Jul 18, 2012

Carol’s ‘Close Up’ With Author Alison Taft

 

My ‘Close Up’ today is all girly as I get up close and personal with fellow author at Caffeine Nights Publishing – the lovely, very talented  Alison Taft!

A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to spend some time with Alison at the Tonbridge Arts Festival.

Here  Alison is being interviewed by Darren Laws. You will soon be able to hear this footage on the Caffeine Nights website www.caffeine-nights.com – Author’s Page Alison Taft.

Let me tell you Alison has taken to this like a ‘duck to water’ – you go girl!

 

Alison on the Caffeine Nights Panel at the Tonbridge Arts Festival

 

Alison

Born and raised in Burnley, Alison has dreamed of becoming a writer ever since reading Harriet the Spy by torchlight under the bedcovers, aged about eight.

After completing a degree in Social Policy, Alison lived in Crete and spent time in the Middle and Far East. In the mid-nineties she was a keen supporter of the free party network. She has worked in a variety of jobs but after being sacked once too often for gross insubordination, Alison decided to heed the words of one employer who described her as ‘unmanageable’, and became a full time writer.

Alison now lives in Leeds with her partner and two children. She spends her days arguing about whose turn it is to sort out the washing, and her evenings at the computer, sipping mint tea and plotting her revenge. Our Father (Who Art Out There, Somewhere) is Alison’s first novel. 

I admire you so much Alison. How on earth do you manage to juggle working, writing as well as being a wife and a mother of two small children?

It’s weird but during my twenties, I had no responsibilities and acres of time, and I never managed to write a book, even though I desperately wanted to. I wrote ‘Our Father, Who Art Out There…Somewhere’, when I had a two and a three year old. I used to put them to bed, and then scurry off to the attic to get the words down on paper. It kept me sane – some adult conversation – even if it was all between fictional characters.

My first child had to have an operation before he was twenty-four hours old. Meeting the consultant who saved my child’s life was a life-changing moment for me. I was so grateful for the fact that this lovely man had spent his twenties practising the skills that saved my son’s life. And I made a promise that I would try to repay that cosmic debt by practising my skills. So, whenever my baby slept, I wrote.

 My children are both at school now and I have more time, but sometimes I think the less time you have, the easier it is to write. If you don’t have time to judge what you write, or wonder whether it’s good enough, or whether anyone will ever publish it; or any of those other navel gazing distractions that come when you have too much time on your hands, you can just get the words down. Then the rest takes care of itself.

 

What inspired you to write a novel?

The story of my first novel was inspired by my own fruitless search for my birth father, a man I have never met. I tried to trace him in my thirties, but he refused any contact with me, and so rather than leave the search feeling empty handed, I wrote a fictional novel about a girl’s search for her father. It’s funny, because I went looking for a father, and ended up with a book. (And a book to me often feels like a child…)

 

Who do you admire in the literary world? Who do you consider your mentor?

I admire all writers, all artists. Anyone who sits in the quiet and takes notice. It’s easy to get distracted these days, and facing the blank page can be the scariest thing ever.

I have a few people I consider my mentors. One of them was the crime author Danuta Reah, who gave me encouragement early on in my career. Other Caffeine Nights authors have been really helpful in guiding me through the process of getting published (Nick Quantrill, Ian Ayris, RC Bridgestock). Another person I now consider a mentor, is Darren Laws, who’s the CEO of Caffeine Nights (and an author in his own right). He’s been a fantastic support and especially great at remaining calm in the face of my neurotic questions.

 

Yes, Darren is an inspiration and a mentor to all his authors. We are so lucky to have him as our publisher arn’t we?

Yes, we really are.

Where do you write? Do you have a regular pattern or routine?

I often write in The Leeds Library. It’s an amazing place.  A private library – you have to pay a small subscription to join for the year. It opened in 1768 and it’s like stepping back in time when you walk through the doors. It’s the best place to write. I try not to tell anyone about it because I don’t want the place to become overrun…

I aim to write everyday but I don’t ever manage this…

 

Yeah, me too. What are you writing now?

I’ve just finished the first draft of the sequel to Our Father. It’s called Shallow Be Thy Grave. I want to write twelve books in the series, each one based on a line from the Lord’s Prayer. It’s the Daughter’s Prayer.

 

Share something with me that nobody else knows about Alison Taft. :-)

Something that no one else knows? There’s so many embarrassing things I could tell you. Here’s one. When I was thirteen, I was horse mad so decided I wanted to be a mounted policewoman. I taped myself pretending to interview myself for the job. ‘So, tell me, Miss Taft, why do you want to be a mounted policewoman?’ ‘Well, I love horses..’ You get the kind of thing.

Then, fast-forward a couple of years: I used to go horse-riding every Saturday (which makes me sound posh, we weren’t.) I had this mad crush on the woman’s son. So I made a tape for him, of what I thought were really cool songs. On the reverse of the tape – guess what – yes, my interview. He brought his tape recorder out the next week and played it to the whole riding group. My cheeks still burn at the memory.

