A story is not an inanimate thing, is it?

A story is not an inanimate thing, is it? It is alive. Beyond the last full stop, a story continues to stir and develop in our minds. In fact, you could say that a story never finishes. We simply choose to turn away from the what comes next or what might be.

Some stories, however, cannot be so easily ignored. They pester with whispered words of dialogue or fleeting images of scenes playing out somewhere unfixed between the known and unknown. They create an insistent momentum for us to want to know more and to read the unwritten. My 2017 debut novel Highland Fling is one of those stories. And my new release Highland Whirl is the sequel that insisted to be brought to life.

Whenever I heard the weather forecast for the Highlands, I would think of Eve and Moira and their life amongst the snow-topped mountains and the brooding waters of Loch Ness. Had Moira’s wounds from her troubled past healed? Had Eve found her one in Moira? Have they found the lasting love together that the closing scene of Highland Fling promised…? 

Beginning four years on from the ending of Highland Fling, Highland Whirl answers these questions for the curious. (The answers are yes, yes, and yes!)

It seems unbelievable now that I never considered a sequel at the point of writing Highland Fling, for everything about Highland Whirl feels anticipated and inevitable. I mean, how could I not return to Eve and Roxanne’s friendship? How was Roxanne coping without Eve, her best mate in the whole wide universe world? Could they maintain that vital childhood bond from so far apart? 

In the years following the publication of Highland Fling, I kept hearing the repeated question rising to the surface whenever my thoughts wandered off—it was Eve asking Roxanne, “Alice? Moira’s Alice?” Like an approaching flurry of Highland snow, Roxanne and Alice’s love was forecast from the start…

The wee eejit Roxanne Barns and feisty Alice Campbell are so well matched in their differences and their surprising similarities that there is a palpable sense of meant to be. Their love is the story that demanded to be told, as they become the main characters, front and center, in Highland Whirl

“Why Alice? What makes her different to all the others?”

Could Roxanne say everything? “Well, she’s kind and compassionate and smart, with bags of common sense. And she’s funny and sharp-witted and feisty— I can’t bloody well get away with anything.”

Eve laughed. “True. You’ve certainly met your match.”

“But most of all, maybe, she looks at me like no one else has ever done. As if she sees through the bullshit and…”

“Sees you?”

“Yes.”

For me, writing a sequel is all about the art of seeing through to the potential of that which is already there. A key additional narrative asking to be seen is found in the supporting characters of Elizabeth and Angus McAlister, the much-loved elderly couple who provided the emotional bedrock in Highland Fling. What would happen if the stability they provided began to crumble? That question sparked the inspiration for the narrative thread that would poignantly resonate in Highland Whirl and bring everything and everyone together. In many ways, the McAlisters’ story provides a measure and a context of what a lifetime of love can be. We come to understand that lasting love is not boisterous or seeking of limelight. It is constant and has the breathtaking strength to weather life’s storms. 

“You are my beginning and my end. Thank you for being my love, my Elizabeth, and for receiving these carrots every year, when I know you would rather have a bunch of roses.”

Elizabeth took the soil smudged offering into her lap and rested her palm against his rosy cheek. “No, my sweetheart. What other wife has such a unique gift? And what other wife could ask for more than a life lived with you? I love you, Angus McAlister, with all my heart. Now please get off that cold floor with that knee of yours.”

Only time will tell if I can turn away and move on from the stories of Highland Fling and Highland Whirl now that another full stop has been placed. But I promise I will be listening for that next story, be it in the Highland series or otherwise, that will no doubt pester itself into life.

Copyright © 2016 – 2022 Anna Larner. All rights reserved.

 

Highland Whirl – Events and Giveaway


Available from Bold Strokes Books website 01st December 2021.
All other retailers 14th December 2021.

Here’s a look at what’s coming up ahead of the release of Highland Whirl.

The Lesbian Review Sneak Peak of Highland Whirl for Patrons.

