5-STAR Fantasy / Sci-Fi

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Indie Author Interview: Allen Dusk

Interview with Allen Dusk - Author of the Horror Thriller Shady Palms.

Allen Dusk is an award-winning author of dark fiction, hot romances, and poetry.

His debut novel Shady Palms was released in October 2012. He is already busy working on his second novel Old Mill Road and his Proteus Bell steampunk series. His short story Terminal Affair was selected for the premiere episode of The Sexy Librarian by Rose Caraway. Allen's shorter works can be found in numerous eZines, anthologies, and magazines around the globe.

Allen lives in San Diego, CA with his wife and daughter. Other than writing, his favorite pastimes include photography, lusting over old horror movies, and researching supernatural folklore.

Interview with Author Allen Dusk

Indie Author Interview with Allen Dusk
Author Allen Dusk
Alan Kealey (Indie Author News): What is your (writing) background?
Allen Dusk: I seem to have a knack for telling stories, so for the last 24 years I've been writing fiction and poetry in one genre or another. I've also written a few screenplays which were produced, along with some professional reviews for DVD and soundtrack websites. My education was in health science and business, so I've written numerous policies, procedures, proposals, and presentation, but those will never see a bookshelf, or so I hope.

Who are your favorite writers, your favorite books, and who or what are your writing influences?
My favorite authors include Stephen King, Clive Barker, Joe Hill, Scott Sigler, Joe R. Lansdale, and Cherie Priest.
One book closest to my heart is Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card because it was the first book I ever read and loved. Pet Sematary by Stephen King still makes me weary of stray animals. I also love the The Last Centurion by John Ringo; his character Bandit Six is both a great smart-ass and an awesome bad-ass.
I think the Hot Blood series of erotic horror stories have been the biggest influence on my writing career. I stumbled across the first volume while I was still in high school, although a teenager probably shouldn't be reading that type of stuff, and that book opened my eyes to the extent that the genres of horror and erotica could be intermixed. Such a thing never crossed my mind before, but now it seems that's all that crosses my mind.
While I do love horror, I try to read in a variety of genres so I can examine how different authors handle various scenarios with the written word.

When did you first know that you wanted to be a writer?
Early in grade school I started to be that kid who the teacher would always read their story in front of the class. In 8th grade I wrote a science fiction story which went on to win a few local writing awards. Shortly after that something finally clicked in my head which said, "Hey, you're alright at this." Later that year my mom bought me a copy of The Writer's Market and I started submitting my stories to every listing in there that I thought my work would fit into. Boy, did I have a lot to learn! After droves of rejection slips and notes from editors, I started learning how to tweak things. I also started attending writing workshops at a local community center where I learned the value of networking with other people. By the time I was in 9th grade I had my first poem published. Seeing my name in a book for the first time was a major encouragement to continue down this road.

"I enjoy writing freely rather than using strict outlines."

Tell us about your writing process. Do you have a writing routine?
As of this moment I'm very busy between raising a family and work, so at the most I get 2-3 days a week to actually sit down and write. I'm a bit of a night owl, so I sit down at my desk around 7 at night and get all of my email and web browsing out of the way. By 10 or 11 my brain is free of distraction, then I usually spend the rest of the night writing until the sun comes up.
I enjoy writing freely rather than using strict outlines. Usually I get an idea for a project and figure out where it should end, and then I spend the rest of the time constructing the story to get it to that point. Sometimes I'll create a rough outline with a beginning, middle, and an end, along with a few major points I want to touch on, and then I just embark on a journey through my keyboard. I've found I have an overactive imagination that helps greatly with world building and plot development.

On days when I'm unable to write - due to work or family duties - I try and spend as much time brainstorming and doing research. I use Story Skeleton to jot plot notes on my iPhone while I'm on breaks at work or waiting around an office for an appointment. When I finally make it back to my laptop I can import all of my work into Scrivener, and then start filling in the gaps.
Because I spend a lot of time planning my stories it seems to make my writing process easier. I seldom have false starts or a dreaded case of writer's block. Everything just builds up, so when I finally sit down it's a relief to have the story finally take shape across the page.

"The hardest part of writing [...] I tend to want to work on too many projects at once."

