Monday, September 24, 2012

An Interview with Marian Allen

Marian Allen writes science fiction, fantasy, mystery, humor, horror, mainstream, and anything else she can wrestle into fixed form.
Allen has had stories in on-line and print publications, on coffee cans and the wall of an Indian restaurant in Louisville, Kentucky.
Allen is a member of Quills and Quibbles and the Southern Indiana Writers Group, and is a regular contributor to SIW's annual anthology.

Buy it HERE!
I had the pleasure of meeting Marian Allen at Fanfest in Louisville, KY this past June, with a couple other ladies from the Southern Indiana Writers. I bought their anthology, Dragon: Our Tales and loved it! See my review HERE. The lucky Ms. Allen won an interview as part of my 20,000TH Hit Giveaway. From what I've read, she has quite the knack for words, so let's interrogate a few choice ones out of her, shall we?

Ms. Allen...where were you on the night of...oh, never mind. Just tell us about yourself. Where are you from? What do you do when you're not writing about real or symbolic dragons and other whimsical things?

I'm originally from Louisville, Kentucky, but now I live in Corydon, Indiana. When I'm not writing, I'm volunteering for, a group dedicated to non-violent problem solving and diversity education. Or I'm hanging out with the Grassroots Locavores, a group dedicated to eating fresh, organic, local foods. Or I'm cooking. Or I'm eating.

I very much enjoyed Dragon: Our Tales. You had two pieces in it: "Blossom On The Water" and "The Transformation". Tell us a little about what those entail and how your group chose which stories to include in the collection.

I'm so glad you liked that book! It's one of my favorites. Here's how our group anthologies work: We choose a theme, then try to write a story that fits that theme (or, more often, write a story that stretches the definition of that theme as far as it can stretch). We bring our stories in and read them, the group suggests edits, the writers do their own edits based on those suggestions, and satisfactorily edited stories go into the book. That year's theme was dragons; one writer had a ride at the fair called The Dragon, and another mentioned a decorative cloth with a dragon embroidered on it. "Blossom On The Water" has a story within the story about a dragon but, in my mind, the story within the story is also about Bud Blossom. "Transformation" is a poem about aging.

Buy it HERE!
You've also written personal anthologies (several of which you generously donated to the giveaway--thank you!). Can you give us the scoop on those and anything else you've published?

I was electronically published back in 1994, when electronic publishing meant people looked at books online but ordered them by mail. The books came on 5 1/4 floppy disks. The first two of those books were reissued by Echelon Press a few years ago, and may come out in new editions soon with another press which would also issue them in print. The personal collections of short stories were self-published. I write a LOT of short stories, so I just collected some that went together and put them out electronically. LONNIE, ME AND THE HOUND OF HELL and TURTLE FEATHERS feature stories sweet and/or strange about animals. THE KING OF CHEROKEE CREEK is all about Bud Blossom and people connected to him, plus a dragon story originally published in the final issue of Marion Zimmer Bradley's FANTASY Magazine. MA'S MONTHLY HOT FLASHES is a collection of micro-mini flash fiction.

Let's talk about the Southern Indiana Writers group. How many members are there, and how long have you been involved?

There are about 13 members, with around 10 coming to any given meeting. We've been together as a group for about 20 years; three of the current members, including me, are original members.

Several writers out there may be considering joining a writers' group. How often does your group meet, and what does a meeting typically include?

We meet every week, though most groups meet monthly. Some of us arrive early, so we can visit before the business starts. Then the moderator calls the meeting to order and we run through any business (where we are in the anthology process, signings and appearances we've scheduled or need to discuss scheduling, questions about craft or marketing). Prior to the meeting, the moderator has gotten a list by email of members who have work to present; now those members pass out copies of their work. Each reads while the rest of us follow along and make notes of corrections, questions, or suggestions. Then we discuss our notes on that piece, give our marked copies back to the writer, and go on to the next.

Our meetings last two hours, not counting socializing before and after.

Are there any fees, rules, or restrictions to joining your group?

We each kick in $1 a week, which adds up. It all goes to producing the anthologies or paying for tables at sales venues. We're strictly a not-for-profit group. Income from sales of the anthologies also goes back into the kitty.

The group has published several anthologies like "Dragon". How do you plan and put together one of those as a group? Do you also do other activities/projects, such as contests, retreats, etc?

Buy it HERE!
As I said, the group members choose a theme or genre. First drafts are due by the end of March. Final drafts are due by the end of May. Long-time member T. Lee Harris, who has a fine arts degree, is our project/art manager. Members Joy Kirchgessner and Ginny Fleming are also artists, though T and Joy have done most of the artwork in the books.

Every so often, we'll have a group outing to a restaurant, to celebrate one another's professional accomplishments. We did have a retreat once, which was a blast! I don't think the hotel told us not to come back....

We attend book fairs and other sales events. Some of us represent the group at speculative fiction conventions like Fandom Fest, Context, and Marcon, where we're on panels and do readings.

Random question time!! This one comes from a silly book my daughters love. Would you rather shoot confetti from your armpits or hot fudge from your ears?

Oh, definitely shoot confetti from my armpits! Hot fudge coming from my ears sounds messy and painful, but I'd forget about my upper-arm flab and go sleeveless if I could hike my elbow up over my head and make a fiesta.

Ms. Allen, would you be so kind as to share an excerpt of your work?

Love to! This is from SAGE, Book 1 - The Fall of Onagros, the fantasy due out soon from Hydra Publications. Since you like dragons, I'll give you a bit with a dragon in it.
     "Unload the cart. Put the kettle here, the box of stones here. Put the books on the ground, here and here."
     Andrin placed everything as she told him, the books forming a rough semi-circle around the empty cart and at some distance from it.
     "Now turn the cart over. Put it up against the stones with the kettle just inside it."
     Andrin found the cart as easy to up-end as it had been to pull – under his grandmother's eye.
     "Now you can rest."
     Andrin sat. The drowsy hen snuggled in a nest of weeds nearby.
     I'll wake in the ditch just outside of Kudasad and have to finish the journey all over. I wonder how much of what I'm dreaming will happen again by day.
     But when he woke, although the mist was gone and the sun was shining, he wasn't just outside of Kudasad and he had nothing to do again. He was out of sight of Fiddlewood River Road, on the bank of Fiddlewood River. Behind him was a semi-circular grove of ten trees – willow and fruit. Before him was a small cottage of wattle-and-daub with a stone chimney up one side.
     "My books. My casting pebbles. The cart."
     With a grassy shushing, the water dragon came around the corner of the house. Her feathery ruff and spine-crest riffled in the faint breeze.

Thank you so much for visiting Unwritten, Marian! I hope to see you in person again AND to read more of your fantastic stories!

Thanks, Misty! I'm looking forward to our next meeting, too. :)


  1. Nice interview ladies. It sparked me to find a writers group in my area, more heads indeed have to be better than just one. :0)

  2. Be careful about choosing and sticking with a writers group. A good group will:

    1) respect a variety of styles and genres (unless it's meant to be specific, like Christian Romance Writers)

    2) critique the writing, not the writer. The flip side is that members will take criticism as suggestions about the work, not as personal attacks.

    3) critique with the intent of making that piece in that writer's own personal voice as strong as it can be. If everything everyone in the group writes sounds like everything else everyone in that group writes, LEAVE THAT GROUP.

    Marian Allen
    Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

  3. 4) Groups might not be for you forever! That is okay. It is not a life-long blood pact.

    Great interview! MA is a terrific writer and a wonderful friend. I was a member of SIW and she's a fabulous catcher of funny-sounding phrases and other oo-boos, too. Ask her about the Flying Birdbath.

  4. Red, you have a good point in #4. A good group and a good writer might not be good FOR EACH OTHER. I really miss you in SIW, but I love it that we're all still friends.

    Oh, the Flying Birdbath. BirdBRAIN is more like it. lol!

    People, if you haven't read Red's TROLL OR DERBY, go get it!
    Troll Or Derby. You'll be glad you did. ~grin~

  5. You're right about writing groups, Red and Marian. The first one I tried wasn't a good fit for me, but I found the Louisville Romance Writers a few months ago and knew immediately they were keepers :) I do hope to read more of BOTH of you soon!


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