She is an author of fantasies, mysteries, comedies and recipes. Her newest work EEL'S REVERENCE is available from Echelon Press.
What inspired you to write this book?
I read Matthew Arnold's poem "The Forsaken Merman" and was taken by his image of a merman on land. I started thinking, "How would that work? How would he have to built in order to move on land? How would he breathe? How far inland could he go? Into the desert?" A couple of scenes came to me, one of him alone and one of him with a human friend. But the scenes never went anywhere. Then a scene came to me of some sort of cleric surrounded by hostile wolves, and I started playing with that. Suddenly, as often happens with me, those scenes snapped together and, from nowhere, a totally different character started telling a story from her point of view that would include those other scenes, or variations of them. I suppose the base inspiration was an impulse to explore people out of their comfort zones--what they suffer and what they contribute because of that displacement.
Do you have a specific writing style?
Try to tell each story in the "voice" that tells it best, whether the work is in first person or third person. The work, itself, has a voice, in addition to the main character's voice. I try to make my own voice as transparent as possible. If I do have a general tone, it would be what my husband calls "smart-ass". I like wise cracks and snappy lines. I think I watched too many '40's movies when I was growing up.
What is the name of your latest book? And how did you come up with the title?
The title is EEL'S REVERENCE. The area of the fictional world where this takes place is called The Eel, and one of the things it's about is various kinds of reverence--for a faith, for life, for people we admire, and how we choose to express that reverence. The book was previously e-published by another publisher under their title of EEL'S REVENGE, which I didn't like. I'm very happy to have the "real" title back.
What is EEL'S REVERENCE about?
The plotline is: An elderly woman, a priest of Micah (a religion that preaches inclusivity, compassion and peace) leaves her parish in a huff because her parishioners prefer to go to a "reaver" priest. Reaver priests pay lip service to Micah, but are in it for the money. Some people prefer that. Aunt Libby wanders into The Eel and is ordered out by a coalition of reaver priests who have hired armed guards and are running, essentially, a protection racket, with people who don't pay their tithes targeted for violence. Against her will, she becomes a pawn in a power play between various factions, but her greatest challenge is her supporters, who are willing to instigate a bloody revolt. What it's about is, as I said, the meaning and expression of reverence and faith. There are also some wise cracks and snappy lines.
What books have most influenced your life most?
The King James version of the Bible, because I grew up with that poetic and powerful prose. Andrew Lang's Rainbow Fairy Books. Walter R. Brooks' Freddy the Pig books, because his characters are so quirky but so real, even if they are animals, and they make mistakes and they have flaws that are part of the plot.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
Ursula K. LeGuin, because her imagination goes off every which way. She can make ANYTHING work.
What books are you reading now?
Laura Bickle's SPARKS, John Shelby Spong's RESURRECTION: MYTH OR REALITY? and Dick Francis' 10 LB. PENALTY.
What are your current projects?
Echelon is also re-issuing FORCE OF HABIT, a sf farce, and SIDESHOW IN THE CENTER RING, also science fiction. I'll be editing and marketing those in the coming months. I also plan to rough out a mystery during National Novel Writing Month. I blog every day. I'm writing a short story set in the world of FORCE OF HABIT, which I'll post on Smashwords for free, as I did "Line of Descent" for EEL'S REVERENCE, and I'll do one for SIDESHOW when that one is about to be released. I have some short stories I'd like to write for various anthologies.
Do you see writing as a career?
It's a way of life. I write. I just do. I always have.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
No. That book was that book. I can think of many, many other ways the story could have gone, and I'd like to write every one of them. The hardest part of writing, for me, is having to ignore all the possibilities you can't pursue, because you have to choose. You have to open Shcroedinger's box and see if that cat is alive or dead. Well, actually, if I could change anything, I would have less stop-and-describe. I would leave out discriptions of characters' appearances, or work them in more casually.
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
My mother took me to see a re-release of Bambi. In one scene, Thumper, the rabbit, is told to recite a poem. He does, then adds a line of his own. When my mother told me somebody wrote the whole movie, that they weren't just Received from the Past but written by people alive today as a living, I knew that was what I wanted to do. And I've been doing it ever since.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Plotting. There are so many branches from each moment. It's so hard to decide on a story arc. Following one is relatively easy, but choosing one is hard.
Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
This was my first completed novel, so the main thing I learned was that I could do it!
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Read. Write. Repeat. Don't give up. Respect your work. Listen to criticism, but respect your own talent and instinct. If you realize a critic was right and you were wrong, correct yourself and write some more. Love it.
Thanks Marian for dropping by!
You are welcome.
You can find Marian Allen on the web at www.marianallen.com