Interview with JK Allen, author of Angelborn

Today, I am thrilled and honored to interview JK Allen, author of Angelborn, a YA Urban Fantasy novel whose recent review I wrote earlier in the week. Here’s the quoted summary, or blurb, found on the back of Angelborn:

High school is all about boy meets girl, girl gets demon mark, and girl finds out she’s half-angel. At least that’s how it is for Ginny Gracehurst.
Sixteen year olds have a lot going on in their lives, and Ginny is no exception. Grades, homework, pimples, oh and now the sudden appearance of a demon mark. And discovering her father, who she thought was dead, is actually the great angel Grace. Who is very much alive.

With unforeseen powers growing, she has to figure out who she really is. While also staying out of the reach of a powerful half demon who is hell-bent on bending her to his will. The Alliance, an organization that is supposed to help people like her, is threatened by her potential gifts. They are more invested in their own hierarchy than in upholding their divine mandate. It’s up to her and a new friend, Aiden, to protect not just herself, but the ones she loves.

Angelborn releases September 27th. You can get your copy at Amazon.

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Me: What’s the story behind Angelborn? How did the concept of your series come to you? Do you feel—if you’ll forgive me my cheesiness for asking—divinely inspired?

Allen: I was reading a certain depiction of an angel as cold and very hostile to a human and it just made me think about how angels would be compassionate and what would happen if an angel fell in love with humanity instead. Then I got the idea of Ginny and the story grew from there. I was definitely inspired to write Angelborn. It just flowed from me once I sat down to tell the story.

Me: Why write about angels and demons? How did you come to be so passionate about the themes of good vs evil?

Allen: A big theme in this series is doing what’s right. I don’t view it as simply good versus evil. But rather the strength found in ordinary people. That’s an important concept for me in my writing and comes up again and again.

Me: Tell me a little about yourself. I met you through some FB writing groups and know how awesome you are, but I’m curious to know the woman behind the book. What called you to be a writer and how old were you then?

Allen: I wrote my first story the day after I learned to write. I learned to write and thought to myself, “what now?” So I wrote a fairy tale. I have never stopped writing since. Stories, poems, song lyrics, anything and everything. I loved writing and reading so much. It was a very essential part of me. But I never considered wanting to be a writer until I got to college and discovered I could major in Creative Writing. Then and there I decided that I was going to become an author.

Me: You are also a poet whose work appears in OWS Primal Elements. You even studied poetry in college. What was that like? I feel like your poetry affects your writing, giving your language vivid imagery. Do you have any other hobbies that you feel influence your work? (Like TV shows or music genres.)

Allen: I love poetry, it holds a very special place in my heart. And I really do recommend that writers of fiction and nonfiction practice writing poetry. It teaches you writing great and evocative descriptions and also a conciseness of language that prose often doesn’t. You have only so many words to make an impact on your reader and that is valuable in any form of writing. As far as hobbies that influence me, I do watch shows and movies and read books in other genres to see how to incorporate the strengths of those genres in my writing. The pacing of action or thrillers, the world building of fantasy and sci-fi, the character development of the classics. All of these different genres can teach you different aspects of craft.

Me: How are you like the main character Ginny Gracehurst and in what ways are you different?

Allen: Ginny gets aspects of her personality from me. That tendency to be more of an introvert and to feel awkward socially. She also has my hobbies. I dabble in art and find great enjoyment with it, but I don’t pursue it professionally, and she feels much the same about it as I do. Pat and her mom are the true artists, she just tags along and has fun. We are different though. A lot of that comes with time and experience, however. She’s young and still figuring out who she is and what she’s capable of. I try to remember what that’s like as I write.

Me: Is the character Aiden, Ginny’s love interest, a guy a teenage you might date? What blend of fictional (and/or real) people might have inspired the creation of Aiden?

Allen: I adore Aiden. He does what he believes is right and not what’s easy. And he’s compassionate. I don’t know that he’s based on anyone, but he does embody some traits and values I really look up to in people.

