20 Questions – Allan Walsh

Our first guest is Allan Walsh, who is the author of the upcoming ‘Blood Rage’ which is very, very visceral (when you get to the sewer part… you can actually smell the sewerage, it’s that convincing). 

Allan has a story in the 18 anthology, called Low Life. I can’t tell you much, but it starts with a man in a hellishly shitty apartment and goes from there. 

Here are his ’20 questions’ answers for you. 

  1. What books have influenced your life most? I would have to say the Harry Potter series had the biggest influence on my life. The phenomena about it was so big that I had to read it, and when I did it inspired me to write the novel I am currently working on. It was the catalyst that added a whole new level to my life. It got me writing, and when I had completed my first draft I sought out a writers group. I made new friends, learnt new skills, gained new ambitions and aspired to become a published author.
  2. What does your writing process look like? I have a couple of methods really. You’ll probably laugh when I tell you that I think of an exciting scene and then I write it. I think of another and write that one too, then I think of some more and continue the process. I take the scenes and think of a plot and then weave them all into the storyline. Then I write to fill in the gaps. Simple really! The process does change for short stories. I will basically look at a topic that interests me, do a bit of research and then write about the bits I find interesting.
  3. What book are you reading now? I am currently reading three books. He was a hero, he shouldn’t have died by Kenneth Mugi, The magician’s apprentice by Trudi Canavan and ‘The Immortal Darkness’ by Christopher Kneipp. The sad thing is that have very little time between my full time job, the day to day tasks of being a parent and my writing. To add to my dilemma, I drive to work, so I don’t have much reading time and I’m not getting through them very quickly at all.
  4. Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? I have to say that there are a couple of budding writer’s in my writing group that I will be keeping my eye on. I really like their style of writing more-so than what they write about and there is a lot I can learn from them. 
  5. What are your current projects? I’m working on my first novel ‘Blood Rage’. It’s the story of a loner and a thief who is double crossed and sets out for revenge, but he finds something far more valuable along the way. I wrote it some time ago and have been steadily editing and improving it. I hope to publish before the end of the year.
  6. Do you see writing as a career? Yes, and I hope to start my career in writing with the release of my debut novel later this year. If all goes well, you may see a few more books from me in the years to come.
  7. Do you recall how your interest in writing originated? I always like English at school and was encouraged to write descriptively. Then life happened – work, family, etc.. and I didn’t write for a long, long time. That changed when J.K Rowling decided to write a children’s novel.
  8. Who is your favourite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work? There are so many great authors out there, I couldn’t name just one. I do like David Eddings, Trudi Canavan and Helen Lowe to name a few. Generally I like authors more for the stories they write, the things they dream up and the worlds they create. I will tolerate a poorly written novel if the authors imagination captures me. But, when I find one that has a great writing style and a great imagination, it is gold!
  9. What was the hardest part of writing your book? I think there is a quote that says ’The hardest part of writing is rewriting!’ This rings true for me, it is always the editing I struggle with.
  10. Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it? I learnt heaps from writing my book, aside from the research into things like how fast a horse travels, that a lot of deadly plants happen to have white flowers, etc… the two main things I learnt were a) I love to write and  B) I hate to write.
  11. Do you have any advice for other writers? Yes, the best advice I can give is that if you do nothing else, you must at least read lots of books about how to write and then join a writer’s group.
  12. Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers? I’d like to say thank you. Thanks for reading my books, I hope you enjoy them as much as I have enjoyed creating them. Really I do, because I have put my heart and soul into each and every word.
  13. What book do you wish you had written? I’ve already written it, and I will write the next one I wish to write as soon as this one is published.
  14. Are you a plotter or a pantser? Panster for sure, but I always get to a point where I say, this is getting too hard…I need to plot some stuff!
  15. If you could cast your characters in the film, theatre or video game adaptation of your book, who would play your characters? I would have to cast Kate beckinsale, Milla Jovovic or Olivia Wild for the part of Erin and someone like Colin Farrell for the role of Conall. 
  16. What is your least favourite part of the publishing / writing process? Again…that would be the editing!
  17. What literary character is most like you? There is no-one quite like me Dan…fortunately!
  18. What do you like drinking the most? Black coffee, Asahi beer or a nice dark rum.
  19. How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way they sound, or the meaning? And do you have any name choosing resources you’d recommend? Names are important, I choose both for meaning and for the sound. If there was a name that meant exactly what I was looking for, but sounded crap, I wouldn’t use it. Google is the best resource I have found 😊
  20. Finally, what is something you want to accomplish before you die? Before I die, I’d like to create a story that captures the imagination of millions, and hopefully stimulate the creativity of young minds, inspiring them to become the authors of the future.

Thanks Dan, it’s been fun…

Al

Thank you Allan. 

