Welcome to the one hundred and seventy-fifth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. Today’s is with scriptwriter, multi-genre novelist, actor (and more) Gregory Allen. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. You can also read Gregory’s spotlight here.
Morgen: Hello Gregory. Please tell us something about yourself and how you came to be a writer.
Gregory: I wrote my first stories and plays when I was a child. Then when I was in high school, I had my first musical that I wrote produced on stage. But it was in the past five years I decided to take that writing to a new level towards publication.
Morgen: What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
Gregory: I don’t consider myself a genre author. My novels cover many types of genres so as to never be told I must deliver “x” when writing.
Morgen: Me too, I can’t settle on one genre. What have you had published to-date? If applicable, can you remember where you saw your first books on the shelves?
Gregory: I’ve had about a dozen short stories and poetry published online and in print, but I can recall when the first anthology I was published in came in the mail and I was able to hold that book in my hand. What an amazing experience! My debut novel is out in October, 2011 – so fingers crossed I will have that “wow” moment when I see the book on a shelf in a store.
Morgen: I’m sure you will, having just your name on the cover. 🙂 Have you ever seen a member of the public (whom you don’t know!) reading your book… in any unusual locations?
Gregory: Though it’s not the same thing, I remember seeing reviews come in for my novelette Proud Pants on goodreads.com from people that I don’t know. It was quite an amazing feeling to read their words about how my book had touched them. That was a special feeling.
Morgen: Not the same but clearly just as pride-making. 🙂 How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Gregory: I am working with a publicist for my novel, but I still do much of the marketing on all things Gregory G. Allen from contacting book stores to do readings to ‘working’ social media.
Morgen: And it can take a lot of ‘work’. 🙂 Have you won or been shortlisted in any competitions and do you think they help with a writer’s success?
Gregory: Not yet… but still hoping. I do think they are important to give certain legitimacy to an author’s work, not that it makes or breaks a writer. Many people are hugely successful without every winning anything. Isn’t getting the book out there ‘winning’?
Morgen: It is, absolutely. One of my Monday nighters submits nothing but competition entries, which I’ve done with some success, and it’s great to have on the CV but I agree, not make or break, unless it’s the Bridport, Booker or New Yorker perhaps. 🙂 Do you write under a pseudonym? If so why and do you think it makes a difference?
Gregory: Gregory G. Allen is not my given name, but it is the name I’ve used for most of my adult life as an actor / director / producer / writer – so I all but feel it is who I am now. And everyone knows me by that name, so I stick with it.
Morgen: That’s the thing about any name you write by, it’s getting people to know of it. Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Gregory: No… but I do believe they can be very helpful getting author’s information out there.
Morgen: Are your books available as eBooks? If so what was your experience of that process? And do you read eBooks?
Gregory: Yes. The process was not difficult to do and I think it’s important to make your work available in all formats for all readers. (And I do read many eBooks myself.)
Morgen: And it’s much quicker. 🙂 What was your first acceptance and is being accepted still a thrill?
Gregory: I remember the first prose piece I wrote that was accepted by an online journal (that unfortunately is no longer around). Any time someone accepts something you’ve done; you can’t help but feel a sense of accomplishment from it. Exhilarating.
Morgen: It is… not quite like any other feeling. Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Gregory: Many…many…many. You have to pick yourself up and keep going. I’ve had flat out “not for us” to some that have really given great critiques. I believe you can get a sense from a rejection how much the company really cares about writers (and not simply about the industry of publishing) in how they respond.
Morgen: And how much time they have to do so, which is usually almost zero so a personalised reply means your piece is good but, as you say, just not for them. What are you working on at the moment / next?
Gregory: Promoting my new novel WELL WITH MY SOUL. But knowing I need to be ahead of the game, I’m also working on getting testimonials for my book due out in 2012.
Morgen: Fingers crossed on those then. Do you manage to write every day? What’s the most you’ve written in a day?
Gregory: I write something every day. It may not be a book, but it could be a blog, an article or something else in social media.
Morgen: Oh good, in that case I write every day too… that makes me feel so much better. 🙂 That said this comes out on NaNoWriMo day 2 so hopefully I will have written a few words of ‘Calendar Girls’ by then. 🙂 What is your opinion of writer’s block? Do you ever suffer from it? If so, how do you ‘cure’ it?