Me: What kind of books do you like to get snuggly with? Is there any subject matter or theme that puts you off or just isn’t for you?

Allen: I love so many different genres from Jane Austen to JK Rowling. Fantasy and the classics are always a favorite, depending on what kind of escape I’m looking for. One genre I really don’t read is westerns. It’s just not my style and the tropes don’t appeal to me. I also hate James Bond. But that’s for how women are portrayed and how they are treated in the books.

Me: Where do you see yourself going in the future as an author? Will you turn to other genres? Write more short stories?

Allen: I like to dabble in other genres. I find horror particularly fun to write. But I always seem to go back to YA and fantasy. Magic plays a big part in a lot of my stories. But I do like writing short stories. I’d love to publish some in a collection or as a novella or novelette.

Me: For my aspiring author friends, I have to ask, did you struggle in particular through any aspect of writing this novel? Obviously writing a book is hard business but was any of it harder than the rest? What was the easiest part, if any?

Allen: I would say the thing that surprised me about this novel is that I rewrote it entirely. The first version of the story I wrote was completely different than what it turned out to be as far as a lot of the plot and characters. But this was the first novel I really changed my writing process for. I plotted before I wrote the final version and really figured out my story before sitting down to write. It made all the difference as I finally finished a book. The hardest part of the process for me is editing. I love editing other people’s stories, but I have a much harder time with my own.

Me: Any favorite scenes or excerpts you’d like to tease us with today?

Allen: Here are some excerpts.

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JK Allen received her BA in Creative Writing and English from Michigan State University. She wrote her first story when she first learned how to write and hasn’t looked back since. Common writing themes that can be found in her work address identity, everyday magic, and the type of strength that can be found in ordinary people. Several of her short stories and four poems are featured in anthologies, and Angelborn is her debut novel. She is currently working on the trilogy as well as several shorts, while researching for a new series in the works. Her reading tastes are as varied as the genres she enjoys writing, from Jane Austen to J.K. Rowling. When she’s not writing, you can find her painting, drawing, or lost in another world between the pages of a book. Or on Facebook.

JK Allen Headshot 1

You can Follow JK Allen on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, blog, and her Amazon author’s page.

Instagram: www.instagram.com/hijinkswriter

Facebook: www.facebook.com/hijinkswriter

Twitter: www.twitter.com/hijinkswriter

Website: hijinksblog.wordpress.com

Amazon: amazon.com/author/jkallen

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Angelborn is Definitely My Bag

Do you know those moments when you’re just sitting around, casually eating potato chips only to find yourself staring with dismay into an empty bag? That accurately describes how I feel upon finishing Angelborn by JK Allen. A tasty treat from start to finish, I am shaking the bag for loose crumbs and licking my fingers.

What do I love about it?

It’s fast paced, for starters. The book starts with a punch and ends with a boss fight that is equal parts brawns and brains. It’s about a lonely sixteen year old girl, Ginny, who not only discovers she’s half angel (hence the title of the book, Angelborn) but that the father she long thought was dead is actually alive. Marked by a delicious villain named Jacob who wants to recruit her—willing or no—to his evil plans, she often gets into these fight or flight scenarios.

I really feel like I can relate with Ginny. She comes across as a believable teenager, complete with a dash of angst. Though insecure and slightly withdrawn, she’s reliable, loyal, and, in a pinch, will throw down both metaphorically and literally for those she cares about.

There are some anxiety-induced, stomach-churning suspense going on in this debut novel, too. Don’t let its young adult category fool you. I sped through its pages because I had to make sure the characters made it out okay and only breathed when I discovered the answer. I’ve also laughed, cheered, and even cussed a few times.

Overall, this story left me with a very triumphant and satisfactory feeling. If you yearn for a good, fun romp of adventure, then check out Angelborn. It’s—dare I say it?—heavenly. Let me close by saying it’s all that and a bag of chips.

Angelborn releases September 27th. You can get your copy here.

