Author Ally Sinclair Answers all our Questions
- Latest Book: A Season for Love
- Can you give us the ‘elevator pitch’ version of your latest book.
It’s twenty-first century dating with a regency twist. Forget swiping left or right, hooking up and unsolicited dick pics (ugh) and join the social season…
- Tell us something about yourself that we likely don’t know! The more obscure the better!
I once played an alien in a radio play series warning young people about the dangers of drugs. Because young people get all their public health messaging from educational radio drama. Apparently.
- Do you write in silence, or with music? If you write to music, give us the top three songs on your writers’ playlist this week.
Usually in silence. The only exception is when I’m writing a book set at Christmas when it is Not Christmas, which I’m doing right now for the sequel to A Season for Love. Then it’s Christmas tunes all the way, so my writing room is currently a little bubble of Winter Wonderlands and Merry Little Christmases. Honestly, it does get quite annoying quite fast.
- Are you a plotter or pantser?
I’m mostly a pantser. I tend not to plan much and then write really terrible first drafts which I edit a lot. I don’t tend to use the plotter/pantser distinction very much when I talk about writing any more though. I tend to ask ‘do you prefer to write?’ or ‘do you prefer to edit?’ I’m definitely a better editor than writer so, for me, it makes sense to just get something down so I’ve got something to work with. If you detest editing, then learning to plan more so you, hopefully, create a more coherent first draft might be the way to go.
- Have your characters ever ‘gone off-script’ – hijacked your story and taken it in a direction you didn’t expect?
Well given that I rarely have much of a plan, I can’t really accuse my characters of veering away from it! If I don’t know what they’re supposed to be doing, what hope do they have? This novel is a romance, so there’s a definite end point of two characters getting together. How they get there is entirely up for grabs though.
- If you could spend time with any character from any of your books, who would it be and what would you do?
I think a night out with Lydia from A Season of Love would be excellent fun. Although you might not remember very much of it the next morning, there’d be a clear sense that a good time had been had by all.
- Which of your characters can you say you would least get along with in real life?
Oh that’s interesting. I’d probably have to go to one of the Juliet Bell books, which I co-wrote with Janet Gover. Those novels are inspired by Bronte classics that we felt were frequently misunderstood or romanticised. Maybe our take on Heathcliff, in The Heights, would be the worst of the worst. He does something terrible to a puppy.
- Do you read your reviews?
Reading your own reviews is often a very bad idea. If they’re good you never quite believe them anyway, and if they’re terrible it’s heartbreaking. Definitely better not to know.So yes, of course I do.
- What has been the toughest criticism you have been given since becoming a published author?
I can’t think of one thing that really sticks out. I’m sure there have been plenty but I’ve compartmentalised them away. So instead of the out and out ‘toughest’ let me give you the ‘most frustrating’.Most frustrating is when you put a book out on submission and you get feedback from an editor that shows they just didn’t get what you were trying to do at all. It’s frustrating because every instinct is to reply and say ‘Yeah, but…’ but of course you can’t and nothing at all would be gained if you did. All it means is that they’re not the right editor for this book, so it’s better that they pass on the novel and you both move on to things that are a better fit. But it is so frustrating not to be able to come back and explain yourself!
- What is the best compliment you have received?
That a reader laughed so hard at my book, that it made them pee themselves a little bit on a bus. That is the reader feedback I live for right there.
- Do you have a day job when you are not writing? If so, what do you do?
Anything that pays! Right now I’m a lecturer for the Open University, but mostly I’m self-employed as a writing tutor and editor alongside my own writing. In the past I’ve worked for the Citizens Advice service, in clothes shops, in an adult learning centre, as an online IT tutor, and, as a chambermaid and waitress. Education is my second love after writing, and I’ve reached the point where everything I teach is creative-writing related, which is great. I can’t imagine ever giving up teaching altogether to write full-time. I love it too much.
- Can you name three authors who have inspired your writing?
Marian Keyes was the first author who made me want to write myself I think. Rachel’s Holiday more than any other book taught me that novels could be about messed up, imperfect women – that romances don’t have to be aspirational to be heartwarming and funny and brilliant. Marian Keyes is a genius. I will take no argument on this point. Dorothy Koomson is also a genius (again no argument). What I love about her writing, more than anything, is the way she gets inside character and the way her characters drive the story along. She’s also an absolute inspiration for any author who doesn’t want to write in just one genre. She’s moved from romcom to women’s fiction to thriller but kept a really strong sense of her own voice throughout all the novels. She’s an absolute Queen.And thirdly, Julie Cohen. Having taught creative writing for over a decade now I quite often meet writers who say they hear my voice in their head telling them to get on and just write the sodding book. Well, Julie’s is the voice I hear inside my head, telling me I’m allowed to write crap and, most importantly, to keep it simple stupid. I have a strong tendency to put seven more ideas than are needed into every book. Julie would definitely tell me off for that. Also, her novel, Falling, is one of my absolute faves of the last decade.
