Welcome to the two hundred and fifty-seventh of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with multi-genre author Alan Place. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Alan. Please tell us something about yourself and how you came to be a writer.
Alan: Hello Morgen, I would like to thank you for giving me this chance to be interviewed. My name is Alan Place, currently in Bristol (UK), although I am Yorkshire born, I moved to this area in 1963 with my parents, and then to Bristol, when I got married.
Morgen: Bristol’s lovely. I’ve only been a couple of times but I loved it. What genre do you write?
Alan: I consider myself a writer, for me genre never was an issue, as I write many types of story, the latest being autobiographic.
Morgen: My mum’s favourite. 🙂 What have you had published to-date?
Alan: I first got published in my teens in the men’s magazine Knave, since then I have had articles in Maverick, Froots, Jazzwise, Jazz Review, Country Music People, Trials and Moto-X News. More recently on line in Vintage Script magazine’s Halloween special http://www.vintagescript.co.uk then in the same month in Montana, placed a long story short. The latest include two articles (http://angiesdiary.com/articles/cross-genre-writing and http://angiesdiary.com/articles/my-best-day) published in Angie’s diary, a US magazine.
Morgen: Yes, I see what you mean – very varied.
Alan: A few months ago, I sent a chapter of my ‘Chronicles’ to a publisher in Vancouver. This morning she replied saying if I tidied it up, she would be very interested in putting it on the Abandoned Towers website (http://abandonedtowers.com). What is ironic; when I was on a course at Writer’s Bureau my tutor told me it was a non-saleable story and he did not know where he could pitch it. He said I could not write a saleable story. I suppose he should now, as he has written four and none have sold.
I was told on the course, the US market is the big one to get in on. Next year, I will have a piece in print for the Strange Mysteries 5 at the Whortleberry Press (http://whortleberrypress.com) run by my friend Jean Goldstrum in Pittsburgh. So again a story that almost got lost, as did Pat Canella, could end up a favourite.
Morgen: Absolutely. That’s the great thing about writing (and people) is that everything and everyone is different. How dull would life be if we all liked the same things? Throughout your journey thus far, have you had any rejections?
Alan: Getting rejected is the curse of the Indie author (sigh) as my blog (http://hereiamattheedge.blogspot.com) tells of how I got rejected by a magazine, which in many people’s view, my work ‘Spheroid’ was superior to http://hereiamattheedge.blogspot.co.uk/p/reviews.html.
Morgen: Rejections are on the whole just finding the right thing for the wrong person – just look at JK Rowling and her 14 / 16 rejections (depending on where quoted). Have you won or been shortlisted in any competitions?
Alan: This Ebook cover (to what will be my first book) is the only major prize I won. I hope to get shortlisted for either the Willesden Herald short story competition or the big Toronto one, at the Merrill collection.
Morgen: I’ll keep my fingers crossed (it’s a great cover). Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Alan: As unpublished, unknown and unread, I have no agent, I do feel they are useful as any extra connections are always useful.
Morgen: Ah but not unpublished in all the magazines you mentioned earlier – that’s a great achievement, and certainly not unread I’m sure. 🙂 But I know what you mean, fiction is where my heart lies. Are your books available as eBooks? Were you involved in that process at all? Do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
Alan: Pat Canella should be out in Ebook in late February or early March hopefully. I was involved with Staci Perkins in the design of the titles and blurb, but the cover art is her doing. At the moment I don’t have an Ebook reader but lots of friends are selling them, and I want to get some.
Morgen: I’ve just bought the smallest Kindle – it’s great. I’m almost a convert (she says with a house full of unread books). 🙂 How much of the marketing do you do?
Alan: At the moment, Morgen, I am just using Facebook and my blog to help create a groundswell for the launch, I am getting a great feedback even contacting on Twitter as well.
Morgen: I love them both and it’s great being in contact with so many people. Do you have a favourite of your books or characters? If any of your books were made into films, who would you have as the leading actor/s?
Alan: My favourite is P A Canella, as I based him on myself (giggles). As for a cast, this is something I have often been asked. Here is the line-up: Mark Johnson… Clive Owen / P A Canella… Roy Dortrice / Rachel Stockman… Millicent Martin / Phil Moore… Darren McGavin / Annette Palmer… Kathy Bates.
Morgen: I really like Clive Owen and Kathy Bates. I’ve not heard of the others, except Millicent Martin whose name I recognise. Did you have any say in the title / covers of your books? How important do you think they are?
Alan: Titles are all my thoughts, the covers I worked with my friends Staci Perkins on Pat Canella and Melissa Castillo on the Chronicles. Cover art for an unknown writer is a catcher a good cover can get attention, whereas a bad one can lose you any chances.
Morgen: Even as eBooks where they are so small, cover art has to be grabbing. It wasn’t until I went to design my own that I really started taking intimate notice. What are you working on at the moment / next?
