Interview With ELLCon (European Lesfic Literary Conference)

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We spoke to Anna Larner about her books and her writing plans for the future.

(A) TELL US SOMETHING INTERESTING ABOUT YOUR LAST PUBLISHED BOOK. 

My debut lesbian romance Highland Fling had the working title How Does The Sun Know How To Shine?

Without giving too much of the plot away, early on in the book, Moira Burns (one of the main characters) is worried about her lack of sexual experience and she seeks reassurance from her first love. Her lover responds by saying “How does the sun know how to shine, Moira?” “How does the wind know how to blow?” “How does the rain know how to fall?” helping Moira to understand that her sexuality is as natural as nature itself and is something to be cherished and enjoyed.

It is one of the key messages that I hope readers will take from Highland Fling, along with living your life for today, looking forward, free from regret.

(B) WHAT GOT YOU INTO WRITING? 

I attended the ‘States of Independence’ Book Festival held in Leicester’s De Montfort University, back in 2012. Bold Strokes Books hosted a panel on that day, encouraging people to consider writing for an LGBT press. It was a proper lightbulb moment for someone like me with an overactive imagination and a passion for all things LGBT.

(C)  CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT YOUR WRITING STYLE? HOW DO YOU DECIDE ON PLOTS AND CHARACTERS? ARE YOU A PLANNER OR A PANTSER?

I’m a writer with a lyrical, descriptive style who cares about the detail of things. Bringing to life a setting is important to me, evoking a sense of place and the particular mood of the moment. I’m also keen to portray the uniqueness of each character, what makes them laugh, what makes them cry, and sharing this with the reader.

I’m not sure I decide upon plot and character, it’s more that a place, a person or an event sparks a creative response from which a story begins to form. For example, the idea for my latest work Love’s Portrait came from a creative writing workshop focusing on forgotten female abolitionists. Their passion and courage in the face of opposition was so inspiring that I began to wonder ‘what if’…and how to weave that ‘what if’ into a contemporary love story.

As to whether I’m a planner or a panster…I’m a bit of both. I work to an outline which gives me direction but ultimately the details, the heart of the story emerges from the act of writing, which for me is where the magic lies.

(D) IF YOU HAD TO DO IT ALL OVER AGAIN, WOULD YOU DO ANYTHING DIFFERENTLY? 

No, I wouldn’t change a thing. Going back and seeking to change the path of your life feels a bit like flattening out the mountains – with the breathtaking ride of the highs and lows lost in favour of a more plain and certain view.

(E) WHAT IS NEXT FOR YOU? WHAT IS YOUR NEXT PROJECT?

I’m currently working on my second novel Love’s Portrait, a contemporary romance infused with a tragic love story from the past. At the heart of the plot is the mystery of a watercolour of a beautiful woman painted in the 1830’s.

Again not trying to give too much of the plot away, it is a love story between Molly Goode (a sweet, quirky, and passionate museum curator) and Georgina Wright (a confident, stylish, but somewhat closed off investment banker) who has inherited the painting through the death of her father.

The theme of the book is about the strength, compassion, and ballsy-ness of women whether it be during the fight for the abolition of slavery or in the fight for LGBT voices to be heard in mainstream society.


Why not check out the ELLCon website for more interviews with authors who are attending the conference. Also you can sign up to their newsletter for book giveaways and get all the latest conference news.

Not long to go now…

 

 

 

 

 

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Bold Strokes Books author Jenny Frame interviews Anna Larner about her debut lesbian romance, Highland Fling.

Congratulations on your new book, Anna!

Cheers, Jenny!

What made you decide to become a writer?

It wasn’t so much a decision, more “Oh, so that’s who I am.”

The clues were there:

Clue 1- A daydreamer with an overactive imagination.

Clue 2- A degree in English Literature.

Clue 3- A heartfelt passion for all things LGBT.

Let’s just say I eventually joined the dots.

Where do you get your ideas?

Inspiration comes from the world around me—people, places, events—captured by my senses, tucked away in my memory.

I then form ideas by reimagining these memories through the lens of Me—who I am, my sensibilities, my sexuality, the stuff I find hard, the stuff I find fun, that kind of thing.

What is your writing process like? Do you plan everything or just let the story unfold naturally?

I know this is common to many writers, but I get the sense that I’m writing a story that is waiting to be written. That doesn’t mean I automatically know the story, or that it is easy to bring it out.

Highland Fling was written in a free-flowing way, without a plan. In retrospect not the most efficient way of working, as it took three substantive edits to finalize the work but it was a necessary and invaluable experience, and I learned an awful lot about writing along the way.

My second novel Love’s Portrait has a detailed plot summary in place which is helping me write more efficiently. But I wouldn’t be able to write in this way without the experience I gained writing Highland Fling.  

A large part of your book Highland Fling takes place in Scotland—one of the most beautiful places in the world, but I might be a bit biased. What inspired you to set it there?

The Highlands of Scotland is one of my favorite places to visit. It is such an awe-inspiring place. The fauna, the flora, the mountains that go on forever, it is a feast for the senses, and the stuff of dreams and imagination.

On one particular visit, during a hike, I met a local forestry woman and I began to imagine her life and that planted the seeds for the story. Before I knew it I had given her a holiday romance and a complicated past!

How much of yourself and the people you know are in your characters?

I wrote Highland Fling from my heart; therefore there is a lot of me in it, and without intending a few traits from my family and friends.

In particular, the main character Eve feels everything I felt at twenty-six. How awkward I was when I fancied someone, how difficult I found it to read someone’s sexuality, how impulsive I could be when smitten. Eve’s best friend Roxanne definitely has traits from my best mate who used to listen with amusement to my tales of hapless crushes.

The inspiration for Moira came, not so much from anyone in particular, but from an understanding that your life experience, your choices shape you. Moira embodies the many pressures, both internal and external, of being a lesbian growing up within a small community and in a less accepting era.

It was important to me that Highland Fling reflected real people, overcoming real struggles and finding real hope.

What’s your favorite and worst part of the writing process?

My favorite part is when I find my groove and the writing flows. The worst part is the natural process of doubting yourself, whether that’s during writing or waiting to find out what people think!

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Commit and open your heart, and you’ll hear your characters, you will see the setting, and then write with unashamed gusto. Edit later and never stop wanting to improve.

Who are your literary heroes? Who inspires you the most?

Nancy Garden is definitely one of my top literary heroes. She wrote the first lesbian romance I read called Annie On My Mind. I was in my teens and it was such a consoling read.

Funnily enough, I’ve blogged about my literary crushes as I have so many! They include E. M. Forster, Ali Smith, Carol Ann Duffy, W. H. Auden, and Virginia Woolf.  Take a look if you fancy: www.annalarner.com  

What are you writing next?

The novel I’m working on is a contemporary lesbian romance called Love’s Portrait.

The essence of the story is that a museum curator and museum benefactor fall in love as they discover a painting’s tragic past.

My aim is to deliver a heartfelt romance with depth and poignancy, with beautiful descriptions, packed with tension and scenes of breathless attraction.

To finish, a very serious two-part question. Tea or Coffee? What’s your favorite biscuit?

Wow. This is a revealing question. Still, this is no time for biscuit coyness, so I might as well confess—I’m a dunker. So chocolate is problematic and any crumbly biscuit is far too stressful. For me it’s a malted milk or a ginger nut.

Now, on to the second part—I drink tea first thing in the morning, usually two cups straight after each other. Then about eleven thirty I have a cup of coffee. Not just any coffee—it has to be Lavazza and made in a stovetop coffeemaker. I’m a creature of habit.

Thanks Anna! 

Gingernuts