What do you find easiest about writing? What's the hardest?
I'm lucky because it's easy for me to sit down and start pumping out a story with little forethought. I also write fast, so on a good day I'm looking at word counts well over 2000 words despite the fact I still kind of henpeck at the keyboard.
The hardest part of writing for me is that I tend to want to work on too many projects at once. I've had to learn how to stay focused on one project before moving onto the other. I'll save up small story ideas and work on them in between drafts of my novels. Sometimes I just have to write a note in my notebook and promise I'll get to it one day, even if it's years from now.

Allen, please tell us a little about your debut novel 'Shady Palms'.
Shady Palms is the tale of a grungy motel owned by a greedy man named Sanjay who will stop at nothing to make a buck off somebody else. He's built quite a criminal network around his motel and has managed to keep local authorities off his trail, but then his business becomes the focus of a federal investigation when a wanted terrorist checks into a room. Sanjay struggles to keep his criminal empire flourishing while evading the feds when he notices motel guests vanishing without a trace. Between a rock and a hard place, Sanjay must try and figure out what is causing the disappearances before his entire empire is unearthed.

Shady Palms by Allen Dusk
Click to Read an Excerpt

What inspired you to write the book?
The idea for the book evolved while I was working on an old film project. One scene involved a late-night horror movie host rambling off crazy b-movie titles. Bedbugs from Hell was one of those titles and eventually the concept gained traction until it blossomed into a story I felt I needed to tell. I'm a huge fan of creature features such as THEM! and Eight Legged Freaks, so it was fun to create a world where my creations could thrive. Also, when I was much younger, I lived in an old motel with my mother for about a year. I found it very therapeutic to draw from some my real experiences, then warp them into the fantastic.

Who do you see as your target audience and where can we buy the book?
My target audience includes fans of extreme horror, what we once called Splatterpunk, but that term seems to have lost its edge. I thought it was time to reinvigorate the genre and drench it with a shiny new coat of blood.
Fans of old school radioactive creature features and X-Files fanatics will love the story since it deals with some of the scenarios and archetypes you'd typically find in those genres. At its heart Shady Palms is a tale about non-believers fighting against the unbelievable.
Shady Palms is for sale through all the major online outlets. The eBook is available on Kindle, Nook, iTunes, Kobo and any other format can be found at Smashwords.com. Paperbacks can be purchased through Amazon, B&N, and Powell's Books. A limited number of Autographed copies of the 1st edition can be picked up from Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore in San Diego.

"I totally get this book." 

How would you describe the success of your book so far?
I'm very happy with the critical reviews Shady Palms has received but I'm more delighted by the great fan reviews which have been popping up on Amazon and Goodreads. As a writer, there's no better reward than when a reader tells you, "I totally get this book."
I know I wrote Shady Palms for a niche market, but I did so to help further reinforce my foundation as an author. While we did almost sell out of books at my first public signing, I'm realistic enough to know I'm not going to strike it rich with this first book, and sales may be hit and miss down the road. But I also know I'm just getting started. The beauty of the digital revolution in publishing is that Shady Palms will never go out of print. It will always be out there for fans to discover along with my other works.

How long did it take you to write the book?
Just about 2 years total from start to finish. I wrote the first draft of Shady Palms in about 8 months, and then I set the manuscript aside for a month. It took me another 11 months to wrap up the second draft only because I got married and obviously had to devote time to my beautiful wife. After completing the second draft I spent the next 5 months working with beta readers and editors to smooth over details and fill in the gaps.

"...my stories sell like wildfire on the Nook."

Please, tell us where you self-published the book.
I selected Amazon's CreateSpace service to publish the paperback version of Shady Palms. Considering all of the basic options are free and their expanded distribution service is reasonable, it was a no brainer for me.
For the eBook versions of Shady Palms I'm using Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing Platform and Smashwords so I can reach a variety of readers on different platforms. I know Amazon seems like all the rage with indie authors but my stories sell like wildfire on the Nook.

How smooth went the self-publishing process? Any issues? What are things to look for when self-publishing a book?
Overall the publishing process went smoothly. CreateSpace made it simple to select templates and upload materials. When I did have a question, their support team always responded within 24 hours. It was easy to upload changes. They also have a cool online preview so within minutes of uploading your files you can flip through the pages as if it were a real book.
I think authors looking to self-publish should be technically savvy in this day and age. Trim sizes, dpi, paper types, bleed areas, CMYK vs RGB…these are all terms they need to be familiar with. If you don't know what you're doing, and you hire somebody else to format your work, then you're putting yourself in a spot where you could be held hostage. All of the information is freely available on the web, just waiting for curious authors to come grab it.

