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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.

Read-a-Chapter: Oddities & Entities by Roland Allnach

Oddities & EntitiesTitle of Book: ODDITIES & ENTITIES
Genre: Horror/Paranormal/Supernatural
Author: Roland Allnach
Publisher: All Things That Matter Press



The untold



Before Allison knew the meaning of words or the context of visions, she knew the Curmudgeon. It was there, lodged in her earliest memories, the memories that imbed themselves deep in the psyche to shadow all future memories. When she lay in her crib as a pale and lumpy baby, she didn’t know to cry when it came in her room, when it passed through her walls as if their existence were some unsubstantiated rumor rather than studs, slats, and plaster. And though at any greater age she might have cowered and screamed, in her unclouded infantile mind there was no reference for fear or judgment, only the absorbance of what was. Perhaps the Curmudgeon knew this but, then again, perhaps not. As the years passed, it was a matter of little importance.

She remembered her first years of school. She was different; this realization was as stark as the full moon visits of the Curmudgeon were fantastic. When other children clamored to play in the sun and warmth, she found herself possessed by an ever-present chill. She felt most comfortable wearing black, without perceiving any conscious decision to that end. She preferr ed to stay inside, or in places of deep shade or shadow, and gaze out at the light. It wasn’t that she shunned the warm light of the Florida sun, but the glare seemed to scald her eyes with its white intensity. Her eyes were her source of distinction, after all. Vast for her narrow face, their luminous, sea green irises formed tidal pools about the tight black dots of her pupils. Her stare was one that few could bear for long. Children and teachers alike found her unblinking silence a most uncomfortable experience, and her mute distraction in school led to the inevitable conclusion that she wasn’t very bright.

She had no friends. Her world, though, wasn’t as lonesome as it may have seemed.

She lived with her grandmother, a reclusive widow of Creole descent, who wandered about their old manor house singing under her breath in her broken French dialect. Allison loved the old house, despite its state of disrepair and the ratty look of its worn exterior, with the few remaining patches of white paint peeling off the grayed wood clapboard. The oak floors creaked, but there was something timeless about the place, with its high ceilings, spacious rooms and front colonnade. The house was surrounded by ancient southern oaks; they were broad, stately trees, the likes of which one could only find in Florida. Their sinewy, gargantuan branches split off low from the trunk, with gray-green leaves poking out between dangling veils of Spanish moss. The trees shielded Allison from the sun, and provided a home for squirrels, chipmunks, and birds. The Curmudgeon would leave their cleaned skulls on her windowsill as gifts when the moon waxed in silvery twilight.

Her parents loved her—or so they claimed, when she would see them. They seemed more like friends than her elders. She often watched them with curious eyes, peering from her window at night as they frolicked about the front lawn. Her mother, very much a younger vision of her grandmother, had long dark hair, hair that would sway about her as she danced naked under the trees at night. Her father would be there with her, dancing naked as well, the strange designs tattooed down his back often blending with the swaying lengths of Spanish moss. They claimed to be moon cultists, though Allison had no idea what that meant. It was of no matter. Soon enough they became part of the night, passing to her dreams forever.

The memory of that change was the first emotional turmoil of her secluded little life. She was seven, and her parents had come out for the weekend. It was one of those times when her parents sat under the sprawling branches of the oaks, drinking and smoking throughout the day until they lay back on a blanket, their glazed eyes hidden behind their sunglasses. The hours drifted by, and the day faded to the lazy serenity of a Florida evening. Beneath long, golden rays of sunshine they began to stir, rising from their stupor to a restless sense of wanderlust. They came in the house after dinner, settling themselves at the table and exchanging small talk as Allison ate a bowl of vanilla ice cream with rainbow sprinkles. They smiled over Allison’s drawings, complimenting her budding artistic skills, and talked to her grandmother about some plans for the next weekend. Even at her young age Allison could tell her grandmother humored them. Her parents didn’t have a false bone in their body, but they were not reliable people. Free spirits, her grandmother would say.

Yet as those thoughts rolled about Allison’s head her eyes seemed to blur, and she stared at her parents with that unnerving, unblinking gaze of hers. Her heart began to race, her skin tingled, and then it came to her: not a shadow, but a different kind of light than the sun, a light that seemed to seep from within her parents, until the tactile periphery of their bodies became a pale shadow over the ivory glow of their skeletons. She trembled in her seat as the sight gained clarity until she could see all their bones in all their minute detail, but then it changed, changed in a way that froze her blood in her veins. Black fracture lines spread across the smooth ivory like running rivers of ink, until every bone in their bodies was broken to jagged ruin.

Her grandmother called her name, snapping her out of her stupor. She blinked, then screamed and ran from the table to the living room. Her parents and grandmother came after her, but she buried her head under the couch pillows. Despite the pillows, the moment she opened her eyes she could see them, right through the pillows and couch, standing there in their shattered translucence. She ran for her room, scratching at her eyes, and that was when things changed. Her grandmother charged after her, following her to her room, and tore through every drawer until she found the small collection of skulls Allison kept—the tokens the Curmudgeon had left her. Her grandmother stuffed her in her closet, closed the door to her room, and sat outside the door. She could hear her grandmother’s voice, even in the dark of the closet. She clamped her eyes shut; it was a desperate final measure to blot out the sight of her parents. She could see them, through the walls, through the floor, through the trees, as they hopped on her father’s motorcycle and raced off. She screamed for them to stop, but she was a child with a trifling voice, stuffed in a closet.

She cried herself to sleep.

– Excerpted from Chapter 1, Oddities & Entities by Roland Allnach


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