Patrons will soon have access to the first two chapters of Highland Whirl before its release date.

Thursday 25th November, 8pm UK GMT
Chuckle & Chat with Nichols ‘n Nyx
Facebook Live Event, with Robyn Nyx, Emma Nichols and guests Anna Larner & T J Dallas

Friday 20th November
BSB UK Newsletter blog & giveaway of Highland Whirl.

Monday 29th November, 7pm UK GMT
Video Chat with authors Anna Larner and Brey Willows posted to BSB UK Facebook.

Saturday 27th November, 10pm UK GMT (5pm Eastern Time USA)

BSB Preview of December 2021 titles plus flash sale Facebook Live Event, with Amanda Radley, Brey Willows, Kathleen Knowles, Ana Hartnett Reichardt and Anna Larner

Tuesday 14th December

University of Leicester, Creative Writing blog site feature of Highland Whirl.

Tuesday 14th December
All Stars Book Club

Anna Larner interview with Zara Wood.

Book Announcement: Highland Whirl

September 01st 2021 Announcement: 

New Title from Anna Larner

I am pleased to announce my third novel, Highland Whirl, is scheduled for release in December 2021 from Bold Strokes Books and is now available to pre-order.

“When city girl about town Roxanne Barns reluctantly accepts a holiday invite to her best friend Eve’s birthday party in the Scottish Highlands, the last thing she expects is to fall for the very person she’s been dreading seeing again—the feisty Highlander, Alice Campbell.

The moment Alice learns that Roxanne is visiting her home hamlet of Newland, she couldn’t be more suspicious or defensive. A warm welcome is certainly not the plan, let alone falling in love.

Despite Eve’s warnings that Roxanne is not relationship material, Alice can’t ignore her growing attraction. She absolutely trusts Eve’s judgment, but taking her advice just might break Alice’s heart.

Highland Whirl reunites readers with the characters and landscape of Highland Fling in an emotionally enthralling story of trust, friendship, family, and love.”

“Any emotional border that had been briefly opened was now closed, and guards likely patrolled its perimeter. The country of Alice was once again an island with sharks in its seas and canons aimed at those who dared to trespass”. Highland Whirl by Anna Larner

Highland Whirl  – December, 2021

Publisher: BOLD STROKES BOOKS, Inc.

eBook ISBN-13  978-1-63555-893-7

Paperback ISBN-13  978-1-63555-892-0

Pre-order https://www.boldstrokesbooks.com/books/highland-whirl-by-anna-larner-3745-b

Information for UK booksellers: Distribution though PGUK.

© 2016 All rights reserved.

What’s On – LGBTQ BOOK FESTIVALS – 2020

No photo description available.

CLEXACON 2020

6th – 19th April

​Tropicana, 3801 Las Vegas Blvd S.
Las Vegas, NV 89109

Largest multi-fandom event for LGBTQ women and allies, ClexaCon brings together thousands of diverse LGBTQ fans and content creators from around the world to celebrate positive representation for LGBTQ women in the media.

Make sure to visit the Bold Strokes Books stalls/panels/readings.

Tickets and Info


South Coast Lesfic Hangout | 2020

2nd May @ 10:00 – 16:00
Crawley Horticultural Society,
Ilfield Avenue,
Crawley, West Sussex 
RH11 7AJ, 
United Kingdom.
Free for readers to attend. You’ll be able to meet authors, listen to readings, purchase books and merchandise. Great networking opportunity!

Info


queetheshelves

Waterstones Queer The Shelves Extravaganza 2020

5th June @ 11:00 – 19:00
Waterstones Nottingham,
1/5 Bridlesmith Gate,
Nottingham, NG1 2GR, 
United Kingdom.
A whole day of literary fun with a wide range of LGBTQ prose and poetry performers. Join a whole host of independent, YLVA and Bold Strokes Books authors. A day not to miss!