You can find Al at any of the following sites: 

http://allanwalsh.wordpress.com/

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8202457.Allan_Walsh

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Allan-Walsh/696838330379595 

Editing tips

I’ve taken to editing my work lately. I don’t really do that until after critiques. Bad habit, I guess, but I never really questioned whether I needed to – I just handed in whatever and relied on others. Then, recently, my critique group posted the original mission statement/rules/whatever you’d call it, and it said to hand in your best work. Implying that it should be self-edited. I wasn’t doing that. Which might explain a lot of things. I guess I just assumed that I didn’t have to go through it and fix up the most obvious mistakes. Now that I know I’m supposed to, I will try and do that from here on out. Editing isn’t really my strong point, but I can at least go through it with a once-over and fix things up as I spot them. For instance, a couple things I noticed was that Jarred gets up on car bonnets to shoot lightning a lot. Exclaiming ‘eat lightning’ even. He does this at least twice in the two chapters I’ve looked through so far. I’m willing to bet he does it again.

One thing that’s suggested is to print it out and work on that copy – the reason being that mistakes are easier to see on paper than screen. Makes sense. It’s worked well for me so far. I don’t exactly have a powerful editing muscle, and I guess that’s partly my fault at least, for laziness, for not being diligent. Another good thing about reading my work on paper is I can sort of get into the reader’s mind. Read it as a reader would, in other words. It’s not perfect, because you know your story and you’re entrenched within writing it, but then when you see it on paper and go through it as a critiquer, you’re also going through it almost like a reader, albeit maybe a savvy one, and you get to experience the other side of the writing. That’s valuable. It lets you spot where you’ve gone wrong, where characters go from one place or action to another without any intervening stuff; suddenly they’re a world away, or across the room, and you realise you’ve forgotten to have them travel there.

I’ve found it’s also allowed me to see that scenes need more, because as they are they’re just vignettes (snapshots without context, or development, or setting, etc). They’re not scenes. I can see that a little bit on my screen, more so now that someone’s pointed out to me I have these filler scenes that aren’t actually scenes, and you can go back and treat them as wrong in order to fix them up. Check out http://thedarkword.wordpress.com/2014/07/15/short-story-checklist/ if you want a list of questions to help you with your scenes. You really should be doing this or something like it for every scene in the novel. So I’ll leave you with this advice. Take it from someone who’s been neglecting it, this advice is solid.

20 Questions, writers edition

I’m embarking on a quest to interview the writers of my writing group, or at least the ones in the anthology we published. What I’m thinking is 20 questions, the same ones, to everyone in it. Even though the questions are the same, 13 writers’ responses will be different for each in some way. I’ve got one or two questioned already, they’ll get to it when they can, and I’ll post the interviews here.

I’ve never done interviews before. This should prove as a learning experience for me.

Short stories

I’m not so much into reading them at the moment. But boy am I into writing them. Not sure why this started, maybe just me wanting to write a few in my setting. So I’m working on a few here and there. The plan is to compile a bunch, one each from the major characters, and sell them somewhere online. Amazon Singles is one option among many. I reckon I’ll be figuring this out for the foreseeable future. Not to mention actually writing them.

So, who wants to read some shorts?

First novels

Why is it that some first novels just aren’t very good? I mean, most firsts I’ve read are at least publishable in quality, but sometimes it’s only just. (And sometimes not even).

Lately, I’ve read maybe 3 or 4 firsts that were really great. Or at least good. Kill Your Boss by Shane Khun, was dark, assured and delightful. Three by Jay Posey was pretty good. It was an apocalyptic novel with cyborg-zombies and featured the titular lone gunman on an escort mission for a woman and her very special child, armed with only a sword and a big handgun with a grand total of 3 bullets. I didn’t think it was great, but I wanted to finish it, so there’s that in its favour. There was also Peter Cline’s Ex-Heroes, about superheroes in a zombie apocalypse, holed up in a compound in the middle of Hollywood. It was a special kind of social commentary, when they took shots at zombie celebrities, that I loved. Not the best book ever written, but definitely good. Then, there was a straight-up superhero novel by a comic book veteran called Prepare to Die! by Paul Tobin. It’s a first book, but he’d been writing comics for 20 years. And it was fantastic. Especially the flashback to the teenagers smoking weed, getting drunk, and talking to sheep. I lolled, most literally. These are some of the best first novels I’ve read in a while, definitely since The Name of the Wind, and they stand out as rich, assured pieces from people who seem to be gifted with storytelling ability, an understanding of pacing, and the guts to be themselves and write good books.

So why do so many first novels not really do it for me? Jim Butcher, whose latest works I love, didn’t start out all that great. The prose was so pedestrian. The plots were nowhere near as good as they are now. The first three books could fit inside any one of the latest and still have room left over. Now, it’s great that he’s gotten better with every book, but those first ones weren’t very good. They were okay, they weren’t terrible, but they weren’t anything special. I’ve heard the same about Stephen King. And JK Rowling (I remember the first couple Harry Potters weren’t great, I mean they did alright, but Prisoner really upped the ante).

