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Interview with Roland Allnach: ‘I learned that good criticism encourages a work to be better’



Roland AllnachRoland 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.


Oddities & EntitiesQ: Welcome to Beyond the Books, Roland.  Can we start out by telling us whether you are published for the first time or are you multi-published?

Thank you for having me.  Oddities & Entities is in fact my second book, following my debut, Remnant, which saw publication in 2010.  Whereas Oddities & Entities straddles the paranormal/supernatural/speculative/horror genres, Remnant straddled the science fiction/speculative genres.

Q: When you were published for the first time, which route did you go – mainstream, small press, vanity published or self-published and why or how did you choose this route?

Both of my books appear courtesy of a small press, All Things That Matter Press.  When I started researching possible presses to submit my first book, there were still some significant barriers to self publishers and vanity publishers, in terms of greater market acceptance.  Being that I was starting as an unknown, I didn’t want to have any avenues closed to me, so I focused my search on small presses.  I went with All Things That Matter because my first books, as well as my second, are anthologies, and not that many presses were receptive to the anthology format and the genres in which I was writing.  To my good fortune my publisher was willing to entertain the way I chose to present my stories, and, much to my delight, I was off to publication.

Q: How long did it take you to get published once you signed the contract?

With Remnant the process took about five months; with Oddities & Entities, the process took a little longer, given that the manuscript was a little more involved than Remnant.  But, in both cases, the process was efficient, professional, and I’m very happy with the final product.

Q: How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?

I have a vivid memory of receiving the acceptance letter for my first book.  It was during the summer, and I took my kids bowling with some friends of ours.  It was a tiring day because I had worked a midnight shift.  When I came home instead of going straight to bed I couldn’t resist checking my email one more time.  After peeling myself off the ceiling, calling my wife at work, and leaving my kids almost deaf with my hoots and hollers, I had to settle down and get some sleep.  Once I returned to my normally reserved veneer, we went out to dinner.

Q: What was the first thing you did as for as promotion when you were published for the first time?

I have to admit that I had some gross misconceptions about the publishing world.  My initial impression when Remnant went to press was to think that I was on my way.  In my ignorance I thought there would be a baseline sales figure for any book, given the number of books sold in the United States.  I was soon to discover that there is in fact a built in sales number, and that number is zero.  So I had to get over myself, and the first thing I could think of to set my writing apart from the crowd was to send out for some market reviews from reputable reviewers.  I saw an immediate increase in my website traffic with each review, and the reviews were all quite positive.  That gave me the confidence to start submitting to award contests in a further attempt to set myself apart.

Q: Since you’ve been published, how have you grown as a writer and now a published author?

Foremost, I feel I’ve learned so much about the craft of writing itself, after having gone through the editorial process with two books.  I’m a bit of a perfectionist, so I put a great deal of care into my manuscript preparation, but I learned that there is no substitute for a quality, objective edit of one’s writing.  I think all writers have an innate sensitivity to criticism, and I’m no different in that regard, but I learned that good criticism encourages a work to be better, in no different a way than a singer still goes for voice training and an athlete has coaches.  Looking forward from what I’ve learned regarding publication is the simple fact that ultimately the author is responsible for championing his or her book.  Yes, there are professionals out there to help, and there’s no substitute for one’s own grunt work, but promotion and exposure are never-ending considerations.

Q: What has surprised or amazed you about the publishing industry as a whole?

It would have to be the sheer number of books that fill the publishing landscape.  I don’t like to think of fellow authors as ‘competition’ per se, because I feel we are all comrades in a common pursuit of reaching readers, but, at the end of the day, exposure is to a degree a competitive pursuit.  That said, what I find so gratifying is the number of people I have met who hold a genuine love for the written word, whether they wear tags as editors, publicists, or reviewers.  Yes, this is their business, this is how they earn their living, but for so many it is their passion as well.  As an author in this big world of publishing I find it comforting to know that there are so many people as dedicated to the written word as those of us who are compelled to write those words.

Q: What is the most rewarding thing about being a published author?

Well, of course, there’s always the self-satisfaction of saying, “Hey, I’m published.”  On a more serious note, and perhaps more from my personal perspective, is the realization that I’ve achieved something that lived in my head as nothing more than an elusive dream since I was sixteen and wrote my first short story.  I love to write because I find nothing more satisfying, and fascinating, than looking at a finished story and thinking that I started with nothing, and ended with something.  Seeing a work through to publication, regardless of whether it’s a short story, novella, or book, provides the final validation that yes, I created something, and it didn’t exist in this world until it came forth through me.

Q: Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?

In a single word: persistence.  My own story of being an author consists of twenty five years of diddling around with one story and book after another without any serious discipline to get something published.  It was easier to wallow in a frustrated dream than accept the measure of diligence necessary to see publication.  For me, the change came when I decided to view my pursuit for publication not as a hobby, but as a job.  That gave me the discipline to structure my time, to set aside a number of hours for market research, submissions, editing, and general self-education of the publishing world.  I know that any success involves a certain degree of good fortune, but I also believe that opportunities of good fortune are more likely to present themselves after a lot of hard work.  Success won’t drop into your lap out of the sky, because the world simply doesn’t work that way.  Remember that the easiest thing to do is give up, so don’t–be persistent, be patient, learn the trade, write the best material possible, and publication will come.

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