Oh well, here we are again! After a week of mostly, well, bullshit, it’s time for a refreshing change.
No tsunami of shite, just a blog post about a damn good book, who wrote it and where you can buy it. That’s it. Nothing else. *shrugs*
So let me tell you about Anne R. Allen and more importantly, ‘Sherwood’.
Ten years ago, Anne was on her third literary agent and just about ready to give up on the dream of being an author. Her novels were being rejected everywhere. In her own words, “In those days, the mash-up of romantic comedy with noir mystery was too unusual to fit New York’s needs. ”
Anne had three novels completed. A fourth had run as a serial in a California entertainment weekly. One of her stories had been short-listed for an international prize, and a play had been produced to good reviews. Anne was ‘bringing in a few bucks’ —mostly with short pieces for local magazines and freelance editing.
But meantime, her savings had evaporated. Anne’s boyfriend had ridden his Harley into the Big Sur sunset, and she was contemplating a career change to the fast food industry. (phew, we are sooooo glad you didn’t do it, Anne!)
Even acceptances turned into rejections: a UK zine that had accepted one of Anne’s stories folded. But when the editor sent the bad news, he mentioned he’d taken a job with a small UK book publisher—and did she have any novels?
Anne sent him one her agent had rejected as “too over the top.” Within weeks, she was offered a contract by her new editor—a former BBC comedy writer—for FOOD OF LOVE. Included was an invitation for her to come over the pond to do some promotion.
So she rented out her California beach house, packed her bags and bought a ticket to Gainsborough, Lincolnshire (now we’re talking Anne, this is my neck of the woods) , where her new publishers had recently moved into a huge 19th century mill on the banks of the river Trent —the river George Eliot fictionalized as “the Floss.”
George Eliot. Anne was going to be working and living only a few hundred yards from the ruins of the house where she wrote her classic novel about the 19th century folk who lived and died by the power of Lincolnshire ’s great tidal river. An English major’s dream.
At the age of… well, she wouldn’t tell me exactly… Anne was about to have the adventure of her life.
She knew the company published mostly erotica, but was branching into mainstream and literary fiction. They had already published the first novel of a distinguished poet, and a famous Chicago newspaper columnist was in residence, awaiting the launch of his new book.
But when Anne arrived, she found the great Chicagoan had left in a mysterious fit of pique, the “erotica” was seriously hard core kink, and the former ladies’ underwear factory on the Trent was more of the William Blake Dark Satanic variety than George Elliot’s bucolic “Mill on the Floss.”
She told me that some of her fears subsided when she was greeted by a friendly group of unwashed, fiercely intellectual young men who presented her with generous quantities of warm beer, cold meat pies and galleys to proof. After a beer or two, Anne even found herself almost comprehending their/our northern accents!
She held it together until she saw her new digs: a grimy futon and an old metal desk, hidden behind stacks of book pallets in the corner of an unheated warehouse, about a half a block from the nearest loo. The only modern convenience was an ancient radio abandoned by a long-ago factory girl. (did I used to work here?).
Now for those of you that don’t have the pleasure of knowing Anne, let me tell you, she ain’t the kinda gal that would squat on your floor for the sake of art if you know what I mean! This must have been a real wrench for her.
For our friends from sunnier (and colder!) climes who don’t know where Anne is talking about (or which part of the world I hail from) Gainsborough is here:
Anne admits to some tears of despair. Until, she says…:
“…Until, from the radio, Big Ben chimed six o’clock .
That’s six pm , GMT.
Greenwich Mean Time. The words hit me with all the sonorous power of Big Ben itself. I had arrived at the mean, the middle, the center that still holds—no matter what rough beasts might slouch through the cultural deserts of the former empire. This was where my language, my instrument, was born.
I clutched my galley-proof to my heart. I might still be a rejected nobody in the land of my birth—but I’d landed on the home planet: England . And there, I was a published novelist. Just like George Eliot.”
Three years later, Anne returned to California , older, fatter (the English may not have the best food, but their BEER is another story Anne!) and a lot wiser. That Chicagoan’s fit of pique turned out to be more than justified. The company was swamped in debt. They never managed to get her US distribution. Shortly before her second book THE BEST REVENGE was to launch, the managing partner withdrew his capital, sailed away and mysteriously disappeared off his yacht—his body never found. The company sputtered and died.
And Anne was back in the slush pile again.
But (thankfully) she had a great plot for her next novel.
Here’s what Anne says about SHERWOOD, LTD.
That novel is SHERWOOD, LTD. It’s 100% fiction—I put the heroine of THE BEST REVENGE into those improbable digs and made up an intricate whodunit plot—but the setting in the old ladies’ underwear factory I call the “Maidenette” building is very real, as are the wonderful people of Lincolnshire I fell in love with during my almost three-year stay. I will always feel part of me still lives in Gainsborough—George Eliot’s St. Oggs—the town I call “Swynsby-on-Trent” in my novel. SHERWOOD, LTD. is a kind of love letter to the English Midlands, and to one of their greatest contributions to world culture: the story of Robin Hood and his Merry Men.
Thankfully, some forward-thinking, innovative and all-round uber-ambitious digital publisher (ahem)
railroaded talked Anne into coming on board and letting them publish this fabulous book.
Ahh, brilliant! How thankful we are to Lincolnshire, that band of unwashed intellects and our local ale. For without it, the world wouldn’t have Sherwood! 😉
Get it now. Really.
- ‘Banning the bullshit’ Sunday: ‘Beyond Nostalgia’ by Tom Winton (sapphicscribe.wordpress.com)