One of my favorite things about providing editing services to independent authors is getting to know them better during the process. The indie author community is filled with amazing people, so I thought it would be fun to highlight an author every one or two weeks so we can get to know them better. I’m kicking the series off with William Allen. I was a fan of his before I edited the fourth book in his Walking in the Rain series. I also had the honor of working with him on the Bite-Sized Offerings anthology. He’s a talented writer and a good guy. So, read on and get to know a little about William Allen.
Please tell a little about yourself.
First, I am nothing like any of the characters in my stories. I’m a thoroughly house-broken suburban dweller who is a long way from his country roots. I readily admit in the event of most SHTF events, I have the life expectancy of a Snickers bar at fat camp. I don’t live in a cave in the woods, though some days I wish that was an option. I have some skills when it comes to hunting, fishing and camping. Even though I have no actual mechanical skills, I’ve also always been fascinated by how things work.
How did you come up with the idea for your Walking in the Rain series? What else can you tell us about it?
The idea for this story came to me one day when I was sitting at O’Hare Airport in Chicago. I was waiting for a flight that was eventually cancelled, and I was thinking dark thoughts. Then I realized, “Hey, at least the lights didn’t go out. And maybe my flight will show up tomorrow. I’ve got it so easy in some ways.”
Since home is Texas, I got to thinking about what I would do in the event of an EMP event. The sad truth is, I figured out I’d probably be dead inside a week. Then I got to wondering about if the traveler was someone younger, fitter, and more creative, would they be able to make it home? Still probably not, but it would make for a more entertaining story than chronicling the downfall of my out-of-shape butt.
This was supposed to be a three and out series, if that, but as I wrote I kept getting more ideas for the characters. Plus, I really hate a “journey” story where the tale ends on the completion of the journey. I guess I could have ended the series with the conclusion of Book Three but I still had a lot more left in the tank. I was especially curious to find out how Luke’s family was going to react to his return, and the changes he underwent on the road. As I was rereading Dark Sky Thunder I realized I may have given a poor impression of his mother so I’ll need to figure out a way to make it up to her later. Yes, I realize I am referring to fictional characters as real, live folks but to me that is the best way to deal with complex and evolving characters. No, I don’t need to see a doctor for my delusions, thank you very much.
What else have you written?
I addition to the four WITR novels, I’ve published a couple of short stories, and the one I am most proud of is “Ware, Goblins.” This is a very short story I wrote for Bite Sized Offerings and I have loved seeing the feedback on this one. I also enjoyed writing my first published zombie story, “Hunger Driven” since it allowed me to add a little humor to the genre. Dark, sad humor, but still funny to me.
Have you always been good at writing? When did you discover that you like to write?
I only consider myself a so-so writer. There are plenty of better writers out there, but I like to think I bring a certain break-neck spirit to the table. I like to move the narrative along at a quick, stripped-down pace and the last thing I ever want to hear is a reader telling me how they had to skim through parts of my book.
As for how long I’ve enjoyed writing, I’ve been scribbling stuff in notebooks since I was about eight years old. Like most people, I never dreamed of actually publishing anything. My father always enjoyed reading my writing and he was my biggest cheerleader, but sadly he didn’t live to see me publish my first story.
How do you find/make time to write?
With a full-time day job that often demands big chunks of my nights and weekends, I have learned to make use of available time whenever I can. If I have an hour sitting at the airport, then I use that time to write chapters longhand. If I have two hours at night between ten pm and midnight, then I use that time to either write new stuff or transcribe what I have written previously in longhand. My best writing time is at night on the weekends when I am home.
Do you have any specific/unique writing habits?
I wish I had a cool story about how I write listening to Mozart or Avenged Sevenfold or something like that but sorry, no go. Get me in front of a laptop and give me a little quiet and I’m ready to go. I don’t require silence to concentrate, but I do tend to block everything else out when I am writing. Plus, coffee is a definite plus.
Where/when/how do you come up with your best ideas?
