Interview: Michael J. Allen

Today’s guest is author Michael J. Allen. He is the author of the Amazon #1 best-seller YA space opera Scion of Conquered Earth, its best-selling sequel Stolen Lives and the contemporary southern fantasy Murder in Wizards Wood. All titles are available in hardback, paperback, kindle, epub, ibook and nook, order them anywhere in galaxies where quality books are sold.

Originally from Oregon, Michael J. Allen is a pluviophile masquerading as a vampire IT professional in rural Georgia. Warped from youth by the likes of Jerry Lewis, Robin Williams, Gene Wilder and Danny Kaye, his sense of humor leads to occasional surrender, communicable insanity, a sweet tooth and periodic launch into nonsensical song. He loves books, movies, the occasional video game, playing with his Labradors – Myth and Magesty. He knows almost nothing about music.

A recovering Game Master, he gave up running RPG’s for writing because the players didn’t play out the story in his head like book characters would – we know how that worked out.

Suddenly fresh out of teenagers, he spends his days writing in restaurants, people watching and warring over keyboard control with the voices in his head.

1.   Describe your work. What will readers find and enjoy as they explore your writing? What are you proudest of?

a.       The stories that scribble out from my keyboard are varied and broad, but whether its YA Space opera, Western-style Fantasy, or more traditional Science Fiction/Fantasy readers will always find truth within the wonder. They’ll find people, not caricature. Protagonists are as flawed as you or me. Antagonists struggle with hard choices to do what they feel is right or necessary even if it seems horrible from the outside.

b.      I enjoy moments of pride when I can take something known and make it new, offer a reader the opportunity to look at things in a new light and embrace new possibilities.

2. What’s your favorite part of being a writer?

I love the sharing. I got hooked on writing when my friends sat around a living room discussing how the chapter made them feel and arguing with one another over who did what and why. To share and make an emotional impact, to brighten their day and maybe distract them from other troubles, that’s what makes writing incredible.

3. What aspect of being a writer do you struggle with?

Ugly truth. I find my characters in bad situations where ugly realities have become necessary on the page. I’m often uncomfortable with writing the horrors that humans inflict upon one another, but I believe it’s a writer’s duty to his/her readers to tell the story with truth – though perhaps not always in every gruesome detail. A writer should never cheat their readers by changing what happens to make the story’s reality a bit more Disney.  Joel Rosenberg taught me that as a reader with his Guardians of the Flame series. Unscrupulous, selfish people did horrid things to characters I loved. I hated it. I threw his books away only to buy them again years later to learn how Joel had invoked an emotional response that lingered years later. He’d shown me what truly would’ve happened in that horrid situation. Joel’s adherence to the story’s reality, the truth of humanity without a candy coating had opened my eyes to the importance of not cheating my reader with easy lies. I imagine there are readers who get turned off by some of those ugly truths just as there are readers who’re driven away by a writer lying about war reality or humanity’s darkness. It’s oh so very hard to face that at the keyboard some days, but I’ll dutifully give my readers believable stories grounded in truth before I tell them that bad people only want to treat them to a spa day.

4. Who are some of your favorite writers, and how have they influenced your work?

There are so many. Every book I’ve ever read has shaped and inspired my writing. Roger Zelazny showed me how big a world could be with his Amber Series. Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera books expanded my horizons where it came to my thinking about magic. Brandon Sanderson taught me by book and by online lessons how to ground magic systems in logic that keeps them balanced and believable. Terry Pratchett taught me not to take myself too seriously. Ann Crispin abused me horribly in order to forge me into someone who could become a writer people wanted to read. Mercedes Lackey and Andre Norton showed me that cultural politics offered intrigue as good or better and slogging through war zones and later Mercedes and Larry Dixon kept me from giving up writing. Every pro I’ve ever interacted with has been so generous with their wisdom, beacons of hope to guide me toward ultimately getting published.

5. What would you like to see more of in sci-fi and fantasy fiction?

My name on their cover pages? Diversity. More diverse points of view or organizational structures. SF/F writers expand thinking with their stories. They open minds to new ideas. We need a fresh infusion of open mindedness in society and writers can present those ideas in ways that don’t automatically get our collective hackles raised. At the same time, new ideas must be integral to the story and painted with all the heavy-handedness of a butterfly’s kiss. It’s not our job to tell readers WHAT to think. It’s our job to help teach them HOW to think for themselves then offer them new perspectives that open their eyes/minds to possibilities they might not otherwise have considered.

6. Conversely, what would you like to see less of in sci-fi and fantasy fiction?

Same old, same old. Where magic and the vastness of space are involved, there’s no reason to fall into the Hollywood reboot trap. I know they say there are only five original stories retold in different ways, but each writer tells it in a new voice. I’d like to see new, mind blowing ideas that open my eyes to things I’ve never considered and landscapes I’ve never imagined. I want writers to leave me wondering, “Why didn’t I come up with that?”

 

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