Did you hire an editor and/or Cover Designer for your book?
I hired two editors for Shady Palms. The first editor was Michael Garrett, who happens to be Stephen King's first editor and he helped edit the Hot Blood books I grew up with. I know my content tends to be extreme, and I know Michael had worked with similar stuff, so he was my first choice. He's also edited over 2000 manuscripts, and had his own books published, so I respected his opinions. After tweaking the manuscript according to his edits and suggestions I had another editor take a pass on the book. Her name is Kristin and she ran a professional editing agency before deciding to be a stay at home mom. She's done the editing on all of my short stories so I trusted her to help make further suggestions as to how details could be further clarified.
I designed the cover for Shady Palms myself, but I have experience doing graphic design for DVDs and other media, so I'm pretty good with designing layouts and graphics software. I took the cover photo with the Hipstamatic app on my iPhone and then tweaked it in Photoshop to add some more grunge effects. I had toyed with the idea of hiring an artist to draw a cover or paying a model to pose on a motel bed, but in the end I decided simple was best: A cluster of palm trees with a storm brewing in the background. Simple, mysterious, and – I think – beautiful.

"Patience is the greatest virtue any writer should have."

Can you give some tips for other Indie Authors regarding the writing and self-publishing process?
Patience is the greatest virtue any writer should have. While we all are in a rush to tell our story, it's important to remember every writer travels down a different road to success. Sometimes we hit a dead end, but that doesn't mean panic about it. Just turn around and try something else. Don't stress over word counts and getting the words correct when you're first writing a story; these are all just distractions keeping you from the real goal, which is finishing your story from beginning to end. Then set it down for a few weeks before going back to start your edits. If you're stuck at a specific spot in your story, just skip ahead and write a different scene or the same scene from a different character's perspective. Sometimes moving to another place in your story will help you see past your problems where the solution has been hiding.
As far as self-publishing, I think I hinted at a few things earlier, and again, patience will be your greatest virtue. Don't ever rush a story just to get it out there. Take your time, make sure you understand the terminology, and most importantly hire an editor. A good editor will work miracles for you, but it's going to cost money – don't bitch and whine about it – if you're expecting to earn a boatful of money from your work, then invest $2 to $4 per page for an editor. Some editors charge per word, others per page, but a high-priced editor doesn't mean they're good at what they do. Ask for a list of clients, and if they can't produce a reputable one, then look for somebody else. Some editors want to read over your work before quoting a price. That's fine too, if it works for you.

Are you working on another book project? Can you tell us a little about it?
I'm working on a few projects right now. First and foremost is my second novel Old Mill Road, which is a paranormal thriller about an alcoholic who is accused of serial murders he didn't commit. I'm hoping to get the first draft completed by early next year, and then have a final draft ready by late 2013 or early 2014.
In between drafts of Old Mill Road I'm going to start on the Proteus Bell steampunk anthology I've been outlining. I have a story arc which will span three novellas and there's room for expansion if it's received well. I'm pretty excited about the twists and turns I'm planning, and the crazy thing is that I found the inspiration for the story in a strange dream I had one night. I woke up wondering what the heck I had just seen, then I grabbed a pen, and started writing it all down.
Finally, I'm going to start on an erotic thriller which I'm calling The Girl Alone. Somewhere in 2013 it's going to be released in a serial format then ultimately packaged as a novel once it's all done.
I know it sounds like a lot, but I'm looking at staying busy over the next several years. After I'm done writing Old Mill Road I'm going to start on the novel Shadow Ward, which will be an indirect sequel to Shady Palms. There's a big hint in Chapter 41 of Shady Palms for where I'm headed with that book.
After all of those projects have been completed I still have a stack of outlines and old scripts to keep me busy for a very long time.

Are you planning to move forward as an Indie author or are you looking forward to have one of your next books to be traditionally published?
I will continue to publish some works independently. Once in a while I push out a short story for fans to gobble up because I just feel like writing something different, and I make far more selling the work as an eBook than if a traditional anthology or magazine paid me, and I still retain all my rights.
I would like to pursue finding an agent and attempt to get Old Mill Road published through a more traditional route. I know a lot of indie authors scoff at traditional publishing, but it does have its advantages, such as distribution, audiobooks, and far easier paths to merchandising . If I don't find a traditional publisher right away then I really don't have much to worry about. I'm building a dedicated following, I'm being sought by others for writing projects, and I'm already setup to self-publish. I've learned enough about the publishing industry to know that if you're good, then publishers will come knocking on your door. I'll just see what happens.

