A while back when I posted a Call to Writers, asking my fellow author bloggers to allow me to interview them, I was elated with the responses I received. (And if you would like to participate, please feel free to contact me.) I asked thirty-five questions and gave the interviewee the freedom to answer only what they wanted. My friend and fellow-blogger, James McAllen, had some very interesting responses which I’m sure you’ll find as fascinating as I did. When you’re done reading the interview, please hop on over to his blog and make sure you follow him for more news. And now, heeeeere’s James…
1. Please tell us your name (or pen name) and a little bit about yourself:
James McAllen – I was born and raised in the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn NY. After failing as a baseball player, rock singer, Shakespearean actor and masked superhero, I decided to try my hand at writing. My first screenplay, Three of a Kind, was a semi-finalist in the 2004 Project Greenlight contest. Split Rock Road is my first published collection of short stories.
2. Please provide the link to your blog (and website, Facebook fan page, Twitter, etc.):
3. How many books have you written?
I’ve self-published a collection of short stories titled – Split Rock Road.
4. Has any of your work been published yet? If so, please share the link(s) to purchase it:
5. How old were you when you started writing? When did you know you wanted to be an author?
In High School, we had a teacher named Mrs. Bogash who made us write in a journal every day. I’ve been writing ever since.
6. What would you say motivates you to keep writing?
I look at all creative efforts as extension of who I am, and who I want to be. There are many things that inspire me to write; books, movies, songs, sunsets, but being a writer is just part of who I am.
7. Who are some of your favorite authors? What are you currently reading (or what is the last book you read)?
Hemingway is my favorite author. Everyone should read “The Old Man and the Sea” over and over again. I also love Jack London, John Irving and John Updike. David Halberstam is my favorite non-fiction author.
8. What is your preferred reading method? (i.e., Kindle, Nook, paperback, hardback, etc.) Why?
Although I spend a lot of time reading articles, blogs and newspapers online, books were meant to be read the old fashioned way; sitting in a comfortable chair with a physical book.
9. Do you write in first or third person, past or present tense, and why?
I alternate with tenses and p.o.v. I let the story tell the story. The muse usually decides.
10. Do you “always read” or do you take breaks between reading books?
I go on reading “jags”, where I’ll read four or five books in a row and then take a break. The same goes for movies.
11. How many books would you say you read in a year? How many at any one time?
I usually read somewhere between 10-15 books a year. I try to confine myself to one at a time, but I sometimes find myself reading a novel and a biography simultaneously.
ABOUT YOUR CURRENT BOOK::
12. What is the title of your current work in progress or the most recent manuscript you’ve completed?
The current project is titled, Under an august moon. The story centers around two characters; a recently released convict who struggles to put his life together, and an alcoholic priest who struggles with his faith.
13. What is your novel’s genre? Would you say there is a sub-genre
The goal of this book is to write a literary novel. There is no sub-genre, per se, but it does contain some elements of a crime novel, or a mystery.
14. What inspired the current or most recent story you’ve completed?
I met a man whose mother died on 9/11, but of natural causes, hours before the attacks. I used that as a starting point for my character. He resents the attention giving to the victims of the attack, and eventually lies about his mother’s death, sending him down a regrettable path.
15. What is your target audience’s age, gender, etc.?
The story is for adults, but I don’t have a target group as far as gender or demographic. I’m not that clever when it comes to marketing.
ABOUT HOW YOU WRITE::
16. How often do you write?
When I’m writing, I write every day, even if it’s just for a few minutes, but there are stretches where I don’t write anything but my blog for weeks at a time.
17. Approximately how many words do you write at each sitting?
Jack London set a daily goal of 1000 words. That was handwritten. I try and shoot for 1500, but I don’t punish myself if the muse isn’t cooperating.
18. Do you do your own editing or send it to someone else?
Both. I edit as I go, then I let my girlfriend do a round of corrections before I send it out to a professional editor.
19. What is your method of writing? (i.e., Do you write the entire manuscript, then go back and make changes? Do you plan chapters as you go along or write the story then go back and add chapters? Do you re-read as you go along or after you are done with the first draft?)
I’ve written several screenplays, and they were written as an outline first, then scene by scene. My first book was a short story collection, so each was written independently. August Moon, has a non-linear structure, so it jumps all over the place, according to how I feel at the given moment.
20. Do you have a muse? If so, please elaborate. If not, what inspires you?
Ah, the fickle muse. The muse comes in many shapes and sizes, all of which are feminine in nature. In some ways, the pursuit of art is like the pursuit of love. It is a courtship. All artistic endeavors, be it writing or painting or music, are simply attempts to make the muse happy, so she will come back to inspire you once again.
21. How long does it take you to write a full manuscript?
I’ll let you know when I finish this one, but Split Rock Road was complied over several years, although the bulk of the stories were written in one year.
22. How do you come up with your character names and geographic location / business names?
Character names are really tough, as I have a tendency to use the same ones over and over. For male characters, for some reason I find myself using “J” names; Justin, James, Jake, etc. I have to make a conscious effort to change the name. For streets, or businesses, I often pick up a random book and point to a word on a page. Usually, I can find something interesting that way.
23. How long (or how detailed) are the notes you take before you start writing?
I find notes helpful at times, but I also find myself using them as a stalling tactic. I’ll compile 30 or 40 pages of notes, just to avoid actually writing. You can never write bad notes, but you can write a LOT of bad sentences before you find one that works.
24. Does your real life ever neglected because of your writing? If so, how do you feel about that?
No, on the contrary, my writing suffers from too much time spent at work and commuting. Maybe I can crowd-source a years’ salary to assist in my next book.
25. What is the quirkiest thing you do or have ever done when writing?
I like to read the dialogue out loud, in different voices, just to hear if it sounds authentic. On occasion, my landlord will ask me who I was talking to.
ABOUT YOUR WORK::
26. If you have written more than one novel, which is your favorite and why?
I spent the first few years writing screenplays, then switched to short stories, so this is my first attempt at a novel.
27. If you could be one of your own characters for a day, who would it be and why?
A piece of me lives in every character, so I get to be them every day.
Thank you, James, for allowing me to interview you. I hope everyone else has enjoyed learning about you and your work as much as I have.