I’m very pleased to welcome Alison Gray to the blog today! Hibiscus Fruit, Alison’s second novel, was published on Friday 12th September and shot right to the top of my to-be-read-list. Watch the video trailer and you’ll see why:
Alison and I met online, but a few weeks ago we met in real life too, at the Edinburgh Book Festival. I asked her some questions about her writing.
How did you come to write Hibiscus Fruit?
In 2011 I wrote a descriptive scene about a young woman and her son who is playing on the beach. They find an elderly man in some distress in the heat, and help him. This piece was a catalyst for the story that developed into Hibiscus Fruit, although the original scene does not appear in the novel. I developed the story idea from the scene to pitch at the Theakstons Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate in 2012. After receiving a favourable response to that pitch, I developed and wrote the whole story.
How important is the setting?
The setting is very important. My main character Abigail Foulkes and her family live in Newcastle upon Tyne, and the other English characters live in Mayfen village in Northumberland. But in Hibiscus Fruit they are displaced by being on holiday on the Greek island of Skiathos. During the story their personal reasons for being on the island become apparent as they have a past connection to Skiathos, so the present mystery is tied up with the past.
How do you go about the writing process?
I begin with an idea only – it may come from a scene, a character or an event in the world where or when the novel is set. With this idea I begin to write and the story develops. Each day that I write, I review what I have written before so I can move the story forward consistently. I would love to plan a novel completely before I begin to write it but I haven’t yet mastered that skill and I’m not sure if I will.
What’s the best thing about being an author?
The best thing is being able to create full stories from the scenes you imagine in your head, and gift these stories to others.
And the worst thing?
The worst thing is the dilemma between spending time in your imaginary world and spending time in the real world with all its commitments.
Any funny moments?
My cat provides light relief by sitting on the keyboard and preventing me from writing, and by peering at me from behind the monitor as I write, as this distracts me and makes me laugh!
Your own favourite book/author/genre?
I have many favourite books and I love reading mysteries, thrillers and suspense stories. My favourite author would be Eleanor Hibbert. I love the mystery, suspense and historical information in her novels. She wrote a lot of books under a number of pseudonyms including Jean Plaidy, Victoria Holt, Phillippa Carr and Eleanor Burford. If I aspired to be like anyone, it would be her because she was so prolific and her stories are a joy to read.
What are your hobbies away from writing?
I love spending time in nature – whether in my own garden, or in the wider world – at the coast, on a mountain, in a forest. I also love reading, and watching films, dramas and documentaries. I’m mindful of the amount of sitting down that I do as a technical worker at work and a creative writer at home, so I go to pilates and yoga classes, and enjoy cycling.
What advice would you give an aspiring author?
Learn all that you can about writing, editing and publishing. Make connections with other writers and learn from them. Find out what you want to write about and what you want to achieve as a writer and then do that. Aim to be satisfied in yourself with what you do, and enjoy your writing.
Plans for the future?
I’m working on the second in the DS Abby Foulkes series now. It’s called Lady’s Slipper and is set in the north east of England. As in Hibiscus Fruit, it deals with past actions impacting on the present. For the future I have another character with a story to tell – Hanne Jensen – a young Danish girl who becomes involved in activist activity once out of the care system in Denmark. And further into the future I am thinking of a historical series set in the middle lands which span the land on either side of Hadrian’s Wall, from York up to Fife.
Hibiscus Fruit is available in paperback and ebook – click on the cover to go to Alison’s Amazon page, or visit her Thriller and Crime website!