Gregory: I think writer’s block is your brain telling you that you need to rest. My characters speak to me when I write a story and many times can cause the story to veer off in a different direction. So if I’m blocked, I’m not really in tune with the story / characters at that time and probably need to step away.
Morgen: Absolutely, come back with fresh eyes, mind etc. Although I’ve said before that you can’t edit a blank page (which is true) equally if you know you’re going to have to undo chunks then letting it sleep for a while is perhaps a better thing to do. A question some authors dread, where do you get your inspiration from?
Gregory: Everywhere! I can read something in the newspaper or talk to a friend about something that happened and be inspired to write. (Many of my blogs come from that.) And my novels come from the oddest of places from a dream, a discussion with my other half, or even a person I may have met in my travels.
Morgen: Who may turn up as a character. 🙂 Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Gregory: I’ve done both ways. One book was completely plotted out and I knew what was happening as I wrote it. Others have grown from an idea and I would just write.
Morgen: We’ve briefly mentioned characters, do you have a method for creating yours?
Gregory: Character development is such a vital part of fiction. I want to write characters that people can relate to and see themselves in. They need to have quirks and flaws and traits to make them as real as possible.
Morgen: Do you write non-fiction? If so, how do you decide what to write about?
Gregory: When I wrote the memoir about my brother, it was a story I knew I wanted to tell as well as write a love letter to my mother (who raised us both). But I mostly write fiction.
Morgen: Nice. 🙂 You mentioned earlier that you write short stories, apart from the word count, what do you see as the differences between them and novels and why do you think they’re so difficult to get published?
Gregory: I’ve had a few short stories published and it is very hard. They need to grab a reader (or actually the editor choosing) right away. Not that a novel shouldn’t do the same, but you have time to develop when writing a novel. A short story is for people who don’t have as much time to read an entire book and want to be taken away for a mere moment. So it needs to pack a punch in a very limited span.
Morgen: Time… ah yes, that all-too-valuable commodity, which is probably why I read more shorts than novels. Are you involved in anything else writing-related other than actual writing or marketing of your writing?
Gregory: I blog all the time at www.gregory-g-allen.blogspot.com about so many different subjects. I also contribute articles to a few online places. My day job (yes, many authors still have those) is full of writing as I write press releases for events happening in the Arts Center that I manage. So I get a chance to always be writing.
Morgen: How wonderful. 🙂 Who is your first reader – who do you first show your work to?
Gregory: PJM. My best friend since 5th grade (over 30 years ago) and one of my strongest supporters and yet can also be critical.
Morgen: Which is what a writer needs. Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Gregory: I tend to self-edit when I write. I always go back and edit when I sit back down to pick up my writing from where I left off. However, in the end – I always send to a true editor as I believe all authors need the eyes of a professional on their work.
Morgen: This has been a hot topic on LinkedIn recently with some contributors saying that not all writers need editing but I think we’re all too close to our own work. Even if mine (Rachel) hasn’t spotted any errors (which she did, not many, thankfully) she came up with some wonderful suggestions. How much research do you have to do for your writing? Have you ever received feedback from your readers?
Gregory: I will do research on a topic, job, location, experience that a story may have. (Thank God for the internet!)
Morgen: I know. I’m so not a fan of research, so how glad am I that I can do 99% (if not 100%) of it from the comfort of my own home but then I write mainly short stories so that helps.
Gregory: Feedback is wonderful: both that which affects readers in a good way and adverse way. I know that I write some things considered controversial and it is fine that people have different opinions than I do. That’s what makes the world go around. I enjoy feedback from peers (other authors) as well as avid readers. I recently heard from a reader who paid me the most wonderful compliment by saying my characters were making him rethink things in his own life. How huge that is for an author!
Morgen: Oh wow! I’ve had some interviewees say that my questions made them look at their creative processes which was great. I’m always happy to help, especially when I do it without knowing. What’s your process like? What happens before sitting down to write?
Gregory: My brain will not shut down when I’m in bed. So stories, thoughts, ideas will brew while I’m there. I usually write myself notes to jog my memory for when I do get to sit in front of the computer and start to write.
Morgen: And when you do that, do you listen to music or have noise around you when you write or do you need silence?
Gregory: This may sound strange, but sometimes I have the TV on in the background as white noise. But other times, I enjoy the solitude of silence while writing.
Morgen: Not strange at all. Many have said that. What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person? Have you ever tried second person?
