Today, Norm Goldman Publisher & Editor of Bookpleasures.com is pleased to have as our guest Jeffrey B. Allen author of GoneAway Into the Land.
Good day Jeffrey and thanks for participating in our interview
How did you get started in writing? What keeps you
since I was a small boy I have enjoyed writing. In grammar
school I started a newspaper named Nella News – Allen backwards.
I typed the five or six page paper on my father’s old gray Corona.
The newspaper was understandably crude, and its circulation was to a
few friends and my family members. That was the birth of my writing
Starting in Junior high I became very interested in reading and writing. I now believe strongly that writing is best learned by reading. I read as many authors within my genre as possible, and then I write with a mix of those stories swimming around in my head. It gives me reinforcement. Those differing styles will meld together and help the writer create a unique style of his own. I began by reading fantasy and science fiction, but then in high school and on into college I added ancient Roman history and some of the classics, like Herman Melville and Edgar Allen Poe and others.
College my focus was fine art and design. My imagination is my
blessing. My tenacity to see a project to its successful
conclusion also keeps me writing. Once I start a story, there
will be no stopping me until it is done. Borderline obsession,
but there are other things in my life that help me stay balanced.
Three years ago I sold my architectural design firm of 28 years.
After staying on staff with the new owners for one year I decided to
exercise my option and opt out. I still have a day- job in the
industry, but I feel a strong desire to keep writing, to continue
honing my skills, and to reach a level of success befitting a
recognized author. I feel it pulling on me more and more all
the time. Having published but one novel to date, GoneAway Into the
Land, I believe I still have a long way to go before I reach that
rather lofty goal. But watch out, because I have stories - and I have
the crazy notion that getting up in the middle of the night to write
because I was suddenly hit with a ‘light beam of an idea’ is not
a problem. I do it regularly.
My best writing comes at between 3:00 to 6:00 in the morning. It is a serene time of the day - no phones, no noise of cars rushing past, airplanes flying overhead lowering their flaps for the landing. Yes, very few interruptions save for our Yorkie that must jump up on my lap, and the cat that watches my typing strokes while she lies on top of my notes and binders. Indeed, the early morning hours are a wonderful time to dream out loud.
I write as a way to define myself; to define my life through the lives of my characters. I seek to reach conclusions about things that I have pondered and contemplated, and that offer no easy solutions or answers. My genre will deal, for a long time to come, with a form of fantasy mixed with a philosophical reality about life and death. I always enjoy writers who carry the reader into a strange world and then form a relationship with the reader through well developed characters that mirror real life and real world human trials and tribulations. To identify with others who share our demons and our torments is something many of us seek through our reading. Shakespeare did it better than any writer in history.
Why have you been drawn to writing fantasy? Are
there aesthetic advantages and disadvantages peculiar to the fantasy
novel? As a follow up, why do you believe that fantasy novels are
very popular today?
mind and my imagination have always been slanted toward the surreal.
There will be no shaking that. I love surrealistic art and I
love books and movies that carry me into another world. Based
on the number of fantasy movies that hit the stratosphere every year,
I would say the genre is popular.
The difficulty in writing good fantasy is that the author must keep the prose moving. GoneAway is a bit longer than I wanted, but I ultimately wrote GoneAway as gift to my children. It is based on a children’s story I told them when they were young. They begged for that story at bedtime. Having never forgotten those times, they were both instrumental in getting me started on GoneAway. Although the original story is buried within a much more complex adventure, it is easily recognized by my daughter and my son. My son, Stephen wrote a very interesting analysis of GoneAway that is posted on the JeffreyBAllen.com web site.
What is particularly heart warming about writing a fantasy novel like GoneAway is that most of the comments that come back to me indicate that the fantasy and the descriptions of the world I send the reader into are wonderful and vivid in their visual depiction, but the underlying story about a real boy’s struggle to reconcile the harsh difficulties of his life is what grips the reader and keeps the pages turning. The reader is steadily drawn into the reality of John’s problem, and I believe they begin to side with him and eventually route for him. As the reader learns of the pain and suffering the boy and his mother endured, and yes even the father, the readers tell me that the strange world they find themselves in is no longer the focus.
The characters all have a relationship to real life – some more than others, but each one has a meaning that upon analysis would be apparent. This type of embedded subtleness is fun to place into a story because it gives every reader a chance to take away something different from the novel.
Fantasy is not for everyone, and because there is so much of it for
sale in the marketplace it can be hard to sell. I feel my
approach of using fantasy as the vehicle to build relationships to
the human condition can be attractive to many more readers than pure
fantasy novels or science fiction. It may make my novels easier to
sell. Of course nothing will sell if it is not marketed.
That is the harsh reality every writer must face once his novel is
hope to continue a steady marketing campaign until the novel is
noticed and placed on the launch pad. That is what I hope for.
There is nothing wrong with mixing hard work with a ton of hope.
How would you describe your creative process while writing
Goneaway into the Land? Did you work from a set plan? How long did it
take to write the book?
During the process of writing GoneAway, I used every possible means to keep the sequences and characters straight. I used a time line. Although there is no real time in GoneAway, I had to sequence things properly to keep the reader from getting confused. I wrote biographies on each character and became intimate with each of them. I did short descriptive outlines of several portions of the book. I also spent a year in editing and revising. GoneAway took four years to write. That was writing for an average of at least five hours every day. That’s an estimate, but I know there was seldom a day that I did not work on the book.
I never listen to the radio in my car. Instead, I use the driving time to dream my current story in my head as if it were a movie. When something strikes me that might be wrong with the story, or I think of a solution to a problem, I stop and write it into a journal before continuing to drive on. I stop along the side of road now, because I almost killed myself trying to write and drive at the same time.
The other thing I did, on several occasions, during the writing of GoneAway was to go through a process of organizing the sequence of the chapters. I jump around in time quite a lot, and I go between scenes fairly often, more and more as the action increased toward the end. These sequences must be in the proper order. Readers are very good at picking up inconsistencies, so I believe an inordinate amount of time must be spent sequencing the events and making sure the descriptions and facts are consistent throughout.
last thing I can think of is my research and my notes. I kept
all of those on a separate word file. There are hundreds of
pages of notes and research downloads that I did during the writing
process. I needed to lead the reader into the philosophical
aspects of the book without being blatant or preachy. I wanted
to accomplish that with historical and biblical references that were
as unobvious as possible.
Technically speaking, what was the most difficult part about
writing the book?
most difficult thing was learning to put a novel of the complexity of
GoneAway together properly. I always stayed cognizant of the
reader. I never stopped thinking of myself as the reader.
So I found it very difficult to please myself at times.
Rewrites and rewrites, reading aloud, having a family member read
sections to me. I needed always to evaluate the book from the
reader’s standpoint. I think that today’s reader is more
impatient than in the past. They often put a book down if it
does not hook them within the first fifty pages. GoneAway is a
long book and although there are some very traumatic chapters in the
beginning, it took at least one hundred pages to set up the story.
On my editors advice I tried to cut sections out in order to bring
the word count down, but I found it very difficult to do with this
book. My next Novel is well on the way and I plan to develop
the story with much more brevity. It will be easier with the
new story than it was with GoneAway.
What is your secret in keeping the intensity of the
plot throughout the narrative?
Move the story along by placing your reader in different places frequently. Or create an emotion using one of your characters and then leave that scene before resolution. The reader will want you to get back to it and will read on in order to find out what happened..
If the reader knows who is talking leave as many ‘he said and she said’s out of the narrative. Streaming the dialog in appropriate sections can help the pace and create tension that is good to speed the pace.
There are times in a story where you have to explain certain things. Work hard on those sections so they are not preachy or long winded. I used dream states to give my reader background on my main character. The dream states served to also raise the reader’s emotional attachment to him as well as their disdain for the villains of GoneAway.
