With the huge success of July’s Book Club & Social, which saw the Gaggler ladies get together at the fantastic CMP Bar & Grill to discuss everything from books to life in Dubai. This month, we thought we would up the ante and read a novel written by a world-renowned author based right here in Dubai: Annabel Kantaria. Not only will we be reading her tantalising book The One That Got Away, but Annabel will also be joining us for our monthly book club, so you can ask her anything you want! Keep reading to find out how to join.
Up Close with Annabel Kantaria
We interviewed Annabel to learn all about her and the book we will be reading this month with The Gaggler Book Club!
How did your journey as a published author start?
I worked as a journalist and magazine editor until I had children, then I decided to take a step back from office life and focus on fiction as it had always been my dream to be an author. I started writing a novel that I’ve never shown to anyone – it was truly dire – but the process taught me quite a lot about writing. While I was writing it, I went to as many writing classes and workshops as I could each year at the annual Emirates Airline Festival of Literature (EAFOL) and learned from authors such as Tony Parsons and Louise Doughty.
How did you get your big break?
When I was about a third of the way into a new manuscript, the EAFOL launched a writing competition for unpublished authors. The competition would be judged by a literary agent from London, Luigi Bonomi, and the winner would get to fly to London to meet him.
I’d spent a lot of time researching how difficult it is to get an agent in London, so I thought it was a golden opportunity. I entered, and I won first prize. Having Luigi on my side really got my foot in the door of the publishing world. He encouraged me to finish the manuscript that I’d started, and then he took me on as a client and managed to secure me my first – and then second – three-book contract.
Can you tell us a little about The One That Got Away ?
This story starts at a school reunion, where ex-lovers George and Stella meet for the first time in 15 years. Things hadn’t ended well when they split up at the end of the sixth form and George is now married, but there’s still an undeniable spark between the two of them. I can’t say too much more about what happens without giving away spoilers, but let’s just say it isn’t pretty.
The story is told alternately from George and then Stella’s point of view. As the story unfolds, you see how differently they each view the same situations, which gives you a creeping sense of dread: how’s it all going to end? I always ask people who are reading it if they’re Team George or Team Stella. Warning: your loyalty may switch halfway through!
What was the inspiration for The One That Got Away?
I went to a 30-year school reunion myself and had the idea the same night. Nothing so juicy happened at my own reunion – not that I know of, anyway – but it did make me think what a great starting point for a novel a school reunion would be.
Who is your favourite female author, and why?
I don’t have a single favourite female author – there are way too many amazing ones out there. But at the moment, I’m reading a lot of Lisa Jewell, Louise Candlish, and Ruth Ware. All of them are masters at creating suspense.
What is the process for writing and long does each novel take?
Well, obviously, you start with an idea. It could be a great premise, a twist, an ending, or – more rarely for me – a character. I work this up into how it could become a story, work out the bones of the plot and structure, and decide if I think it will a) work and b) be interesting enough for people to want to read it. As I’m in a contract, I usually run it past my agent and editor before I start writing – just to check they’re on board with the idea, too.
I write five mornings a week and sometimes a bit in the afternoon, too, if after-school activities allow me the headspace. I don’t usually work much in the school holidays. At that pace, it can take anything from three to six months to get the first draft down, and then another three or so months to edit and polish it up ready to send to my agent. He has a read and sends me comments, which I take on board before I submit it to the publisher. Then there’s a whole extra round of edits to go through with my editor before the manuscript is copy-edited for typos and typeset. That whole process – from idea to final manuscript – can take about a year, then there are quite a few more months while the publisher sorts out things like marketing, cover design, and finding a suitable publication slot.
Can you offer some tips for anyone looking to get their work published?
The first thing is to finish writing the book! There’s no point in worrying about how you’re going to get it published until you have something you can potentially publish. That means making time in your life to write every day. Writing really is like exercising: the more you write, the better and more efficient you become, so it’s good to make it a daily habit.
Once you have a manuscript, it’s probably worth hiring an editor or a literary consultant to look through it to make sure it’s as good as it can be before you send it to a publisher. Unless you’re writing something like poetry or non-fiction, you’ll have a better chance of getting published if you have an agent. The Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook is a brilliant resource for finding an agent – it lists what each one in the UK is looking for and how to approach them.
Tell us about your new book, The House of Whispers.
My latest title is written under my new pen name, Anna Kent, and will be out on August 5. It’s a chilling story about guilt and obsession. When Grace returns to Abi’s life years after they fell out at university, Abi can’t help but feel uneasy. Years ago, Grace’s friendship was all-consuming and exhausting and, now, as Grace slips back into her life with all the lethal charm she had before, Abi finds herself falling back under her spell. Just what influence does Grace have over Abi, and why has she come back now?
Welcome to the Gaggler Book Club! We want to read stories that make us think, move us, and open us up to meaningful conversations with each other and build life-long connections. We can’t wait to talk to you about this month’s book. Spaces are limited for our August Book Club featuring dinner & drinks with the author (yes! you can pose your own questions to the author in real-time!). To secure your place please find us on social at Gaggler Facebook Group to sign up and stay updated with our fellow readers!