 

On Reacquainting Yourself With Old Characters

I’m struggling today. I finally made it to book three of my series and ughhh I am dragging ass like you wouldn’t believe. Part of the problem lies in the fact that I’m revisiting old characters from book one, The Huntress of Rosefell Hall, and my main character has had an adventure away from them, doing her own thing, growing as a person, etc. So now that I reunite her with old friends and one antagonist, I fear I’ve lost the voices of these old characters.

Has this happened to you? Here’s what I do.

I reread bits of their dialogue and mannerisms from book one and take note of any verbal tics they might have, pauses in their speech, facial expressions, and bodily poses. Does a character walk with a swagger or has a crooked smile? Time to remember to include those words again to trigger both my memory and that of my audience.

I listen to my old playlists. For one character in particular, I listen to Leonard Cohen to capture that deeply brooding, sexual tone. Or I associate certain songs with how they relate to scenes from book one. Some of them express exactly how the main character felt about this old acquaintance.

Lastly, I try not to stress about it. Characters, even when you don’t write about them, evolve behind the scenes as they do their own thing away from the main character. Suffice to say, if they’ve changed, good. It shows the passage of time and how they progress in it.

The key thing for me to remember is to get something down in the first draft. I can always polish it up later–but only if I have something written. Well, I’ve procrastinated enough as is with this little detour. Time for me to go back and “do the thing.” Hopefully, by getting this off my chest, I can return to writing my novel with a little more confidence. And, if by sharing my woes, I help others gain confidence, too, all the better.

I Know They Say Not to Do This, But I’m Doing it Anyway

I’ve heard it said that you shouldn’t write out your whole series before publishing your first book. This advice came from a well-respected literary agent. I see her point of view. She’s speaking from a marketing angle and that makes sense. You don’t know how well that first book will sell and it may just be a better idea to spend your time and energy elsewhere. If you can’t sell your first book, the others are dead too. Everything relies on that first novel sale.

HOWEVER, speaking as one who is an avid “pantser,” meaning I seldom outline and if I do, they’re random thoughts that I have in the back of my head that may or may not become utterly changed by the time I set to typing it out, I choose to do the exact opposite.

Why?

Because from a creative standpoint, I need to know what happens. I learn more about my characters and the world I’ve invented as I go along. I can clear up any discrepancies of plot and smooth over actions or reactions that seem out of character from my characters. So much is cause and effect, even when you write seemingly “standalone” novels. If you have characters that span the course of several novels, they, too, have a story arc in how they evolve or devolve, REVOLVING around your main character. It makes sense for me to write out the series as a whole before I begin to market book one.

Perhaps “pantsing” it all out is just my way of writing an extremely detailed outline. This is how I outline: by jotting it all out and going back and adding in extra scenes where needed, or revising. I polish it in, giving the narrative another layer of depth with each editing pass. We all have our ways of telling our stories, don’t we? Well, this is mine. Either I truly suck at outlining or that by being a pantser, I’ve accidentally created the outline of outlines simply by writing it all out.

I try not to worry too much about what other people are doing or even what is fashionable. I think the most important thing is to find out what works best for you and to do that. Above all, one should always be writing and not get too caught up in what you should or should not do. Unless we’re talking grammar. Do follow those rules or else, your editor is going to scowl at you and not just a little.

Understanding Japanese Cherry Blossoms

Our Write Side Ink has another call for poetry submissions that sent me scribbling away like mad lately. The theme? Flowers exploring femininity. Now, if you know me, I’m going to put a twist on that femininity because a. I’m female and b. I’m a feminist, but hey, life would be boring if we were all the same, right?  (Those of you interested in submitting can find the details here rather than Google for the link. You’re welcome.)

Anyway, I feel drawn to write about cherry blossoms in haiku form. Overdone, right? Yeah, I know, but I’ve never written one and even if it sucks, I’m determined to do this. So off I go on a researching binge to try to understand the Japanese love of the sakura.  In doing so, I’ve come across some cool tidbits I think your brain will eat up.

