Interview with Allie Sommerville, author of Uneasy Rider

And now for something completely different. . .:

Uneasy Rider: Confessions of a Reluctant Traveller
“The ultimate antidote-to-travel book! A European Odyssey where brakes fail on mountain passes …a witch curses…Germans travel in a Tardis. If you ever thought a trip around Europe in a second-hand camper van would be fun, then this has been written for you. If not, just enjoy the ups and downs of the ride. Along the way, discover how to avoid being robbed more than once in Rome and why you shouldn’t attempt to take a camper van into one of the pueblos blancos in Andalucia. ‘Uneasy Rider’ takes a humorous and wry view of independent travel.”

What draws you to travel ?
Not too sure that I am actually ‘drawn’! In fact I prefer being at home really – they say travelling makes you appreciate home, and this is so true in my case. However, whenever I look at a map of France in particular or see photos of Italy, I get the longing to take off again.
We originally bought the campervan to do a trip round Spain because I was (and am still) obsessed with a book by Laurie Lee: As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning’. This book tells of Laurie walking across Spain in the 1930s on the cusp of the civil war. No-one writes like Laurie Lee in my opinion (although Bill Bryson and Jane Austen come a close second).

Have you always travelled ?
When I was little, the furthest my family travelled was to Cornwall, though we thought we were being really adventurous.
I didn’t go abroad until I was about 17, when I went to stay with my French penfriend. After moving to the Isle of Wight, we didn’t particularly feel the need to travel anywhere else at first – we had plenty of beaches and lovely countryside!

Can you remember your first trip abroad ?
See above!

Do you have a favourite place you like to revisit ?
I love Florence – we visited there three times in the campervan and still haven’t seen everything. I studied Art History for three years, and really got into Early Renaissance art – Florence is the place to experience it first hand.

When not in the campervan, our favourite place is Switzerland – we stay in a little village at 1500 metres up a mountain in the Valais region. The views towards the Southern Alps are incredible, and the area boasts over 2000 hours of sunshine per year!

I’d love to go back to New York. We went there on the Queen Mary 2 a few years ago – New York is fab, and so was the crossing – I loved the food, the dressing up and all the on-board activities. Beats travelling around in a scruffy campervan any day.

What is the scariest place you have ever been to ?

A deserted campsite north of Valencia was pretty scary – especially when I thought we were going to be murdered for our passports! (Please see Chapter 1 in Uneasy Rider: No Woman No Cry)

Where would you like to go that you haven’t been to yet ?
I’ve always wanted to go to Russia – St Petersburg in particular. Something about the old Tsarist Russia fascinates me. I blame watching the film, Dr. Zhivago at an impressionable age…
Next year I shall be ‘celebrating’ one of those birthdays that end in a nought, so we’ve booked to go on a cruise to St Petersburg. There are also many other fascinating places we shall be stopping at en route. Can’t wait!

How did you come to start writing ?
Well we had so many ‘incidents’during our first trip in that campervan, that I kept saying, “There’s a book in this!” Eventually I wrote one.
I loved to write when I was younger, and as a mature student did advanced studies in English Literature, Art and Art History. These courses focussed my mind again on how to write a good essay, so I felt ready to begin writing in earnest.

Are there plans to write a sequel ?

I’ve made a start on a book about our campervan trip round mainland GB in 2003. The provisional title is: ‘Miss Potter and the Mathematician’s Rabbit’. Hope the title is intriguing enough to get some interest!

Are there other genres you are interested in writing for ?
I’ve written a couple of short stories, but the non-fiction/autobiographical stuff takes up most of my writing time.

Which favourite books do you take with you on your travels ?
As you might guess, Bill Bryson’s books are most often my holiday reading. His ‘Notes From A Small Island’ is a favourite, and it was weird when we did our GB trip, that we unintentionally followed in his footsteps most of the way!
Since acquiring a Kindle, my holiday reading has been work by some fellow Authonomy authors. Philip Whitehead’s autobiographical book, ‘Steady Past Your Granny’s’ is fun, as is Kate Rigby’s ‘Little Guide to the Unhip’. The great thing about having a Kindle is that you can own so many lovely books by so many friends, and take them all with you.

Do you write while travelling ?
Where and how ?

I use my Other Half’s old Windows laptop when we go away. My little pink USB memory sick is a constant travelling companion.

Dancing is another passion of yours – are there plans to write about that?
The first chapter of my Memoir, To Set My Feet A-Dancing, is about time spent as a small child at dancing classes and performances. Such great experiences. We had an eccentric teacher, and our shows were Fab-U-Lous darling!

You have a second book available on Amazon: (To Set My Feet A-Dancing) would you like to tell us something about that ?
This book came about after spending years researching my Family History. It was too late to ask my parents and grandparents about their early lives, and I realised that my children know little about mine, apart from the odd anecdote. So I began to write stories about my life as a child in Croydon, and in the process decided that those times were so completely different to now, it was like something from Dickens’ time. It became more of a social history.
I was lucky that even though we were not at all well-off and I never did get that pony, I had a really happy childhood. This is definitely not a ‘misery memoir’, but I hope what I have to say brings this era to life in a fun and readable way.
The second part of the book is about the lives of my ancestors, beginning in the 1800s

What has the Amazon experience been like for you ?
Apart from a couple of odd, puzzling negative reviews of my travel book (who are these people?), it’s been amazing. I’ve had so many great reviews, and these I treasure.
When Uneasy Rider first appeared as a paperback on Amazon in 2009, it was a dream come true. That people are still buying it in book-form on Amazon is great, and Kindle sales have been beyond my wildest dreams!

What do you hope to see happen in ebooks and (digital) publishing publishing ?
It will be a great pity if ebooks cause the demise of ‘real’ books. I’m sure this is happening already, but hopefully some books will always need to be physically published. I suppose this will be good environmentally-speaking, but there really is nothing like the feel and smell of a brand new paperback.
Having said that, I hope the coming of e-publishing will give more aspiring authors the chance to have their voices heard rather than have their work sitting in a slush pile for years.

Any advice you’d like to pass on re writing/websites/networking ?
Authonomy was a great place for me when it started – I didn’t know any other writers, and I was given so much advice and support there. It was where I actually began to learn how to write in a way that people might want to read. Uneasy Rider is unrecognisable now compared to how it was when I first uploaded it to Authonomy, and I continue to do re-writes. I’m in the process of editing a second edition. Just hope that this time I’ll be satisfied with it!
With so many new writer ‘friends’, it’s great to keep in touch with them on FaceBook and Twitter. No trolls! Everyone shares information, and ‘writers’ like me feel part of a community.

Where can readers find your work and other writings ?
The Uneasy Rider – Confessions of a Reluctant Traveller website is:
http://campervantraveller.weebly.com

Uneasy Rider on Amazon:
http://amzn.to/5ttzAe

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