Pump Up Your Book Chats with ‘Oddities & Entities’ Roland Allnach

Roland Allnach Roland Allnach has been writing since his early teens, first as a hobby, but as the years passed, more as a serious creative pursuit. He is an avid reader, with his main interests residing in history, mythology, and literary classics, along with some fantasy and science fiction in his earlier years. Although his college years were focused on a technical education, he always fostered his interest in literature, and has sought to fill every gap on his bookshelves.

By nature a do-it-yourself type of personality, his creative inclinations started with art and evolved to the written word. The process of creativity is a source of fascination for him, and the notion of bringing something to being that would not exist without personal effort and commitment serves not only as inspiration but as fulfillment as well. So whether it is writing, woodwork, or landscaping, his hands and mind are not often at rest.

Over the years he accumulated a dust laden catalog of his written works, with his reading audience limited to family and friends. After deciding to approach his writing as a profession, and not a hobby, the first glimmers of success came along. Since making the decision to move forward, he has secured publication for a number of short stories, has received a nomination for inclusion in the Pushcart Anthology, built his own website, and in November 2010 realized publication for an anthology of three novellas, titled Remnant, from All Things That Matter Press. Remnant has gone on to favorable critical review and placed as Finalist/Sci-fi, 2011 National Indie Excellence Awards; Bronze Medalist, Sci-Fi, 2012 Readers Favorite Book of the Year Awards; and Award Winner-Finalist, Sci-Fi, 2012 USA Book News Best Book Awards. Roland’s second publication, Oddities & Entities, also from All Things That Matter Press, followed in March 2012. It, too, has received favorable critical review, and is the recipient of four awards: Bronze Medalist, Horror, and Finalist, Paranormal, 2012 Readers Favorite Book of the Year Awards; Award Winner-Finalist, Fiction/Horror and Fiction/Anthologies, 2012 USA Book News Best Book Awards.

His writing can best be described as depicting strange people involved in perhaps stranger situations. He is not devoted to any one genre of writing. Instead, he prefers to let his stories follow their own path. Classification can follow after the fact, but if one is looking for labels, one would find his stories in several categories. Sometimes speculative, other times supernatural, at times horror, with journeys into mainstream fiction, and even some humor- or perhaps the bizarre. Despite the category, he aims to depict characters as real on the page as they are in his head, with prose of literary quality. His literary inspirations are as eclectic as his written works- from Poe to Kate Chopin, from Homer to Tolkien, from Flaubert to William Gibson, from Shakespeare to Tolstoy, as long as a piece is true to itself, he is willing to go along for the ride. He hopes to bring the same to his own fiction.

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Oddities & Entities Q: Thanks for stopping by, Roland! Can you tell us why you wrote your book, Oddities & Entities?

There’s a quote on the back cover of my book, Oddities & Entities, which comes from one of the stories in the book.  It goes like this: “There’s more to this world than flesh and bone.”  That line hit something in my subconscious, and even though that one story existed before I had an idea to craft the stories that comprise Oddities & Entities, it started a process of considerations.  I’m curious by nature, and that, combined with a mechanical inclination, leaves me with an interest to find out how things work.  Life, or perhaps existence, is one thing I’d love to explore for its inner workings, and the stories of the book are a reflection of that desire.  I let my imagination roam, testing the borders of our everyday world, and then examined how the world might appear to work from outside those borders of the norm.

Q: Which part of the book was the hardest to write?

The last story in Oddities & Entities, “Appendage” uses a non-linear time structure.  It’s a narrative form I’ve used in two other published pieces, “All the Fallen Angels” in my first book, Remnant, and a published short story, “The City of Never”.  The non-linear narrative is a bit of a challenge, but I find that all the more rewarding when it comes together.  Non-linear structures can go haywire, but they allow a single character to really dominate a story, as they provide an excellent way to condense a lifetime of retrospect into a very focused, subjective, hindsight appraisal of life – something I think people are prone to do in moments of high impact, where a lifetime of seemingly unrelated incidents are forced into a sudden, cumulative sense.

Q: Does your book have an underlying message that readers should know about?

There are a number of themes winding through the book’s stories, but, I think the unifying them would be that what we see and think we know of the world around us is not necessarily all there is to know.  There may be things outside of our common perception and understanding that intersect our lives without our knowing because our senses are closed to those alternate states of existence.  It might sound existential, or transcendental, but I think reality is much more subtle, and much more mysterious, than the doldrums of everyday life allow us to perceive.  After all, it’s hard to ponder different states of being when you’re in the middle of paying the bills.

Q: Do you have a writing tip you’d like to share?

