Hailing from the wild streets of London, Allan’s our dark fantasy writer. As one of those folks who has the ‘inside dope’ on some of the best upcoming authors of this decade, I’m very excited about Allan’s next couple of years. He’s just set up his own online platform and—after being forged in the fires of our writer’s group—he’s about to embark on the next part of his career.
He recently released Low Life—a short story brimming with demons and a creepy caretaker—in the anthology, 18. This week, I catch up with him and find out who the man is behind an eternity of saws.
Q: A lot of your tales are thematically similar to some English directors, especially the way the highlight life’s rawness. Do you feel growing up in London has impacted on the stories you are drawn to tell?
I have never really reflected on my own work, but now you pose the question, I believe the answer is yes. We are advised to write about the things we know, our experiences, our feelings, etc… If those experiences have made us who we are then it is possible that those very same experiences will come out in our writing. Maybe subconsciously for some writers, consciously for others, and perhaps some writers make an effort to suppress this in their writing.
Q: What made you decide to move out to Australia and stay here?
I have told this story a hundred times before, so it is an easy one to answer. My sister moved about eight years before I did. She went from a tiny flat on a large council estate in dreary, grey London (where there was lots of crime, drugs and urine stained stairwells), to a house with a pool, a garden and a garage in Australia where the weather was always nice.
I was in a similar position in London, living on a council estate in a tower block, where you risked getting mugged if you went out alone at night. One day my partner and I were bringing our daughter home from nursery (Kinda). As we turned the corner to our tower block, there was a crowd of people in front of the entrance. Sadly someone had jumped from high above and the ambulance officers where performing an open heart massage where they had landed on the concrete below. There had also been a couple of stories in the local rag about gunshots fired in the area and later that week my partner suggested she would like to move. Naturally, I suggested we try Australia – and you know how the story ends.
Q: Let’s talk Low Life. There’s an interesting contradiction in the story: what the protagonist did was an unforgivable crime, yet his partner still loves him even after death. How did you seek to balance these two competing ideals: evil vs. forgiveness, in your narrative?
I struggled a little with this, my first draft portrayed Callum as a heartless villain that nobody could love – it didn’t work and got shot down by my Writers’ group as too unbelievable when I submitted the piece for critique. I took a step back and asked myself the question – What would make the reader conflicted between liking him and hating him? I decided the only way was to make him do the wrong thing for the right reasons.
Q: Juggling the sympathy of the reader towards Callum in contrast to how terrible he is as a human must’ve been difficult. As such the references to the crimes he committed were quite vague and often obscure. We know he was selfish and horrible, but…what did he do? How do you feel the readers would react if they learned the specifics?
If the readers found out what he did, and more importantly, why he did it, I think they would feel the same way – conflicted. The unwritten story would tell you that Callum was once a lawyer and a good man. He fell in love with Zhu Li, a beautiful woman who unknown to him, was forced into prostitution by the Triads at an early age.
When Callum found out Zhu Li worked for the Triads, he freed her from that life, but it came at a cost, he had to earn her freedom by helping them. Zhu Li had loved him because he was a good man, far removed from the life she knew. But out of his love for her, he became corrupt to free her from a life of slavery.
Q: Like a lot of us at the writing group, I’m excited to see you branch out and start to put your pieces in front of a larger audience. You’ve just set up an author platform and have stated that you’ve decided to take the self-publishing route. What were some of they key reasons for this final decision?
I have done some research and to be honest, it seems the traditional method of publishing is a lot more work, a lot harder to achieve and far less rewarding. You need to do things their way and they have a lot of control over you and your writing. I don’t need to have the bragging rights about being with a publishing house. Writing is not about fame or recognition for me. I get a great deal of satisfaction out of knowing I have achieved a goal or created something. If I can share what I have created with others and they get some pleasure from my work, then I am even happier. I also think that if I am good enough, one day the publishing houses will come to me.
Q: Any quick tips for aspiring authors out there torn between the traditional and the non-traditional route?
Understand what it is you want. Do some research, and then work out the best way to achieve your goal.
Q: Finally, Low Life is your first work to be released to the general public, but what can we look forward to in the next twelve months?
I have written a fantasy novel called Blood Rage. I am currently editing this piece and hope to release it by the end of the year. Once I have that out on the e-shelves, I will start on the second book in the series. I have also been working on a short story about a group of sorcerers. This is a little more light hearted than Low Life and Blood Rage. I also have a few other ideas knocking about in my head for my readers to look forward to.
Q: It’s been a pleasure chatting with you Allan and I wish you all the best with your new platform launch.
Thanks Kenneth, it’s been my pleasure.
Low Life, Allan’s tale about a corrupt soul trying to do right, can be found in the recently released anthology, 18. It can be found on Amazon in Kindle format.