I get ideas for stories all the time. I tend to keep a notepad handy to jot things down as they occur to me. Some ideas get a follow up and others just get filed away. The best ideas usually come to me like pieces of a puzzle that I have to assemble in my head.
How do you choose names for your characters? Do you pick them randomly, or do they have some sort of meaning to you?
I usually just make up character names but I have started recently using first or last names of people I know to fill out some supporting character roles. These are usually beta readers and I use their names with permission, which they get a kick out of it when the stories come to them.
Do you read your reviews? If so, do you ever respond to them? Advice for new authors regarding how to deal with negative reviews?
I do read reviews. My advice it don’t do it unless you have a thick skin. Five star reviews are easy and fill you with pride at a job well-done, of course, but those one star hatchet jobs can really irk you if you let it. I’ve only responded one time to a negative review, commenting on the inaccuracies in his well-laid out but incorrect bashing of me as a person. As I indicated, I think I have a pretty high tolerance for criticism and I will sometimes find myself agreeing with the complaint. My writing is not for everyone and I am the first to admit this. Calling me a racist and a misogynist really isn’t accomplishing anything constructive.
For a new writer, this kind of vitriolic attack can certainly damage your confidence. For me, I made note of the complaint and checked to see if anyone else felt the same. After about three hundred more reviews came in for that book without a repeat, I decided the reviewer was just full of crap.
Another example was one I just received for Dark Sky Thunder. I’ve received about fifty four or five star reviews and a single two star review. The reviewer there complained about how slow the book started (something I readily admit given the events in the previous three books) and then went on to rip the story for being disjointed and lacking in focus. That part really threw me off, as I had worked hard to “script” this story (or heavily outlined, if you will) before even attempting a final draft.
After some thought, I decided the reviewer just really enjoyed the travel aspects of the first three books and was disappointed I didn’t immediately send Luke and company off on a wild goose chase. Sorry, but after all he has been through, Luke will be sticking close to home for the immediate future. In fact, that thought was the reason I had to remove the “Going for the Horse Doc” chapters from the main story and spin them off into a short story for later.
What is your best marketing tip?
As an independent author and publisher, my best marketing tip is to put yourself out there. I don’t mean become obnoxious in your self-promotion, but be willing to answer reader questions and respond promptly. For some of you, it might mean becoming active on Facebook. For others, it is setting up your own webpage. I am not that tech savvy and even though several people have offered to set up one for me, I do better with e-mails. For example, if you e-mail me with questions or comments at email@example.com, I will respond. Every time. Trust me, people appreciate that level of interaction, and they will tell their friends. At my level, word of mouth is the best advertising I can do.
I also get asked how I manage to get so many reviews written for my books. The answer there is also simple—I politely ask readers to do leave a review, and then I explain how this helps me write more books.
What secret talents do you have?
I have the ability to blend into almost any crowd. Yes, not easy for me at six feet five inches tall and two hundred fifty-five pounds (give or take), but I can easily adapt to a new environment in just a few minutes. In the Deep South, my accent comes on heavy, with a distinct Texas drawl, while in the Midwest I’ve often been asked where I come from, since they can’t hear it in my voice. I don’t do a Northeastern accent, but they often think I am from Chicago or Wisconsin. I am stealthy in my own way.
If you had a superpower, what would it be?
If I could pick, I would want to be able to control time. That would be cool. Plus, it would pretty much make me, and anyone else I chose, essentially immortal.
Ever been in a bar fight?
Yes. I am waiting for the statute of limitations to expire on that one, so the less said the better. But I do have job experience along those lines that I can discuss.
For a while when I was in college, I worked security at a beer store, so I got to fight the drunks almost every night when they were kicked out of the bar next door. By the way, fighting drunks is like fighting zombies- they are uncoordinated but also don’t seem to feel pain.
