I met the lovely Ann Biggins at the Indie Literary Festival in Bradford earlier this year. I was very interested to hear about Ann’s debut novel, especially so as it’s set in the 1970s, which was when I was growing up. Here she gives us more of an insight:
Q. Your book is called Losing Jane and is set in the 1970s. Can you tell us a little bit about it?
A. Losing Jane is a story about the friendship between two girls, Jane and Kim, who first meet at the age of ten and follows their journey through adolescence and into adulthood. It is actually a story I have wanted to tell for more than forty years.
Q. Why did you choose to set your book in the ‘70s?
A. It was always going to be part memoir and when I started writing I wanted to recreate the memories I had of that decade and what it was like growing up in this ‘different time’.
Q. What did you most enjoy about writing in that era?
A. Probably like lots of people my age I am very nostalgic for a time when I was first discovering who I was. The 1970s was a very colourful decade when for me the world opened up. All the things that are still big things for teenagers today – secondary school, makeup, the opposite sex, the first taste of independence but I found I could relive my own teenage years as I talked about the fashion and music of the decade.
Q. Where do you get your ideas from?
A. It can be from anywhere really, a thought a dream, overhearing conversations. I do like to ask myself, “What if?” a lot. When I start writing I treat myself to a new A3 note book. It has to be that size so it can fit in my handbag and I take it around everywhere with me. My LJ book is in a A4 plastic wallet now as it burst its spine well before the book was finished. It’s full of notes and memos to myself, the odd newspaper cutting, terrible sketches, old photographs, names taken from walks around graveyards, calendars and datelines…
Q. Can you tell us about your journey to publication?
A. Once I had decided that I wanted to put my story out there and see if anyone thought it was worth reading, I looked into what I needed to do to go down the traditional publishing route. I was just about to turn 60 and knew that having made the decision to ‘show and tell’ I needed to get on with it. However after a year of waiting for agent’s responses and suggestions of changes and rewrites, target audiences and how my story didn’t have a particularly wide appeal, I was losing heart. I had not written this book to make a fortune, I had written it for me and so I decided to publish it myself.
Q. Can we expect more books from you in the future and if so, will they be set in the 70s too?
A. That second difficult novel is well underway and hopefully should be ready in the early part of 2020. It’s a story that came about from when I started to look into my family history – although I have to state that the ‘What if?’ plays a massive part in this story. It spans a much bigger time scale but does include the ’70s.
Q. What’s the hardest thing you find about being a writer?
A. The self doubt. Is it any good? Will anyone be remotely interested? What will my children think?
Q. Do you get time to read yourself and if you do, what books do you read?
A. I am an avid reader and really love it when I discover a new (to me) writer. I like women’s contemporary fiction, crime and mystery. My favourite authors are Kate Atkinson, Lesley Thomson, Sarah Winman, David Mitchell and John Connolly (I am actually in love with Charlie Parker).
Q. When you’re not writing, what do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
A. I love walking and we live in the New Forest and have the fabulous Jurassic coast just down the road. My husband is a keen photographer. Our walks tend to take hours as he keeps stopping to capture the images around us, while I am moseying along talking to myself, working out dialogue or making notes. We also do a little bit of modern jive dancing.
Q. Finally, what piece of advice can you give to writers who are struggling to get that first book written and published?
A. Look at all the options and decide what works best for you. The traditional route is very hard but if you have the time and patience keep pushing. There are also a lot of excellent small presses out there – The Writers’ and Artists’ Year Book is a good source of reference for these and of course there is no shortage of advice on the internet. Indie publishing has worked for me and I have met some amazing and inspirational people through my journey and built a wonderful network of friends through it.