Melissa Ann Goodwin

Melissa Ann Goodwin

Sunday, April 28, 2024

A Conversation with Author Annalisa Crawford

Today I want to introduce you to someone I have never met in person but think of as a friend. Her name is Annalisa Crawford, but I usually describe her as my Brilliant British Author Friend. 


Doesn't she have a nice smile?

Annalisa lives in Cornwall, England, and writes very different kinds of stories from what I write - hers are described as "dark, contemporary, character-driven stories, with a hint of the paranormal." I love her work and have enjoyed watching her evolution and success. 

As a fellow writer, I had a lot of questions for her, so I invited her to join me in a conversation about her writing life. I'm also hoping that learning more about her will encourage people to run right off to buy her books! 

So please read on, get to know a bit about my friend, her style, and her stories. And please comment or ask questions here or on my Facebook post. She'd love to engage with you! 

Links to her blog and author page on Amazon are at the end.

A CONVERSATION WITH AUTHOR ANNALISA CRAWFORD:

ME: I want to begin with the most important thing first, which is your new book! Tell me about One Tuesday, Early, which comes out on May 14th and is available now on Amazon for pre-sale.

                                        

ANNALISA: One Tuesday, Early is the story of Lexi, who wakes up one morning completely alone - her friends, neighbours, and everyone else have vanished. It's also the story of her partner Finn, who wakes up on the same day - Lexi is missing, but everything else is just as frenetic and noisy as usual. The novel follows them both as they search for answers - and each other. 

It was based on something I'd written a while ago and picked up again during the lockdowns in 2020, and, although, it was a challenging time, it gave me a real insight into how Lexi must have felt, because with everyone remaining at home, my town, Saltash, became just as deserted as in my story. I hadn't appreciated just how empty a street could feel, or how silence vibrates and creates its own noise.

ME: You and I started our writing journeys at about the same time and I have so enjoyed reading your books and watching your evolution.

ANNALISA: Yes! We met back in the "blogging heyday." At the time, Facebook and other social media didn't quite hit the mark, so blogging was a great way to meet authors. And I've loved following your career too. 

ME: These aspects of your writing have been with you from the beginning - a love of shorter stories, dark twists, and the paranormal. But you don't strike me as a terribly "dark" person! So I'm wondering what draws you to writing stories with dark twists and paranormal events?

ANNALISA: LOL - and an actual lol too! No, I'm not that dark in real life at all. I'm pretty happy and optimistic and I laugh a lot. Whenever people I know in person say they're reading my books, I always brace myself for the weird glances I'll receive when they've finished.

And to be honest, I don't know where it comes from. I like to get deep into the heads of my characters, and people's heads are strange places - you never know quite what's going on in there. Metaphorical ghosts are everywhere. Real ghosts - possibly. My imagination takes me to some very deep places, and sometimes I  can't understand why no one thinks the way I do.

ME: Ten-plus years into an impressive writing career, is that what still draws you and what you still want to write about?

ANNALISA: I started writing because there was too much in my head and I needed to splurge it - back when I was very young. And I think that will always be the case.

I have an old woman at the moment, who featured in a short story (The Woman in the Van from The Clock in Mother's House) and keeps popping up. I've got a whole folder of notes about her, and I'm just starting to put them into some kind of order. As long as the characters are there, I'll write about them.

ME: Do you feel yourself being drawn in any new directions, and if so, can you share what those might be?

ANNALISA: I've recently realized that some of my work isn't as dark or paranormal as it used to be, but I've never really written to a certain genre. I've always just written the story as I see it. So, who knows! I'm guided by the words on the page, which occasionally seem to be written on autopilot.

ME: In 2020, you published Grace and Serenity, which was your first novel-length book. How was writing the longer length story for you? 

ANNALISA: I've never actively tried to write a novel. My early short stories were very short - nothing longer than around 1500 words - even before flash fiction was a thing - and I thought I'd always be stuck there. Then, slowly, my ideas became more complex - longer stories, then a novella, and another. Moving into novels was a natural next step. Grace and Serenity is still quite short for a novel. Nothing I've written is more than 65,000 words.

I don't necessarily find it challenging these days. I just stop the story at the point it needs to stop, then I count the words to see what I've created. I've recently written a couple of new short stories, and it was wonderful to have something completed within a week.

ME: You also recently revised and largely re-wrote one of your earlier short story collections, Our Beautiful Child, into The Boatman. Why did you decide to do that?

ANNALISA: I had the rights returned to me, and the idea was to get a new cover, read it over for typos, and publish again under my own imprint. However...as I started reading, the editor in me rose up and started making all kinds of changes! There were some scenes that after the #metoo movement just felt wrong - and characters I thought were good guys seemed a bit creepy. So, I rewrote scenes to accommodate that. Then I started moving scenes around and making some passages clearer. I deleted a few things, wrote brand new scenes, and so on.

ME: Was that a fun endeavor?

ANNALISA: Immensely fun. I love editing. Sometimes I struggle with first drafts; the editing process is where the magic really starts to happen.

ME: In The Boatman, you have three stories that are woven together through connection to a pub and certain characters. How did you come up with that idea and what it was like to develop this clever approach in a cohesive whole. It works really well, by the way!

ANNALISA: I'm so pleased it feels cohesive because it wasn't designed that way. The first story I wrote was The Traveller. I think it was initially set on a canal in Manchester - I have no idea why. Ella's Story came next. They were both longer stories, 11,000 - 15,000 words, which was a really awkward length to submit to literary magazines. Then I realized that they both had pubs as central locations, so I changed them up a little and set them in the same place, which meant I had a 'book' that was 26,000 words-ish. Now it was even less saleable!

