Share & Connect Your World
With the help of World Literary Café I was introduced to Gregory Allen and his writing. With numerous achievements in his personal life and career, Gregory decided to add author to his CV, and I for one am glad he did, as his writing is superb. With three novels ‘Patchwork of Me’, ‘Well With My Soul’, and ‘Proud Pants: An Unconventional Memoir’ and one children’s book, ‘Chicken Boy: The Amazing Adventures of a Super Hero with Autism’ I find myself anticipating his next novel. Gregory has been in the entertainment industry in one way or another for over 20 years as an actor, director, producer, songwriter and playwright. He has had short stories and poetry published in Off The Rocks, Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal, The Oddville Press, Perpetual Magazine, Loch Raven Review, Word Catalyst Magazine, and Rancor’d Type, and has produced at least 10 musicals. Greg is currently the Managing Director at the Westminster Arts Center. Gregory has graciously agreed to spend a little time chatting with me.
C&C: In one of our emails I said “I’m not a big reader of women's fiction or chick flicks for that matter. I do review some chick lit/women's fiction…but absolutely no romance.” Recently I have noticed you refer to ‘Patchwork’ as women’s lit/chick lit. I hope I didn’t offend you. I considered Patchwork to be contemporary fiction but I guess readers take a novel and interpret file it in a classification suitable to their likes.
Do you agree with or challenge my statement, thinking I’m out in left field with that observation?
GGA: First before we start challenging each other with gloves around the virtual ring, I want to thank you for having me on your site! In all seriousness, I was actually glad when you told me you don't read much women's fiction/chick lit because I know I do not play by the correct rules and my book doesn't fall into that genre. People get really hung up on labels and if you look at my website - I'm SO not about labels. I agree that my book is contemporary fiction. The need to classify my work has been happening since I started writing. I've noticed the lit awards I've won have placed books in different categories (and I'm very thankful to those awards), but I know that Patchwork is not chick/lit. Bridget Jones and all the women like her wouldn't last a car ride with the likes of my crew. :-)
mp;C: While I realize this is probably a banal question, I’ll ask it anyway. Being well established in writing, be it song writing, stage productions, or novels; do you follow the same process in writing each? Do you have any ‘must dos’ such as a certain drink or your cat curled up on your desk when you write?
GGA: Can I just take you around with me wherever I go, please! You're awesome for my ego. I wouldn't say I'm well established, but I have been working at it for a while. My process may seem a little strange to many - but it works for me. An idea comes into my head and I start writing down note after note about it. It's never the full story; it's just a seed of a story. Then it grows and takes shape as I start my outline of where I want it to go. For a play…I'm thinking of the structure of a stage show and where certain things need to fall (and where a song will take over). For a book - it is about the characters, their flaws, what they desire and what situations I plan for them to be in. I feel everything I wrote (books and stage) is all about character. And then those people become real to me. And talk to me. And before I know it, they are driving the story and changing the outline I had and they dictate where the story goes. I feel almost everything I've written has gone through a major change due to the characters changing it up midway through writing.
I'm kind of boring when it comes to things I need in order to write. Nine times out of ten, I'm mostly creative during the night. So it means jumping up and writing. So drinks and pets are the furthest thing from my mind at that point! Just write. Write. Write.
C&C: How did you come up with ‘Chicken Boy: The Amazing Adventures of a Super Hero with Autism?’ Did you write the book based on someone in your life or because you felt a need to bring focus to Autism, or both?
GGA: Even though I have a huge background in children's theatre, I never thought I'd write a children's book. I go out every Wednesday night with my godson who has autism and his mom and sister. We eat at his favorite restaurant and one night his older sister and I started making up stories to explain some of the 'ticks' that he has. The sounds he makes. His desire to run out in the rain. And this superhero was born. I went home that night, wrote out an entire story and shared it with his mom and sister. Then a friend told me about the MeeGenius Author Challenge and I figured I'd enter my manuscript with the other 400 people. I didn't know it would turn into a social media voting process, but I was glad it did. I met so many people in the autism community by doing that and have really been honored to be this tiny little voice in the huge world of autism when the book won. I love traveling to schools and talking about the book and hearing from people how much they relate to it. It may have started out as a story about my godson, but it has grown to be a call to others to not be fearful of someone just because they are different. (I deal with that topic in much of my writing: people are always 'different' in one way or another.)
Chicken Boy will be on a blog tour during the month of August with the Summer Splash at Orangeberry Tours.
C&C: You have been nominated for or have won numerous awards for all of your books and while I’m sure you were proud to be included in each of the categories; which did you feel most honored to receive?
GGA: That's a good question and one I've not thought of before. Back in the early 90s, I was really thrilled when a musical I wrote won a best score award in a New York magazine. It was completely out of left field and I was so much younger and was in such awe that something like that could happen to me. But I think I'd have to say the accolades that Patchwork has gotten in different awards. By all accounts, that is my 'sophomore' novel and people usually are so critical of authors second work. Well With My Soul took so long for me to write and it was really personal (though if you read some reviews on that one…for every person that was moved, someone else thought I had set the gay community back 40 years). But Patchwork flowed out of me quickly in a completely different style. A man writing a woman's story in 1st person. I felt I had so many things against me with that one. Yet a few close girlfriends kept saying to me "I really think this is going to do better than your first." So when complete strangers showered it with awards, it really moved me and I felt a sense of accomplishment that said I can continue to write in multiple genres and not get pegged into one box.
