One of my favorite people is Shaun Allan, author of the bestselling novel, Sin–he can write circles around me. Actually, he can write circles around ANYone. Shaun has a new book out today, Darker Places. I was fortunate to be asked to edit this book, and I’m just going to say, very little effort on my part is ever required with Shaun’s work.
Darker Places is a dark, literary fantasy, comprised of thirteen poems and 13 short-stories, in the same vein as Dark Places, his book of short works that was published in 2012.
Shaun has consented to answer a few questions about his writing life for us:
CJJ: Tell us a little of early life and how you began writing:
SA: Early life… Can I remember that far back? I’m not sure I can… I can’t think of a time when I haven’t been writing. I’m told (by my mother who also tells me I was a little terror as a young child, which I can’t quite believe) I used to write stories and draw the pictures to go along with them. Nowadays, my artistic skills are probably somewhat lacking. I’m hoping my writing skills have improved, though. At school, English was easily my favourite lesson and I loved writing the essays. I was a big fan of science fiction, back then (I still am a fan, of course), so read lots of Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov amongst others. I moved on to fantasy, with David Eddings and Terry Brooks and then brought in horror. All these found their way into my writing, with horror and the supernatural becoming the mainstay of my subject matter now. I feel, without the darkness, you can’t appreciate the light.
CJJ: Those are books I loved too. Tell us about your most recent book.
SA: Darker Places, my new book, is the follow up to Dark Places. It’s an anthology of 13 stories and 13 poems which walk the reader through the shadowy passages of my mind. There’s ome humour in there (with Gremlins and Little Dead Riding Hood), some touching stories (The Crow and Stolen Moments) and much darker ones (Home) where I kill off a number of my old school friends, with their permission! And, we get to see what happened with Sin before the events of his novel.
CJJ: I have to say that is an awesome story–Sin is an amazing character. And Home is one of the best, short stories I have read in a long time. Now we come to the question people always want to know: How did you come to write this novel?
SA: Sin took me ten years to write. As it’s a very personal book, I occasionally had to step away and wrote short stories. Many of these were collected together in Dark Places, which was prompted by a comment a writer friend of mine made. As my mind tends to write what it wants rather than what I want, and another friend, who lives in Australia, was very forthcoming with writing prompts I couldn’t refuse, Darker Places became more and more a reality. I mean, if you’re given a starter sentence of “The bird fell and the sky was silent,” how can you not work with it?
CJJ: Do you have a specific ‘Creative Process’ that you follow, such as outlining or do you ‘wing it’?
SA: Oh, I wing it. I know wonderful writers (Connie) who outline, but I can’t. I’ve tried, but my mind doesn’t work like that. It goes where it wishes, my Muse being a right royal pain in the posterior. I sat down to write some of Mortal Sin and ended up writing a Christmas story about Rudolph, for example! Sometimes, as with Mr. Composure, I can write the start and almost immediately know how it will end, with ‘only’ the path it takes to figure out, but often, I start and I have no idea at all.
CJJ: How does your work differ from others of its genre?
SA: I think because it’s personal. There’s aspects of me, my life and my darkness in everything. There’s also my sense of humour. I set the stories where I live. When I was starting, and everyone was saying “write what you know,” I struggled somewhat. What did I know? Where I lived seemed boring, for a start! But then I read a Clive Barker book (Weaveworld, I think) and he described going down back alleys in a town. I didn’t know, but felt it could have been the alleys where he grew up. It wasn’t boring. So I moved my stories to Grimsby and Lincolnshire – the places I knew. Once they came home, they allowed me more freedom.
CJJ: Your work is dark, but you are such a cheerful, light-hearted person. Why do you write what you do?
SA: Good question. Though I can write silly children’s poetry as well as paranormal and psychological thrillers, it’s the darker work which I find easiest. I find it therapeautic. I can get stresses and bad memories out and turn them into something I and others seem to enjoy. As I say, without darkness, you can’t appreciate the light.
CJJ: I know why I chose the indie route for my work, but I’m curious as to why you’ve chosen this path.
SA: I did try to be ‘properly’ published, but, with the indie route, I’ve made some amazing friends and reached people all over the world. I have full control over my work and the only deadline (in most cases) is the one I set myself.
CJJ: What advice would you offer an author trying to decide whether to go indie or take the traditional path?
SA: Well, you have to go for what you feel is right, but I have to admit, though the indie route is hard work, its immensely rewarding. I’d definitely recommend giving it a go.
Thank you Shaun, for taking the time to answer these questions, and for being here today!
DARKER PLACES by Shaun Allan
What if you could steal the final moments from the dying? What if you had the darkest secret, but couldn’t think what it might be? What if you entered the forest in the deep of the night. Who is the melting man? And are your neighbours really whom they appear to be?
So many questions.
To find the answers, you must enter a darker place. Thirteen stories. Thirteen poems. Thirteen more doorways.
A creator of many prize winning short stories and poems, Shaun Allan has written for more years than he would perhaps care to remember. Having once run an online poetry and prose magazine, he has appeared on Sky television to debate, against a major literary agent, the pros and cons of internet publishing as opposed to the more traditional method. Many of his personal experiences and memories are woven into the point of view and sense of humour of Sin, the main character in his best-selling novel of the same name, although he can’t, at this point, teleport.
A writer of multiple genres, including horror, humour and children’s fiction, Shaun goes where the Muse takes him – even if that is kicking and screaming. He has written for NBC Universal, and regularly holds writing workshops at local schools.
Shaun lives with his wife, two daughters and two cats. Oh and a manic dog. Though his life might, at times, seem crazy, he is not.
To see more of Shaun’s work, please visit Shaun’s author page at Amazon.com.