Today I have the great pleasure to welcome Romantic Comedy/Mystery author Anne R. Allen, who also runs an award-winning blog about writing. She also has a giveaway at the end of the interview!
Hi Anne. Please introduce yourself. Tell us a little about the person behind the pen.
My life has been kind of unconventional. I love having adventures. I spent ten years after college wandering the globe. Then I spent a couple of decades in the theater, acting and directing, before I moved to writing full time.
One day I was backstage, about to go on in the Comedy of Errors, and I realized I didn’t want to act any more. I didn’t have that zing of stage fright that makes for a good performance. It was about the same time that my father died kind of tragically and left me a little money. I realized that life was short and it was time to go for my life-long dream of being a novelist. So I left Southern California, bought a little cottage on Morro Bay and haven’t looked back. I love the solitude and the fog. I’m doing what I love every day.
Why did you decide to write rom-com mysteries? What is the appeal?
I didn’t set out to write mysteries, but dead bodies kept showing up in my plots. Also a lot of jokes. Especially the kind that come from romance gone wrong. (I think romantic comedy is way undervalued these days. Jane Austen wrote it—and so did William Shakespeare.)
Because of the romantic humor—and probably because I started writing at the height of the chick lit phenomenon—my agent at the time tried to market my work as chick lit.
But it never quite fit. It’s not Bridget Jones humor. It’s pretty sophisticated—sometimes very dark—and most of my heroines are too mature to qualify as “chicks.”
My new publisher finally helped me realize I write mysteries with rom-com elements rather than romance with mystery elements.
I’d say my work is more like Janet Evanovich for English majors.
How much research goes into your books, and how do you tackle that?
I did almost no research for my first few novels. They’re mostly based on my own adventures. But my next one is going to require quite a lot. I’m fascinated by the discovery of what might be the body of Richard III in the English Midlands, so I’m planning a mystery around that. Lots of reading in English History ahead.
What is the best comment you ever received from a reader? The worst or weirdest?
The weirdest review I got was from somebody who must have mixed up my novel Food of Love with another with the same name. She said it was the worst lesbian romance she’d ever read. Probably because it’s not about lesbians—and it’s not a romance.
Tell us a little about your writing style? Do you plan and plot your stories, or do you just plow through them?
I’m kind of a “pantser”—at least I like to leave room for the odd character or plot twist to show up—but I always have the ending in mind. And a general idea of the story. I do write a sketchy outline, but I usually throw it out half way through.
Can you tell us a little about your current work, NO PLACE LIKE HOME? Is there a story behind the story?
I live near the town of San Luis Obispo, CA, which Oprah called “the Happiest Town on Earth.” But we also have a big homeless population. Their stories can be heartbreaking. I wanted to write about how close we all can be to homelessness in the midst of this beachy, “happy” wine country. Even the uber-rich. I also saw a lot of potential humor in putting a Martha Stewart type into a homeless camp. Then I gave her a mysteriously dead husband and sent my sleuth Camilla Randall in to solve the case.
What sets your heroine, Camilla apart from all the other women in your hero Ronzo’s life? Why is she perfect for him?
Camilla has a new boyfriend in every novel. They’re always Mr. Wrong. She’s a former debutante and etiquette expert who’s lost all her money. She’s always attracted to blue collar guys who are intimidated by her former celebrity.
In NO PLACE LIKE HOME, Ronzo is from the East Coast, like Camilla, so he “feels like home” to her. They fall into each others’ arms at the end of the book after she rescues him from nefarious evildoers, and they get a happy ending. But by the next book, something will probably have gone wrong. The only man who’s a constant in her life is her gay best friend, screenwriter Plantagenet Smith.
Have you ever had writer’s block? How do you deal with it?
I’m so lucky that I haven’t. I have the opposite problem. Too many ideas and too little time. I do write pretty slowly.
Can you give us a little background on your hero Ronzo that’s only in your author notes, and not found in your story? What inspired you to create this character?
Ronzo—Ronson V. Zolek—just walzed into the story. All I had in my notes was “Mr. X, a tourist from New Jersey.” But as soon as he walked in, I knew all about him. He’s a Croatian-American and Iraq war vet and a fan of heavy metal. His immigrant parents named him Ronson for the aircraft company where his dad got a job the day Ronzo was conceived. That’s not in the book.
Describe a favorite scene in your current novel?
I love it when Camilla’s bookstore gets invaded by a “cash mob” perpetrated by Ronzo’s blog. She doesn’t know he’s a blogger, and has never heard of a cash mob. Her bookstore is about to go under, but suddenly she’s flooded with customers. Many of them come dressed as her—in her former celebrity persona as “the Manners Doctor.” That’s when she meets Doria, the homeless Martha Stewart type—who is dressed up as Camilla. I laughed out loud when I was writing that scene.
What else do you have in store for your readers?
It’s another rom-com mystery, but longer than a standard whodunnit. The working title is THE ASHTRAYS OF AVALON. Spanning five decades, it’s full of Baby Boomer nostalgia. The theme is the myth of the Golden Age—and how it never existed. Every age had its drawbacks—like sexism and cigarette smoke.
Meanwhile I’ll be doing all that research for THE LAST PLANTAGENET taking Camilla back to the English Midlands (the setting of SHERWOOD, LTD.) where she meets up with what may or may not be the ghost of Richard III.
Bio:Anne R. Allen believes she has a special gift for bumbling into comical situations. Her real-life misadventures have inspired her six comic mysteries: FOOD OF LOVE , THE GATSBY GAME, and the Camilla Randall Mysteries: GHOSTWRITERS IN THE SKY, SHERWOOD, LTD, THE BEST REVENGE and NO PLACE LIKE HOME. She has also written a guidebook for authors with Catherine Ryan Hyde (author of the iconic novel Pay it Forward.) HOW TO BE A WRITER IN THE E-AGE…AND KEEP YOUR E-SANITY!
SHERWOOD, LTD was inspired by Anne's hilarious experiences with her first publishers, an outlaw band of Englishmen following their own self-styled Robin Hood. Right now, the ebook is FREE on KOBO and Smashwords. It is also available in paperback from Amazon.
Give-away! Anne is giving away a boxed set of The Camilla Randall Mysteries: The first three Camilla books in one boxed set. Available for all platforms.
Please leave a comments with your contact information to be entered to win.
Winner will be selected Sunday, February 17th.