I wanted the reader to hate the villains while rooting for John, the hero.
I find that intentional end-line chapter hooks can be obvious;
although I use them on occasion I do it sparingly. I also flip
between scenes more quickly as the climax approaches. I think
that helps the intensity.
What do you want your work to do? Amuse people? Provoke thinking?
want my readers to be of ages 17 and up. Within that large
group I am writing to different ages at the same time, and I expect,
and I hope that each type of reader will come away with a slightly
different take on the story. I want to be provocative no matter
what. But I also I want my work to be entertaining. I
would like to think that anyone of my novels could be read for
entertainment in and of itself. However, if just some of the
messages imbedded into the prose do not come through to the reader I
would be disappointed.\
What books have most influenced your life most and why?
I have read all of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells. The old style of writing intrigues me. I have read much of what C.S. Lewis wrote, J.R. Tolkien, and P.D. James,
I love an author who puts a story in my mind that stays with me for a lifetime.
I love Roman history because it is a history that I most associate with fantasy. It is even more fascinating to draw parallels between our society today and that of the ancients. I believe that human civilization is much older than our scientist think. I am also a hopeless optimist, so I believe it will be a long time before human kind feels the last warming rays of the sun. Because we are cursed with the sense of our own mortality we seem to have a deep need to predict the end of civilization. To me, that is a senseless exercise, although I find it fascinating to study the religious and historical ramifications of those predictions. For that reason I place the Bible as the most influential book of all time.
I love to read Hemmingway who was a master at embedding hidden meaning into his dialog. He was a genius. I would have to say that the imagination of Frank Herbert amazes me. The Dune series is a true masterpiece that will endure the ages.
authors - I enjoy reading Larry Niven, Michael Crichton and I
appreciate Stephen King. His book on writing a book is a
something every aspiring author should read.
Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I learned that I had the patience and the proper level of perfectionism to be a good writer. I have always admitted to myself, in everything I’ve done, that I will never master a craft. There will always be room for improvement, therefore, I am constantly self-evaluating and trying new approaches to improve and become a better writer.
Where do you get your information or ideas for Goneaway into the
said before, the basic story was born in my imagination. The
nuts and bolts of the story and the threads that make it a good story
are added through constant revisions, good research, and hard work.
Can you tell us how you found representation for your book? Did you pitch it to an agent, or query publishers who would most likely publish this type of book? Any rejections? Did you self-publish?
refused to self publish. I wrote over a hundred query letters
to publishers and agents. I received interest from some but
mostly rejection form letters. I sent the manuscript to my
current publisher who fortunately is in favour of publishing
promising new authors. He read the manuscript, called me on the
phone and said we had a deal. It took almost a year after the
manuscript was completed to get to that point. What a great
When writing your book, did you ever have it in the back of your mind that you could turn it into a movie or television project?
Absolutely. GoneAway would make an excellent movie. I have copies of the book going out to some people in the movie business. We will see what happens.
Hope and hard work and not being afraid to ask are the keys.
But also a bit of luck would not hurt.
Are you working on any books/projects that you would like to share
with us? (We would love to hear all about them!)
have a good portion of the sequel to GoneAway written and outlined,
but I put it aside when I was struck with my current story. It
is called Beneath the Quarry Waters. It is much different than
GoneAway but it will still stay within the same genre. Quarry
Waters is not written from the perspective of a twelve year old boy
so the story takes on a much more adult aspect. My target
audience is the same.
Is there anything else you wish to add that we have not covered
and where can our readers find out more about you and GoneAway Into
No matter how GoneAway fairs in the marketplace I am proud of the accomplishment. I am happy that my two children will forever have a copy of GoneAway, and that they will always know that it was dedicated to them from start to finish
Also I am pleased to say that I have made some wonderful friends through my writing. I have also met some fascinating and gifted people.
have a web site. www.JeffreyBAllen.com.
Thanks once again and good luck with all of your future endeavors.
Thank you Norm.