Alan: At present I am doing the second of my autobiographical pieces, then moving to Mark Johnson, as I have been asked when is the next Chronicle coming out.
Morgen: Isn’t that great. I love it when readers want more. 🙂 Do you manage to write every day? Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?
Alan: I have had writer’s block for various reasons, usually I can avoid it, as I am not tied to genre, so if one story gets bogged down, I save and move genre. I try to write something most days, even if only on the blog.
Morgen: That’s a good plan; variety and practice. Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Alan: I usually have a start point, an idea where I want to end up but in between the story writes itself, Morgen, if it flows through me it runs smooth, if I try to force it, I feel it doesn’t have the right words.
Morgen: Same with me. I have a sketch but I know the characters take over (which is my favourite aspect of writing). Speaking of characters, do you have a method for creating yours, their names and what do you think makes them believable?
Alan: Mark Johnson was just a nice heroic name I choose, Morgen, not too outlandish to make him super-hero, if you read Chronicles, you will see he has many flaws. Two of my nom de plumes are just word games Lana Pawcel & P A Canella are anagrams of my name. Pat Canella came about as a result of wanting a female lead, but having people think it was a man by the name.
Morgen: That’s the same with Morgen – useful for writing a variety of genres. Do you write any non-fiction, poetry or short stories?
Alan: I used to do poetry years ago, but have got out of synch with the style these days. Most of the work I do is short stories as I have not tried anything over about 7,000 words. As I said I have a few autobiographic stories ‘Twice I escaped’ tells of my time in the Royal Air Force in Germany.
Morgen: Wow. Stories like that are so popular. Going back to your methods, do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Alan: My grammar is so bad it does need editing a lot, but with hep from good friends I am getting there slowly.
Morgen: Agents and publishers would of course want your grammar to be good but the story itself is going to be the most important issue. Do you have to do much research?
Alan: I did two stories for two competitions on one site, Morgen, which needed researching well. ‘Holding Richmond’ is an American civil war and vampire mix, the idea was an alternate history using real historic people. The other ‘Did we see him?’ focussed on the disappearance in the late 1920’s of Sir Percy Fawcett, on an expedition up the Amazon. Here the concept was a tale told in a Gentleman’s club.
Morgen: Civil war and vampires… now that sounds like fun. Some writers like quiet, others the noise of a coffee shop etc., do you listen to music or have noise around you when you write or do you need silence?
Alan: I have never had the luxury of peace and quiet, living in a full house, if I need to calm myself I usually play either classical or Native American flute music.
Morgen: I’m a classical fan. What point of view do you find most to your liking, Alan: first person or third person? Have you ever tried second person?
Alan: I prefer first person, it adds to the excitement for the readers I have been told, many times. I never tried second person viewpoint, something to look into.
Morgen: Oh do. I love it. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_person_narrative is a good place to start and / or you’re welcome to view / download my free eShort ‘The Dark Side‘. If you like dark stories you’ll love second person viewpoint. Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Alan: Yes, owing to an overload, I have just had to kill three story lines to get back on schedule. So ‘Cats tails’ and ‘He just came from nowhere’ will have to wait.
Morgen: Oh dear. Hopefully not kill completely but just having them dormant until you can return. I tend to keep everything because you never know when it might come in handy. What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life? Has anything surprised you?
Alan: Less favourite is easy, Morgen, that has to be In-house favouritism. As for favourite I would say the feedback, most of mine is good but I accept I can’t please every reader and their feedback is vital.
Morgen: Absolutely. Again it’s matching the right thing with the right person. Feedback I received for my short story April’s Fool from someone on YouWriteOn said I had too much detail and he just wanted to know what was happening. The same story (pretty much) when put on Smashwords garnered its first review saying there was too little detail, so really you can’t win. You just have to write a story you are happy with, especially when self-publishing. As long as it’s been edited by someone else (I’d never recommend someone editing their own story and then putting it out). What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Alan: Be yourself, if you read ‘Holding Richmond’ a vampire story it is, Twilight it is not. At the end of the day, do you want people to remember you for your work, or that you were as good as a copy of someone else.
Morgen: I’ve not read Twilight (or seen the films, didn’t appeal, but as a fan of Kate Beckinsale loved Underworld) but I’ve heard mixed reviews of it so I’d say definitely don’t try to copy it. If you could invite three people from any era to dinner, who would you choose and what would you cook (or invite three people, hiding the takeaway containers)?
Alan: The answer is always the same three people Edgar Allan Poe, Sheridan Le Fanu and Tami Hoag. For the meal I would do Lobster bisque stew with various fish meats, and crunchy Danish bread rolls to dip in the soup.
Morgen: If I change the list to four can I go? I don’t know Sheridan Le Fanu… ah, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sheridan_Le_Fanu – he sounds very Poeseque. Is there a word, phrase or quote you like?