Gregory: I love writing in first person. My novel originally was in third person and my mentor challenged me to write it in first person. The novel is told through the perspective of both brothers – each chapter in their own voice. Once I did that, I found that I prefer that now. I’ve had short stories published in both first and third. I’ve never tried second person.
Morgen: Oh I love it (and keep bleating on about it) but it doesn’t suit everyone and editors tend to avoid it so I’ll stick with eBooks for that pov. Do you use prologues / epilogues? What do you think of the use of them?
Gregory: It’s funny – I had a prologue in Well with My Soul the entire time I was working on it. Even as it went through the editing stage. And right before it went to print we pulled it because it actually gave away too much of the twists in the story.
Morgen: Oh yes, you wouldn’t want that. Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Gregory: Absolutely…and there are good reasons they should NOT.
Morgen: <laughs> What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life?
Gregory: I love meeting other authors and hearing their stories. Shared experiences are a wonderful thing to have and to know someone else is out there going through what you are doing. I don’t like when I come to the end of writing a book and say goodbye to the characters. Readers experience this all the time and some of us writers feel the exact same way.
Morgen: Maybe you could bring them back as more or less featured characters in other books? I’ve heard many authors do this and love it when this happened in one of my favourite books (Kate Atkinson’s ‘Not The End Of The World’). If anything, what has been your biggest surprise about writing?
Gregory: How much of ‘me’ is in everything I write. Elements of parts of myself show up in so many characters in strange, hidden ways.
Morgen: A multi-faceted man then clearly. 🙂 What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Gregory: If you truly love doing it and you have stories to tell; then tell them. Get them down on paper. Worry about how you’ll get them into hands of readers later… but do what you love.
Morgen: And I do. 🙂 What do you like to read?
Gregory: I honestly read everything from Dean Koontz, Greg Iles, Harlen Coben to Anne Rice, Stephen King, Jack Finney to Victoria Laurie and other women’s lit. Augusten Burroughs, James Frey and Wally Lamb are some personal favourites. Though lately I have read more indie authors such as Arthur Wooten, Belo Miguel Cipriani, and Matt Dean – love supporting my fellow indies.
Morgen: Me too. 🙂 Is there a word, phrase or quote you like?
Gregory: “In the end it is not the years in your life that count, it’s the life in your years.” — Abraham Lincoln
Morgen: I’ve heard that a few times, it’s great isn’t it. What do you do when you’re not writing?
Gregory: I really love to travel. I’ve done cruises in the Baltic Sea and Mediterranean and loved them both. I also attend a lot of theatre (and blog reviews).
Morgen: I’m a terrible traveller (which is probably why my eReader is gathering dust). In which country are you based and do you find this a help or hindrance with letting people know about your work?
Gregory: I’m in the United States and tend to be able to get word out about my work via the wonderful world-wide web… that connects all of us!
Morgen: I love it. I wouldn’t be able to do this (or my eBooks without it) and why, on reflection, I’m glad that I only came to writing a few years ago, although we adapt to our surroundings and circumstances, don’t we? Speaking of the internet, are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how invaluable do you find them?
Gregory: There are a few forums I frequent and get and contribute information. Sometimes it does get hard to do it too much. Not enough hours in the day.
Morgen: Touché. Where can we find out about you and your work?
Morgen: What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Gregory: I think the new movement of indie authors (much like what happened in both the music and film world) offers more possibilities to writers to be able to be heard in a way they never were before.
Morgen: Absolutely, and I think it can only benefit a writer. Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Gregory: I really appreciate being a part of this blog and you introducing me to a new group of readers! I hope you will all check out my work of my novelette memoir or my novel.
Morgen: Yes, please do.
Gregory: Thanks so much!
Morgen: You’re so welcome. Thank you for saying “yes” and answering so many questions. 🙂
Gregory G. Allen has had short stories and poetry published in several anthologies and online journals. His well-received novelette Proud Pants: An Unconventional Memoir is currently available in eBook and he is a contributor of articles and blogs to many online sites. He has been in the entertainment business for over twenty years as an actor, director, writer, and producer and studied at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy. He’s had over ten shows that he has written produced on stage, been the recipient of musical grants from BMI, ASCAP and the Watershed Foundation, and his musical River Divine won a Best Score award in New York. He spent six years as the Artistic Director of 4th Wall Theatre in New Jersey and currently manages an arts center on the campus of a college. His debut novel Well With My Soul was released mid-October 2011.
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