The venerable John Paul Allen is currently toured to support an anthology he is proud to be a part of. Fresh Blood, Old Bones is a horror anthology published by Biting Dog Press and contains stories from great names in the genre as well as a number of authors that should be on your radar. Without further ado, I give you over to John…
In the Beginning
I’m asked from time to time how I got into the writing business and I think I’ve got an interesting tale to share. I’m not like most of those who do this. I read a lot of interviews and when the question, “When did you know you wanted to write” is asked more times than not the answer is pretty much the same. I’ve been writing since I was a kid, or something close to that – an answer that shares a lifelong goal. For me it was different. I didn’t dream of writing books and the itch never hit me until I was forty-eight.
In the early 80s I attended college at Central Michigan University and enrolled in a Creative Writing Poetry course. At the time I was a single dad to a four year old and one evening while he slept on the couch I watched a made-for-TV movie about the kidnapping of Adam Walsh (son of America’s Most Wanted John Walsh). When the movie ended I decided to write a poem for my class and typed:
The best time for me was just before the screaming stopped,
and their voices hit that pitch.
Twisted little limbs bending back and forth,
back and forth,
and all the blood
and the blue lips
and the begging for me to stop.
I love little children so very very much.
I got an A for it and went on with my life.
Twenty-five years later:
I was living in Humble, Texas (Houston area) working as the Assistant Wellness Instructor (fancy name for PE) at Quest High School – an alternative program. I was paid to watch kids play basketball or walk around the track, as I sat in a beach chair and read the daily edition of the Houston Chronicle. As part of the faculty, one of our responsibilities was to “earn points” each school year. This was done by enrolling in workshops, attending lectures or taking college classes. I signed up for a Monday night Creative Writing Fiction course at a local community college.
The first two weeks I turned in stories inspired by my experiences growing up in Michigan and my years in the navy. When week three rolled around I decided to write something different. By the time Monday came I still had nothing written so I went to the campus early and found an empty seat in the computer lab. For an hour I sat looking at a blank document and with an hour left before class I decided to take a walk around the building. Minutes later I was in a lounge where a couple of students were watching – America’s Most Wanted – and the poem I wrote years before came back to me. I rushed back to the computer and in less than an hour I wrote a five page short story (first person) of a guy sharing how he picked up children at elementary schools. Finishing it I hurried to class and was told that I would be the last to read.
When my turn came I stood in front of the class, read my story, and looked at my classmates. The only word spoken was, “Wow” from my instructor. When I got home I woke my wife and read it to her. She responded, “If I didn’t know you, I’d suggest therapy.” She went back to sleep and I got on my computer to search for email address of published writers. Without asking first, I sent my story to several and waited for feedback. One did write back. I’ll leave him unnamed (don’t want others sending him stories), a well-known horror writer who told me I should consider expanding my short into a longer work. I wrote back telling him I had no desire to write horror and only wanted comments about my writing. He responded: Rethink that.
I did and a week later began my first novel, Gifted Trust. During that time the writing class ended (Note: I didn’t pass it), I continued teaching at Quest and working on my novel during my off time. This went on several weeks until one morning while watching students walking around the school track. I was called to the office.
Entering the principal’s office I was asked to shut the door and upon sitting she slid a folder across her desk toward me and said, “Tell me about Gifted Trust.” I explained it was a book I was writing and she informed me that someone found my manuscript on my website, adding that the superintendent was not happy. We argued and I defended my off-work activities until she dismissed me back to my class.
The next day, while I was back outside near the track, I was summoned back to the principal’s office. This time she informed me that two detectives of the Humble Police Department wanted to speak to me about my writing. I checked out of the school, stopped at Wal-Mart to buy a small recorder and continued to the police station for the meeting. For three hours they played Good Cop-Bad Cop, told me I knew too much about child abductors, and finally gave in – they agreed that I was probably writing a novel and sent me on my way.
Note: At this time I only had one character – a child abductor, murderer – in my manuscript. I had not come up with the rest of the story.
The next day I was back at work and again called into the principal’s office. This time she was in a better mood – smiling – so I knew something was up. She informed me that I was correct. I couldn’t be fired for writing a book, but they could change my job description. For the rest of the school year I would stay outside where I could watch the cars in the parking lot. I still communicated with the students, but I had to remain outside. At the end of the school year I was informed that the district did not apply for the grant that paid my salary so I was out of a job. After the summer break I tried working as a substitute, but wasn’t permitted and never taught again.
What I did do though was write a book. I developed a tale that included a character named Ed who is a Living Well Instructor at Discovery, an alternative high school in Quinley, TX (near Houston). Ed has dreams of someone kidnapping and killing children and he writes about them on his website called Gifted Trust. One day he is called into the principal’s office where his job is threatened and a few days later he is sent to be interviewed by two detectives of the local police department.
A year after leaving Quest High School I had a contract for my first novel – a life I never planned on living. Oh and for the record – my first story was inspired by my life. It is not a copy of it. As the disclaimer goes – This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Note: I’d like to thank the following:
Free Book Dude for putting together this book tour and for all they’ve done to help writers promote their works. Check out their site.
Biting Dog Press/Publications who puts out some damn good stuff.
Meet Author John Paul Allen:
John Paul Allen describes himself as a semi-complete unknown. “I’m like a literary lounge singer,” he shares, “but thanks to social networking, digital technology and good people who believe in my work my readership is expanding. Author of Gifted Trust (novel), Monkey Love (novella), and Dark Blessings (short story collection). His short story, House Guest, has remained in the top 100 for Kindle horror twelve straight months. John recently took part in Fresh Blood Old Bones, an amazing collection of works by some of the best tenured and new writers in the horror genre.
Former Michigander, Eagle Scout, and fourteen year veteran of the U.S. Navy John Paul Allen has lived in Cuba (GTMO), Florida, Virginia, South Carolina, Texas and now resides in Tennessee where he spends time with his girlfriend and enjoys being Paw Paw to one-year-old Makenzie and his new granddaughter, Zoe.
Follow John on the Fresh Blood, Old Bones Tour from December 23 – 29. Read special guest posts, enter to win John’s entire Biting Dog Press digital library, read reviews of Fresh Blood, Old Bones and even listen in on a live podcast interview. For more information, check out the John Paul Allen Tour page from FreeBookDude.com and Biting Dog Press.
Fresh Blood, Old Bones Synopsis:
Fresh Blood, Old Bones showcases the work of new and established writers in horror, fantasy, and science fiction (with bizarre thrown in for good measure). Enjoy eighteen tales as true masters of the genre (including Joe R. Lansdale, Nancy Collins, and Neal Barrett Jr.) combine their talents with stories from up-and-comers (including Tim Bryant, Monica J. O’Rourke, John Paul Allen, and many others) in this unique and exciting anthology.
Thank you John! As they say, art imitates life.