Indie Zone: Talking with Todd Allen

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Todd Allen - Headshot - No greater Agony

Author Bio: Allen lives on the East Coast of Canada with two beautiful ladies—his wife Michelle, and daughter, Maya. A lifelong fan of all things horror, Allen released his debut novel, Sacra Obscurum, in 2015. Allen’s second novel, No Greater Agony, was published in 2017. Influenced by the genre greats, M.R. James and H.P. Lovecraft, and raised on Stephen King and Peter Straub, Allen aims to deliver his own brand of creeping, cerebral thrillers.

 


Interview with Todd Allen – Author of No Greater Agony

1. Your first book, Sacra Obscurum, was (in part) about finding a book. And now No Greater Agony is about writing a book. Was it a coincidence that both your novels revolve around books?

Todd Allen: No, I like the idea of dangerous books. Both stories feature books that end up causing a lot of harm. Most households have a shelf full of books or at least a few books kicking around. They’re such a benign presence in our everyday lives. I like the idea of something sinister waiting in our bookcases without us knowing.

2. There’s a little bit of fun in the fact that your second novel is about an author having trouble following up on the success of his debut novel. Did you have a few sleepless nights yourself or was No Greater Agony already in your mind for writing for a while?

Todd Allen: I assure you, my character had a lot more success with his debut than I did! When my first book was published, I decided to devote more time to writing. It can be difficult to strike a balance between time spent writing and time spent with family and friends and on other pursuits. But, you really need to find that healthy balance if you’re going to be the best version of yourself. The main character in No Greater Agony had that same difficulty. He never found that balance and suffered for it.

3. You say that you’re influenced by “the genre greats, M.R. James and H.P. Lovecraft”. Where/how/will readers see this influence in your work?

Todd Allen: I believe, if you write horror, you’re influenced by those two whether you know it or not. They are the godfathers of the genre. James’ influence likely shows up more in my published work to date. His stories often feature scholarly men on some quest for riches or knowledge. They inevitably come to a point of no return and when they decide to forge ahead are met with danger. Many of his tales are cautionary and warn of overstepping or taking things too

4. Do you have another novel in the works yet?

Todd Allen: Oh yes. One in the works. One already complete. I’m writing a lot these days.

5. Tell us a little bit about Wabasso, the location of No Greater Agony. Is it based on a real location? 

Todd Allen: A real place inspired the story. I visited there many years ago and the place just kind of stuck with me. The fictional place I wrote about is quite different, though. Both places are beautiful and peaceful and have a bit of a wild vibe, but that is the extent of the similarities. Nothing supernatural ever happened at the real-life place—not to me, anyway.

6. What was the most difficult part of writing No Greater Agony?

Todd Allen: I didn’t really have difficulty writing this book per se. But, I did have some difficulty writing in general. I was supporting my first novel at the time, doing book fairs and literary festivals and launch events. You could say I was entering the writer’s community. I met a lot of writers. I met a lot of readers. I heard a lot of opinions. That was kind of the problem. For a time, I began writing to please other people. I lost sight of why I wanted to write in the first place. The work suffered. Ultimately, I learned to ignore those outside influences. And a lot of pages went in the trash, I am happy to say.

7. What’s your favorite horror movie (or book if you don’t movies) scene?

Todd Allen: Easy. The shower scene from Psycho. It’s fifty-some years-old and still one of the most terrifying scenes on film.

8. What, in your opinion, is the best horror novel to be released in the past 5 years. (And no, you can’t vote for yourself. 🙂 )

Todd Allen: The Scarlet Gospels by Clive Barker. I read the first hundred pages or so before bed and had nightmares about Pinhead. That never happens to me. And it just seems like Barker has a lot of fun when he writes. He sure a s hell makes it fun to read.

9. What is it about horror that attracts you?

Todd Allen: People frequently experience fear in one form or another. It’s an unavoidable part of the human condition. I have fears. I fear economic collapse. I fear North Korea and ISIS and Russia. These are everyday fears. When I pick up a horror novel, or watch a movie, I get to express that fear all at once. I can let it go for a time. It’s kind of like a reset for me. It’s therapeutic. Also, it’s just plain fun.

10. Given that you were ‘raised on Stephen King’, what do you think of Hollywood remaking It? Did you like the book? The first movie?

Todd Allen: I cringe a little when Hollywood tampers with any novel, but I have a bit of a soft spot for those old Stephen King movies, It especially. I really like Tim Curry. He was fantastic in the role of Pennywise. Bill Skarsgard will have some giant shoes to fill in the new movie. Pardon the pun.

11. Are you going to try to get an audio version made of No Greater Agony?

Todd Allen: I confess I hadn’t thought about it. It’s a great idea though, so long as I’m not the one reading it. I have a terrible reading voice.

12. What would your coffee cup say about you?

Todd Allen: My coffee cup should bear a warning label: If this mug is running low, duck and cover!


Todd Allen - No Greater Agony - Cover jpg No Greater Agony: Jack Bishop always dreamed of becoming a writer.

That ambition finally became reality with his critically acclaimed debut novel, but following up on that success has proved difficult. For over a year, he has failed to produce a new bestseller and his publisher is losing patience. In a last ditch effort to save his floundering career, Jack is sent to the renowned writer’s retreat, Wabasso Lake, with orders to finish his manuscript in record time.

Jack’s first impression of Wabasso is that of an idyllic place to work, but despite being surrounded by awe inspiring nature and the lovely Kate, a fellow author, he continues to be plagued by self doubt. It is with the discovery of a hidden manuscript that Jack begins to scratch the surface of the retreat’s sinister purpose. As visions of fictional characters inundate Jack’s waking life, he is driven to the brink of madness.