11th Annual Bold Strokes Books Festival UK (Saturday)

11th Annual Bold Strokes Books Festival UK 2020

6th June / 7th June  @  11.00 – 17:00
Waterstones Nottingham,
1/5 Bridlesmith Gate,
Nottingham, NG1 2GR, 
United Kingdom.
Join Bold Strokes Books authors for an amazing weekend of literature and laughs. Ask questions, hear us read from our latest work, buy exciting new LGBTQ fiction, and mingle with the authors in a friendly and relaxed atmosphere.
You can even pitch your work in progress!

GCLS | 16th Annual Conference

8th July – 12th July
Hotel Albuquerque at Old Town,
800 Rio Grande Boulevard NW
Albuquerque, NM87104
United States.
The GCLS’s annual conference is the premier lesbian literary event for both authors and readers. The event brings together readers, fans, writers, editors and publishers to celebrate lesbian-themed literature.

© 2016 All rights reserved.

Breaking down fun by Anna Larner — Bold Strokes Books, UK

The theme for this year’s BSB book festival blog tour is ‘fun’, and what the word means to us. Well, to be frank, I always approach the word ‘fun’ with the appropriate amount of cynicism and measured caution that the word deserves. This is because how I interpret the word ‘fun’ entirely depends on the […]

via Breaking down fun by Anna Larner — Bold Strokes Books, UK

Looking for something to read this Easter? The Lesbian Talk Show with Anna Larner – Author Reading

Looking for something to read over the Easter holidays – maybe in a beer garden with a pint or in the bath with a large glass of wine or flat out on the sofa with a cadbury creme egg?

Have a listen to me read from my new novel Love’s Portrait and see if it might be the book for you this Easter.

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The Lesbian Talk Show is podcast channel for women about women. 

Listen here 

 

Here’s what some lovely people have had to say so far…

Sparks fly between Molly, an art curator, and Georgina, her museum’s aloof benefactor, as they research the portrait of a 19th-century lesbian social activist and try to convince the museum’s board to display it. – Publishers Weekly

What an interesting book this has been! There is a passion that flows throughout the whole story and that surrounds you completely…it is really interesting and very, very recommendable. – Netgalley

I loved it, it’s got a bit of class and a gentle pace that curls around you. – Clare Lydon

It’s the perfect mixture of love, romance and belonging. – Kitty Kat’s Review Blog

It’s not too much of a leap to say that, if Jane Austen was writing lesbian romance fiction today, she might have come up with something akin to ‘Love’s Portrait’! – Goodreads

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© 2016 All rights reserved.

Love’s Portrait – 4 weeks until publication (April 2019)

Love's Portrait - Anna Larner 2018

Publishers Weekly Spring 2019 Announcements: Love’s Portrait by Anna Larner (April 2019, ISBN 978-1-63555-057-3). Sparks fly between Molly, an art curator, and Georgina, her museum’s aloof benefactor, as they research the portrait of a 19th-century lesbian social activist and try to convince the museum’s board to display it.

Context of extract:

Museum Curator Molly Goode (central character) has just attended a museum funding meeting with her boss Evelyn Fox and the Chairman of the Trustees Mark Drew. Her suggestions that the museum should focus on more diversity and community based projects are rebuffed in favour of securing the ongoing patronage of the Wright family, headed by Georgina Wright (central character).

Molly returns to her desk defeated and dispirited.

Molly returned to her office, dropped her notes back into the bin where they belonged, and slumped onto Fran’s desk with a heavy sigh.

“You’re sitting on my sandwich.” Fran pushed at Molly’s hip, encouraging her to stand.

“I’ve sat on your lunch? Oh my God, could this day get any worse?” Molly held Fran’s baguette, squishy in her hands. It was now less buoyant baguette and more flatbread and pretty much summed up her morning.

Fran stood with a groan. “Want anything from the cafe?”

Molly looked down, crestfallen, and shook her head.

“I take it the meeting wasn’t exactly a great success.” Fran rested a motherly hand on Molly’s shoulder.

