Indie Zone: Talking with Todd Allen

No Greater Agony Tour Banner

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.

Writer’s Block: Tales from the Front Lines

This Sunday’s Guest Post is from Joseph Helmreich.  Joseph reached out to Sci-Fi & Scary a few weeks back, and we were more than happy to feature a piece from him. I think lots of people will appreciate this topic. Enjoy!

Joseph Helmreich is the author of The Return (2017, Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press) and co-author of Warring Parents, Wounded Children and the Wretched World of Child Custody (Greenwood Press, 2008).  In addition to his writing, he is a member of alternative folk duo, Honeybrick. He lives in New York City and works in film distribution.  Find him on Facebook or at


by Joseph Helmreich

You’re driving down a wide and scenic highway.  On one side of the road lie enormous snowcapped mountains, lush greenery, shimmering crystal lakes.  On the other side, in the far distance, you can make out a stunning metropolis, shiny glass skyscrapers stretching high into the clouds.

Soon, however, the mountains and buildings give way to desert.  Not the romantically rugged wilderness of the Mojave or the sleek and endless gold of the Sahara, but a world of drab and dusty lifelessness, the monotony broken up only by the occasional cactus or ox skull.  You continue to drive.  There’s nothing much up ahead, but that’s okay because you can’t remember where you were going, anyway.  You had a destination at some point, you’re sure of that, but you probably took a wrong turn long ago.  Now you’re all alone in the desert and you start to wonder if you’ll ever find your way back out.

Fiction writers know this feeling well.  Their story, once filled with so much promise and vitality, is suddenly stalled.  The well has run dry.  This can happen at the early stages of a project when the writer is first coming to terms with the infamously paralyzing Blank Page.  It can happen midway through, when the story is spiraling in so many different directions that the writer can’t keep them tied together.  It can happen later, in the face of pressure to deliver a killer ending, or barring that, one that will at least resolve the story.  Whenever it occurs, the result is the same: the writer is stuck.

Or, to use the universally favored term, blocked.

Continue reading “Writer’s Block: Tales from the Front Lines”

Indie Zone: Talking with Alexandra Engellmann

I love interacting with authors on Twitter. I  like the ability to get near instantaneous feedback. So, when I mused openly over the idea of doing author interviews, I was quite happy to find someone willing to be my first victim almost immediately. Now, the idea of doing a ‘normal’ author interview bored me, and luckily this particular author thought the same way. So we were able to collaborate and set a fun tone for my first foray into interviewing…



Alexandra Engellmann is author of the Sky Ghosts series.  Currently there are two books available for purchase. Sky Ghosts: All for One and Sky Ghosts: Marco.  You can find the link to both of these books here . You can connect with Alexandra at her official site ( ) or on Facebook .



Talking with Alexandra Engellmann

S&S: What was your reaction when you “officially” finished writing your first book?

AE: Honestly? “Oh crap, how am I ever going to translate this??”

S&S: Readers/Writers and drinks (coffee, tea, beer, etc) go hand in hand. What’s your drink of choice when you’re writing? What’s your drink when you’re reading?

AE: Writing and reading are the two things that I can’t combine with food or drinks. It’s too distracting. In fact, when I write, it has to be dead silence and no human beings in ten mile radius.

S&S: Have you ever had a reading or writing related pick-up line used on you? If so, what was it….and did it work?

AE: Sadly, no. Men here are really far from being that creative. Now that I think of it, the pick-up lines I used on them were way more original. Maybe that’s the reason I’m still single huh?

(S&S: I tried really hard to think of a cheesy pickup line to include here…and couldn’t. I fail. )

S&S: How many hours per day do you spend daydreaming about your characters/story?

AE: 24 hours. Because it’s absolutely normal to wake up in the middle of a dream thinking “This is what she’s gonna do in that scene!” and start typing on my smartphone.

(S&S: Honestly, I give Alexandra major props for this. The idea of typing out more than a couple sentences on my smartphone just makes me shudder in revulsion. Stupid little tiny keyboard. )

S&S: The strangest thing you do when writing?

AE: My poses. I have a very uncomfortable workplace, so when I have to sit here for hours without any breaks, it can get really ugly. I could probably write a Modern Writer’s Kama Sutra and it would hit the bestseller list in no time. 

S&S: What’s your “dirty little secret” book? The one you love but hope no one ever sees you reading?

AE: Twilight. I was 17 when I read it, and no matter if the books I’d read before were way more serious, I enjoyed it. But every time I mentioned it people would start whining. It’d go like this:

– Wow, you’ve learned English on your own, what’s your secret??

– I read Twilight in English 3 times.

– Eeeeww, Twilight is such a crap book! How can you bring it up in my holy presence?? Everybody says it’s bad! You don’t exist for me anymore! *never actually read it to even know what it’s about*

So yeah, it’s the only book that I avoid mentioning so I don’t have to listen to this all over again.

S&S: How long would your latest book’s protagonist survive in a zombie apocalypse? What would he/she eventually die from?

AE: Well, I have two of them, so I’ll have to pick one. Let’s go with Pain.

She’d outlive everyone on the planet, seizing control over all zombies and first becoming their queen, then killing them all in cold blood at night. (Do zombies sleep?) Then she’d spend the rest of her days enjoying the absolute peace on the planet, until eventually she would die of boredom because duh, Marco’s gone.

S&S: When you’re on a writing spree, do you still read other books?

AE: Absolutely. Reading is my only rest during the day, and besides, it always brings new ideas. They’re not connected in any way with what I read or watch; something just pushes my brain in the right direction, and I suddenly have a whole new twist that falls right into its place in the puzzle. Besides, I keep a fat handmade English dictionary for new phrases, and I need new words all the time.

S&S: Anything you would change about books you’ve already released, if you could?

AE: If I were writing the first book now, I’d make it completely different. The storyline was created 5 years ago, and I realized that it could be stronger too late. However, people still love it, and I’d rather move forward. The next book in the trilogy will be a hundred times more complex.

And Sky Ghosts: Marco is perfect just the way it is. It’s a fun read, and it shows how Pain and Marco began, and nothing more. I wrote it in 7 days, and it was the best writing experience ever (even with the bronchitis).

S&S: (Final Question) What kind of people would you recommend NOT read your books?

AE: Those who are looking for a quick entertainment, but don’t really live in the world that a book shows. Those who don’t like character driven books and prefer non-stop action instead of getting under the character’s skin and being happy to discover yet another layer. Those who don’t have the patience to let the characters become a part of them before something heartbreaking gets to happen. I think everybody else can safely give them a try 🙂

S&S: Thanks, Alexandra! You’re awesome and fun to interview!

See my review of Sky Ghosts: All for One!

JGG: (Reblogged) To Beat a Grammarian: Commas (Adjective and Noun Clauses)

Been a while since I shared one of these. Something a lot of writers need to be clearer/stronger on. Thanks, Tim!

Source: To Beat a Grammarian: Commas (Adjective and Noun Clauses)

Reblogged – Guest Post: Mark Matthews

Saw this and just thought it was an interesting read. Kind of gives you a bit of insight into the psyche of someone who writers horror.

Source: Guest Post: Mark Matthews