Love it! Who would you like to share a cup of coffee and have a natter with?

I’d like some older, wiser woman who can guide me through the ageing process. Someone like Louise Hay, or Germaine Greer. Or some prolific writer like Agatha Christie or Catherine Cookson who could advise me on how to keep being allowed to do what you love.

 

Come on so share the secret. How do you relax? What helps Alison throw her cares to the wind? 

I’m not sure I do anymore. I’d like to go on a writer’s retreat in the Greek Islands. I try and meditate although I find it difficult to make it into any kind of daily practice. I run a lot – does that count?

Yes, cause! If you won the lottery what would you spend it on?

Holidays with my children, a cottage in North Wales and a little boat with a tiny cabin.

 

Are you a savoury or sweets girl?

Savoury, every-time.

 

What do you have in your handbag right now?

My brother bought me my first ever handbag about a month ago. I don’t know what to put in it. What do women keep in their handbags? It’s one of those mysteries of the universe…

 

Oh, gosh you’ve never had a handbag – how do you cope? You’ll find it fills it’s self up without any help from you mark my word. What’s your earliest memory?

Playing farms in my bedroom and my mum walking in and feeling completely violated that she could burst in on my make-believe.

 

What has been your favourite year and why?

1994 was a corker.  I lived on my own for the first time ever and I felt grown up, I think for the first time. I spent a lot of my time partying and I was solvent for one of the only times of my life.

1997 was also amazing because I fell in love, knocked off my feet kind of love. And 2004 because my first child was born.

 

What’s your favourite smell?

Warm bread

 

What was the last thing you laughed or cried at?

I just cried today. When my daughter rang to tell me she’s got the nice teacher for next year and ‘not the grumpy one who always grins (she meant grimaces) at me when I pass her in the corridor.’

 

What’s the best advice you’ve been given or best advice you’d give?

The best advice I was given was decelerate coming into a bend and accelerate out. Great for all of life. The best advice I can give is to take yourself, your talents and your dreams seriously.

 

What’s your favourite book?

As a child – Danny The Champion of the World by Roald Dahl

As an adult – The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera

 

Has your world changed since you became a published author and if so how?

My world has changed, but mainly because my book being published coincided with my children starting school. I went from being this full time mum, who never got to finish a sentence, to suddenly having six hours of writing time per day and people (like you, Carol!) asking me what I think about things. It’s both beguiling and vaguely terrifying.

Ha ha! We love you Ali, that’s why we want to know more and I’m sure your readers will do too. Is being a published author all that you thought it would be, or what’s been the surprise to you?

Getting my copies of my novel for the first time, was one of the best moments of my life – definitely up there in my top five. I think the surprise has been that it’s not the end of the journey, it’s the beginning of a new one.

 

Absolutely, I think we all shed a tear when we open the box of  our published books … even Bob, but don’t tell him I told you! If you’re book was to be made into a film who would you like to play your protagonist or indeed any role?

Lily is so close to my heart, so real a person to me now, that I can’t imagine who’d play her.  Vicky McClure is my favourite actress, but she’s probably a bit too old. (Lily’s only nineteen in the first book). And Lily’s got dreadlocks. Mmm, difficult. I guess I’ll have to leave it in the hands of Shane Meadows (or other equally talented film director!)

It’s been an absolute pleasure talking to you again Alison. Looking forward to meeting up again real soon when we are north in August. Good luck with the writing – I’m sure we are going to hear alot more from Alison Taft in the literary world, in the future. Costa Coffee in Leeds?

C x

Here is more about Alison’s first book and how you can purchase it.

Our Father Who Art Out There…Somewhere

What would you do if your own father refused to meet you?Growing up in Accrington with only an agoraphobic mother and Bert next door for company, Lily Appleyard spent her childhood hoping that one day her absent father would show up and whisk her off to a better life. He never did.Now nineteen and at college in Leeds, she stills harbours a fantasy he’ll show up one day. Maybe he’s busy saving the whale in the Antarctic, or searching for a cure for cancer in the Brazilian Rainforest.Her best friend Jo has much lower expectations of men. That’s because her father waited until she was fourteen before leaving with his teenage, pregnant girlfriend. 

When Lily’s mother dies and Lily finds her father alive and well but with no intention of ever meeting her, she has a decision to make. Should she forget about him? Or does she have a right to know her own father?  Doesn’t he owe her at least one meeting?

Jo’s had enough of talking about a revolution.  She thinks it’s time for action. Fuelled by vodka and a burning need for revenge, Lily realises she’s got nothing left to lose.

Paperback £ 8.99 – ISBN: 978-1-907565-06-9
eBook From £2.19 – ISBN: 978-1-907565-07-6

 

2 Comments

  • Great interview, Carol. Sounds like an interesting book – will have to check it out!

    • Thanks Paul!:) Alison is lovely and I’m sure you’ll enjoy.

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