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…

 

 

 

 

 

© 2016 All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

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Love’s Portrait – Teaser

Love's Portrait - Anna Larner 2018

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 placed 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 to 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 on his face, 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 half way 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 in the cool shade of branches laden with the soft flutter of green leaves. And in autumn the debris of crushed conkers bashed free from its branches litter the ground evidence of battles won and lost and of time passing as the empty husks curl and brown.

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 grasses brush against the soles of her feet. Tipping her head 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 pre-order at the Bold Strokes Books webstore*

 


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

 

 

Anthology of Poetry and Prose “We want to tell you how …”

We Want cover front

I am delighted to be a part of this wonderful anthology of poetry and prose celebrating women’s loves, lives and landmarks.

Fourteen women have contributed to this anthology. We share our experiences of love and life … and the landmarks that mark our progress through our lives … in our own very varied styles, using poetry and prose.

The anthology is published by Paradise Press.
ISBN 978-1-904585-89-3

144 pages          £7.99

Published:   March, 2018

 

We want to tell you how … contains deeply heartfelt, pain-fully honest, and beautifully written pieces of writing. For those who have ever lived with hope or regret, you will find your own story amongst these pages. —Clare Summerskill

 

 

 

 

 


© 2016 All rights reserved.

DIVA Literary Festival

DIVA Literary FestivalI’m thrilled to be taking part in the inaugural DIVA Literary Festival and Awards which are taking place at the Hilton Metropole, NEC Birmingham on 3rd/4th/5th November 2017.

The weekend will begin on the Friday evening with the DIVA Literary Awards and continue with two days full of book readings, writing workshops, panel discussions, poetry readings and much more.

Come and perhaps discover your new favourite writers!

Radio DIVA Interview

To tempt your appetite for the weekend listen here to me chatting with Rosie Wilby and Heather Peace on Radio DIVA.

I chat about my debut novel Highland Fling, my publisher Bold Strokes Books and my excitement about the upcoming DIVA Literary Festival. (from 42mins)

I look forward to seeing you there …

 

Saturday Nov 4th 10:30 – 11:15 
LEADING LADIES
Iconic literary characters live on in readers’ memories for all time. Bold Strokes Books authors explore the challenges involved in creating memorable characters and discuss strategies for making characters unique, non-traditional, and unforgettable.

Sunday Nov 5th 12:45 – 13:30
GENRE BENDING
From Fantasy to Adventure to Romance, Bold Strokes Books authors discuss what drew them to write in their particular genre(s). What are the similarities between genres? Where is there overlap? Do genre conventions matter?

 

Thoughts From The Bold Strokes Books Festival June 2017

Talk To Me - Writing Good Dialogue
Writing Good Dialogue Panel

 

“Writing good dialogue”

Here are some of the ways I think good dialogue contributes to a story:-

 

 

  • It can entertain – enlivening the prose and engaging the reader.
  • It can move an aspect of the plot or narrative forward in a way which, because it is absorbed within the ‘chat’, feels light and digestible – meeting the wise adage of show not tell.
  • It can impart information about a character, allowing the reader to: ‘hear’ the character’s unique voice; ‘see’ their mannerisms; and ‘understand’ their emotions/reactions.
  • It can reveal how a character can change depending on who they’re talking to, illuminating the distinct relationship between characters. For example, a character chatting with their best mate might have ‘banter’, but the same character with their lover may have much more intense dialogue.
  • It can heighten the potency and the impact of a character’s internal thoughts, at times playing with the unspoken monologues. For example, when a character thinks one thing but says the opposite.
  • Particularly if the piece is written in third person, where you have a silent narrator if you like, it can cleverly allow the writer to say things the narrator can’t. Dialogue lends a character a dangerous independence.

