I first met Devon author, Alison Huntingford, when I won one of her books in a Facebook competition and we quickly became friends on social media. As well as a short story called Someone Else, Alison has written two historical fiction books called The Glass Bulldog and A Ha’penny Will Do.
I know Alison’s writing career keeps her busy, so I’m delighted she has found the time to stop and chat with me and without further ado, I’d like to welcome her to my blog.
Good morning, Alison, I thought we might start by learning a bit more about you. Perhaps you could tell me a bit about yourself?
I have a degree in Humanities with Literature and have always enjoyed reading, especially the great writers of the 19th Century, such as Charles Dickens and Thomas Hardy. A great deal of my working life has been spent teaching English and maths to young people in the workplace. Frequently I have found myself trying to pass on my love of the classics to people who were born in the 21st Century. It’s been a hard task but if I have imparted even the tiniest bit of enthusiasm, then I feel I have achieved something.
I have done many different jobs in my working life, from nursing to shelf filling and everything in-between! Having lived long enough now, I realise that life very rarely goes to plan.
Recently, I have started up the South Hams Authors Network in South Devon, to support and encourage other local authors like myself. I believe that if we all can connect in a friendly and open way then we can help each other to achieve great things. We have given library readings, radio and press interviews and attended events.
What inspired you to start writing?
My inspiration for my books comes from the research I have done into my own family history. The reason I have been so fascinated by this is mostly because I am the only child of two only children, which means I have no brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts or cousins! The more I looked into my family history the more I realised what amazing stories there were of real people struggling to survive.
What do you enjoy most about writing?
I love it when I am inspired to write. That doesn’t always happen but sometimes words come into my head (usually when I am doing something else like ironing or driving!) and then I just have to get them down on paper. The best time is when my writing hand cannot keep up with the speed of my thoughts.
Do you like reading the same type of books that you write?
Yes, I do but I also enjoy fantasy and science fiction. (My short stories are usually of this genre, but my novels are not). I love the 19th-century literature of Dickens, Hardy, Jane Austen, the Bronte’s etc.
Have you self published any of your books?
Yes, I self-published my short novella Someone Else because it was really too short to approach a publisher with. I found the formatting quite difficult, and wouldn’t be too keen to do a full-length novel this way. However, I found the quality of the paperbacks to be good.
Did you find it difficult to find a publisher? How did you go about this and what advice can you give to other authors?
Yes, it was difficult to find a publisher, because the mainstream publishers will not allow you to submit directly to them, only through an agent, and agents are hard to get. They have a never-ending stream of manuscripts to go through and only take those that they think will sell.
I finally got published through a hybrid deal with Austin Macauley who also published my first novel, The Glass Bulldog. They have produced an excellent product and have a good distribution which always helps. The only advice I can give to other authors is to keep looking around and keep trying! Don’t give up.
What was your favourite book as a child?
I loved the books of Enid Blyton, and in particular, the ‘adventure’ series. My favourite was probably “The Valley of Adventure”. I still read them now!
We have something in common there, Alison because as a child, Enid Blyton was my favourite author too, and also the “adventure” series. I agree “The Valley of Adventure” is good but I think my favourite was “The Mountain of Adventure”. It’s interesting to hear that you still read the books now because it’s a long time since I enjoyed the company of Philip and Dinah, Jack and Lucy-Ann, and of course, Kiki, the parrot. In fact, I think I might read those books again one day.
How many drafts do your books generally go through before publication?
My books only go through a couple of drafts with me – one handwritten, then one typed up. However, there were several drafts from the publishers after proofreading and editing, which I had to check carefully and approve.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I love listening to music (especially world and folk) and watching films (especially old black and white melodrama). I also have a husband and pets – five cats and a rabbit – who take up a lot of time. Gardening is very therapeutic for me as well, and I enjoy growing vegetables.
What was your favourite subject at school – and which was the lesson you always wanted to avoid?
English was always my favourite lesson, I even loved Shakespeare! I was no good at sport and did everything I could to avoid it! I’m not a very athletic person.
That’s definitely something else we have in common, Alison. I did not like sport at school and must confess I also tried my hardest to avoid it – usually unsuccessfully!
Where is your favourite place on earth and why?
My home and garden in Ivybridge, Devon. I especially like the small woodland area at the bottom of my garden, it gives me a sense of peace. There is a huge tree with a little stream nearby.
Why did you use diaries, letters and memoirs to tell the story of ‘A Ha’penny Will Do’?
I felt this gave a very personal insight into each character’s experiences and feelings. This book is unusual, I think, in that it does not have standard chapters. Each diary entry, letter or memory is a separate entry; some are very short, some much longer. I wanted it to feel like you were listening to their own thoughts. One person who reviewed it said: “it gives the reader a peek into their emotions, so intimately that one can almost participate in their conversations!” The whole novel is written in the first person, and I liked the idea of three narrators seeing the same things from different perspectives.
Thank you, Alison, for taking the time to talk to me. I wish you every success with all of your books.
Readers, you can find Alison on the following links: