Monday, November 7, 2011

INTERVIEW: Gregory G. Allen (author of Well With My Soul)

Good morning, all! Please join me in extending a very warm welcome to the wonderful Gregory G. Allen, who has stopped by to talk a bit about his debut novel, Well With My Soul.

Gregory is the author of Well With My Soul and Proud Pants: An Unconventional Memoir. He has had short stories and poetry published in: New Town Writers' anthology Off The Rocks 14, Loch Raven Review, Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal, The Oddville Press, Word Catalyst Magazine, Rancor'd Type, Home & Holidays and is a contributor of articles and blogs to several online sites. Allen has been in the entertainment business for over twenty years as an actor, director, writer, and producer and is an award-winning musical theater writer with over ten original musicals produced. Allen currently manages an arts center on the campus of a college in northern New Jersey.

Before we get into the interview, let's take a quick look at Well With My Soul:

The bonds of blood are tested by two brothers who have spent the first part of their adult life drifting away from each other, closing the door to engagement and emotional connection. The older brother, Jacob, flees his small Tennessee hometown by seeking freedom in New York City, where he travels deep into a labyrinth of sex and drugs while fighting the fear over his homosexuality. The younger conservative brother, Noah, stays behind feeling shackled by familial duties for their aging mother, but finds courage in the sorrow of the past and a new way at looking at life that he never believed he possessed. Spanning the unbridled times of the 1970s and the restraint of the Reagan years, each brother’s story becomes an unflinching exploration of the way that we deal with what most unsettles us and the families we inherit and build along the journey.

And now, without further ado, please extend a warm welcome to Gregory G. Allen!


♥ For those who may be new to your writing, and who haven't yet checked out your latest release, please tell us a little about yourself.

I have been writing since I was a child…mostly short stories and plays to direct the neighborhood kids. At 14 years old, my first musical was produced by a local children’s theater company and I went on to write several more musicals after that. About five years ago, I started concentrating on getting my work out and was published in anthologies and websites and then made the switch from playwright to novelist.

♥ The journey from 'aspiring' to 'accomplished' can be a long one, even in the era of small presses and digital publishing. When did you begin writing, and how did you feel when you first saw your work in print?

Writers become used to rejection. It is simply part of the business. I have email after email with the ‘no thank you’ – but when that first editor says “we want to run your story”, it is so exciting. And then when you get a book that has your short story or poem in it, words simply cannot describe. But holding the first copy of my novel in my hand had to be the closest thing to having a child I’ll ever experience.

♥ Did you deliberately choose a genre because there's something specific that draws you to it, something you feel it offers that other genres don't, or was it just 'right' for the story you wanted to tell?

As an author, I have a slight problem because I don’t write in one particular genre. My first novel is literary fiction, but because one of the protagonists is gay, it has been placed in gay fiction. I find that to be smartest so that people looking for gay fiction find it, but still hope that others will read it as well. My next novel is more women’s lit with a female protagonist (with some mystery thrown in). I’ve also written a children’s picture book about a boy with autism.

♥ How does your past influence your writing? Are you conscious of relating the story to your own experiences?

I think a part of me goes into much of my writing. It can be elements or situations, but I still attempt to expand my own world to research other experiences so that I can create many different novels based in truths that can be relatable to many different readers.

♥ Do you have a schedule or a routine to your writing? Is there a time and place that you must write, or do you let the words flow as they demand?

When I’m in my writing mode, it’s mostly in the evening. That’s when I’m most inspired. I attempt to write freely, but I sometimes stop, re-read, and self edit as I go along.

♥ Do you have a soundtrack to your writing, a particular style of music or other background noise that keeps you in the mood, or do you require quiet solitude?

Music is very important to me. Even the title of my novel “Well With My Soul” is based on the hymn of that name. I try to listen to music that my characters would listen to. I want to be as close to their world as I possibly can.

♥ For some authors, it's coming up with a title, and for others it's writing that first paragraph - what do you find is the most difficult aspect of writing?

I’ve been in the creative arts for years as an actor, director, writer and it has always been such a collaboration. But with writing books, I find the loneliness of it to be the most difficult part. Writing in solitude and then putting it out there for others to see, review and find out how it touches them after it’s all finished.

♥ Sometimes, characters can take on a life of their own, pulling the story in directions you hadn't originally anticipated. Has a twist or turn in your writing ever surprised you, or really challenged your original plans?

I have been told that one of the aspects of all of my writing is that I don’t always give the expected. I love to write a twist or turn that alters what a reader sees coming. And I must admit: some of those have definitely come from the characters. As a matter of fact, my 2nd novel is “Patchwork of Me” which will be out next year. Several readers feel it screams out for a sequel and one of the smaller characters has been telling me to write her story. I may just have to listen to her.

♥ When you're not writing (or reading), what are some of the hobbies and passions that keep you happy?

I love to travel. I’m big on doing cruise ships. Getting to unpack once and be taken to multiple destinations brings me much happiness.

♥ Is there a particular author who has influenced or inspired your writing? Somebody who either made you want to write in the first place, or who refreshes your literary batteries?

Going from playwright to novelist was definitely driven by reading Augusten Burroughs “Running With Scissors”. His raw, humorous, truthful writing really inspired me.

♥ When writing, do you ever consider how a reader or reviewer will react, or do you write solely for your own satisfaction?

I think it is smart to think of readers when writing something, however – I do believe writers should be true to who they are. I write the types of books I like to read and I hope that others will find they become books they enjoy as well.

♥ What is the strangest or most surprising reaction to your work that you've ever encountered?

Having a book that deals with a gay character can make many people assume it is m/m erotica. (Yet that is not what I’ve written.) I show gay life as well as the straight life of the other brother. This story shows two sides, two opinions to one issue. Told through both of their voices in different chapters. I did have one gay review site tell me they could not review because I had a hetero sex scene in my book. I found that to be pretty surprising that there are readers out there from one community unwilling to read something based on that criteria. It had an odd sense of reverse discrimination to me. But everyone is entitled to their own opinions and own way of running their review policies.

♥ Just for fun, who would you single out as your number one celebrity crush, and what would you like most to do with/to them?

I have been with my partner for 11 years, but he knew my answer was always Tom Selleck. The older I get, I think It would now be more along the lines of Kathy Griffin and I’d like to hang out with her when she is making Anderson Cooper crack up on New Year’s Eve.

♥ Is there a particular theme or message you're expecting readers to take away from your work?

Well With My Soul deals with two brothers coming to terms with sexuality, religion, addiction: and the theme is how ego/pride can play such a huge part in people’s decisions and affect those around you for years to come.

♥ What can we look forward to from you next? Is there a project on the horizon that you're really excited about?

2012. “Patchwork of Me” A woman discovers a gruesome past through her time in therapy and goes across the country to patch her life back together.


Thanks so much to Gregory for stopping by. You can check out him and his work at, on Facebook, and on Twitter.

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