Cherry blossoms represent the fleeting beauty of life to the Japanese. In the Western world, we can look to Thomas Moore’s famous poem “The Last Rose of Summer” or “To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time” by poet Robert Herrick for a similar theme. For us, it’s roses; for the Japanese, it’s cherry blossoms. Further research into their culture and I learn that according to Japanese superstition, it’s bad luck to sleep facing north. Corpses are laid out facing north and that direction has long been associated with death.

Now, why is this important? Because blossoming starts first in Okinawa, in the southernmost part of Japan, and migrates north, hence symbolizing the transition of life to death. Using direction as a means of symbolism is hardly new. Think of how the sun rising in the east and setting in the west represents life and death, or even why so many westerns end with the cowboy riding off “into the sunset”. But for the Japanese instead of east to west, it’s south to north. NEAT, huh?

Well, that’s a thing you know now. And, as an added bonus, I will share this nugget I stumbled upon. In Japan, the number 42 “sounds like shini (死に – to death)”. Anyone who’s read Douglas Adams’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy knows the answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything is 42. Ergo, I submit onto you that life equals death. There you go. Your afternoon philosopher right there. (Unless you read this at night or in the morning. Time is relative, after all.)

That’s it for now. Until next time, hugs and kisses, bye!

 

 

 

 

OK, I Don’t Mean to Be Paranoid, but…

So, late last night, I couldn’t sleep. My brain kept talking to me and wouldn’t shut up and I decide the best way to deal with this is to go check my email. Because naturally when you’ve got a billion thoughts racing through your head with to-do lists, the first thing you want to do is see if any of the literary agents you queried wrote you back so you can torment yourself with rejection or make up reasons as to why they haven’t gotten back to you.

And what should I see but two emails in my inbox from a publishing company. We’ll call them Dingleberry Press, for the sake of  this narrative and to keep me from being sued. If here actually is a Dingleberry Press out there, my apologies and I will rename them Cocky-Dingle Dalliance Publishing. Anyway, this company is saying they recently saw that my Huntress of Rosefell Hall had been registered with the Library of Congress and they want to talk to me about publication? Now, they have one of these names that’s hugely popular and in my half-awake state, I’m thinking, “I’ve  heard of this company before. Could this be the answer to all my prayers?”

The answer is a resounding NO. So if, like me, you’re tired and not thinking straight or if, like me from many years ago, you’re new, let me enlighten you as to why.

First of all, THIS ISN’T HOW LEGIT PUBLISHING COMPANIES WORK. You query–with or without an agent, depending on their guidelines, and they either approve or reject. Imagine you’re a publishing company. Do you really have time to send out this message–twice–to someone who randomly finished a book just because they finished the book? You have no idea what the book is even about, but you want to read it? How many just finished books by new authors are out there? How many people are on your staff available to read it? Mhm. You see what I mean, don’t you?

And so, I get a red flag that this is a vanity press. I quick Google search confirms my suspicions. Vanity presses will publish just about anyone. They either make their money by charging you to publish your own book or they publish you on faith that your friends will want a copy. That’s how they work and if you’re okay with that, I won’t throw too many stones at you. I’ve been there myself. The lure of publication calls, everything sounds so good, and your knees buckle under the weight of your dreams. I get it. And not to bash on vanity presses, but they’re not for me and my broke ass. For those with the monetary means and little patience, maybe this is the route for them. To each their own.

BUT WHAT IS DISCONCERTING is that they have someone on their staff lurking outside the copyright office to see who published a manuscript recently and I am NOT okay with this. So secondly, they’ve invaded my privacy and managed to somehow get my email account and email me. This smacks of gangster racketeering. “That’s an awfully nice book you’ve got there. Be a shame if something happened to it.” What. The. Hell.

Anyway, I want to get out this message: getting published is a lot like landing any other job. Doing things like PitMad or writing contests, you put yourself out there in a similar way to posting your resume online. Or maybe you’ll meet your literary agent or publisher at a writing convention much like at a job fair. Or you know a friend of a friend and came highly recommended. Bottom line is, you’re going to have to put yourself out there. People don’t come knocking on your door unless they want to sell you something; they don’t come to your home hoping to buy something you’ve not listed as for sale. Not unless they’re really creepy. And if they are, run. Run very far away.

