Friday, 22 May 2015

Fly or Fall by Gilli Allan
Release Date: First released - 1st September 2013. Re-released 21st May 2015
Publisher: Accent Press
Genres: Contemporary Fiction

 “Wife and mother, Nell, fears change, but it is forced upon her by her manipulative husband, Trevor. Finding herself in a new world of flirtation and casual infidelity, her principles are undermined and she’s tempted. Should she emulate the behaviour of her new friends or stick with the safe and familiar?

But everything Nell has accepted at face value has a dark side.  Everyone - even her nearest and dearest - has been lying. She’s even deceived herself. The presentiment of disaster, first felt as a tremor at the start of the story, rumbles into a full blown earthquake. When the dust settles, nothing is as it previously seemed. And when an unlikely love blossoms from the wreckage of her life, she fears it is doomed.

The future, for the woman who feared change, is irrevocably altered. But has she been broken, or has she transformed herself? “

When her fortune changes, and money is no issue for a change,Nell's husband is keen to move away from their hectic lifestyle in London and put down roots in a country village. Nell isn't really keen but is railroaded into the decision. Nell feels like she didn't really have a choice to move away from all that is familiar to her. Apart from the change of scenery there appears to be a change in Nell's husband too. He soon becomes a different person, and not the person Nell married. Nell becomes lonely and isolated but makes new friends who seem to revel in stories of their open marriages and are the most materialistic people Nell has come across. Nell's life is soon complicated further when an encounter with a young man at a nightclub and a friendship struck up with a local builder soon have Nell questioning everything in her life.
Fly or Fall is one of those books that draws you in right from the start. Immediately I felt sympathy for Nell and how everyone else seems so in charge of her life and she is merely a bystander. She initially is a woman who feels uncertain about her place in the world and is so desperate to blend into the background that she becomes invisible to the very people who should care about her. Nell's life and marriage are typical of many. She married young with very little choice in the matter and simply accepted her fate. She is constantly taken for granted by her children and manipulating husband Trevor. Kept in blissful ignorance about all aspects of her marriage and accepting of the loveless sex life, Nell simply just gets on with things and accepts her lot in life.
Initially, Nell appears to be an older woman and I found it shocking that as I read on I realised that she was in fact a much younger woman with all the regrets of someone who has lived a life full of regret and broken promises. Her outlook on life was jaded and her self esteem was in her boots. There are many underlying stories throughout the course of the book and Nell becomes embroiled in each of them. She struggles to understand the strange feelings that Patrick the builder evokes in her and David, the man she encounters at a nightclub.
Fly or Fall is a book about love, life and a desire to change, despite the fear of failure. In this story we see Nell change into someone that even she struggles to recognise. It is a story of regret too. Regret for those things not done, those adventures never embarked on and those feelings never given in to. However, soon Nell begins to wake up from the life she has sleepwalked through and a change is awakened in her. However, not everyone in her life is happy about it and Nell herself struggles with the range of emotions she feels and the desire to be a different person that suddenly appears from nowhere! Coupled with an attraction to two new men in her life, Nell struggles as her moral compass is unsure which direction it should be pointing.
Fly or Fall is a grown up book. It is a book about having the courage to fly when you are so afraid of falling. Highly recommended. 
(Please note: This review first appeared on the blog on 30th June 2014)


Old Chestnuts and Life Biting Back

I could say that FLY OR FALL is the most autobiographical novel I’ve ever written, but it’s autobiographical in surprising and sometimes disturbing ways.  The initial concept came to me many years ago. At the time life was good.  I was living on the edge of the countryside in Surrey. We’d a nice house and were close to friends and family. My son attended a nearby school and my husband had a good job. And the cherry on the cake for me?  I’d started writing, and found a publisher. But to maintain the self esteem which being a ‘published novelist’ had given me, I needed to get on with my third book.  

Moving house was something I knew about - the last occasion had been instigated by me, only four years previously. But I began to I wonder how I’d feel if it had all been my husband’s idea, and I hadn’t wanted to move.  The germ of an idea was planted.  What if a woman who dislikes change is persuaded - against her will - to move house from Battersea in London, to an area where she knows no one? And what if her mother has just died?  And what if the new house is old-fashioned and run down and in need of major modernisation?  

