Today I’m pleased to be able to welcome mystery author Anne R Allen to the blog. Anne is the author of ten books, including the bestselling CAMILLA RANDALL MYSTERIES and HOW TO BE A WRITER IN THE E-AGE, co-written with NYT bestseller Catherine Ryan Hyde. Her latest is SO MUCH FOR BUCKINGHAM, a humorous mystery about Internet trolls.
Did you always want to write? Were you inspired from an early age from the books you read as a child?
I’ve been a writer pretty much since I could hold a crayon. I used to write stories in the margins of my coloring books to go with the pictures. My parents were both PhDs who taught literature at the university level, so I was born into a house full of books. My parents read to me every night. Books were always part of my life. I was especially inspired by the Wizard of Oz series. I think because the hero was an independent little girl.
How quickly did you become involved in the ‘Kindle Revolution’? Could you see the potential from the beginning?
I wasn’t one of the first to join the Kindle crowd. I’ve always been with small presses and let my publishers make decisions about format. But as soon as they put my work on Amazon as ebooks in 2011, I saw my sales soar, so I knew they were onto something. I already had a blog, and it was easy to see how my online presence could influence online sales, so I made a point of learning to use social media.
I think I learned the most about online marketing from the fantastic women of the Indie Chicks Anthology. They invited me to join because I was with an “indie” micropress, even though the rest were self-published. They taught me the ropes.
You write both fiction and non-fiction. Do you enjoy writing one more than the other?
I probably write a lot more non-fiction than fiction—if you consider the amount of time I spend writing blog posts—but my heart is still with my fiction. Writing fiction is hard, but I love it. Writing non-fiction is easier, but it doesn’t give me the same sense of joy.
Many people believe that authors include some of their own traits, characteristics, etc in their books. How much of you is in your fiction?
Ha! The heroine of my mystery series, Camilla Randall, couldn’t be more different from me. She’s a New York fashionista who’s terminally polite and always dressed in designer clothes. Me, I’m an old California hippie who’s more likely to be wearing jeans and Crocs and dropping four-letter words. She’s naïve and always gives people the benefit of the doubt. I’m an old cynic.
But the characters she meets are often based on people I have met in real life. I use composites, but real people and real situations often make their way into my books. I always say writers need to wear a Mirandizing tee-shirt that says “I’m a novelist. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a work of fiction.”
If you could meet up with 3 fictional characters for tea/coffee, who would they be and why?
Oh, that’s a good one. I’d love to meet Lord Peter Wimsey, from the Dorothy L. Sayers mysteries. I think he was one of the first fictional characters I fell in love with. And if they’re all at the same tea shop, I guess I’d like to add Inspector Morse and Miss Marple. That would be a fun conversation!
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not writing? What are your hobbies?
For many years I was in the theatre, both acting and directing, and I’ve appeared in a few films. But I lost the acting bug about a decade ago. I got offered a part I’d always wanted to play, but realized I really didn’t want to do it. So now I only participate as an audience member.
I also love listening and dancing to live music, especially roots music, so I go to concerts whenever I can. We have an incredible community of musicians here on the Central Coast.
I also like to garden and sew, but I don’t have much time for those anymore.
You and Ruth Harris are a popular blogging duo. How did you get to know each other and begin working together?
It’s funny. We’ve never met, although we might have in our college days. She was at Sarah Lawrence when I was at Bryn Mawr. I first “met” her through her books, which I adored. Many years later, she started commenting on my blog and I looked for her website to see if she was the same Ruth Harris.
When I saw she didn’t have a blog of her own, I asked her to guest for me, and her post was so popular, I asked her to take a regular spot on the last Sunday of every month. That was in the summer of 2011. It’s amazing how great she is to work with. We’ve never had any conflicts and we always seem to be on the same wavelength.
I had never used social media before I began writing, and it took me a while to see how I could make use of it. What would be your biggest tip for new authors using social media to market their books?
I think a lot of new writers are baffled by social media. The most important thing to remember is that it’s, well, social. It’s about making friends and networking. You want to meet other writers you can learn from and you also want to meet potential readers. But this isn’t so you can blast advertising at them—it’s to get to know them. Sales come when you have a large group of online friends who like and trust you enough to give your books a try. Books have to be “hand-sold” even online.
Blogging for writers is widely recommended, but many authors are unsure of what to write about and how often to make posts. How long has it taken for your blog to become as successful as it is?
I blogged for a whole year before I had an audience of more than a handful of people. And I’ve just started a second blog for my mystery series, the Camilla Randall Mysteries, and it’s only getting 20 or so hits a day after being up four weeks. I think each blog has to grow at its own pace.
My big break came when I got a guest post spot on Nathan Bransford’s blog about a year after I started. Then my blog grew exponentially. (Which shows why networking is so important.)
What is it about your writing career to date that you are the most proud of?
I guess I’m most proud of the fact I’m still doing it after publishing my first book 25 years ago.
I got a huge thrill when a couple of my books hit the bestseller lists in 2012 and 2013 and stayed there for nearly a year, and it was fantastic to have the blog named to the Writers Digest’s Best 101 sites. Just yesterday I got a nice ego boost when Author Marketing Experts named me one of the 16 Best People to Follow on Twitter.
But all that is fleeting. The important thing is that I’m doing what I love. Every day brings something new and exciting. I get to work with interesting people from all over the world and keep learning. I guess that’s what I’m most proud of. I’m at an age when most people are retiring and I’m still going strong.
Thank you Anne. I hope that readers see from your writing and blogging career, the importance of never giving up. Also, I am reassured by how you blogged in the early days, that I am going about things here the right way.
If you want to find out more about Anne, her blog or her books then you can find her the blog she shares with Ruth Harris at annerallen.com. She also has a book blog at annerallensbooks.blogspot.com. She’s on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+
As always, thank you for reading.