Roland 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.
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Q: Thank you for this interview, Roland. Can you tell us what your latest book, Oddities & Entities, is all about?
Oddities & Entities is an anthology spanning the horror, paranormal, supernatural, and speculative genres. Over the course of six stories the book follows characters that encounter realities beyond the everyday world, and so learn that there is more to life than flesh and bone.
Q: Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?
As an anthology, there are several casts of characters between the various stories, but they do share some common ground. In general they are outsiders, people living on the fringe of society, either by choice or by something beyond the norm in their existence. It is through their life as outsiders that they come to not only learn more about the everyday life from which they are somewhat estranged, but learn to redefine their own sense of morality and reality.
Q: Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?
For better or worse–depending on how one looks at the stories–all my characters are products of my imagination. To a certain extent, given that they are my creations, they are extensions of me, but I took great pains to develop them as whole, individual people.
Q: Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel, or do you discover it as you write?
As a general rule I start a story or book with a basic concept of where I wish to go, but it’s more a thematic guide than a strict outline. I know that some authors prefer to write following a rather detailed outline, but I prefer to let my characters craft the story, which I find a more organic process. One of my goals as an author, and one of my guiding philosophies for the writing process, is to create situations that feel real to my characters. After all, if situations don’t feel real to the characters, there’s no expectation that they will feel real to the reader. I believe it is this personal investment of the characters that allows readers to immerse themselves in a story.
Q: Your book is set in various fictional locations. Can you tell us why you didn’t choose a particular place or city?
Given the surreal nature of some of the events in Oddities & Entities, I chose not to fix the locales of the stories to actual cities or towns. I made efforts to impart a regional sense to the various settings, so that the locales are accessible, but I preferred to make my own locations when it came to specific references. This provided a great degree of creative freedom, allowing me to craft a setting just as I needed to blend with the story in question, so that plot, character, and setting combined in one thematic arc. I also wanted to impart a sense of dislocation to the book, given that the characters hover at the periphery of society.
Q: Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?
In specific terms, no, but in general terms, yes. All authors, I believe, are students of humanity, and one of the things I’ve concluded–or theorized–is that people are fashioned by their surroundings. With Oddities & Entities I wanted to experiment with shaking up perceptions of the world around my characters, so I worked with setting to provide a certain conceptual context to their world view. Whether it is water, snow, Florida, a California coastal town, a hospital morgue, or a mysterious jungle, I think these environments contain certain inherit symbolic subtexts. In the stories of Oddities & Entities, the characters often find themselves in positions where they are redefining their place in the world, based on where they are in the world.
Q: Open the book to page 69. What is happening?
Page 69 lands in the latter portion of the third story in Oddities & Entities, “My Other Me”, which follows a troubled student as he is driven from his body by an alternate, predatory personality. After some strange events he finds himself inhabiting the body of a young woman, and trying to reckon this change in his state of existence. On page 69, this lesson takes on philosophical subtleties not apparent earlier in his strange transition.
Q: Can you give us one of your best excerpts?
My favorite excerpt from the book comes in the opening of the second to last story, “Elmer Phelps”, and it goes like this:
“Common wisdom states the obvious truth that there is only one first impression, yet there is a subliminal truth of subtle wisdom that first impressions tinge all things that follow. An early memory, a dramatic moment, an indelible impression, such a thing can imprint itself on the subconscious lens of perception within one’s mind, haunting every whispered thought and inclination, lurking in every shadowy corner of dreams and nightmares, hovering over the daytime world as an unseen, and barely perceived, shadow. And even though that memory may have conscious form, the roots of its complexity can delve the deepest parts of awareness to the subconscious core of the mind, mingling with the firmament of self-perception until the two are inseparable, linked in an inescapable cycle of cause and effect.”
Q: Have you suffered from writer’s block and what do you do to get back on track?
I have to say that this really hasn’t been a problem for me. I find that what has proved to be very productive, at least for me, is to jot down any ideas I get for potential expansion to full stories. I keep these ‘story seeds’ handy on my netbook, and tap them when I have a matured character concept in my head that matches well with the story idea. If I find myself devoted to working with a particular idea, and the momentum just isn’t there, my solution is to meditate on the character at the story’s center. The more I consider the character’s motivations and composition, the easier it is to formulate the rest of the story. I find it more natural to let character fuel story, rather than have story propel character.
Q: What would you do with an extra hour today if you could do anything you wanted?
Oh, that’s an easy one. Without a doubt, if I had an extra hour, it would be spent writing. I have a do-it-yourself personality, and my parents filled my childhood with diverse interests and hobbies. Creativity has found its way into every aspect of my thoughts, but, as time has passed, I’ve found writing to be the most satisfying creative outlet. My wife and I have a little running joke for when I get grumpy, which consists of her telling me to go write something. So, yes, if I had an extra hour a day, nothing would make me happier than to retreat into my imagination, and write.
Q: Which already published book do you wish that you had written and why?
Now, that’s a tough one. I’m a big fan of classical literature, and, even though there’s more of it to read than I find the time to ingest, I look to classical literature as my author’s classroom. One of my aspirations as an author is to create works of literary quality in the tradition of those classics. In my opinion the most flattering compliment to any creative work is the ability of a work to endure, because works that endure say something timeless about what it means to be human. If I had to pick one book that ties everything together in scope of narrative, character, and substance, I think I’d go for Tolstoy’s War and Peace.
Q: What kind of advice would you give other fiction authors regarding getting their books out there?
In a word, persistence. The easiest thing to do is give up, and I think much of the publishing world is geared to separate the casual from the committed. I came into this very much from the outside, because even though I always loved to read and write, I never embarked to be a writer in my youth. I had to learn the editorial skills I’ve come to possess, and my understanding of the publishing world comes through long hours of research. Authors need to be persistent–almost ruthless–in making sure their books are the absolute best they can be. Be persistent in researching and submitting to publishers, and then, most of all, authors must, must, be persistent in marketing efforts. I learned that there is a built in sales figure for a book, and that figure is a big zero. Given the number of titles published every year, it is up to the author to champion his or her book, and make it stand out from the crowd. Be persistent in getting reputable market reviews; be persistent in submitting to contests in the quest of award recognition. Success is built in small steps, and it takes time.
Q: Thank you so much for this interview, Roland. We wish you much success!
And I thank you for the opportunity to chat, and for your well wishes. For readers looking for something different, take a trip out of the ordinary with Oddities & Entities. For the curious of mind, there’s plenty to explore at my website, rolandallnach.com, including free excerpts, along with my published short fiction.