Welcome to Michael Allen!
Tell us about yourself—you know, all that stuff that makes you interesting!
I grew up between Maryland and Virginia. Mainly, Cumberland, Maryland and Fredericksburg, Virginia. But I moved around quite a bit. In my high school years, I went to four different high schools. I finally graduated from James Monroe in Fredericksburg in 1988 and went straight into the Marine Corps.
I was honorably discharged in 1993. I didn’t start college right away though. I would eventually earn my B.S. in English with an education option in 1999. That’s when I was hired right away as an English teacher to a local high school. But while I was teaching, I was approached by a publisher to write a book about new urbanism and that launched my professional writing career. It didn’t take long before I realized my passion was more in writing than teaching, which was actually something I had known about myself all my life.
When and why did you begin writing?
I was about six years old when I first started writing. At least, that’s as far back as I can remember. My first work was a a poem I called “Slick Move.” It was about people slipping on banana peels and oil slicks. Very age appropriate material.
I would have to say it’s just something that has always been in my blood, writing many short stories and poems in my youth. But, my first contact with a publisher who hired me to write a book was when I realized that I could really do something with it. So, I dedicated myself to it.
I often get asked, “What was that first book?” The thing is that it never got published. The owner of the publishing company became sick and all of his books have been compiled into other online catalogs. But, he stopped making books all together. I don’t regret one minute of that experience though. It is what launched me into something I love doing. So, I don’t have one bad feeling about not getting published from writing that book.
What is your genre?
I am all over the map. I have written comedies and dramas. I recently wrote a sci-fi romance for a client. I have written horror. Last year, I wrote a motivational book for an NFL football player as well as a drama about a lady who was discriminated against by one of the largest banks in North America.
I think when it comes down to it though, I default to drama that contains comedy. I think we call that dramedy. But, my humor is quirky and my drama is twisted. I love finding the story that is believable, and yet at the same time no one would ever believe it.
What’s your process? Seat of pants, well-devised outliner?
I attack my stories in different ways. My main approach though is to let it marinate. I will have thoughts throughout the day while I’m working on other projects. I normally open a file and start writing them down. Over days or weeks, they slowly start to take form.
That’s when I try to organize them and start an outline. My outlines are messy notes that I write down as quick as I can. I change the order as the story starts to emerge. Then, I refer to those notes while I’m writing.
When I’m writing for someone else, I force myself to come up with an outline from beginning to end. But, a story lives and breathes. You learn more about the story as you write it. Figuring out which way you want it to go, which way will make the story stronger, that’s the challenge of writing and I love that discovery.
What other writer inspires you? Your work?
My influences have changed over the years. I got a taste of a certain author and then I would read their other works. But lately, I’ve been inspired by the writers I’ve associated myself with in online groups or different venues:
Rosanne Dingli who wrote “Death in Malta” and “According to Luke”. Linton H. Robinson who wrote “Mexican Slang” and “Bailin’”. K.S. Brooks who wrote the hilarious series Postcards from Mr. Pish, which has about three volumes along with other Mr. Pish stories. David Antrobus who wrote “Dissolute Kinship”. JD Mader who wrote “Joe Café”.
Each one of these writers have inspired me in some way. And I know I’m leaving some great writers out, which I hate to do. I just didn’t want to make the list as long as my arm. I could actually go on forever.
What is your favorite work by you? And why is it your fav?
My favorite work is “A River in the Ocean” because it’s an actual metaphor for the life I’ve shared with my daughter. It’s a beautiful novel about a single father who slips into a coma after a near fatal accident. He awakens nine years later with amnesia, not even knowing he has a daughter. But, there is an innate connection that I explore to tell my daughter the story of us.
I wrote it for my daughter, and with her in mind. But, the story is for everyone. It’s an enjoyable piece that has the right amount of humor as a little girl grows up in an insane family she doesn’t know isn’t actually her own. The story also has the right amount of drama as her actual father sees her in visions and his paintings help him to gravitate toward her.
Where does your character inspiration come from?
The people I meet make up a world of characters. There isn’t a story alive in which I can’t relate a character in it with a person I know or have met. Of course, I have stock characters I can always default to when I need someone to act predictably in a certain scene.
But, I like filling my books with characters who have their own quirks and personalities. I get them from life itself because it’s real and everyone can relate.
What’s your best/worst experience as a writer?
The best experience as a writer is when I see the finished product, and I start building the buzz about it. I get to participate in book signings and interviews. I love doing readings. The book becomes my life that I live for a few months while getting it promoted.
I would have to say that my worst experience as a writer is having notes on my next work and still having no clue where it’s going to go. I can tell that the tidbits I have written could possibly amount to something great. But, I can’t rush it. So, I wait for the story to form itself and that is the most excruciating part of my process.
Ironically, my worst moment as a writer is also when I finish a novel. I’m relieved when I immediately have it finished. But, the next few days are an emotional roller coaster because I actually live and breathe my stories. When I’m finished, I feel a sense of loss.
Tell us the best/worst writing advice you ever got?
The best advice I ever received was from a fellow writer when I was just getting started on my first book. He told me to forget about beginning the book the right way. Don’t worry about the first sentence right now. Just write! Just get some words down on the page and keep going. You’ll be able to clean it up at the beginning when you get to the end. I love that advice and that’s exactly what I do!
The worst advice I ever received was to put commas everywhere I take a breath. I think it was a teacher who told me that once and it screwed me up for the longest time. I think it reflects on a writing movement that was prominent in the 70s. I followed that advice because I was young and impressionable. But, it doesn’t work that way. Don’t do that! That’s not how writing works.
What is your latest work?
I have already mentioned it, but “A River in the Ocean” is my latest work. I published it in March of 2013, and it is available now in both print and kindle. But, there are publishers who are looking at it, and I’ll discontinue this release when I hear from them if they want to publish it under their name.
What do you want your fans to know about you and your work?
My writing is all a connected effort. I wrote “A Danger to Society” years ago and mentioned other works that I would go on to write. In the book, my list of other works were in a conversation that hadn’t taken place yet. But, that list included one called “Little Daughter”. That book has been written, but I changed the name to “A River in the Ocean”.
Even my children’s book “When You Miss Me” is connected to “A River in the Ocean” as well as my book of poetry “Thoughts and Reconsideration”. I like making my work huge projects that might include several other writings, like the screenplay that I wrote for “A River in the Ocean”. Seeing that story on the big screen will be the highlight of my life!
Tell us something about yourself that your readers don’t already know.
I have weird quirks that even I can’t explain. To give you an example, I need things to be in alignment like magazines and letters on a coffee table. But, different objects can be at certain angles and total chaos doesn’t bother me.
Also, I need background noise to concentrate while I’m writing. But, I can get distracted by other noises. I can’t explain this stuff. I learn a new quirk almost every day.
Where can readers find out more about you and your work?
On my website.
Thank you for taking time to talk to us today, Michael. We look forward to seeing that movie!