Author Spotlight: Jonathan D. Allen
1. Sum up your current WIP in one to three sentences.
Two women are kidnapped by a mysterious organization and given psychotropic drugs to unlock their minds’ potential. As they fight for their freedom, they discover that the situation is even stranger than it first appeared. Soon they can trust no one as they push the boundaries of their captivity and their sanity.
2. What’s your ultimate goal as a writer? How close are you to achieving that goal?
Writing itself doesn’t have an “ultimate” goal for me, other than the eventual product of a story. Would I like sales and accolades? Sure, who wouldn’t? But my goal, I suppose, is to stay on the constant journey of creation. On good days, that makes the day feel a little more important, rather than just another day in the salt mines. Of course, I also have days where I feel like that goal is almost insurmountable. Today, I am achieving my goal.
3. What do you love about being a writer? What do you hate?
Like I said above, the journey – those moments when a character seizes a story and takes it in a whole new, interesting direction. That ties right into my hate, too, which is when it becomes almost rote, with little creative wiggle room in either the story or the blog post/essay/etc. that I’m writing. Nine times out of ten when I’m feeling “brain fog” it’s because I’ve fallen into the nasty habit of not just following the journey but pursuing a goal. I hate that about writing. That ties into the next question…
4. Are you a plotter, pantser or a little of both? Describe how a story comes together for you.
A little of both. Having a plot is essential, I find. I create at least an outline, with a sentence long description of each scene and/or chapter. As the first draft goes on, I allow my characters some agency in their situation, and that’s where the real creativity takes over. Often I end up abandoning large chunks of plot that once seemed relevant and interesting; for instance, in my WIP Room 3, I had a straight line drawn from one event to another, straight on to the ending. When I got to a specific scene, the character wanted to intervene in what she was witnessing, despite what the plot said she would do. I allowed her to do this, and the consequences peeled back a whole new layer of the story that I hadn’t considered. This isn’t the first time such a thing has happened, and I have never once regretted following that sort of impulse.
5. What kind of characters do you enjoy writing the most?
Strong, quirky characters. These tend to be women, for some reason, but I’m not opposed to writing from a male point of view. I think the reason it ends up being women is because, quite honestly, I’m sick of seeing the chiseled hero who gets into a dark situation and pulls himself out of it, getting the girl in the end. I always wondered what the story would be like if the damsel in distress didn’t have to wait for that man and instead saved herself. Now I get a chance to explore that what if.
6. If you have pets, what are they and what are their names?
I have two cats and two guinea pigs. The cats are Tabby and Kiley. Kiley is a sweet, innocent cat, and Tabby is a troublemaker. My publishing company, Qwendellonia Publishing, is named for the two guinea pigs, Wendell and Quimby. They’re very…quirky guinea pigs, with very strong personalities.
7. Where do you get your story ideas?
The best ideas come from that time when I’m about to go to sleep, or have just woken up and drifting between sleep and wakefulness. Fully-formed ideas often strike me during those times, and I have to either scramble to write them down or hold them in my mind as long as possible.
8. What are you reading now?
I’m reading two fantastic books. One is Valknut: The Binding, by fellow indie author Marie Loughin. I don’t want to give away too much, but the story is about a young woman who learns that she plays a key part in trying to prevent Ragnarok, the Norse mythological version of the end of the world. It speaks a lot to the same sort of sensibilities that inform my own work. The other is Ready Player One by Ernie Cline, a trad-published story about a future where people live in a virtual reality world and are locked in competition for a dead billionaire’s millions via a series of riddles that reveal hidden locations in the VR world. It’s a whirl of 80s and video gaming references, with very interesting characters.
9. What made you decide to self-publish instead of the traditional route?
It’s funny, a year ago I was determined to make it by the traditional route, and shopped the first iteration of The Corridors of the Dead to agents. I got some really good feedback – almost every submission got a personal response, and I made some key changes to the book based on one agent’s feedback. I think the second version of the book might have found a home, but somewhere in there I did a lot of research about what it means to be a traditionally published author versus a self-published author and the lack of freedom, combined with the limited royalties, appalled me. I decided self-publishing was the correct route for my work, and while I’m still mulling a move to a small publisher, I’m pretty happy so far.
10. When did you know you wanted to be an author? When did you realize it could actually become a reality?
Wow, I’d guess probably when I was 11 or 12. It’s hard to remember a time before that desire to be an author, honestly. My life’s passion has been to get my work out and have others enjoy it – all the other stuff, any money I make, or notoriety or whatever, is purely gravy. As for realizing when I could make it a reality? That was a more recent event, right around the end of 2010, when a close friend got her first book published. I knew I could do it if I just put my mind to it, so I set aside time and made it work for me.
Excerpt of The Corridors of the Dead:
You want to know where it began. Fine. I was suffering through another shitty Friday night in a long line of shitty nights in even shittier Eureka, California, slaving away at el supremo shitto Circle K. At least, that’s what I thought, before Delilah and the tweeker terror struck on the same night. I’d never dare bitch about a Friday night, let me tell you.
I worked the graveyard shift. Your typical graveyard shift worker in Eureka was either a tweeker looking for something to do during the asshole hours of the night, or someone who had drawn the wrath of their boss and the boss was trying to save herself the trouble of firing your ass. I’ve never been one for the normal, though. I chose the graveyard shift because I hate – well, hated – people. I also thought I was going to end up a great artiste of some merit, but we see how that went. The point being that even though I despised late nights, they were just what I needed: time to escape people and work on my art. The catch was that my social life had gone non-existent while my work improved in ways I couldn’t have imagined. Goes to show there’s no middle ground.
The dead of night seemed cursed, or blessed, hell, I don’t know. All I know is time slowed down; everything, the demands, pressures, and expectations of the world, ground to a halt. Lack of sleep started hunting me like a hungry wolf. Mind you, I fought the wolf away, and very successfully I might add, with the aid of the Holy Trinity: Monster energy drink, Red Bull, and Mountain Dew Code Red. I always kept at least one can of these weapons in my purse, ready for rapid deployment.
Even with a good jolt of caffeine and the juice from bull balls, I told somebody – I can’t remember who – that those hours were the closest you could get to understanding what it was like to be an inter-dimensional traveler, stuck between your world and the world of the mundanes. You couldn’t help but let the weirdness guide your work. Charcoals and inks turned from tools in my hands into portals to surreal worlds, opening gates to those places. I’m talking real Lovecraftian stuff, beasts from beyond the stars.
Back to our particular lousy night, which was already drawing in on being a truly shitty night, although I didn’t know it yet. I had my ear buds driven as deep as I could, because they tuned in the blandest damned Sirius station they could find and god forbid if they found out you touched the dial. Michael Bolton at 3 in the morning is cruel and unusual, I say. Give me some UK Subs or even some Bowie if you’re going middle of the road. I need good music – it’s like oxygen.
It had been a good night so far: Babes in Toyland on the iPod, canvas pad on the counter, the charcoals singing under my fingers. I had started with a boring little sketch of Kristy…you remember her? For now, let it be enough that she was only the love of my life and you took her from me.