She couldn’t bring herself to mention the annex let alone that she had prompted the idea of a dedicated exhibition in the first place. “Honestly it was chilling to hear them. Everything’s about money or status to them. I thought museums were for and about the people.”

“You’re sounding more like a social historian every day,” Fran said, with an approving nod. “Although isn’t the art world, your world, all about that—status?”

“Not for me.”

“Good for you.” Fran placed her hands on her hips. “I think we need cake.”

“Have lunch in the square with me?”

“Sorry, no can do, I’ve a shopping list longer than David Attenborough’s career. But I’ll see you later. So what will it be—Victoria Sponge or, better still, eclairs?”

Molly mustered a smile. “How about both?”

“Good choice.” Fran turned back at the door. “Do you remember what I said to you when you first started at the museum? That you will always feel disheartened if your approach is to work against them?”

Molly nodded.

“The trick, if there is a trick”—Fran frowned slightly—“is somehow to find a way to achieve what you believe is right but that still delivers for the powers that be.”

“So is this how you handle Evelyn?”

“On my good days, yes. On my bad days, lots of rude words shouted at the top of my lungs in the privacy of the ladies’ loo.”

Molly giggled. “Right. Noted.”

The instant Fran closed the door, Molly was engulfed by images of the chairman with his expression of vacuous power, his mane-like hair swept back, his tie tight against his collar moving with his throat as he spoke. He was confident in a bullish way that suggested at his heart he was insecure. His insecurity made him dangerous, and if she was not mistaken, that was likely the source of his power and influence—not his knowledge, not his experience, but the fragility of his ego, charming when stroked, ferociously defensive when challenged.

Evelyn seemed to be a master at managing him, stroking to calm and cajole. She appealed to his competitive nature by presenting the museum as a place of excellence. A leading institution, indeed. She was the consummate manager of people.

Molly closed her eyes at the image of Evelyn with her pen raised to silence her. Her temper rose. She needed to find a place to shout rude words.

Leaving the frustrations of her meeting behind, she headed to her sanctuary, a small public garden next to the museum. Aptly named Museum Square, the simply designed square patch of civic ground was bordered on two sides by parked cars. A collection of benches placed around the inside edge of the square separated the grass from wide borders. A diagonal path, broken up by tree roots, stretched across, splitting halfway along to encircle a large horse chestnut tree. This tree marked the seasons, signalling the changing patterns of the year. In winter, bare and stark against white skies, the tree seemed to shrink, huddled with those brave or crazy enough to stop awhile and sit. In spring, tentative buds relaxed in the welcome return of the first rays of sunshine. In summer, students rested against its weathered waist reading their books, cool in the shade of branches laden with the soft flutter of green leaves. And in autumn, the debris of crushed conkers bashed free from its branches, littering the ground with evidence of battles won and lost and of time passing as the empty husks curled and browned.

She cherished those moments spent sitting on her favourite bench eating her sandwiches, with her lunchbox at her side and with the sprawling horse chestnut her faithful companion.

Basking in the calm stillness of the beautiful September day, she took off her shoes and let the grass brush against the soles of her feet. She lifted her chin to the cloudless sky. The air was changing from the dry sandy notes of summer to the sweet musk of autumn. The leaves above her were fading, and their greens had softened to mossy shades from vibrant lime. Even the midday light beaming through the canopy seemed weaker now, less luminous, its strongest rays falling on another person sitting on another bench, in another square, in another land.

 

*Now available to buy at the Bold Strokes Books webstore*

*Now available to pre-order at Amazon*

ISBN-13  978-1-63555-058-0 ebook

ISBN-13 978-1-63555-057-3 paperback


© 2016 All rights reserved. No reproduction without written permission.

Thoughts From The Bold Strokes Books Festival May 2018

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All You Need Is Love – Panel Discussion with Anna Larner, VK Powell, Renee Roman, Mickey Brent, Aurora Rey, Gun Brooke, Dena Blake and Barbara Ann Wright (L-R)

Why love stories as opposed to any other kind of story?

I write love stories because it’s simply in my heart to write stories about a woman falling in love with another woman.

I can still remember feeling very lonely and isolated by my sexuality, not seeing myself portrayed positively in literature, art or the media – so to now write stories about women falling in love means the world to me.

Also love is such a rich subject matter to write about. How a person reacts to love tells us so much about them. It draws out a person’s values, bringing out the best and the worst in all of us.

Why do you think romances get such flack from the other genre writers? Are they just jealous?

Some people argue that if a writer chooses to write lesbian romance, accepting that they are working within its formula, that their ambition as a writer is limited in both depth and scope by such a focus, and that the subject of romance is superficial.

I wholeheartedly disagree with this. There’s nothing superficial about attempting to capture the romantic essence of love. It is incredibly hard and takes tremendous skill.

A well-written lesbian romance which brings joy and consolation is a success and surely a book should be judged by the impact it has on its readers.

Like every other story romances can be boiled down to finding reasons why two attractive people cannot immediately have sex and ride off into the sunset together. What do you layer your stories with to make them unique while still hitting the must-have romance tropes?

I’ve been privileged to be part of a local Heritage Lottery funded project called ‘Untold Stories’ recording the oral histories of older LGBT people in the Leicestershire area. What I learnt from this experience is that our sexuality is so personal, our experiences are so varied, however there are certain common themes.

Lesbians throughout history and today have struggled with self-acceptance, family acceptance and society’s acceptance.

And I want to capture this on the page in an engaging and entertaining way.

So in Highland Fling I write an authentic representation for those lesbians who discovered their sexuality at a time when there was no such thing as ‘glad to be gay’ and how this defining experience colours their choices. But as with all hard subject matters there is great poignancy in the humour that can be found.

For my current work in progress Love’s Portrait, I write a contemporary love story highlighting the need for visibility of our LGBT history. This is set in the context of a museum when often the sexuality of the subject matter is omitted. I know we are not just our sexuality but it is a big part of how we experience life and it shouldn’t be airbrushed out or overlooked.

Have you ever tried to write a couple who just didn’t work? What did you end up doing with this story if so? If not, what is it that makes your couples always work in the end?

The main characters in Highland Fling, Moira and Eve, on paper shouldn’t work.  They are very different women – different ages, different geographical background, different lifestyle, and have made different life choices. Highland Fling hinges on this very tension.

But when you find ‘the one’ you fight for love, you compromise, you see the other person’s perspective, and you want to make things better.

So how I make them work is that Eve simply gets Moira, she fundamentally understands her. Eve is wise beyond her years and has a way of simplifying and unpicking the complex.

“All we have is right now, and I want to spend all of my right nows with you.”

It is Eve’s compassion that builds the bridge between them and it’s her dogged determination to fight for their love that wins the day.

If you have multiple sex scenes in your works, how do you keep them from being monotonous? If you have any couples who have been together for a long time, how do you keep their relationship fresh and exciting?

Each sex scene is fused into the emotional journey of the characters. When they give in to their innermost needs these scenes are the critical turning points in the story.

Sex is not just sex it is the story itself.

Have you ever written a couple who got along so beautifully, you were a little jealous? Has another writer’s work every made you feel this way?

In my current work in progress Love’s Portrait museum curator Molly Goode and benefactor Georgina Wright are really lovely together.

Molly’s passion and determination to uncover hidden histories and champion diversity within the museum sector wins the respect of her bosses and the heart of the woman she loves.

Yes, many authors work. Here’s three examples – Quinn & Honor in Radclyffe’s Fated love; Poppy & Rosalyn in Clare Ashton’s Poppy Jenkins, and Liza & Annie in Nancy Garden’s Annie on My Mind.

Photos from the Bold Strokes Books Festival, May 2018…

 

 

 

© 2016 All rights reserved. No reproduction without written permission.