The Big Red Chair gets high on the seventies…
My latest guest was born of academia, wanted to be a cat burglar, got high through the seventies (one is desperate to ask was it good?) hates diets but has never ever had a surfeit of life and in addition writes killingly observant blogs on the world of writing. Not only that, her latest book, Food Of Love, is amongst other things an homage to chocolate.
The Vicar of Dibley and I love her!
May I present Anne R Allen.
1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?
My parents were both academics, so I grew up in college towns, most of them in the northeast of the US. I was born in Ann Arbor, MI, home of the University of Michigan, then moved to New Haven, CT, when my Dad landed a job at Yale, then on to Waterville ME, seat of Colby College, then Middletown, CT, home of Wesleyan University. I got my degree at Bryn Mawr College and did some graduate work at Harvard. But I knew early on that academia wasn’t for me. In fact, a professor once said she’d only give me a passing grade in Latin Composition if promised never to pursue an academic career. She could tell I was getting strangled by all that ivy.
2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?
When I was twelve I wanted to be a cat burglar. I was pretty sure about that. I loved those caper movies about jewel heists that were popular in the 1960’s and 70s, and I loved sparkly objects and climbing on things, so I figured it was a perfect fit.
At eighteen I wanted to be high, mostly. Did I mention it was the seventies?
At thirty, I wanted to be an actress. I’d moved to California by then and was acting in a lot of plays and getting extra work in a few films.
3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?
That I needed a man in my life to be happy.
4. What were three big events – in the family circle or on the world stage or in your reading life, for example – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced you in your career path?
1) My parents had a volatile marriage, so I’d hide in books to get away from the quarrelling. I remember that when my mother told me the “facts of life” when I was about eight, I told her they were irrelevant to me because I was never going to get married. I planned to live in a little cottage by the sea and write novels and a husband and children would simply get in the way. That’s pretty much what I’ve done. With a twenty-five year detour in the theatre.
2) My father died soon after my 40th birthday and left me a little money. I thought I could live on it until I got “established” as a writer. Little did I know that would take a decade and a half and a whole lot of part-time jobs.
3) I finally got a book accepted by a small UK publisher. I left everything and went to live in the English Midlands for three years. Became a rabid Anglophile. Unfortunately, the owner of the company died under mysterious circumstances and the company went under. (Yes, I have written a novel about it: it’s called SHERWOOD, LTD. Coming out in November. )
5. Considering the innumerable electronic media avenues open to you- – blogs, online newspapers, TV, radio, etc – why have you chosen to write a book? Aren’t they obsolete?
Books are alive and well on Kindle. I recently read that all-over book sales have increased in the past year. But I also love writing (and reading) blogs.
6. Please tell us about your latest book…
FOOD OF LOVE is a comic thriller about a former supermodel now married to the ruler of a small Monaco-like country. Someone is trying to kill her, and she figures it’s her husband, since she’s been getting fat. She seeks refuge with her foster sister, a conservative African American talk show host, although they haven’t got on for years. But of course the assassin keeps trying to get her. Mostly the book is about the one thing that unites women of all races and cultures: the need to diminish ourselves by dieting. It’s also about chocolate. And friendship, and long-buried family secrets. Plus a hot KGB agent and a small nuclear bomb.
7. If your work could change one thing in this world – what would it be?
For women to stop dieting and give up trying to look like prepubescent boys. Diets make you fat. I’m living proof. I starved myself all those years in the theatre, and when I hit middle age and ate normally, I ballooned.
* Hear, hear, Anne. I hate diets which is why I eat chocolate and drink wine and enjoy desserts…
8. Whom do you most admire and why?
I admire a whole lot of writers. Kurt Vonnegut is pretty close to the top of my list. He was fierce right up to the end. He wrote such perfect prose and made it look easy. And he showed us what is absurd and pointless in our culture, like war.
10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
Consider another line of work. Something more lucrative. Like thinking up useful things to make from dryer lint. Sorry. Don’t mean to be negative. But I wish I’d been more realistic about the writing life when I started.
Seriously, the best piece of advice I can give any writer is to READ. It’s terrifying how many people think they can be writers when they don’t read. There was a recent New Yorker piece about it. http://imprint.printmag.com/buzz-poole/the-consequences-of-writing-without-reading/
11.What are the last five websites you visited?
1) www.amazon.com and 2) www.amazon.co.uk to see my book up there. So cool, since I’ve been out of print for six years. 3) www.MarkWilliamsInternational.com because I’m guest posting there. 4) This site, to see if my answers are crazier than your previous guests. 5) My iGoogle page, to see how much my investments have tanked today.
12. What is your guiltiest pleasure that few know about?
I sometimes watch a horrible reality show called “Hoarders.” It’s about people whose lives have been completely tragified by their inability to give up stuff. I think it makes me feel better about the fact I hate to clean my house.
But if anybody asks, I don’t watch reality TV, ever. Right? I really do disapprove of TV that takes work away from writers.
(Well I do! I’m a Survivor, Amazing Race, Bachelor, Bachelorette, Farmer Wants a Wife and Masterchef fan)
13. If music be the food of love, what do you think writing is and please explain your answer?
As Princess Regina says in my book, “If Mr. Shakespeare had spent more time with women, he’d have known that the food of love is not music, but chocolate.”
For me, writing is the food of my soul. It’s what I live for. But I kind of wish it weren’t. It’s so solitary. I had so many friends when I was acting. I could pick up the phone and get 150 people to show up the next night for a party. Now I’m lucky if I can find the phone numbers of 20 people who remember who I am.
My own comment is that solitude can be difficult. Most times I love it as I think I’m socially inept at the very least or worst, just a grump. But sometimes I just get fed up and suffer cabin fever and walk out into the big wide world and smile at everyone!
Anne, thank you so much for sitting in the chair, for sharing my chocolate and for being outrageously and refreshingly honest. You are in the company of other wonderful BRC-ers of the same ilk! Can’t wait to purchase Food of Love and best of luck with it!