Alan: I have two sayings, Morgen, one is mine: “If you don’t think you’ll like the answer, don’t ask the question” and the other comes from Old Amos a cartoon in the Dalesman magazine “On a cold winter’s day, it’s a case of mind over mattress” (Laughs)
Morgen: 🙂 Are you involved in anything else writing-related other than actual writing or marketing of your writing?
Alan: Only researching a new story line for when these might be closed off, but that is a long way ahead.
Morgen: What do you do when you’re not writing?
Alan: I used to grow herbs and Fuchsias before my accident.
Morgen: Oh dear. I’m sorry to hear that. You sound quite internet-savvy, are there any writing-related websites and / or books that you find useful?
Alan: I have recently found a site run by my friend Gwen Steel called Independent Authors Network, both have writers / artists and editors on all with lots to offer.
Morgen: It’s great being an Indie. There are so many of us but equally there’s so much support for us too. Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how valuable do you find them?
Alan: I am on Facebook and I run my blog, I have found them all very useful as each connects to different people.
Morgen: Isn’t that great. What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Alan: With the advent of Ebooks and Kindle, I hope the availability and ease to carry books these days will coax children from Playstation and X-box and with the rise of self-publishing houses, it can only be good for us.
Morgen: Absolutely. I’m loving it. Where can we find out about you and your work?
Alan: For the most complete and up to date writing check out http://hereiamattheedge.blogspot.com. I’ve also just recently joined http://www.shewrites.com/profile/AlanPlace, a great website run by Florida-based Siggy Buckley.
Morgen: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Alan: Yes. I’d like to mention two friends whose books are coming out shortly Valerie Byron and Yezall Strongheart. Most of all I want to thank my three great friends and my biggest fans Ruth Slattery, Hazel Jackson and Jane Houlding, who coaxed me to put stories online in January 2011, and have been with me ever since, especially keeping me going on in Sept 2011, when after a really bad time with courses, I almost folded.
Morgen: But things are on the up, hopefully. Any time you want a boost I’d gladly have you do something here. Is there anything you’d like to ask me?
Alan: I am curious as to what made you ask me, out of all the other writers, Morgen?
Morgen: My first thought was that you are a writer. That sounds very simplistic but I just love speaking to writers but I especially love talking to writers who are still early on in the writing process of their novels. It’s like giving way for a learning driver – we’ve all been there. Thank you so much for chatting with me. I really appreciate it and do wish you all the best with your writing.
I then invited Alan to provide an excerpt of his writing:
I stood there, the gun still warm in my hand, barrel smoking from the gun battle.
“Why did he do that, Sarge?”
“I tried my best to talk him out of it.”
“Living with the guilt finally got to him, Patti.”
“Couldn’t he have talked it over ?”
“No, the only thing worse than being a dirty cop, is being the son of a loose cannon, and none came looser than Bill Chart, Patti.”
I looked around. There lay the body of Bill’s son, my ex-partner Adrian Chart. “I had no choice, he pulled first, Sarge.” I said through my tears.
“I know, Patti, we all saw it, Nobody blames you. It was his way out.”
The last thing I remember was the Sarge saying in a soft tone. “Take a week off Patti, something like this will haunt you. I know I have been there myself.”
Dazed, I stood there, trying to remember how it had all started.
I’d wanted an office and had pestered the sergeant for months for a place to work. For my sins I got this, I’d got this dark and dingy office with paperwork piled high of old unsolved murders. The air was dank with the musty smell of old paper, a place where light had long gone missing. This was Middleton Detective Agency.
Even hardened drunks avoided this run down area of town. Sitting at the back of the office, I looked in desolation at the pile of old cases, Sgt. Pug Phillips had recently dumped on me.
Alan has always wanted to write, since a small child, he could be found in the library. This thirst for knowledge has grown to the point now, where he stands hopefully, on the edge of something new and exciting as his words reach eyes far away. 🙂
UPDATE: Alan received a 5* review April 2012 from Nanci Maynard, you can read it here.
His new book ‘To Elfenmere’ it is a medieval fantasy story, and first in the Mordhiem to Marienberg series, telling of the plight of a group of people fleeing their homes after a comet destroys their city. The cover (right) is by Angela Priest.
Amazon recently linked Alan’s work to that of Jeff Lilly, who also writes about Native Americans. Also a US online magazine is interested in his Pat Canella stories and Alan’s books are now available via Waterstones.
Also as well as ‘Chronicles of Mark Johnson – 8 short stories’ almost being ready to go on Amazon, Alan was awarded ‘Author of the Month’ on Angie’s Diary May 2012.
Update Oct 2012: The Chronicles has been awarded the indiePENdents Seal and Certificate.
Morgen: Congratulations Alan.
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