- What was your favourite book as a child?
Oh so many. Too many to list. The books I most associate with my early love of reading are the Ramona series by Beverley Cleary. This is a series about two sisters growing up together. Ramona is the younger. She’s boisterous and naughty and disruptive. The older sister, Beezus, or rather Beatrice, is rapidly turning into a teenager and is far too cool for her little sister’s antics. Maybe I loved them so much because I grew up with a sister five years older than me for whom I was the eternally annoying younger sibling, but those books spoke to me. To the point that that very same sister bought me the boxed set of the whole rereleased series for Christmas not very long ago at all.
- What scene in your latest book was the hardest scene to write (without giving away too many spoilers!)
Endings in romance novels are always hard. We know that 99.99999999% of the time the characters are going to get together and live happily ever after, and I always beat myself up over how you make that fresh for every couple in every story. And in A Season for Love we follow multiple couples. Making all of those resolutions (happy or not – no spoilers here!) unique and specific to the characters involved was really important to me, but it was a challenge.
- Do you have any other author friends? If so, can you name a few and have any of them given you a piece of advice you would consider invaluable on your publishing journey?
I’m very lucky to have lots of author friends. I have a group who meet up weekly over Zoom and put the world to rights, which is a great antidote to the solitary nature of being an author, and also a permanent messenger conversation ongoing with a group of six other authors who are basically my writing soulmates. We discuss anything and everything. And I’m very happy to give a shoutout to a few of their books. This could easily turn into a really long section, so I’ll focus on just a selection of the recent romcoms!-Jeevani Charika writes fantastic romance stories which are funny and warm and page-turning. Her latest is Picture Perfect.Kate Johnson’s Hex Appeal is a brilliant take on a witchy romcom (and her tiktoks about witchy history are also rather brilliant).
And Sheila McClure writes hysterical romcoms with brilliant hooks. The Break Up Agency, about a woman who breaks up with people for a living, is out now.
In terms of writing advice the two pieces of advice we all give each other most often are simply, ‘keep going’ and ‘take a break.’ The skill is in knowing which of those two works for a specific, given moment.
For Bonus Points – Answer our fabulous frivolous questions!
- What is your biggest fear?
Failure. I’m a perfectionist and a control freak so being bad at things really freaks me out. I try to approach writing with a constant mantra of ‘it’s better to try and fail than not to try’ as an antidote to this terror.
- If you could have any superhero power, what would it be?
Teleportation. It’s clearly the best one. I’d want to be able to teleport myself and other stuff though so I could do both instant travel and moving things around me to my whims.And then it basically covers all the other superpowers. No need to fly when you can pop to anywhere whenever you want. No need for super-strength when you can move stuff with your mind. No need to be invisible when you can just pop off hundreds of miles away if anyone spots you. Teleportation. It’s the way forward.
- If you could write one line to be etched into your tombstone, what would it read?
Oh no tombstone, thank you. I have a weird fear of being dug up in the future so I’m cremation all the way I think. I might concede being buried if I could be buried with some really weird stuff to confuse future archaeologists. Then the tombstone could say something purposefully misleading.‘Here lies Queen Ambrosia, first lady of the chicken people who ruled this land’ would work.
- If you could give your younger self ONE piece of advice, what would it be?
Nobody is normal. It’s fine.
- Finally – Who are your latest Cover Crushes?
I love the cover for Bella Mackie’s How to Kill Your Family – both the pink on black and the black on pink versions. It’s so striking and arresting and right for the tone of the book. A proper ‘pick me up’ cover.In romcom recently I really like the move towards more graphic, strongly coloured covers. Nothing wrong with a pastel here and there, but the slightly bolder covers are more my personal taste. The almost neon bright cover for Emily Henry’s Book Lovers is a great example of that trend.
You can purchase Ally Sinclair’s latest book: A Season for Love, or you can take a look at our review here.
If you would like to hear more about Jenni and her books, you can find here on Twitter: @MsAllySinclair and Facebook: Ally Sinclair Author
As well as her debut novel as Ally Sinclair – Alison has published a few other novels under different names. Take a look at her back catalogue here: