the outcome: A Sister Worth Waiting For. The plots seem to take care of themselves in my short stories but I do work more on this for longer fiction. Sometimes the twists take me by surprise as well!
Who have been your biggest influences?
I have always read widely and across genres. And I’d have enthusiasms. I used to love sci fi, then D H Lawrence, Jane Austen, James Baldwin… the list is fairly typical of a literature graduate. As I mentioned previously Maupassant’s short stories inspired me as did Dahl’s. I love James Joyce’s Dubliners as well. But I think that we are influenced by everything we read and all our life experiences whether we are aware of it or not. One writer I greatly admire and discovered quite by chance via a conversation I had in a French bookshop is Fred Vargas.
What type of books, films, music do you like?
Strangely twitter has introduced me to a range of new writers (or new to me) including Mari Hannah, Judith Kinghorn and Cath Staincliffe and I’ve loved their books and there are other writers on my to read list. I recently finished Broken by Daniel Craig and can’t wait to see the film. Currently I’m reading The Circus by James Craig and The Gathering Murders by a certain Keith Moray! And in between I’m re-reading Gissing’s New Grub Street the theme of which seems as pertinent today as it was when written in the 19th century.
I’ve recently seen Skyfall, The Untouchable, Argo and despite the fact that I’m not keen on musicals, Les Misérableswhich at least didn’t make me want to walk out of the cinema.
I enjoy listening to choral music and sing in a local church choir from time to time. Last year my daughter managed to get us tickets for the last night at the Proms which was an absolute joy. Otherwise I tend to listen to music on the radio or CDs.
BBC4 has been wonderful in introducing foreign crime/political series. I have loved Boergen and The Killingand am watching the latest series of Spiral.
Well, we certainly hope that you enjoy The Gathering Murders! We did, although I sometimes get a bit puzzled about the way that Keith describes me. But that is another matter. So tell us, what is next on the agenda?
My work in progress is a full-length crime novel. The inspiration for this was an interview with a prostitute that I did for a national newspaper. And then I thought “What if…” I wrote it some time ago and it’s gone through several drafts. Now I’m getting down to the real nitty-gritty editing and hopefully ensuring that it’s a really good, absorbing read.
Brilliant! We all love crime novels here at the Chronicle. What advice would you give to an aspiring writer?
Writers need to read as much as possible and write, write, write… And, of course, in most cases you need to find an agent as most publishers won’t even consider your work without one. It’s very tempting to self-publish now that ebooks are so popular but I would always advise authors to have their work professionally edited and proofread. It’s amazing how many silly mistakes can be overlooked (even in traditionally published books) and you want to make reading your work a really positive experience.
Thank you for your time, Anne. And good luck
And if that has whetted your appetite, why not pop over to Anne’s website Parenting Without Tears. Here is the link.
And please, feel free to leave a comment.