Is it because writing the first book is such a labour? I’ve found mine to be. I’ve redone Children of Fire about 4 times now. I imagine the next time won’t be the last. (I’ll be writing something else in the interim, because seriously, fuck this book, that’s why.) Being unpublished, having something unfinished, it’s a bad place to be in, mentally speaking. You don’t have your best work, you’re cutting corners, you’re figuring out the craft, you’ve got a long way to go, and it’s a miracle if you can get your head out and finish the damn thing. I know I wasn’t finished COF when I got a certain email from a certain publisher. I had a way to go, so I rushed it out and frankly it sucked. It didn’t get much better the second time around, or the third, and maybe the fourth was actually alright, though it had holes and weak points everywhere. Is four tries enough? Too much? Too little? Is 10 years too long to be working on something? Is it laughably short?

Some people are born with a pen in their hand. Some people come to writing later in life. Me, I’m in an awkward position between having enthusiasm for writing as a child, and gaining ability as an adult (I’m finally staring to really understand all that my degree taught me, which I didn’t really at the time. I guess that’s the way it goes. And I’m still writing, not with the sheer level of glee I did as a kid, but definitely with more professionalism, not a huge amount but definitely more compared to my teenage years, usually, though sometimes I need a hiatus from a project, other times from the whole lifestyle of writing; sometimes I just need to slay Darkspawn or shoot demons in hell).

I think many great writers get great from practice. They might not be born great, like some lucky bastards, but get great from experience and practice and exponentially improving with each book. There’s benefit in that, and what probably happened was their publishers saw potential in their writing and took a chance, while also pushing the writers to get better and better. See also practice.

Some are natural-born writers. Some have 20 years of experience in writing stories for another medium: film, tv, games, comics. Just add knowledge of prose (and eye of  newt). But no overnight success is ever really so. I mean, JK Rowling was rejected by every other publisher in the UK and then Bloomsbury took her up. She didn’t do too well at first, but by Prisoners she was getting well known, much better at writing, and the fact is, it’s usually not until book 3 or 4 that anyone really makes a living from writing. I hadn’t heard of Harry Potter until book 4, myself. No overnight success is ever really overnight. But some writers can make it seem like it. The rest just have to apply themselves to the improvement of the craft and persevere. I know I have to.

Anthology news

Today I finally got my hands on a print copy or four of the anthology I’m in, http://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B00K4CNFJW. (That’s the digital one). I’m giving these four from the very first print run (weeeeeeeeell, there was a printing of one copy to test and see if it worked correctly, and thank god, it did, so we moved into our proper orders). We received them today at our meeting. I’ve since shown people the shiny new cover (it’s glossy, so it’s seriously shiny) and I’ll be posting a link to the Print On Demand option as soon as I get that. So stay tuned for more news as it breaks.

Apocalypse and Dystopia – a comparison

The apocalypse. Everyone’s favourite genre lately, it seems. That and Dystopian fiction. But what’s the difference? Can the two be interchangeable? Well, yes and no. Let me explain.

Apocalypse, from the Greek apocalypsis, meaning to uncover or reveal, is generally equated with calamity and disaster, wrath and ruin. I think I know why: society, which is usually literally destroyed in such works, stands for an idea. Humanity, life, order, I would figure. Therefore, the revelation – like in the bible book thereof – is the tearing down of the idea of humanity and society. Strip away that and what are you left with? Survivors, struggling to exist in a wasteland or ruin. It actually has a lot in common with wild west stories, particularly in American fiction. Guns, wilderness, daily struggles to survive, scrounging for food and water, making or stealing your tools, little law if any… I could go on, but I think you get the picture.

Dystopia, meanwhile, is characterised by human misery, despair, squalor, oppression, overcrowding and disease. Notice a few matching themes with apocalypse? Yeah. Apocalypse fiction, however, tends not to have an overcrowding problem, nor an oppression problem, at least not in the apocalypse fiction I’ve experienced so far (not all of it, by a long shot). Misery, despair, squalor and disease are all pretty standard fare for apocalypse stories, but I don’t find oppressive governments in most apocalypse fiction, although they can exist in it. Dystopian fiction is fiction wherein society is ruled by oppressors, specifically. It’s about oppression as a key, driving narrative. Apocalypse fiction doesn’t require that, but it can involve that. The two overlap in a lot of places, but don’t have to. Dystopian fiction is not necessarily apocalyptic fiction, and vice versa.

So now you know.

Then, along comes a game like Sunset Overdrive, which promises to be a fun apocalypse game characterised by colour and awesomeness. Sounds great. Wish I had an Xbox One, if only for that one game.

 

 

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/apocalypse

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/dystopia?s=t