C&C: I read your interview/chat with Kergan Edwards-Stout in The Windy Times. The article mentioned you met at the Rainbow Book Fair in New York City. It seemed to me that the two of you were in sync with your thoughts about writing and supported each other’s work; had you met each other prior to that?
GGA: Kergan is one of those people I met first on twitter. We were following each other, saw the themes in each other's books and bought them to read. The moment I finished his book, I was blown away. It was wild that we were both traveling down that similar road towards publication (in the same month of 2011) on opposite sides of the US. We created this tribe on twitter of some really amazingly supportive people. We'd tweet about each other's books. We'd write private emails and lean on each other's shoulders. And Kergan came up with the idea to pitch our shared stories to The Advocate. That story led to many others so he and I started changing up our talks and ended up in other outlets. He's a great person and I'm glad we've had the chance to share this journey together.
C&C: Do you attribute your love of performing, producing and writing to anyone in your childhood? Does anyone stand out as your mentor?
GGA: My mom could make up stories as a child (which she says she got from her grandfather) and I'm sure I got that knack from them. Must be in the blood. But performing was something I always loved to do. There were several teachers I've had along the way in my life who have been there encouraging and supporting me. It seems there was always someone there who believed in me and thought I could 'do it' - so I guess that was in my head that I could. (Now when they make my life story for a movie of the week, I'll need to change that story to make it more interesting, right? I need to have been told I was no good and could never amount to anything. Can I change my answer?!)
Absolutely not! I love to read about authors/artists being supported and encouraged by their respective loved ones. So often is the case when they have their dreams dashed.
C&C: With all the roles you juggle in your life, what do you do to relax? Do you like to cook, have a favourite wine (I know you have someone special to share it with), or perhaps spend your free time travelling?
GAA: My friends would laugh at this and tell you I don't know how to relax. My mom has said I always work best under pressure and have always preferred to have multiple things going on in my life. But I do stop and relax for vacation. My partner and I love to travel. We've been together for 12 years and we've taken road trips from NJ to Florida. Up to Montreal to Michigan…and love to spend time on Cape Cod. But there is only so many places you can go in a car, so we really love to cruise. Baltic Sea, Mediterranean Sea from Italy to Egypt and Israel - I've seen some amazing sites. Oh…and my drink of choice: a dirty vodka martini, extra dirty - no vermouth.
Great choice! I’ve been told I mix a mean vodka martini.Cheers!
C&C: Besides the 10 plus stage shows you have produced or written music for, what is your favourite play/musical of all time? Why? (Have I mentioned how wonderful Gregory’s show tunes are?)
GAA: That is so nice of you to have listened to my music! And as soon as I can, I plan to get them back up on my new site. (Oh the joy of a website crashing down and having to redo the entire thing.) As a kid, I would always say 'The Sound of Music'. I've seen it more times than I can count. I've played Friedrich and Rolf. But as I got older, it has changed. It gets harder to pick a favourite though I did get to see 'Carrie the musical' on Broadway (and then again when they re-vamped it this year). And I love the musical 'Next to Normal'. That one is right up my alley. All that angst! Just like the books I love to write.
Gregory has just been cast in the role of husband in the musical "Next To Normal" that will be on stage in October 2012
C&C: Your characters in ‘Patchwork of Me’ have incredible soul and depth, causing others as much as myself to identify and bond with each of them. Were they thought our in advance or did they take evolve as you told their story?
GGA: That really means so much to me! Thank you. It's important for me to have characters that people can relate to. That doesn't mean you'll always like them (some people find Hahn to be off putting and when you read Well With My Soul, you'll see why many hated Jacob). But I think that's more like real life. We're not always perfect and we change how we are depending on what friend we are around. I think about the essence of the person and then they evolve more as I get into writing. And then, during the re-write - I tweak them to fine tune who they became. I see pieces of myself in all my characters when I write. For Patchwork, I needed a gay male that would not be a stereotype, so the tech-geek, over-weight, could care less what he wore Matty was born.
C&C: Is there anything about you that hasn’t been asked in my or any prior interviews that you feel it is important to share with your readers? What makes Gregory G. Allen tick?
GGA: Hmmmm…..a free-for-all question. Haha Seriously (and those that follow me on twitter know this), I'm all about giving back whatever I've learned. The life of an Indie author isn't easy and I try to share as much through my blog with people that I can. We all make mistakes in life and if I can steer someone a different way, I have no problem sharing that. Actually…I enjoy it! Seeing people succeed is a big thing in my book. Encouraging friends who may be of a certain age and afraid to take a risk and try something new in life/career…I tell them to 'go for it!' I'd rather have tried and failed big time than to not attempt to do it in the first place. I recently blogged about my 1st year out in the published world. And while I could moan the fact that my book sales are not as big as Stephen Kings or Shades of Gray, when I look back on all I've accomplished: I have no complaints. And that right there will KEEP me ticking!
I would like to thank you Gregory, for allowing your readers and myself, a glimpse into your life. I have enjoyed our conversations by email and social networking and as a result feel like I’ve known you for years. You are truly an inspiration to people young and old to follow their dreams; they just might come true.
As a staunch supporter in HIV/AIDS and Autism awareness and activism I very much admire the man who Gregory Allen is. Take the time to visit his website http://www.gregory-g-allen.com/and follow the links to sites where you can show support for the causes by donating or sharing links on your social networking accounts.
You can also find Gregory Allen on FB: http://www.facebook.com/author.gregory.g.allen, and Twitter https://twitter.com/GregoryGAllen. You can read the Windy City Times article here: http://www.windycitymediagroup.com/lgbt/AIDS-Authors-write-about-HI....