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Today we travel to Cornwall, in the UK, to chat with Annalisa Crawford about how Doctor Who, being a fitness instructor, William Shakespeare, writing long-hand, being stubborn, Yesterday, and hot chocolate come together as part of Annalisa’s present and past.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m Annalisa. I live in Cornwall, in the UK. It’s a great place for inspiration – from angry waves on a winter’s morning to the haunting calmness of Dartmoor, or my daily dog walk around the nature reserve at the end of my road with views across a beautiful river. In my spare time (by which I mean, my day-job) I’m a fitness instructor at my local gym, and a bit of a Doctor Who geek.
In which genre do you write?
I hover around women’s/contemporary/literary fiction with a hint of paranormal. Sometimes the hint is so subtle you might miss it, but I know it’s there.
How many published books do you have?
I have four books published at the moment – ranging from flash to novella-length. My fifth book, Grace & Serenity, is my first novel and will be published in July.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and what ignited your author’s flame?
I’ve always written, and I’ve always known I was going to be a writer. I started writing seriously when I was about 13, submitting stories to Jackie and Just 17 although I never had anything accepted. My dad bought me a subscription to a writing magazine when I was about 15, which is when I realised there were journals out there devoted to short stories without the annoying posters and articles about boy bands. This was before the internet, so my access to that kind of information was limited. My first two short stories were published when I was 20.
What does your ideal writing space look like?
It would be a cozy room with a view of the sea. I’d have a wall completely covered with bookshelves, a sofa for reading and writing my long-hand first drafts, and an antique desk. It wouldn’t be tidy – I love a bit of chaos!
Where did the idea for your most recent book come from?
Grace & Serenity is about a teenage mother, domestic abuse, and homeslessness. I always start with a character – in this case I saw Grace standing in front of her boyfriend, telling him she was pregnant, and him rejecting her. I don’t plan, so from then on I was guided by Grace – some parts of the story came as a surprise to me, a couple of characters that I thought were just popping in became a little more important.
If you could have a fantasy tea or coffee date with an author from the past, who would it be and what would you ask them?
My usual response to this type of question is Margaret Atwood, so today I’m going to say William Shakespeare. I’d want to know if he was the true author of his plays and if not, who was? That info would be worth a lot!
What’s the strangest thing you’ve done or experienced to help create a scene?
I act out the facial expressions of my characters – sometimes I can’t tell what they’re feeling, but I can see it on their faces. So I make the face. Sometimes I forget where I am, and do it in public!
What is the craziest thing that has ever happened to you?
When I was doing my A-Levels, I’d have free periods when I didn’t have to be in school. One day I was walking to school and realised that the street was completely silent – it was a quiet town at the best of times, but this was overly quiet. Not a single bird, cat, car, bird. Nothing at all. So I was a bit spooked when I arrived. I walked in, and all the classrooms were empty. I went up to the sixth form area – no one. I peeked into the staff room. No one there either. I went right the way through the building and out through the back doors, where everyone was lined up for a fire drill. I had never been so relieved in my life!
What’s the last movie you watched and why did you choose to watch it?
I watched Yesterday with my family. We saw it in the cinema last year, and it was on TV recently. I love this film because I love the Beatles, it’s a quirky idea, and they don’t try to explain it. If you like to laugh and sing Beatles songs, I highly recommend it.
Which of your personality traits has been most useful and why?
I’m stubborn. I think there are probably many traits that can be useful for a writing career, but being too stubborn to listen when someone says writing isn’t a proper job, or to look at piles of rejections and think “I know it’s good enough to keep trying”, has served me well.
What’s your favorite place to visit in your country and why?
I’m spoiled for beautiful places where I live, but my favorite is Plymouth Hoe. It’s a wide bay, with headlands hugging either side, and it’s so tranquil despite being 5 minutes from the city centre. If I’m shopping in town, I’ll often sit up there with a hot chocolate and just stare out towards the horizon – it’s quite meditative. I love it so much, it’s the setting for my new novel!
What are you currently working on?
My current WIP is based on a short story I wrote about a woman who wakes up and her town is deserted. It’s inspired by an incident from the question above. It turned itself into a novel when I read an article, completely unrelated, that I thought entwine nicely with the idea I already had.
Tell us about your most recent book and where we can find it.
Grace & Serenity is about a teenage mother whose life spirals out of control at the hands of an abusive husband. She ends up homeless and desperate, and does whatever she needs to to survive.
It was wonderful to have you on MTA, Annalisa. I loved the movie, Yesterday. It was such a feel good movie. Wishing you all the best! – Camilla
Blurb for Grace & Serenity:
Living on the streets is terrifying and exhausting. Grace’s only comforts are a steady stream of vodka, and a strange little boy who’s following her around.
At nineteen, Grace has already had a child and endured an abusive marriage. But she’s also had her baby abducted by her vengeful husband and been framed as a neglectful mother. Even her own parents doubted her version of the story. So she did the only thing that made sense to her—run away.
The streets are unforgiving. Winter is drawing in. And Grace isn’t prepared for the harsh realities of survival. At her very bleakest, a Good Samaritan swoops into her life and rescues her. With a roof over her head and food in her stomach, she longs to see her baby again.
But nothing ever comes for free.
It is being published by Vine Leaves Press on 7 July, and is available for pre-order now.