I decided to write a third story, but oh, that was hard. I had no ideas. I sat there, day after day, and wrote sentences that didn't go anywhere, trying to find my character. But I didn't have one.

I was listening to one of my favourite CDs, Cherry Ghost's Thirst for Romance, and one of the songs, False Alarm, always gave me shivers. I knew there was an idea lurking in my head, and after what felt like many, many weeks of daydreaming and letting myself be immersed in the lyrics, the third story, Our Beautiful Child, was born. It flowed in a matter of days.

ME: What was your inspiration for the pub named The Boatman?

ANNALISA: The Boatman was my favourite pub when I was in my late teens/early twenties. An old stone building built in 1595 on the bank of the River Tamar, in Cornwall. Thick walls, tiny windows, dim lighting - and it definitely had ghosts! At the time the first edition was published, the real Boatman still existed, so I renamed it the Boathouse for the book. But by the time I was rewriting, it had become a cafe/wine bar, and is now a Spanish tapas restaurant, so I took the opportunity to revert to its real name and immortalise the pub I remember.

ME: I just started re-reading The Clock in My Mother's House, and it made me think of the old TV series, The Twilight Zone. Like that show, what makes the twists in your stories so effective - and scary - is the way that the dark storylines and paranormal events happen in the everyday lives of ordinary people. So the thought that these creepy/strange/terrifying things could happen in real life is what makes it extra disturbing! How does this dynamic work for you when you are writing - do you get a little gleeful when you start going down this path?

ANNALISA: Oh yes, I get gleeful. I'll write a sentence and get a chill as I realize what I've just done. For example, in Our Beautiful Child, I wrote, "We chose her, our beautiful child," which gave me the title and steered the story where I wasn't planning to go.

In the UK, we had Roald Dahl's Tales of the Unexpected, which loved. The stories were incredibly creepy and probably had a big influence on my formative years. By the time the show ended in 1988, I was already writing quite profusely. And yet, even now, I don't know where or how that crossover into the creepy/strange ideas happens. I'll be happily writing something quite upbeat and then that thing - that line I mentioned - or a little tug from my subconscious - pulls me toward somewhere very different. 

ME: Your writing style is beautiful and captivating. But what I love most about your stories is that you always "get me" with a twist. As a writer, I'm pretty good at figuring out where things are going, but you manage to surprise me more often than most writers. Is that something you hope for? That we won't see the twist coming, but it totally works?

ANNALISA: That's really interesting because I never consciously write twists. I simply play the story out as I feel it should go. As I write, my head is full of "what if's," pushing the story in new directions. I hate the thought of being predictable or following certain tropes. I try to write as far away from that as possible, and if that means taking the story in an unexpected direction, I'm happy.

ME: You have worked mainly with small publishers. For the writers and aspiring writers out there, please share what you have liked about that and any challenges it's presented.

ANNALISA: I knew very early on that my work probably wouldn't fit a big 6 (5,4, now? I can never keep up) publishing house, so I sought out smaller presses. What I love most is the camaraderie between the authors, especially at Vine Leaves Press. But I've also gained author friends from my previous publisher. I think I have a little more autonomy over my work, and the editors really care.

The challenges are mostly to do with the marketing. Small presses don't have the budget and most are working on a shoestring, so the author has to do a lot of the work and invest in themselves. Having said that, unless you're the big earner at a large publisher, I think the same goes for them too.

My advice would be to know your genre and style and look for publishers where you naturally fit in.

ME: You revised The Boatman after getting back the rights. Do you have plans to revise other earlier works, or move on to brand-new projects?

ANNALISA: At the same time I got The Boatman back, I also got Cat and the Dreamer. I rewrote that to some extent too, because some aspects had aged even worse than in The Boatman. Cat was the first book I  published back in 2012 and was only available as an eBook, so when I got my rights back, I was very excited to see it in print for the first time. 

I don't feel the need to rewrite my other books because I matured as a writer between 2012 and 2020, and at some point, I have to let go. I had specific reasons for revising those two books that don't apply to my other books. 

ME: You are a fitness instructor in addition to a successful writer. Is there anything you can share about how these balance or support each other? And please share some aspects of your life in Cornwall. 

ANNALISA: Having a physical job alongside writing is wonderful. For half the week, I'm not in front of a computer screen. Exercise helps to keep me free of the aches and pains that come from doing that, and also gives me time for ideas to percolate.

Life in Cornwall is mixed - it's much more relaxed than other places, and my town is so small I can stop and have a chat every time I leave my house. And sometimes, as in One Tuesday, Early, I can walk along a road and it is completely deserted. On the other hand, when it's raining and I have to push through the schoolkids to get to work, it's just like living anywhere else. I live a 20-minute car journey from the coast, but I do have the most wonderful nature reserve at the end of my road - literally three minutes walk away - which my canine muse, Artoo, and I love to explore. I've lived here most of my life and can't imagine being anywhere else.

ME: Annalisa, it's been so fun for me to have this chance to ask you things I've wondered about for ages! Thank you for sharing your gifts and for spending this time with me here at the blog. I hope this will encourage people who want to write to take that leap, and people who love to read, to buy your wonderful books.

ANNALISA: Thank you for this lovely invitation and the chance to talk about my work and my writing life. I look forward to hopefully chatting here or on Facebook with some of your friends.

Here is a link to Annalisa's writer's blog and the link to her author page on Amazon.com, where you can see and buy all her books. Just click on the words below to go the pages.

Blog

Annalisa's Amazon Author Page

5 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for having me here today! We covered a lot of topics, didn't we?

    ReplyDelete
  2. I was so happy to get answers to all my burning questions. Wishing you great success with the book.

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  3. Anonymous4/30/2024

    Wonderful interview, ladies. And yes, Annalisa does have a nice smile;)
    Sandra sandracox.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete

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