Thursday, October 20, 2011

Interview with novelist Gregory G. Allen

Today's R&I guest is doing a virtual book tour with Pump Up Your Book. Please welcome novelist Gregory G. Allen.

Welcome, Gregory. Please tell us a bit about yourself.
I grew up in Texas, but have been a ‘Yankee’ now for the past 24 years. I am the author of Well with My Soul and Proud Pants: An Unconventional Memoir. I’ve had short stories and poetry published in several anthologies and websites and I contribute articles and blogs to three different sites. I’ve been in the entertainment business for over twenty years as an actor, director, writer, and producer and I’ve had over ten shows that I’ve served as book writer and/or composer/lyricists produced on stage. I spent 13 years in Corporate America before going back into the arts ‘full time’ five years ago and now use both the creative side and business side of my brain as I manage an arts center on the campus of a college.

Please tell us about your current release, Well with My Soul.
Choices we make affect many people around us for years to come. What makes us go down certain paths towards those choices? Well with My Soul is about two brothers trying to find a peace in their individual lives over the course of 15 years, but both stay intertwined with the other as they leave their lives in Tennessee. Themes of addiction, religion, homosexuality, and pride play a huge part in this family drama. One is a liberal gay man who forsakes his family and moves to New York City from Tennessee to make his mark on the world. The other is a southern conservative who is left at home holding the proverbial family bag. The story follows their loosely intertwined lives through the wild times of the late seventies and the restraint of the Reagan years in which one brother ends up becoming a minister and preaching his doctrine while the other believes there are some things people are born with and not meant to change.

What inspired you to write this book?
The past several years, the US has been dealing with gay issues in headlines constantly. And many times it seemed as if what made those headlines was a closeted man (who was a loud proponent against any type of gay rights) caught in a scandal. I started to think about what causes these men to stay in the closet and how ego/pride plays such a prominent role in choices people make.

I was brought up Southern Baptist and writing a novel about religion and sexuality (set in the late 70s and 80s when our country was in a very different time) where I could show two sides to that story appealed to me. I enjoy taking readers to places they may not otherwise go and usually involve twists and turns they don’t always see coming. Stories of personal journeys always pull me in and I was inspired by telling this story from two different points of views (each brother) in different chapters.

What exciting story are you working on next?
My next story is a different genre all together with a female protagonist who works with her therapist to unlock a gruesome past from her childhood and travels across the country to patch her life back together. (Do I dare give it a genre and say ‘chick-lit with a mystery/romance thrown in’?)

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I started writing short stories and plays as a child, but actually had my first musical produced when I was 14. I continued writing musicals through high school and then went into the BMI Musical Theatre workshop when I moved to New York City and continued writing stage shows. About five years ago (when I wrote a play version of Well with My Soul), I knew then I wanted to expand the story into a novel. From there I went from playwright to novelist.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I went through a period the past several years of writing non-stop: every moment I could – I was writing. Submitting short stories to magazines and different genres of novels was pouring out of me. I worked with editors and got a few to a place to be able to submit those and then writing seemed to slow down. I try to blog every day (just to keep up my writing skills), but I manage an arts center on a college campus which keeps me very busy.

Nighttime is now full of promoting and marketing my debut novel (as well as a novelette memoir about my older brother who died at 34 years old that was released this past summer as an eBook). Authors sometimes don’t think in terms of how much promoting they need to do themselves to get their work out there, but it takes time and effort. I’m enjoying that process. I’m meeting so many other writers via social media and read other works – constantly! I find it important to read as much as I write. We can learn so much from reading what others are doing.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
That’s a tough one. I’m not sure if it’s a quirk…but I email myself all the time. Some writers carry a pad or a recorder to jot down notes. If I’m at my job during the day and a thought pops into my head, I send myself an email and then compile those emails into notes, into outlines, into narrative. Does that count as quirky or just anal retentive?

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
An actor. I moved to NYC to be on Broadway. (Didn’t happen.) I did tour the country as a teenage mutant ninja turtle though in the late 80s/early 90s.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
I hope that people will accept authors that do not fall into a specific genre. I sometimes wish I could say “I write speculative fiction” or “vampire novels”. I was worried when writing Well with My Soul people would classify it as gay fiction and put me into a box. As mentioned, my first published work was a non-fiction memoir, the other I talked about above and I also have a children’s book floating around out there. One friend of mine said the common theme of my writing is the unexpected. My stage shows or my novels.

I don’t think I always play by the rules and write a protagonist that everyone can love or let the guy always ‘get the girl’. I think authors should be given the chance to try many things and just perhaps in the process, readers will find something they can identify with, enjoy, and give another ‘genre’ from that author a try.

Gregory, I appreciate your time answering these interview questions today. Write on!

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