Primal Elements Release Party is Friday…

…and you are all cordially invited to attend. That’s right, grab your phones and computers and join us for the most spectacular, rowdy, festive debauchery you can have with words since AOL chat rooms. (Well,  okay, that last part might be a bit of an exaggeration since we try to keep things PG-13, but I sparked your interest a little, didn’t I? Please tell me I did. If I didn’t, you’re probably too young to remember AOL chat rooms and therefore the PG-13 rating is necessary!) Anyhoo, here’s your personal invite.

And I just found this out so, be sure to JOIN our Facebook group for this event so you can Like and Comment. (I don’t know why Facebook is like this; blame Facebook, not us. We just wanted to throw  a nice party but Facebook’s making sure we didn’t kidnap anyone for our event … or something. And we’re like, dammit, we’re poets, not kidnappers, but whatever.)

Anyway, I am going to be there and I am HOSTING for at least an hour (or as long as I can before admin grab’s the old shepherd’s hook and yanks me off-stage). I go on at 6pm EST but I should be trolling–I mean, commenting–on the other poet’s posts all day long. So come sit next to me and I’ll save you a Jack and Coke. Many kisses, hugs, etc.

Excerpts from Primal Elements

First of all, let me gush about how there’s a book trailer with MY NAME IN IT and I’m bouncing up and down, clapping in glee. If you’ve never seen your name in an advertisement before, it’s tremendous. I love the feeling of my writing career moving forward and this, my dear friends, feels like a huge milestone. But even if this wasn’t so personal for me, you should check out the video below because it’s absolutely amazing. I love everything from the images, to the melancholic yet reflective music, to the fantastic blurb of the trailer. (Video by the incredibly talented Amanda Mabry; blurb captured perfectly by the incomparable JK Allen.) Here it is for your viewing pleasure.

Now, if you’ve followed my blog for a bit, you’re not unfamiliar with my poetic style. But maybe like me, you wonder what are the other poets like in this fine compilation? While I obviously can’t show you the entirety of the poems, I can tease you with a few fragmented lines. Oh, and as an added bonus, they come with pictures!

Ynes She Who Hears the Gods Quote smaller

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Stacy Chinook Quote

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And that’s just a small piece of the puzzle, my dears. Can you imagine experiencing these poems in their entirety? I can’t wait. This is going to be one phenomenal mind-trip and I hope you’ll join me for this exciting journey.

Come book your page-turning vacation here for only $2.99.  And don’t forget Primal Elements’s release party is this Friday, June 15th. Want a chance to chat with me? I’ll be there and here’s your invitation to join us. (Please join our Facebook group in order to Like and Comment at the party. ) See you then! XOXO

Free Short Stories to Celebrate the Release of Primal Elements

I’m so excited about Primal Elements, the new poetry anthology by Our Write Side Ink, that I’m giving away all nine of my short stories for FREE on Amazon June 11th to June 15th. That’s right–download to your heart’s content here and then be sure to pre-order a copy of PRIMAL ELEMENTS at its discounted rate of $2.99.

Do you like reading and/or writing poetry? Then, please, won’t you join us for our OWS Primal Elements Release Party June 15th? We’d love to meet and chat with you and I promise you’ll have a fun time. (We’ll even let you come in quietly and lurk, if that’s your thing.)

Why am I so excited? This anthology goes through the different elements of fire, earth, air, water, and spirit for a truly unique journey through the senses. Meet the minds and hearts behind the poems. Here’s a sneak peek–a fragment–of my poetry that you’ll find in Primal Elements.

Rebecca In The End Quote (1)Rebecca Slow Burn Quote (1)Rebecca The Moon and the Sea Quote (1)

If you have any questions regarding the free giveaway, the pre-order of Primal Elements, or the release party, please be sure to leave me a comment below and I’ll get back to you quick as I can. Have an awesome day, everyone! XOXO