One night I saw a guy come in about 2am, barefoot and shirtless in the middle of winter. The shirtless part made it obvious someone had stuck a rather large knife in his belly and left it there. By the time the ambulance showed up with the paramedics, he didn’t want to leave because he was at Level Six on Miss Pacman. Like I said, after a certain point, drunks don’t feel pain. Either that, or he was a high functioning zombie. Either way, you can guess who ended up having to squeegee the blood off that game.
Where is one place you’d like to visit that you’ve never been to before?
New Zealand/Australia. I lump them together simply because if I get close enough to visit one, I am definitely visiting the other as well. I’d love to pop in and visit with some of my favorite authors Down Under.
Worldwide, apocalyptic EMPs… fiction or a reality?
Reality. The question is one of timing. I groan every time I read an article about some billion dollar infrastructure project where the federal government fails to even consider spending a few million dollars of taxpayer money on something actually useful, like hardening the system. Oh, no, we can’t do that. The only rationale I can find is that some politicians think it sends the wrong message.
Sort of like the reason we did away with Civil Defense in this country. We did not want to make the Soviet Union worry we were planning a first strike, so we left the country’s civilian population wide open for attack. The problem here is we could face either an enemy like ISIS or Iran, who could care less about the status of noncombatants, or Mother Nature, who has been at war with mankind since Day One, and she doesn’t take prisoners.
Who do you think would last the longest in the zombie apocalypse: Bill Cosby, Martha Stewart, or Gene Simmons?
Gene Simmons. A year ago I would have said Bill Cosby, but he has managed to tick off a large percentage of the female population in this country. I doubt he would be welcomed into any survivor community unless it was a group of degenerates looking for his magic drug cocktail secrets. Martha didn’t do her time the right type of facility to learn much in the way of street smart survival skills. I don’t watch his reality TV show, but I understand Mr. Simmons stays in pretty good shape for his age. Heck, for that matter I’d pick Richard Simmons over the Coz or Martha.
What food/beverages would you miss the most if the SHTF?
Coffee. I’m the kind of person who would hold up in a Dunkin’ Donuts for the coffee alone. Forget Starbucks. Most of their flavors are too bitter for my delicate palate.
Advice for new and/or aspiring authors?
Write. A lot. Sit down, put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard) and create something. Do that once, twice, three times. Then take that third manuscript and show it to someone in the business for a critique. Up to you but I wouldn’t go to an English teacher or a creative writing professor. For my first critique, I picked a few authors for whom I was beta reading. To my eternal gratitude, they offered me some excellent tips on how I could do a better job with my writing.
Do not take offense, do not whine, and do thank them for their advice. Be polite, and remember them when you do get published and thank them for taking the time to help out a fellow writer. Then be willing to pass it on to other beginning writers who come to you for help. And that ends the lecture.
What are you working on now? Any new writing projects in the works?
I am currently working on A Feast for Crows, which is a direct sequel to the short story “Hunger Driven” that I wrote earlier this year. I just enjoy writing books about people with “problems” and Brad McCoy has a lot of them. He is moody, and cranky, and has a problem with authority, but he also has a really funny relationship with his boss. This book will let me expand the world view a bit and add some more depth to the story, as well as hopefully entertaining the zombie masses.
After that, I have already started outlining the next Rain book, which will be a revisit of sorts as I go back and catch up with our friends at the Keller farm. Even as I was writing Book Two, I was trying to figure out why the character of Scott Keller seemed to be so intriguing to me. He never said much and he wasn’t a leader, but his skills in the woods and his easygoing demeanor seemed to make him a natural mentor for Luke. Now I intend on figuring out what makes the character tick as well as telling a slam bang story.
I am also working on several other stories in the developmental stage, including a post-nuclear war mystery involving a scarred faced hermit, a discredited FBI agent, and a whole slew of assassins in the woods. This one has been on my mind for a long time and I am looking forward to finally being able to sit down and finish the thing.
Where can we find your books?
For the time being, I am publishing online exclusively at Amazon for Kindle. My first three books are also available on Audible.com and Book Four, Dark Sky Thunder, has been submitted for audio as well.
Thanks for hanging with us!
William Allen’s Amazon Page