What would you like to tell readers about yourself?
* Toni Allen is a professional tarot reader, astrologer, author and photographer.
* I’ve been a professional tarot reader for about 30 years, and an astrologer for about 25. Now, thanks to the internet, I have an International client database. My main website is creaking because I haven’t updated it for so long, but it’s still fully functional and full of lots of interesting information. www.toniallen.co.uk . A new build is underway, with lots of modern bits and pieces so that you can connect with me via Facebook and easily keep up to date with events that I’m offering readings at.
What are you going to tell us about today?
* Story World: Why Visiting Lilly is Based in Farnham By Toni Allen
* When I started writing Visiting Lilly I had no idea in what town it would be based, merely an idea in my head for the main thrust for the plot. Then, while outlining my first chapter, in my mind’s eye I saw Frankie’s house, and I immediately knew that he lived up near Farnham Park. I live close to Farnham, and I guess that something subliminal crept in and helped flesh out my character.
* I was happy with this, the location was perfect. There are some reasonably large Victorian houses up near the park, and for Frankie to own a property like that suited his personality. Farnham Park is near to the town, but quiet. I already knew that for part of my plot line I wanted to include a country feel, and Farnham is in leafy Surrey, not completely rural, but not a bustling city of concrete either.
* Having Farnham as the central location gave me the opportunity to include other nearby areas, and use my local knowledge to best advantage. Hence, when I wanted to give the Charteris family a huge property with land, it simply had to be a Queen Anne style house, because Farnham is situated on the border of Hampshire, and Jane Austen’s house is in the village of Chawton, close to Alton. The entire area is littered with spectacular Queen Anne houses, so when it came to writing Lilly’s backstory, it seemed appropriate that her father had a business in Alton.
* On introducing my detective, Jake Talbot, I didn’t feel that he was born and bred locally. I wanted him to have been working in a tougher environment than Farnham, and from the way he started to speak, it became obvious that he’d moved down from London, for a quieter life, after family tragedies. London is only forty miles from Farnham, and this short distance to the heart of commerce, meant that I could easily have a character working in The City.
* Farnham is surrounded by beautiful countryside, and Frankie’s family live over in Frensham, famous for its two ponds, Frensham Little Pond and Great Pond, which are run by the National Trust. Unfortunately Frankie’s family aren’t interested in the rare visiting bird breeds, or the rare native birds, which include the now endangered nightjar. If Talbot had heard the nightjar, which only flies at dusk and dawn, he would have thought the builders were out late with a jackhammer, because in the eerie forests around Frensham that’s what its call sounds like.
* We’re very fortunate in Farnham because many of its old buildings have been preserved, so the town has a lovely old-world feel about it. Many buildings are Georgian and St Andrew's Church is among Surrey’s most important buildings, dating back to the 12th century. This delightfully old-fashioned backdrop, is ideal for Talbot and Frankie, who both have an avid interest in antiques, and for different personal reasons tend to yearn for the past. Visiting Lilly is a thoroughly modern story, with some extremely high-tech electronics at the heart of the mystery, so idyllic Farnham builds a strong contrast between location and the events that unfold.
A look into the story
* Laughing, Hayward picked up his mug and sat back in his chair. ‘I’ve been told not to speak with you,’ he said. ‘Warned off.’
* ‘I beg your pardon.’ Talbot fished out his cigarettes and offered one over.
* Rather than leaning forwards, Hayward held out his hand so he could be thrown one. He caught it in mid-air. Impressive.
* ‘I’m a police officer.’ Talbot lit his own before chucking the lighter over. ‘Who has the authority to instruct you not to speak with me?’
* ‘You’ll find out … if they give you your permissions.’ Hayward lit his cigarette and leant forwards to flick ash that wasn’t there yet into the ashtray. Neat, obsessively neat. ‘I’m a man of honour,’ he said, looking down as if ashamed. ‘But I’d much rather be free, and able to try and see Lilly, than locked up. I’m sorry.’
* ‘Hold it, hold it. Locked up. Are you serious?’
* ‘Never more so.’
* Sipping his tea, Talbot stared at Hayward, tried to judge whether he was lying. Being blocked by someone stronger and more important than him made his pulses race and nerves jangle. He wasn’t used to being trodden on from invisible heights.
* ‘Tell me, Frankie … can I call you Frankie?’
* Frankie shook his head. ‘We’re not friends. It would mar the line, wouldn’t it?’
* ‘Sure.’ Talbot saw his point: it would cross a boundary, and Hayward wasn’t ready for that yet.
* ‘Well, tell me, if you speak to me, about Lilly and what is important, how would they ever know?’
* Hayward shrugged. ‘They’d know.’ He drew heavily on his cigarette and smiled. ‘You’d become involved. You’d ask different questions. You’d tread on their toes.’
* ‘Will my being here get you into trouble?’
* ‘Not if we stick to the weather.’ They both burst out laughing, threw silly quips at each other about how wet it was for the time of year, and then suddenly stopped, Talbot feeling the bubble burst, the fun over.
* ‘Mr Hayward.’ He leant forwards. ‘We have a huge dilemma.’
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Thank you for joining us here today, Toni Allen! It was a pleasure getting to know you and your story.
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