"...a lot of people who love holding a book "

Where do you see the book market in 5 or 10 years? Will there be only eBooks and will book stores disappear like record stores disappeared?
I don't think traditional books will ever go away, and there will always be a place for printed books to be sold on a store shelves. Books will probably shift toward smaller print runs of special collector items or more print on demand. This has already happened in the music industry. Years ago the vinyl record became extinct, but today bands are releasing special editions albums on vinyl.
There are a lot of people who love holding a book, and I'm one of them. I read on Kindle, but sometimes I get this craving to go to my local book store and just touch the books. I love staring at the covers, especially the elaborate embossed ones, and running my hands over the pages to examine the texture of their edges. There's something tangible about holding a book in your hands and passing it along to other people to share a story you enjoyed, and there are a ton of fans that enjoy having their books signed by an author. I know some people get their eReaders signed, but I'd rather have my favorite authors sign a physical copy of the story they worked so hard to tell. That means far more to me than a clump of shifted molecules on a flash drive.

Do you write full-time or do you have a day job?
I have an interesting schedule right now. I'm employed full-time in the medical field where I work 12 hour night shifts on my feet, which can be detrimental to your sleep cycle and sanity. It's nearly impossible to write anything before or after work because I'm just trying to get as much sleep as I can before I go back in. However I only work three days a week, all of which are clumped together, so then I have four days off in a row. Usually I spend one or two of those days writing as much as possible. Because I have limited time to write, I make damn sure every minute counts typing like a madman.

"I'm only tend to bite when there's a full moon high in the night sky. "

How can readers connect with you?
My website [See Link below] is the easiest way to connect with me, and right at the top I have icons for all the social media spots where I keep active, like Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads. There are links to buy Shady Palms and my other short stories. I also post free excerpts, poetry, updates about my projects, and I share writing tips which have helped me along my journey.

Curious readers and authors should come and find me. I love receiving feedback on my work, and I enjoy providing feedback for other authors. Don't be afraid, I'm only tend to bite when there's a full moon high in the night sky.

Thank you very much for the Interview, Allen.

About the Book Shady Palms

Shady Palms - Click to Read an Excerpt
A sleazy motel, burrowed on the edge of town, is haunted by rumors of dead hookers found between mattresses and peep holes drilled through walls.

When Special Agent Daniels targets the motel during an investigation, the nefarious owner, Sanjay, must scramble to conceal evidence of his own dark deeds. Just when he believes things can’t get any worse, motel guests begin to vanish without a trace.

Can Sanjay discover the truth behind the phenomena threatening his motel before the Feds get suspicious, or does he risk exposing his own sordid enterprises to seek help from the outside?

Why don’t you book a room for the night and find out? At these bargain rates you’ll be lucky if you only find dirty sheets and a few skeletons in the closet.

Welcome to the Shady Palms Motel. Check out is at 11, if you live that long.

- "[...] The plot is fast-moving and unrelenting; it was sufficiently action-packed that I wanted to keep going and stayed up past my bedtime on several nights finishing the book. The characters are interesting and their dialogue convincing. Sure, almost every character in the book is a deeply flawed person – some of whom have committed terrible acts – but despite all that I found myself wanting to read more about them, learn more of their secrets before they meet their grim fates. The novel’s horror elements are certainly gruesome, but creative, and leavened with plenty of dark comedy. This could have been a run-of-the-mill, forgettable story, but Dusk’s writing rises head and shoulders above his competition and makes this a horror novel that shouldn’t be missed. Shady Palms was the first Allen Dusk novel I’ve read, but I genuinely hope it won’t be my last. He’s got real talent. Highly recommended, especially for those who enjoy creature features." - Andrew Byers (Hellnotes)

Links to the Author and the Book

Link to Allen Dusk's Website

Connect with the Author via Twitter: @Allen_Dusk

Link to Allen Dusk's Facebook Page

Link to the Paperback Shady Palms with Excerpt on Amazon

Link to the eBook Shady Palms with Excerpt on Amazon

Link to the eBook Shady Palms with Preview on B&N for Nook

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