I have experience of having work done on the house, but I’ve never been propositioned by a builder.  But at the time I was developing this story I inferred from a woman I knew - somewhat to my surprise - that flirting (and maybe more) with builders, was a commonplace and welcome add-on to home improvements!  Another idea began forming in my head.  My heroine is not the kind of woman who would respond positively to a pass from a stranger.  But what if I put her in a house full of builders, and the man with the reputation as a local womaniser fails to make a pass at her? Would she feel relief or resentment?  

Where I was propositioned was when I worked behind a bar. To a certain type of man, it seems, bar maids are fair game.  It occurred to me that my heroine could take a job in the bar of a sports club. It would expose her to an entirely different world to the one she’d left behind in ‘right on’, ‘politically correct’ Battersea. I still had no overall story, but all of these thoughts were rumbling around in my head in a lumpy, unconnected way, and I was laboriously writing them down, hoping that something would gel. 

Suddenly, everything in my life was turned upside down by the totally unexpected and early death of my much loved mother. It was a weird and disturbing coincidence, but I continued writing; my work was an escape from the grief.  But then, very soon afterwards, my husband was head-hunted. The job was many miles away in Gloucestershire, and I found myself faced with the very same dilemma I’d confronted my heroine with!  I was in shock.  What was going on?  Instead of writing a story using my own life as a resource, my life had begun to mirror the story I was writing!  I was happy where we were.  I was putting down roots, forming a network, and I wasn’t at all sure I wanted to move ever again, let alone to a county neither my husband nor I had ever even set foot in. But it was a good opportunity and we made the joint decision to go for it. 

 I found myself living through many of the life events and emotions I’d only previously imagined for my heroine. I decided to put the untitled book away for a while and just live the experience.  After a lengthy interval, during which I wrote two entirely unrelated novels, I decided to have another look at this unfinished book.  I immediately saw that it had potential; better still, the intervening years had healed the rawness of the bereavement and dislocation I’d felt, and I was able to look back on that period of my life more dispassionately.  My well of experience had, by this time, deepened considerably, giving me far more to draw on. And the title jumped out at me. I updated and finished FLY OR FALL.  

It has become a bit of an old chestnut for an author to talk about “where I get my ideas from”!  The simple answer is - I make stuff up, and then I ask myself “But what if...?”.  Of course it’s more complicated than that. Imagination on its own is never enough for me.  My own experience informs and deepens my writing, and provides me with ideas and directions, but the finished story is never a word for word account of the life I’ve lived. But....    

When the stuff that you did make up begins happening to you in ‘real life’, perhaps that’s when you should start to worry! Maybe I should write a story about winning the lottery!


Gilli Allan started to write in childhood, a hobby only abandoned when real life supplanted the fiction. Gilli didn’t go to Oxford or Cambridge but, after just enough exam passes to squeak in, she attended Croydon Art College.
She didn’t work on any of the broadsheets, in publishing or television. Instead she was a shop assistant, a beauty consultant and a barmaid before landing her dream job as an illustrator in advertising. It was only when she was at home with her young son that Gilli began writing seriously. Her first two novels were quickly published, but when her publisher ceased to trade, Gilli went independent. 
Over the years, Gilli has been a school governor, a contributor to local newspapers, and a driving force behind the community shop in her Gloucestershire village.  Still a keen artist, she designs Christmas cards and has begun book illustration. Gilli is particularly delighted to have recently gained a new mainstream publisher - Accent Press. FLY OR FALL is the second book to be published in the three book deal. TORN was published in 2014, and LIFE CLASS comes out later this year.

TORN. (universal) or 

6 Responses so far.

  1. Thank you for having me. I hope I haven't waffled on too much. One of the other life events I failed to mention in the above post, was that after moving, my publisher folded, adding salt to the wound.
    Just in case anyone is worried, I am now a very happy bunny, and particularly pleased to have found a new publisher after a long time in the wilderness. Gillix

  2. Lovely review, and very interesting post, Gilli. Good luck with Fly or Fall - it'll certainly be added to my tbr list!

  3. Thanks Jenny. gx :)

  4. What a story, Gilli. What a life! And the book sounds amazing too! I'm so glad I found you. Hitting the "buy" button right now in Toronto, Canada. Cheers.

  5. I thoroughly enjoyed this five-star book. Best wishes for success with the release.

  6. Thanks so much to my international ' commenters'. The US and Canada! Wow! Gillix

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