I’ve written fiction for more than 25 years but didn’t feel my skills had reached a point worth pursuing publication until 2011. Once I did decide to get serious I found myself writing a series that crossed genre boundaries, posing a difficult sell. I had to write the novel, though, so I finished it, polished it, and submitted it to an open call for submissions with Angry Robot books. I got to the second round, which involved sending my whole novel. While the publisher ultimately passed, it gave me the courage to submit with agents in New York. Most liked it, but it didn’t work for their vision or they didn’t know how to market it.
One agent, though, took the time to explain why he passed, saying he had trouble connecting with the main character. After a day of moping I grabbed that advice and began a total rewrite of the novel. The rewrite took six months, and during that time I read more about self-publishing and the shifting publication market. It seemed a no-brainer to go indie once I had the final version of the novel in hand, figuring the whole thing a little too niche to catch on with a publisher. I’ve self-published two more books since then and intended to stay indie, but my muse delivered the ideas for a series of literary novels last year and I’m going to give traditional publishing one more shot. At least the Among the Dead series will remain indie. Past that, I can’t say.
What do you love about being an author?
The characters! I’m all about characters. Don’t get me wrong, situations can be interesting, and I enjoy scenarios that are like puzzles, difficult to solve but rewarding in the end. Still, I keep coming back to those crazy, weird characters. There’s nothing like connecting with a good character and telling his or her unique story. They are the reason I keep on writing.
If you could have dinner with any literary character, who would it be and what would you eat?
Dean Moriarty from On the Road (who just so happens to be based on real-life Neal Cassady). I would love to pick the guy’s brain about his exploits and better understand his philosophy – or lack thereof. I’m guessing we would stop at a neighbourhood pizza joint for some beer.
Noomi Rapace is the only choice to play Matty, as Matty’s look is based on her portrayal of Salander from the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. For Kristy, I wish I could go back in time and get a younger Kristen Bell, you know, from when Veronica Mars began? Tommy is tough, since he looks like a kid, but Fabrizio Guido looks the part. Iranian actress Nazanin Boniadi would play Omarosa, sort of a Middle Eastern Ellen Ripley. Grabbe could only be portrayed by Jason Alexander – the guy is a clone. Jazshael would be the most difficult, as he’s very unique, with white skin, white hair, and a crazed demeanor. I wish I could get Heath Ledger.
It’s Valentines Day – Lovely excuse to show someone you care, or commercial nonsense designed to suck money from your pockets?
Oh, both. No doubt companies created the holiday, but you can still use it as an excuse to show love to your significant other. I find any excuse works, but Valentine’s Day provides a pretext to get more dramatic. I am, however, a romantic at heart.
If you had a time machine, which era would you go back to and why?
Waaaay back, about 10,000 BC. I’m an ancient history buff and wonder if any major cultures/civilizations predate the Fertile Crescent. Highly unlikely, but I do wonder if shifting plate tectonics or some major upheaval has hidden a revelation from us. Like Fox Mulder, I want to believe.
What life advice do you wish you’d been given sooner?
Sometimes love isn’t enough. I never would have listened, but I could have avoided a great deal of heartache and wasted time. Of course, it provides good story fodder, so silver lining and all.
What was the last book you read, and what were your thoughts on it?
Paper Towns by John Green. I’m not really a YA reader, but this one intrigued me and read more like adult literary fiction than your standard vampire/fantasy/dystopian YA tale. For those who haven’t read it, the book is about a boy who is taken on a whirlwind trip of revenge for one night with his neighbor, a girl who he’s loved from afar for ages. She disappears afterwards and the remainder of the book is about the protagonist trying to find her, discovering that she was not what she appeared – nor is he what he thought. I’d have loved it when I was 17 or 18 and heartily recommend it even as a crusty fogey.
If you didn’t write in your genre, which other would you prefer and why?
I’m a big fan of literary fiction and, in fact, my next work is a literary novel about a small-town dentist who happens to be a sex addict. The story runs in two time periods, modern day and ten years ago, and shows us his early recovery and courtship with his wife and his deterioration after she dies in a tragic car accident. I love literary fiction because it attempts to stare at the world and document it as it is, capturing all our human frailties and strengths.
Where can fans find you online?
I have my own site, http://jonathandallen.com, and am also on Twitter and Facebook. I update Twitter and Facebook regularly, but am currently on a mission to update the blog on my site at least once a week with updates on what’s going on in my life as well as my fiction.