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On The Table Read Magazine, “the best book magazine in the UK“, Dominique Allen talks about the inspiration behind the latest book in The Salvaged Summer Trilogy, Raids, Rallies and Reserves, and her creative writing process.
Written by JJ Barnes
I interviewed Dominique Allen about her life and career, the story The Salvaged Summer Trilogy and her latest release, Raids, Rallies and Reserves, and her creative writing process.
Tell me a bit about who you are:
My name is Dominique, but I prefer to be called Dommy. I was born, 5minutes after my twin sister, in 1963, although since then my history has been about as scatty as my freckles! I never quite got on with the second half of the 20th century (never mind the 21st), but with Granny’s encouragement and a bit of self-honesty, we realised I was far happier ‘a half-dozen decades back and a little to one side’. After that, Gertie was bound to happen. After a traumatic incident, I developed dissociative identity disorder, D.I.D – a mental health condition which leaves a person with multiple, distinct personalities (that would be Dommy & Us).
I spent twenty years with my life partner, John, who died recently (2020) of Alzheimer’s. Since then I have lived with my twin sister Kesriel (Kes) who, apart from our mother, is the only person I am able to speak to. To the rest of the world I am non-verbal. Kes is the epitome of ‘can-do get-it-done gumption’ – unfailingly encouraging, resourceful and practical. Kes is the stylish articulate one, I’m the one in dungarees with a teddy bear in her satchel.
When did you first WANT to write a book?
The first time I discovered my grandfather’s typewriter ~ it smelt of digestive crumbs and fresh sawdust, with just a whiff of his pipe tobacco smoke lingering ~ as my fingertips found those keys and the clackety-clack found my ears: head, heart and hands felt instantly connected: joy. And then there was Nana’s battered old armchair, with that wondrously saggy-bottomed seat, tea-stained, sun-faded and ever-faithful when I sought sanctuary. I sank into it and it wrapped around me, shrugging away a half-century-or-so in the process.
When did you take a step to start writing?
When I “broke” and the D.I.D. took me to safer paths (in WWII!)… as we stepped away from the 21st century. When I began to recognise the ‘markers’ and the ‘making sense of it all’.
How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?
2 weeks to scribble down the map … then the walking, as head-and-feet got connected.
Then 20 yrs to get published … as heart-and-hand took hold of my sister’s and together we got-it-done.
How long did it take you to complete your latest book from the first idea to release?
The 3rd book in the trilogy was released just 9months after the 1st book. The map stands steady, as the errands are the paths and the promises are the markers. The trilogy began the stories, but it needed Kes’s support to steer them to the publisher.
Since the map set the pace we have another 9 books along Gertie’s Path (all set during WWII), with a further trilogy set a decade later.
A writer writes, regardless of the judgement of Others. It is simple: the stories are both Belonging and Purpose for me.
Focusing on your latest release. What made you want to write Raids, Rallies and Reserves?
‘Want’ to write? I didn’t have a choice! Bk 3: Raids, Rallies and Reserves – and I wouldn’t have it any other way – Gertie was determined to show how England’s back garden sheds were going to win the war … and he couldn’t leave Mr Tor in a state like that, and as for Sarg, well he really should have known better!
What were your biggest challenges with writing Raids, Rallies and Reserves?
Oh, the scruffy paths and ragged hedges of the stories leading me astray … chuckling at their hare-brained antics. Those rutted lanes and tilting ways taking the seasons in their stride and nudging me oh-so-easily along with them.
With Gerti-isms aplenty and old-fashioned expressions that cause youngsters to scratch their heads in bewilderment.
What was your research process for Raids, Rallies and Reserves?
A study of the national newspaper articles of the time.
Granny’s hoard of 1940s Good Housekeeping magazines and Granpop’s stash of parish newsletters
– making for a wondrous medley of perceptions and priorities.
How did you plan the structure of your book?
Never without a notepad and pencil, nor fearful of splutters and tangles, and with the aid of a very large noticeboard and a jar of drawing pins – or failing that – the kitchen floor has worked well as a map-board / filing cabinet on a few occasions.
When I found myself agog at their schemes, marvelling at their insights or sobbing at their distress, then I knew the way was safe in their hands.
And then there’s always that recognition that ‘Granny-would-approve’ as our guiding principle.
Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did Raids, Rallies and Reserves need?
My sister supports me through it all. Kes reads through everything, she is meticulous.
Two essentials: trust and honesty … with yourself and your editor.
Gertie might sometimes wander off at a tangent, with his country wisdom and contrary ways – but Kes steers him back to the making-sense-of-it-all … eventually.
What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a book?
Don’t stop. Don’t ever stop. It doesn’t need to make sense to anyone else. Listen to the advice of the Others, but above all believe in yourself. Head – heart – hand, pick up that pen and let the snippets flow. Don’t fret about the trends and snares of outside influences, they don’t know the whole. And you’ll be surprised at how once you recognise your fellow companions in the stories, they’ll guide your path … and, of course, be sure to have the most amazing twin sister!
Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?
With the Salvaged Summer Trilogy now out on the bookshelves we are embarking on Gertie’s Path:
Gertie’s Path Bk 1 – Not So Safely Forgotten (Spring 1942): “OK, so they’re ALL over-here! Now what are we meant to do with ‘em?”
Gertie’s Path Bk 2 – The Biscuit Tin Summer (Summer 1942): Allowances would have to be made. “He’s American. Ahhh, that would explain it” … but only so far.
Gertie’s Path Bk 3 – Restless Torches (Autumn/Winter 1942): Country wisdom: if you want to know how to fix something, don’t wait until it breaks!
Gertie’s Path Bk 4 – The Tunisian Turnaround (Spring 1943): The Yanks were reckless, the French were unpredictable, the Italians were unreliable and the Germans were relentless … and they were heading straight for it. “Contacts and contingencies, Gertie … and desert know-how.”
Gertie’s Path, Bk 5 – Bottled Up & Knuckling Down (Autumn/Winter1943): “Bogged down by blizzards, half way up an unfriendly mountain, but generous locals and irregular routes proving useful.”
Gertie’s Path, Bk 6 – The Italian Insights (Spring 1944): Ready to ‘fetch Freddie’, with the help of Mi’Lady Maria, by way of Cassino!
Gertie’s Path, Bk 7 – Mountain Goats & Machine Guns (Summer 1944): Fighting through the final battle of Monte Cassino and further … from ‘Mudlarks to Mercy’ to ‘Briefcases, blackmail and the business of those American hostages.’
Gertie’s Path, Bk 8 – Nothing but Guts and Gruff (Autumn 1944): Apennine and over, encountering enemies and allies and those yet-to-decide! From a ‘Raid on Rats’ to the ‘Murky business in the Marradi Forest’ … “OK Lads, lets get this done!”
Gertie’s Path, Bk 9 – Brilliance and Blisters (Winter 1944/‘45): From Florence to Cairo to Cara and the Benghazi Bluff. An August meeting waiting for a signal. It was a bumpy start of tightropes and timing; then came down to ‘Tourists, Tauregs and a turn-of-speed’ before a ‘Flourish of Idiots’ and the ‘Most Bazaar by far!’
And, finally, are you proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?
Pop all your book, website and social media links here so the readers can find you:
Available on Lincolnshire Life Online Shop, as well as Walkers Bookshops in Stamford and Oakham, and directly from the’ scrawny author’ at email@example.com
Amazon Book One:https://amzn.to/45P2lUk
Amazon Book Two: https://amzn.to/48cJSm5
Amazon Book Three: https://amzn.to/3ZgkAiS
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