So here’s a checklist of some of the things I think about when I’m writing dialogue:-

  1. Does the style of the dialogue I’m writing match the personality of my character? Is the ‘voice’ authentic to them?
  2. Does the tone and content of the dialogue fit the moment in the narrative? Are the characters saying the right thing, in the right manner, at the right time?
  3. Is the content of the dialogue engaging and informative, and will it help my reader better understand either the character and/or the plot?
  4. Is the dialogue easy to read – does it flow?
  5. Will the reader know at all times who is speaking and what is going on?
  6. Have I been careful not to overuse dialogue tags – those speech tags attributing dialogue, actions, and emotions to a particular character?
  7. Have I remembered that the pauses or pregnant silences can be as important as what is actually being said – the natural rhythm of speech if you like.

Top tip:-

Try sitting in public spaces and listen to people chatting. Hear how they interrupt each other, how they might begin on one subject and end on another, how passionate or flat their tone is.

Can you (without looking of course) imagine what they look like, what their life might be like?  What is distinctive about them – is it their accent, the pace of their speech, is their language – informal or formal?

And finally – listen to your characters chatting in your head (and they do!), let your writing be their voice.

 


 

“Thoughts about ‘Conflict’ in fiction writing”

 

Moderating the Conflict Panel
Danger, Conflict, Uh-Oh Panel

In works of narrative, ‘Conflict’ is the opposition main characters must face to achieve their goals.1

A writer might employ two forms of conflict to create the tension which drives the narrative. Conflict may be ‘internal’ or ‘external’ – it may occur within a character’s mind, most commonly revealed in their internal debates or monologues or between a character and exterior forces, for example in conflict with another person or the world around them.

Writers will often employ both forms at once, as a combined tool, for the development of plot and character.

To avoid the conflict feeling forced or unbelievable a writer will embed the conflict at the heart of the novel, so that it is an integral element and arises organically and effortlessly.

Conflict creates drama and interest in a novel by setting seeds of doubt, it keeps the reader guessing, it invests the reader in the outcome, and keeps them turning the pages again and again…

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conflict_(narrative)

 

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

Lesbian Lives Conference 2017

lesbian-lives-conferenceI’m excited to be presenting a paper at the Lesbian Lives Conference. (Brighton, Friday 24th February 2017).

Session Title: Permutations of Lesbian Love in Popular Fiction.

The title of my paper is Compelled to write – A writer’s perspective on the question ‘why do we write stories of lesbian love?’

Invitation to have your say!

It would be great to hear from other published authors as to ‘what compels you to write stories of lesbian love?’

I have created a short poll for you to complete. You can select one or as many of the reasons that are applicable to you. You can also add your own reason in ‘other’. All votes are anonymous. My paper will be published on my site after the conference.

It is important that you confirm in the poll below that you are a published author (this includes self-published authors) who writes stories about lesbian love.

Not restricted to lesbian romance genre.

Thank you for taking the time to participate!

Closing date: 11th February 2017

Poetry – On Reflection

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Poetry Reading at Polari, Shout Festival, mac Birmingham 2016

On Reflection

If we were to meet again, I would say

sorry today, for then, when mad with love,

deranged with passion, all reason astray,

I cried ‘I love you!’ Three words – not enough.

 

So I left flowers to wilt at your door,

composed mixed tapes, wrote odes, baked cakes, your name

on my lips, in my brain. ‘Be mine’ I implored,

as I failed exams, missed deadlines, endured pain.

 

I lost sleep, got sick, felt weak, refused to

see sense – still convinced that you could be mine.

And through it all, silent, wise and kind, you

knew the one answer for me would be time.

 

You were so gentle with your rejection.

Yes, I can see that now, on reflection.


We Want cover front

‘On Reflection’ has been published by Paradise Press as part of We want to tell you how… a wonderful anthology of poetry and prose celebrating women’s loves, lives and landmarks.

‘We want to tell you how … contains deeply heartfelt, pain-fully honest, and beautifully written pieces of writing. For those who have ever lived with hope or regret, you will find your own story amongst these pages.’ —Clare Summerskill

 

ISBN 978-1-904585-89-3

 

AB8B0E10-A38E-4B5F-9D90-5FCF6A04D4DF

 

‘On Reflection’ has also been published by Leicester University’s Centre for New Writing in a pamphlet and online.

ISBN 978-1-9997526-2-0

 

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