I think the best tip I could give would be to make sure your characters are fully developed and realized.  Every author is different to some extent, but, for me, I don’t feel a story starts to hit its stride in my head until it’s anchored to a solid character.  People give stories their impact, and those people are the characters we as authors create.  I always say that if a situation in a story doesn’t feel real to the characters, it won’t feel real to readers.  And if the characters aren’t emotionally invested in a situation, neither will the readers.  Characters are the bridge for readers to enter the world a story creates.

QCan you tell us a little about your childhood?

I’m from a little town called Kings Park, on Long Island, New York.  It was a quiet place to grow up, but an interesting place as well.  The town is near the water, something near and dear to me, and there’s a vast tract of land occupied by an old state mental hospital.  I remember riding dirt bikes in the woods, soccer practices on one of the hospital fields while some of the patients watched us do our drills, and many days down by the water.  I’m sure on several levels of my subconscious such things foster some of the aspects of my writing, and that’s fine by me.  Setting is important to me when I craft a story, because I know that my personal setting has helped contribute to who I am.

Q: Where’s your favorite place to write at home?

That depends on the time of year.  During holiday season, when the Christmas tree is up, there’s a comfy recliner that has to be swung to the opposite corner of the living room to make room for the tree.  That sets up a nice view, with the tree to one side of the living room’s bay window.  It’s wonderful to sit there with a cup of tea, the tree lit, and have the day go by.  If it’s snowing outside, all the better.  The rest of the year will find me either in a comfy couch in the den, at times when I wake up at some ridiculous hour of the morning, or sitting in bed, with the lights out, before I call it a day and go to sleep.  It’s nice to either start or end the day by drifting through the creative side of my mind.

Q: What do you do to get away from it all?

There’s nothing like a nice walk in the woods.  I’m lucky that I live near several beautiful parks with lots of woods and rolling terrain.  Those paths are quiet, peaceful, and some of them lead down to secluded shorelines.  Walking off into those little worlds allows me to walk off into the worlds inside my head, and sometimes I come away from those walks supercharged with ideas for story trajectories.

Q: Are you familiar with the social networks and do you actively participate?

The reality of the world today, both physical and Internet-based, requires an effort of outreach on the part of those seeking an audience, regardless of the form of artistic expression involved.  Everyone wants to be the next ‘viral’ celebrity, but, setting aside those statistical anomalies, I think there’s a certain underlying principal to social networking.  My belief is that it’s a great companion to success, but it in itself shouldn’t be viewed as the sole aspect fostering success.  Most often, at least in my anecdotal experience, those who are successful with social networks already had some type of expanded following to tap, either in the form of some pre-existing social group or professional peers.  Those who start fresh with social networking won’t have that following.  So, while it is a valuable tool, I think it has to be kept in perspective.  There’s also the consideration of time.  Building a wide social network presence is a significant time investment, time that might be taken away from writing, market submissions, and other more mundane, but no less important, responsibilities of an author.

Q: What is the most frustrating part of being an author?

I would say the arduous task of promotion.  As an author, there’s nothing more satisfying than having someone read your work.  After all, that’s a big part of writing a story in the first place.  Perhaps it was my own market ignorance when I entered the book world, but I had no idea the challenges ahead in reaching out to a broader readership.  The market is so crowded with titles that a determined promotional effort is a requirement, and it can be a steep, sudden learning curve if you’re not prepared for its demands.

Q: What is the most rewarding?

For all the effort that goes into promotion, seeing promotional efforts bear fruit opens the door for an author’s greatest reward.  Nothing satisfies more than to see genuine interest on someone’s face when they hear or read about something you wrote, especially when it’s coupled with a genuine expression of enjoyment after reading something you wrote.

Q: How do you think book publishing has changed over the years?

I think we’re seeing a similar process in the publication world that was witnessed in the film world in the 1990’s.  There was a shift from big studio productions to small, independent productions, which were grabbing critical acclaim and translating that to financial gain.  Those successes made the big studios take notice, and their response was to acquire what independent studios they could, or establish their own.  Fast forward to the last few years of the publication world, and the process has been mirrored.  The critical and financial success of breakouts from small presses and self publish houses have led the big presses to take notice, as witnessed by the recent acquisition of Author Solutions by Penguin.  Also, the opportunities for self publishers have grown substantially, as barriers against self publishers have crumbled.

Q: Your book has just been awarded a Pulitzer.  Who would you thank?

It may be a tired response, but I’d have to thank my family.  To anyone considering publication it’s important to understand the vital role the support of family can play.  The investment of time, emotion, and finances are considerable, and without the patience, understanding, and faith of family, it would be very hard to continue the persistent commitment required for any degree of success.

Q: Thank you so much for this interview, Roland.  Do you have any final words?

Thanks for having me.  In closing I’d like to invite readers who are interested in material that is stranger than the norm to take a look at my published stories, if they want to get a better feel for my writing style.  All my published short fiction, excerpts of my books, and essays regarding the creative process behind all my tales are available at my website, rolandallnach.com.