Allie Spencer wanted to be a writer most of her life, but she received her MA and went on to law school, qualifying as a barrister. She specialized in matrimonial and family law and spent several years after that practicing law. Spencer says she finally was able to turn to her passion-writing- after she had her son and was able to concentrate on the writing during her down time- ie. naptime. Now, Spencer is a novelist for Little Black Dress, and has published Tug of Love and The Not So Secret Diary of a City Girl is due out in April. Allie Spencer currently lives in the South of England with her husband and their two children.
Q: You attended a law school and practiced law for years. Why did you decide to start writing?
I’ve wanted to be a writer for most of my life and dabbled at it for years. However, it wasn’t until I’d had my first child that I finally had the time (during his naps) to sit down and tackle a full-length novel. At the moment, the writing seems to be taking off, but there is always the chance I’ll be back in court if things don’t work out!
Q: What is your favorite part of the writing process?
Oooh, that’s a hard one. I think every part of the process has good bits and bad bits, but for sheer excitement, I think it has to be the moment you first hold your published novel in your hand – everything you struggled with suddenly seems worth it. Also, it’s hard to beat the moment a fantastic idea or a wonderful character turns up unannounced in your head; in my experience this doesn’t happened very often so you need to make the most of it!
Q: On the other hand, what do you think is the hardest part of the writing process?
I find the first edit the hardest. I write and write and write until I have a first draft and then I go back over it and try and pull it into some sort of shape. I usually end up doing at least six drafts/re-workings, but that first ‘go through’ feels as though it takes forever and by the time I’ve finished it, I’ve usually convinced myself that I’ve just written the worst book in the history of the universe! But you have to gird up your loins and go back in and do it all over again – and by the time I’ve finished the second edit, I generally feel much more positive.
Q: Do you have a certain area that you get all your work done?
I write in my bedroom, sitting on the bed with my laptop on my knee. I’m sure this isn’t good for me and some sort of ergonomic karma is going to get me sooner or later, but I love the peace and calm of the bedroom (unlike the crazy, untidy study that my husband occupies) and I can hide away from the washing up and unfinished housework lurking downstairs.
Q: Where do you find the inspiration for your books?
Sometimes it seems to come out of nowhere: I’ll be watching television, picking the children up from school or going for a run, and I’ll think ‘wouldn’t that be a good idea for a book?’ or, ‘oh, yes – that’s the way the plot needs to go!’. At other times, I’ll find myself in a particular situation, or perhaps reading an article in the paper, and ideas start sparking out of that. I got the inspiration for Tug of Love whilst sitting in a crowded corridor outside a courtroom: I suddenly wondered what it would be like if the door to that courtroom opened and your boyfriend came out – and there you were, in the most public situation imaginable, having just found out that your boyfriend was going through a divorce he hadn’t told you about.
Q: How do you enjoy any free time you get?
I seem to spend most of the time I’m not writing running round like a headless chicken sorting out the house or looking after the children. However this New Year I made a resolution to get back into some of the things I used to enjoy such as going to the theatre, cinema and concerts. I haven’t made it to the flicks yet, but I did go to see Noel Coward’s Private Lives a couple of weeks ago and I’ve got two more theatre trips booked – one is for a show at the Globe Theatre which I am really excited about.
Q: What is one thing about you that most people wouldn’t know?
Er, tough one. The answer would either have to be something a bit bizarre, like the fact that I was once in a play where all my lines were in Anglo Saxon and I had to wave a broad sword around (!) or something more serious, like the fact I am dyslexic. Thankfully my dyslexia is not at the serious end of the spectrum, but it does mean I need to put in extra effort to make sure my writing’s up to scratch.
Q: Who are some of your favorite authors?
I like anyone with an unusual, humorous take on life so my favourites include Marian Keyes, Sophie Kinsella (I have just finished Twenties Girl – it was amazing), Douglas Adams and the fantastic Jasper Fforde.
Q: What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Never give up: keep writing, keep polishing and keep sending your work out to editors and agents. If you give up, you can be absolutely certain you will never be published; keep going and you are always in with a chance. I think it’s also worth going to writers’ conferences or joining groups such as the Romantic Novelists’ Association (who, by the way, run a critiquing scheme for unpublished authors). By meeting and talking to the editors and agents who attend this sort of function, you get yourself known and also get a feel for what publishers are looking for.
Q: What is or do you think would be your favorite place to travel?
If I could go anywhere, I think I’d hop in a time machine and whiz back through some of my favourite historical eras. I studied the Middle Ages at uni, so a quick visit to the Fifteenth Century would be interesting to see if our ideas about life back then are anywhere near the truth! Then a stop-over in Regency England – possibly a visit to the great Jane Austen herself, if that could be arranged – before winding up in the Roaring Twenties for champagne cocktails and a spot of Charleston dancing!