Anne Coates writes prize-winning fiction and also has worked as a journalist and editor for newspapers and magazines
It only took one tap dancing class (and some coaching from her mother who had been a dancer) for Anne Coates to realize that she would never be a Ginger Rogers but being a journalist/editor and writing fiction has allowed her to explore all manner of careers and situations with far less embarrassment.
Anne has worked as a journalist and editor for newspapers, magazines and publishers and has published seven non-fiction books as well as short stories and prize-winning flash fiction.
Born in Clapham and now living a few miles away in East Dulwich, Anne enjoys being a part of the local community having been a chair of governors for a primary school and a trustee of a Southwark charity. She sings in a church choir and loves socializing with family and friends. Apart from reading and writing, film and theatre are her passions. Her latest book, Stage Call, begins and ends in one of the capital’s most iconic theatres, The Old Vic – a firm favourite with the Coates family.
Do you have a “real” job other than writing, and if so, what is it? What are some other jobs you’ve had in your life? Have any of your jobs outside of writing influenced your writing?
For some years I have hosted a parenting website and have worked in publishing and journalism both staff and freelance all my career so writing has always been a major part of my life. Books I have worked on and people I have interviewed, articles I have written all influence my fiction and have had a major impact on themes I tackle. For example, in Songs of Innocents (3), I tackle – from the perspective of a white journalist – forced marriage in the Asian community as I had been deeply moved by memoirs I had worked on written by Asian women in that situation. Equally the Child Migration Scheme features in Perdition’s Child for the same reason.
What compelled you to write your first book?
I had published a lot of short stories in women’s magazines and always wanted to write a novel. My first attempt still sits in a file somewhere. I knew I could write but the theme eluded me so I carried on writing tales with a twist until inspiration hit me. Dancers in the Wind (the first in my crime thriller series published in 2016) was inspired by interviews I did for a national newspaper with a prostitute and a police officer in King’s Cross. Sadly, the young woman’s story was too traumatic to publish. I had had to pay her in cash which was biked over to me in jiffy bag. I didn’t think to erase my address when I handed it to her and afterwards it set me thinking “What if…”
Tell us a little bit about your books. What are some of the titles?
My series is set in London in the 1990s. My sleuth, Hannah, is a freelance journalist and single parent of Elizabeth who starts off as a six-month-old baby. As a journalist, Hannah is regarded as “soft” and “women’s mags” but she stumbles on stories which become major coups and front page news, often putting herself at risk to get the story. Stage Call, the fifth in my Hannah Weybridge series, was published by Red Dog Press earlier this year. Hannah has taken a back seat re journalism and has been collaborating with an actress on her memoirs. Joan Ballantyne, now in her sixties, had attracted a new fan base with her role in an award-winning soap, Chicory Road, and Lady Heston Regrets at the Old Vic was a sell-out. The book opens at the theatre. As the curtain rose, an actor nimbly turned an armchair that was facing the wrong way – to reveal the strangely still body of their leading lady. Suicide was suspected but Hannah, from the little she knew of the woman, was sceptical. As was her son, the famous TV actor, Leo Hawkins, who implored Hannah to investigate the circumstances of his mother’s mysterious death. Hannah is drawn into the lives of those who knew Joan. But who could she trust in a world where everyone seemed to be playing a part?
Are you currently working on any writing projects our readers should watch for release soon?
Not sure when the as yet untitled Hannah Weybridge 6 will be published but it is well underway now. I also have a standalone thriller on the back burner that I work on from time to time.
What about your family? Do you have children, married, siblings, parents? Has your family been supportive of your writing?
My mother used to read everything I wrote (including my translation of a very erotic French novel) but sadly she died before my Hannah Weybridge series was published. Stage Call is dedicated to her. The “victim” bears her name. My daughter, Olivia, who is an English teacher, is incredibly supportive and has even managed to get some of her colleagues to read my books!
The main characters of your stories––do you find that you put a little of yourself into each of them or do you create them to be completely different from you?
Often people say that Hannah is obviously me. Well yes – and no. I wouldn’t be capable of, or dare to do, half the things she gets up to. I agree with Virginia Woolf who commented, “Every secret of the writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind is written large in his works.” So even the villains have an aspect of me in them and I am indebted to my friends who share their experiences and expertise.
Many authors have said that naming their characters is a difficult process, almost like choosing a name for their own child. How did you select the names of some of your lead characters in your books?
When I worked in magazine fiction we were extremely careful about names and often used place names – this has stayed with me. As a bit of a joke I called my protagonist Hannah as it’s a version of Anne and Weybridge sounded right. Of course, I didn’t know then I would be writing a series. People who live in my area will recognise road and place names I’ve given to other characters. I keep a “bible” for my characters with their names, ages, physical characteristics etc. In the first book, I inadvertently used the name of a friend’s son. When his brother found out, he insisted that he too should be a character. I obliged but sadly that character died. I have also had people bid in charity auctions to have their names used.
Have you ever had a character take over a story and move it in a different direction than you had originally intended? How did you handle it?
As I am writing a series some of my characters move from book to book, taking on a greater of lesser role. I try to make sure their backstories are interesting and I often feel them nudging me and whispering “my turn next”. One character developed in a way which totally surprised me. When the revelation happened towards the end of Death’s Silent Judgement (book 2), I realised that the character had left clues and hints throughout the narrative and I hadn’t twigged but it was a perfect mini-twist.
Now that you area published author, does it feel differently than you had imagined?
Not really. My first seven books are non-fiction and I adored seeing them in bookshops and libraries. Publishing fiction is somehow a much more personal and different experience. A lot of friends and acquaintances who have read my Hannah Weybridge series are surprised by the grittiness and violent incidents. One complimented me on the amount of research I must have done. Nothing gives me greater pleasure than a reader saying they enjoyed my book and this never diminishes.
Is there anything else you want your readers to know about you? Include information on where to find your books, any blogs you may have, or how a reader can learn more about you and writing.
Where to find Anne Coates
Author Website: www.annecoatesauthor.com
FB Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/AnneCoatesAuthor/
Parenting Website – Twitter: https://twitter.com/ParentingWT
Books are available from all the usual places including Red Dog Press: https://www.reddogpress.co.uk/annecoates and Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Anne-Coates/e/B0034P5JHW/ref=aufs_dp_fta_dsk
Thanks so much, Anne, for giving the readers insight into your work,