A diabolical intelligence has stirred. Wabasso wants something from Jack, but is he willing to pay that price to achieve his greatest desire?

Buy No Greater Agony now on Amazon.

Blog Tour for The War of the Usurper: Interview with Elí Freysson

Banner for War of the Usurper by Eli Freysson

Elí’s Biography: I was born in Akureyri in northern Iceland in 1982. Aside from a brief spell spent in Norway in my very early childhood I have spent my whole life here, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I was diagnosed as being on the autistic spectrum in my teens, which explains a whole lot and makes me just eccentric enough to be a writer.

I graduated high school in 2004, after which I dove into my first attempt at a proper fantasy novel. I finished the first draft a year later, but it took me until 2011 to get it published. I followed with a book a year for the next four years, before deciding to move into the English-language market. I translated three of my fantasy novels into English and self-published on Amazon, and then started writing original material in English. And here we are.


Talking with Elí Freysson

S&S: When did you start writing?

Elí Freysson: I toyed with writing a bit in my teens, but never really finished anything. I got serious about the whole thing just after graduating college in 2004.

S&S: Where’d the name for your book come from?

Elí Freysson: “The War of the Usurper” is the central conflict of the story. The culture the novel focuses on is quite fond of dramatic titles, personal honour and forging events into legends. So just at the dawn of the war the man who murdered the king and seized the throne is titled “The Usurper” and it sticks to him to such a degree that it effectively becomes his name.

S&S: What book got you hooked on reading?

Elí Freysson: I can’t point to any one work of fiction that really got me reading. As a kid, I was a bookworm since the day I could read. European comic books like Lucky Luke, Asterix and Spirou, were big favourites early on, and when I moved to prose I started out with pulpy stuff like Tarzan and Morgan Kane. But I can safely point to The Lord of the Rings as sparking my interest in fantasy.

S&S: Did the story of  The War of the Usurper make its way into your dreams while you were writing it?

Eli Freysson: Boy, I wish my dreams were that interesting. No, I’m afraid I only get confused nonsense. As a writer, I can’t say I approve of all those internal inconsistencies and plot holes. 🙂

S&S: What’s your current favorite book?

Elí Freysson: It’s always hard for me to pick a favourite anything, but what’s fresh in my memory right now is Alexis Hall’s Kate Kane, Paranormal Investigator series. I have to admire the way it manages to use many of the tropes that annoy me so much about the urban fantasy genre and still be entertaining… in part by skewering quite a lot of them. I also recently read and quite enjoyed Tim Lebbon’s Star Wars: Dawn of the Jedi: Into the Void (two colons, how about that?), for the interesting take on the very early precursors to the well-known Jedi.

S&S: Did you ever read a book and think “I could have done it better”?

Elí Freysson: I’m not going to call anyone out by name here, but I recently took a look at a fantasy novel that had quite a lot of positive reviews, and it just felt like someone’s first attempt at writing. A prologue that is nothing but infodump that goes into exquisite detail about cultures, races and characters for several pages before actually getting to any real storytelling is not the way to go.

S&S: How long did it take you to write The War of the Usurper?

Elí Freysson: From starting the first chapter to finishing the last, I would say it took me about half a year. That seems to be my general speed, counting fixes, rewrites and long sessions at the café with a notebook, trying to untangle a plot problem.

S&S: How many drafts did you do before you were satisfied?

Elí Freysson: I don’t really work in drafts these days. I can’t seem to write anything down unless I’m satisfied with it, so once I have the finished manuscript all that remains are little tweaks.

S&S: What aspects of the writing community did you utilize? (Beta-readers, proofreaders, etc.)

Eli Freysson: Beta readers are an absolute must. To any aspiring indie-author who happens to read this and thinks they can go without a second opinion: Don’t. It’s my experience that authors are the worst judges of their material.

S&S: What was the hardest part of writing The War of the Usurper?

Elí Freysson: Possibly the fact that I was stepping out of my previous genre of choice (fantasy), and moving into space opera. Deciding on the technology level was also a challenge, given that I am the least technologically savvy person I know outside of a retirement home.

S&S: “For fans of” can be a dangerous phrase, but what well-known books would you say are like _____________________________ so that people can get a feel for if they might be interested?

Elí Freysson:  Boy, that IS a minefield of a question. I have asked my beta-readers that on several occasions, and they haven’t really been able to come up with an answer. So I guess I can conclude that, at the very least, my book isn’t just same-old, same-old.

The War of the Usurper is the first in the Golden Throne series. It is my foray into creating my very own epic space opera universe, full of what I like about such settings: Casual space travel, many, many inhabited worlds, super-technology co-existing with magic, larger-than-life characters, a whole lot of backstory, and just sheer vastness of scale.

This first entry is a self-contained story about the titular nine-year war for the throne of the Realm of the Glorious Dawn. Power is seized by a power-hungry tyrant, who resorts to ever-greater atrocities to hold onto the throne, while loyalists secure the sole legitimate heir, twelve-year-old Princess Maraka, and begin the struggle to restore order.

Each chapter details a different flashpoint of the war, as important events must turn on the actions of wildly different people, spread far and wide across the social hierarchy and physical width of the Realm. Meanwhile, year after year, Maraka must grow up in the shadow of all of this, and learn to become both the steadfast symbol and the strong leader her subjects need.

Check out The War of the Usurper on Goodreads.

Purchase The War of the Usurper on Amazon.

  • I love Audible. Tons of books, fantastic narrators, good prices.