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!
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?