1. Tell us a little about yourself.
Three years’ ago I quit my job in London and moved with my small daughter to the south of France. The plan was to stay for a few months – to fulfill a lifelong dream of lollygagging in rosé wine vineyards, writing a book, getting the hang of French grammar, etc. – but we haven’t been able to leave!
We’ve built a new life here, complete with jobs, schools, and French subjunctive tenses – as well as the vineyards and writing! – and the best part is that we’re only a few hours away by train from our family in London. It’s also sunny here, roughly 300 days a year…
2. When did you start writing, and why?
I never set out to be an author but I’ve always been writing: at school, it was often some sort of trilogy involving magic kingdoms and dwarfs (I loved Tolkien); throughout my teens, I religiously recorded monumental events in my diary but mostly filled it with inconsequential lists of things I had to do each day (have a bath, feed the cat…); when I was pregnant with my daughter, I finally finished something serious. I wrote a play for the BBC. The play was rejected but it was the first time that I actually considered that I might be able to write; I received a really encouraging critique. Since then, I’ve written a few more plays as well as my first book, The Sham. It sounds a bit silly but I believe I do it because I simply can’t not write.
3. What do you write, and why? What do you enjoy about what you write?
My first book is a Young Adult thriller which was fun to write because I got to work through some of those teenage neuroses; the huge difficulties you have at 17 or 18 trying to reconcile what you want, what you know and what you can actually do. I remember feeling continuously pushed and pulled between huge insecurities (am I good enough? will I do well enough?) and a burning desire to burst onto the world and mould it to my liking.
I’m not sure contemporary thrillers are an easy genre to market in YA – too old for younger YA readers, too young for adult readers – but it’s one I’m keen on pursuing. I’ve just started my second YA thriller; it seems to suit me.
4. What is your latest book or series? Any forthcoming books?
The Sham is a YA contemporary thriller, set in England. The idea came to me in a nightmare. I dreamed that I was 17 again, back in school, with the same group of 4 friends, involved in a murder of one of them. It was so vivid that I couldn’t get back to sleep and the only way I could get it out of my head was to write it all down. It’s a standalone novel.
5. "Welcome To My Worlds": Tell us a little about the world of your latest book or series.
The Sham is set in the fictional town of Clevesham in the Midlands, England. It’s based on many of the towns I know very well in that region along the river Avon, which floods quite a bit (a dead body is washed downriver in the local floods) and is close to Stratford-upon-Avon, Shakespeare’s birthplace. A pivotal scene in the book occurs at Shakespeare’s grave.
6. Introduce us to some of your characters. What do you like about them?
Emily Heath, the protagonist in The Sham, is a composite of the person that I wanted to be at 18 and the person that I thought I actually was; I probably wasn’t anything like her in real life. I really love her – she’s smart, feisty and ever so slightly damaged.
Jack, her boyfriend, is slightly more prickly. He seemingly has no past, his body is failing, his brain is shutting down and he is very cagey about everything. The book has two main mysteries: 1) who is the killer; and 2) who is Jack (and ultimately if the two are linked) so I can’t really talk about Jack in much detail without a spoiler. He was great fun to write!
7. A fun fact you would like your readers to know about you or your book.
I’m not sure that I have many strange quirks but I love wild swimming; my favourite spots are under Pont du Gard in the south of France and Dosthill quarry in the Midlands, England.
Eighteen-year-old Emily Heath would love to leave her dead-end town, known locally as "The Sham", with her boyfriend, Jack, but he's very, very sick; his body is failing and his brain is shutting down. He's also in hiding, under suspicion of murder. Six months' ago, strange signs were painted across town in a dialect no one has spoken for decades and one of Emily's classmates washed up in the local floods.
Emily has never trusted her instincts and now they're pulling her towards Jack, who the police think is a sham himself, someone else entirely. As the town wakes to discover new signs plastered across its walls, Emily must decide who and what she trusts, and fast: local vigilantes are hunting Jack; the floods, the police, and her parents are blocking her path; and the town doesn’t need another dead body.
WARNING: this book is unsuitable for younger teenage readers. It depicts adult situations, murder scenes, conversations about sex and profanity.
The Sham is available at Amazon
Ellen Allen on her inspiration for The Sham:
The idea for this book came to me in a nightmare. It was so vivid that I imagined I was 17 again, at school, in the same group of 4 friends that I used to hang around with. We were involved in a murder and cover-up. I started writing partly as a way to get it out of my head and then the characters turned into real people... and Emily and Jack were born.
More about Ellen Allen:
In a previous life, Ellen Allen was an Associate Director in a small consultancy firm (focusing on Sustainable Development and Climate Change) running research projects and writing client reports. She doesn’t find fiction writing too dissimilar in process but she gets to use her imagination considerably more! She now lives in the south of France with her small daughter. If you want to contact Ellen Allen you can find her on twitter @EllenWritesAll or facebook www.facebook.com/EllenWritesAll or on her writing blog: www.writingright.net.
Amazon author page | The Sham on Goodreads
If you would like to win a free e-copy of The Sham (in epub, mobi or pdf format) there is a current giveaway on facebook. (Through November 10)