Saturday, 7 March 2015

Men in Horror: JOHN PAUL ALLEN

John Paul Allen is one profound writer. In his book of short stories, DARK BLESSINGS: A COLLECTION, the stories were definitely horror, but they had all the elements of a spiritual depth and heightened awareness of what is really important in life. They touched on reincarnation, God, being one with the universe and the agony of losing everything you love. These stories moved me so deeply, I can only surmise what was happening in his life when he wrote these. Only someone who has experienced a loss can write what he wrote. And fight those demons with words.

I read this book in one sitting and I wanted to know who this writer was. Everyone writes for different reasons; some write for money (never a good thing), some write to get out that one story that drives them mad, then others write because they have to, for fear of losing grip on their sanity. Think Edgar Allan Poe, Stephen King, Ann Rule etc. John, I believe, is one of these writes in the last category; chased by demons and scared by LIFE. As in a previous post, all caps because he has gone through serious issues and come out the other side a better person.

I genuinely like John. He is a kind, good-natured, devoted partner and grandfather. He also happens to write like he is a serial killer. His work is not for the meek. He has an edge and he is not afraid to use it.

GIFTED TRUST, another one of my favourite books has darkly disturbing scenes. So much so, that he was fired from a job because of something he wrote. Reminds me of Marquis de Sade, imprisoned for something that lived in his head.

I think John is a marshmallow. I would live beside him. And I would sleep with one eye open.

1. When did you start writing horror?
Officially 2002, but the seed was planted in 1985 while I was a student at Central Michigan Uni-versity. I took an elective poetry writing course – easy A I thought. At the time, I was a single dad to a three-year-old son and one evening while he slept on the sofa I watched the made-for-tv movie, Adam, about the kidnapped and murdered son of John Walsh (America’s Most Wanted). When the movie ended I realized I needed to write something for the class the next day. So while watching my little boy sleep I thought of the movie I’d just watched and typed out:
The best time for me was just before the screaming stopped and their voices hit that pitch. Twisted little limbs bending back and forth, back and forth, and all the blood, and the blue lips, and the begging for me to stop. I love little children, so very very much.
I turned it in the next day, got the grade I expected and never thought about it again for the next 17 years. I was living near Houston, teaching at an alternative high school and taking another college course – Creative Writing: Fiction. It was during that time that I wrote a five-page story inspired by the above mentioned poem. A short time later a fellow writer insisted I expand the story and I did into my novel, Gifted Trust.
2. Have you written in any other genre?
Not yet. Will I? Nothing’s planned, but if an idea excited me I’d give it a shot. Truth is, in the be-ginning I didn’t like being referred to as a horror writer. I’d say I was a writer who wrote horror. It took time to realize how vast the genre really is.
3. What makes you uncomfortable?
The unexpected or as most call it, life. I went through a change nine years ago, when my wife passed away. I don’t believe in happily ever after and understand the pain of losing all that’s im-portant. Once again I find myself in a good relationship, but take nothing for granted. That said, it’s the negative that seems to give me my best material.
4. Does your family read your work?
Honestly, I have no idea. My father passed away before I began writing and I don’t remember my mother ever opening a book. Of my four older brothers, one may have read my stories, but none of them talk about it. I do have two cousins who have read some of it. One seemed to like it.
5. Does your writing make you uneasy?
Yes, but that’s when it’s the most fun. I cross lines in some of my stories – rape, abuse and much worse. One has to pull himself into the story and get in touch with emotions. At times, you can’t help feeling discomfort. Is there anything I wouldn’t write about? Absolutely not – if I can do it well. Sometimes we have to touch the uncomfortable to extract emotions in ourselves and our readers.
6. Who would you say you write like?
I can’t say, but I will tell you who inspires me – Stephen King. In spite of his critics, I consider him the greatest writer of my life. A hundred years from now people will be reading him and I can only hope to have the same effect on people.
7. Who are your favourite authors?
I already mentioned King. As for other horror writers, there are so many. Just to name a three – Nancy Collins, Joe Lansdale and Kealan Patrick Burke.
8. Who influences you as a writer?
Who – not one person, I am inspired by everyone around me. People are material. Life is mate-rial. Experiences are material. The old guy who ran the college parking lot twenty years ago, the Italian hooker I met when I was nineteen, the people close to me are all influences, because they make me think of situations – what ifs that come to mind when needed.
9. Do you remember what your first horror book was that you read?
Easy question, because I didn’t start reading horror until I started writing it. It by King, followed by Insomnia. I’ve read everything he’s written. My first non-King work was Nancy Collin’s Sonja Blue books.
10. How old were you?
Like I said, I started late. I was 47 or 48.
11. Is there any subject you will not touch as an author?
Absolutely not – isn’t that what we’re supposed to do, take those unspeakable things and create something worth reading? We do it not for the moment of shock, but for the one after the shock – when the reader is forced to think about what he/she just read.
12. What was the best advice you were given as a writer? This comes from my wife, who passed away in 2006. While I was writing my novel, Gifted Trust, she was my first reader. She’d look over my work and write out comments. I had to write a rape chapter and sort of beat around it – avoiding the details. She finished reading and wrote across the page: Not Frightening. If you’re going to tell it, tell it. I rewrote it. No matter how hard it is to write something, you do it.
13. If you could do it all over again, what would you do different?
First thought, I’d start writing at a younger age. That’s probably not true, because I began when I was ready. I needed life experiences to become who I am (or was when I began all this).
14. How many books do you read a year?
At least fifty – one after another. Some at the same time and many are not horror.
15. Do you write every day?
I try, but life gets in the way. I work three days a week, have a granddaughter nearby who ex-pects me to sing and dance with her and Lisa (who is very good about my writing) needs me to tend to things. Let’s say I write five days a week and much of the non-writing time I’m always thinking about stories.

Twitter: @JohnPaulAllen