My Guest, Mr. Allen!
Mr. Allen: I am married to Louise Allen and she writes “Scandalously witty Regency romance.” – that is her description as displayed on her website: she certainly seems to do plenty of giggling when writing. And heavy breathing . . .
Mr. Allen: I retired early from gainful employment, and now I’m pit crew for Louise. I worked in the biological sciences at London Zoo, Cambridge University and ended my career at Cranfield University. I’ve always been involved in the hands-on practical side of things rather than the more academic. In my free time I enjoy motor sport, as a spectator or marshal. Travelling with Louise on holiday and to assist in her research (or, even better, both at once) lets me indulge another enthusiasm for food and drink. I also enjoy photography, bird watching and gardening, although Louise does all of the garden designing and I mostly dig the holes where I’m told to. Having said that, I do have a small vegetable plot for the first time in many years. So far I have harvested one tomato and one zucchini and a lot of snails.
Mr. Allen: We met early in our first term at Durham University. Before the internet, universities must have been the best dating agencies ever created. What convinced me she was THE ONE is truly impossible to say. We dated for a while and then split up for reasons I have forgotten, and I then realized that there was a huge hole in my life that Louise filled perfectly. She still does.
Mr. Allen: We were at home when the letter arrived. I think my initial reactions were: a) congratulations, someone has at last recognized your talent (by this stage she had had eight scripts rejected), b) have we any champagne to celebrate properly, and finally c) how much are they paying you? (I have always wanted to be a kept man). As it turned out, for the first novel, it wasn’t much more than the bottle of champagne cost.
Mr. Allen: OK, confession time. I have not read any of Louise’s books. I have read the occasional page, but that’s all. This started with my not wanting to know too much about the secret workings of Louise’s sub-conscious, and finally turned into a superstition. I worry that if I do start to read them it will somehow affect what she does, and I would hate to do that. So the answer to the question is that I haven’t got the faintest idea.
Mr. Allen: All I can say with any certainty is that it was at an undergraduate party, and drink had been consumed and the details are hazy! I hope that I behaved in a reasonably civilized manner. (Louise says it was a mixture of a & d).
d) A gathering of lords and ladies.
Mr. Allen: According to Louise, one of my best features is that I have no interest whatsoever in the vast majority of ball games. Soccer leaves me absolutely cold. I enjoy watching International rugby but don’t understand the rules – but then, it seems to me, neither does anyone else. Cricket is an endlessly fascinating game, best watched by listening to the commentary on the radio. ‘Balls’ now conjures up images of Regency Lords and Ladies being ever so elegant in Assembly Rooms the length and breadth of the country. Also, the Duchess of Richmond’s Ball on the eve of the Battle of Waterloo, the location of which I was expected to track down in the streets of modern Brussels.
Mr. Allen: Louise’s first book was published in 1986, but I suppose that I must have been a RH for a few years before that while she was trying to get accepted. Advice to the new RH – be patient. A baby takes 9 months from conception to production, novels take much longer and can be just as stressful. If she asks you to read something, do so and offer an honest critique. DO NOT say “ Oh that’s wonderful, dear” if it isn’t or you will run the risk of marital disharmony when someone else, an editor or agent, criticizes it. As for deadlines….offer as much support as the writer will accept. Keep her supplied with food, tea and biscuits, gin and tonic, chocolate – whatever she feels she needs. Take the blame when she gets on the scales once the deadline is reached. Do not expect to find that the laundry has been done and your socks miraculously paired up in the appropriate drawer. Learn where the washing machine, dishwasher, vacuum cleaner are and how to use them. Learn to cook. Or starve. I’ve just been on a course to learn how to make bread. If, when delivering tea, G&T or whatever, you find that she is playing Solitaire, or on Facebook or Twitter, do not get downhearted. This is known as ‘Thinking time.’ Mind you, if you go back an hour later to collect the empty cups, glasses, plates etc and there still no evidence of work, I think you are definitely on your own.
Mr. Allen: This happens so many times at workshops and talks to readers. There are two stock answers. Either ‘She uses her imagination based on her experiences,’ (plus smug smile) if you feel that you can brazen it out, or you ask in return whether they think that crime writers base their work on their personal experiences of murder most foul. That usually gives them pause to think.
Mr. Allen: I can’t comment – but Louise says there is a bit of me in all of the heroes. I like to think those are the dashing/romantic/very rich /handsome bits, but I wonder…
Mr. Allen: We are both tracing our family trees. As part of our research we have discovered that in Louise’s ancestry there are two highwaymen who were hanged for their misdemeanors, and a woman who poisoned her husband on Christmas day with a cake made with rat poison. So far I haven’t seen any evidence of these character traits in Louise, but then, I do all the cooking….
Mr. Allen: Louise has two trilogies beginning this month. In the States there is The Transformation of the Shelley Sisters which traces the lives of three sisters from a repressive country vicarage who take their destinies into their own hands despite scandal and heartbreak. The first (August) book, Practical Widow to Passionate Mistress has been described by The Romantic Times as an “addictive read” and follows the middle sister, Meg, as she takes drastic action to return to England after being widowed in Spain during the Peninsula war. The trilogy continues with Vicar’s Daughter to Viscount’s Lady (September) and Innocent Courtesan to Adventurer’s Bride.
Buy at Amazon.com
In the UK there is Danger and Desire which follows the fate of four of the passengers on an East India Company ship wrecked on the Isles of Scilly in 1808. The first (August) is Ravished by the Rake, the story of Lady Perdita Brooke, a lady haunted by scandal, and the dangerously tempting Lord Alistair Lyndon, a man who holds the key to her most devastating secret. Seduced by the Scoundrel (September) and Married to a Stranger (October) complete the trilogy.
Buy at Amazon.co.uk
(Published in the States in 2012)
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Mr. DiPasqua: It was a pleasure interviewing you, Mr. Allen. That’s a great giveaway! Okay, folks, let’s hear your responses! :)