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Anne R. Allen, author of "So Much for Buckingham"

The Open Book

Anne R. Allen, author of "So Much for Buckingham"

Stephen H. Provost

Anne R. Allen is a prolific writer, so identifying her as the author of So Much for Buckingham by no means encompasses her identity as an author. That just happens to be the work she's discussing here. In all, she's written or is writing a dozen books, produces one of the most helpful blogs on writing you'll find, writes short fiction and conducts writing workshops. She's also been an actress, bookseller and playhouse artistic director. 

So Much for Buckingham, published in January 2016, is Volume 5 in the Camilla Randall Mysteries series. As described on Amazon, it's a "comic novel ... (that) explores how easy it is to perpetrate a character assassination whether by a great playwright or a gang of online trolls."

The Author

Name, age and occupation: Anne R. Allen. I'm the author of 10 books (Two more coming up in 2017) and I'm an award-winning blogger. I'm old. As in Boomer. I remember the Edsel, the Kennedy assassination, and Woodstock.

Where and with whom do you live? I live in a little cottage by the sea in Los Osos (California) with a whole lot of people who are almost entirely fictional.

If you could co-write a book with any author, living or dead, whom would you choose? I would choose to write with Cambria's brilliant superstar author, Catherine Ryan Hyde, author of the book that made Pay it Forward a household phrase (as well as over 30+ other bestselling books.) And guess what? I actually got to do it. Catherine and I co-wrote a guidebook for authors, How to Be a Writer in the E-Age: A Self Help Guide.

Why do you write? Because the stories are there and they have to come out. They always have been. I've written fiction since I could hold a crayon.

Where do you write? I have the perfect writer's study, in the back of a little house at the end of a dead-end street, in a quiet room with lots of light and a view of trees and sky where I can hear waves on a windy day. The perfect writer's retreat.

What imaginary land would you like to visit? Narnia. Definitely Narnia. Animals that talk would be great to hang out with. 

What animal, real or imaginary, would you choose as your constant companion? I have a fictional cat, which I have given to my heroine, Camilla. I always used to have cats, but I developed COPD and allergies, and after my last cat, Chuck, died, my docs nixed a new one. So now I have Buckingham, who looks like Chuck, but isn't real, so he's cheaper to feed.

What do you collect? Mistakes. I always say that on the blog. I'm old enough to have collected a pretty full set of mistakes. So I figure other writers can learn from them.

Historical period you'd like to visit: The 1920s. I love to read anything set in the 1920s. The Australian TV series The Miss Fisher Mysteries is one of my favorite escapes.

Serious comedy ... written without a trace of sentimentality and an underlying tough realism that belies the wonderfully over-the-top nature of some of the characters — the humour in this is necessarily dark — but there’s any number of laugh out loudlines in it.”
— Lucinda Elliot at Sophie De Courcy

The Book

Genre and length: My novels are dark satiric mysteries. My publisher calls them "chick lit noir." They run about 75,000 words, standard mystery length. So Much for Buckingham is No. 5 in the Camilla Randall Mysteries series.

When and where does it take place? The setting of So Much for Buckingham alternates between the Central Coast of California and the fictional town of Swynsby-on-Trent in the English Midlands. Swynsby is the home of my heroine's publisher, Sherwood, Ltd. as well as a famous medieval manor house that Richard III often visited. Swynsby is the fictional name I've given to Gainsborough, a lovely market town in Lincolnshire, home of my first publisher, Babash-Ryan, who published my first two mysteries, Food of Love and The Best Revenge.

How did you come up with the title? "Off with his head! So much for Buckingham" is a famous line from Richard III that Shakespeare didn't actually write. It was added by a 19th century actor named Colley Sibber. The novel is about how repeated lies can often become more acceptable than truth, whether perpetrated by a great playwright or a gang of online trolls.

What inspired you to write it? As a well-known blogger and small-press author, I have had to deal with Amazon review vigilantes and social media trolls. I've had rape and death threats and went through nearly a year of harassment. So I decided to explore the problem from both sides — both from the POV of an author who is punished by vigilantes for breaking rules she didn't know existed and from the POV of her boyfriend, a music reviewer whose career is destroyed after he gives a bad review to a vindictive band.

Is there a sequel in the works? The next book in the series, The Queen of Staves, The Camilla Randall Mysteries #6, is due in July.  

Where, how can you get it? So Much for Buckingham is available locally at Coalesce in Morro Bay and Volumes of Pleasure in Los Osos. Online it's available in ebook at Amazon, Kobo , Nook, iTunes, Google Play and Scribd. In paper, it's available at Amazon and B&N and Walmart.

What would you select as your book's theme song? I'd love to have something played on a zither. Like the theme from the film, The Third Man. When I lived in Gainsborough, an ice cream truck came around on Saturdays that played the theme from The Third Man instead of ringing a bell. The tune was tinkle-y and bouncy … but the undertones were dark and ominous because of the film. Perfect for "chick lit noir."

What's your most interesting chapter title? Maybe "The Kingdom of Perpetual Night." (All the chapter titles come from Shakespeare's Richard III.)

Who would want to ban it? The pro-Tudor people who believe Richard III really did kill the princes in the tower.

Delicious wit, wonderful eccentric characters, and a beguiling plot. Camilla Randall is a delight!
— Melodie Campbell, "Canada's Queen of Comedy."

The Hero

Name, age and occupation: My sleuth, Camilla Randall, is "pushing forty so hard it screams." She's a formerly wealthy socialite and etiquette columnist — now the impoverished owner of a permanently failing Morro Bay bookstore.

Where and with whom does she live? She lives in a biodegrading former motel cottage in Morro Bay with a tuxedo cat named Buckingham who doesn't like her very much. Her best friend, gay screenwriter Plantagenet Smith, doesn't live with her, but he's the only constant in her life, since she's a magnet for "Mr. Wrong." Plant has recently married wealthy businessman Silas Ryder, but his marriage may be on the rocks.

Who would play your protagonist in a movie? Maybe Gwyneth Paltrow. I originally envisioned her as Bess Armstrong, the actress best known as the mom in My So-Called Life, who happens to be my cousin. 

Who's her celebrity crush? Maybe Jon Bon Jovi. She has a thing for working class guys from New Jersey.

What's her biggest fear/phobia? Of being impolite.

On what TV show would she appear as a special guest? When she was a young debutante, in the prequel to the series The Best Revenge she appeared on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. I can't say why, though. Spoilers.

What's her favorite quote or motto? "Most people have an inner child. I have an inner great aunt."

Weapon of choice: A well-placed stiletto heel, either thrown, brought down on the back of the head or aimed at the villain's eyeball. A spritz of hairspray to the face works, too.

Worst habit: She accepts everybody as they present themselves and is easily misguided in her eagerness to be fair.

Best feature: Camilla treats everybody with equal kindness and good manners.

Anne Allen had me laughing unexpectedly and sometimes out loud with her wonderful crafting of her words into sentences that became alive and three dimensional throughout these stories.
— JohnWilliamson at Goodreads