Blog Tour: Interview with Roland Allnach, author of ‘Oddities & Entities’
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.
Q: Thank you so much for this interview, Roland! Can you tell us where you are from?
I’m from a little town called Kings Park, on Long Island, New York. It was a quiet place to grow up, but an interesting place as well. The town is near the water, something near and dear to me, and there’s a vast tract of land occupied by an old state mental hospital. I remember riding dirt bikes in the woods, soccer practices on one of the hospital fields while some of the patients watched us do our drills, and many days down by the water. I’m sure on several levels of my subconscious such things foster some of the aspects of my writing, and that’s fine by me. Setting is important to me when I craft a story, because I know that my personal setting has helped contribute to who I am.
Q: How did you come up with your title?
I wanted something that not only gave a clear indication of the book’s content, but also had a bit of a musical ring, because there is a recurring theme of people trying to achieve harmony with strange aspects of their lives. Hence the title, Oddities & Entities. It seems to be working pretty well, because it tends to raise eyebrows when I mention the title or people look at the book.
Q: They say you can judge a book by its cover. Can you tell us a little about your cover and who designed it?
My original cover design focused on the consideration that the book deals with unseen aspects of stranger realities pushing into and intersecting with the everyday reality we share, grounded in varying interpretations of a Naturalist theme. As such I envisioned a moonlit vista of trees surrounding a body of water with a reflection of the moon. Deb Harris, of All Things That Matter Press (my publisher), came back with a simpler design of waves coming ashore, lit by twilight, with the title overhead in white text. It’s a simpler design, but it has more impact, and I think the more open image does a better job of reflecting the isolation of some of the book’s characters.
Q: Can you tell us something about your book that would make me run out and buy it?
Okay, let me switch gears into pitch mode. Oddities & Entities is a multi-award winning anthology of six stories straddling the paranormal, supernatural, horror, and speculative genres. If you want to have your senses jarred, and learn that there’s more to the world than flesh and bone, this book is for you.
Q: Are there any messages in this book that you want the reader to know about?
As an anthology, Oddities & Entities gave me the opportunity to explore a variety of themes over the course of six different stories, forming a mosaic that as a whole transcends its individual parts. I portrayed characters that are just outside normal society, so that their outlook not only allows strange things to push into their lives, but allows them to observe common notions of morality from a distance, and so redefine them in new contexts. This arc sits atop an evolving theme of Naturalism, that not only do the characters find themselves having to define their place in existence by relative shifts in philosophy, but find their place in the greater balance of the natural world to find a sense of peace.
Q: What was your most favorite chapter to write and why?
Instead of chapters, Oddities & Entities is composed of six individual stories. Each story has a special moment for me as they build to their individual moments of climax, but, if I had to pick one story’s arc, it would be the surreal journey of “Elmer Phelps”, the fifth story of the book. I find it to be the most intimate of the six stories for the nature of its small town constriction. At the same time, it takes many conventions of common morality and turns them inside out and upside down, around a young man who’s just trying to figure out his place in the world.
Q: Why did you feel you had to write this book?
There’s a line from a story I wrote that’s part of the book, the same line that appears on the book’s back cover: “There’s more to this world than flesh and bone.” The more I thought about that consideration, the more I found myself taking it into different, perhaps more surreal, territories. As the stories evolved and came together, I was driven to look back through the various character arcs at the so-called rules of our society, and using those disenfranchised perspectives to reconsider our standards. It’s not meant as a criticism, or that we should abandon such standards, but more to illustrate how people can adjust interpretations of such standards to justify almost anything, no matter how shocking or strange.
Q: Now, some fun questions – What deep dark secret would you like to share with us?
A deep dark secret? I have it right on the dedication page of the book: ‘To all the little voices.’ Those would be all the voices of my characters, wandering around in my head. I hear them day and night, without tire. Sometimes it would be nice to have things quiet in my head, but without those voices I don’t think I’d have any stories to write. I know how kooky all this might sound, and maybe there’s a program of therapy sessions in my future, but letting my thoughts run in those other voices is actually quite soothing.
Q: If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
I would like to see the Holy Lands. No matter what one thinks about religion or spirituality, no one can deny the historical impact of that region, and its continuing impact on humanity, with its incredible history of intersecting peoples, religions, and cultures. There aren’t too many places on the planet that hold just as much sway on the human condition today as they did three thousand plus years ago.
Q: Are you a morning person or a night person?
I’d have to say choice ‘C’, none of the above. After twenty years of night shift work, morning and night have little meaning anymore. There’s the waking me and the not-so-waking me, which probably translates more accurately to the pleasant me and the grumpy me. Which matches with which is something I’ll leave up to others to interpret.
Q: Are there any members in your family who also like to write?
So far, it looks like I’m the only one. However, there is a rich tradition of creativity running through my family. I had the good fortune of growing up with relatives who were free thinkers, and even though agreement wasn’t always present, I learned to realize that it’s okay to disagree with someone, but you still have to consider the grounds upon which that person has founded his or her viewpoint. As the old saying goes, there are always two sides to a story. I would add to that by saying that there are at least two sides.
Q: As a child, were you a dreamer?
Always, even though my dreams were not the best company. I was a regular day-dreamer, though, which used to fuel most of my artwork while growing up. Whereas my sleeping dreams were often dark and anarchic, my day-dreams had a semblance of control to them, making them more enjoyable. Not much has changed over the years, but that’s okay, because a fair number of story ideas have popped out of both dreams and day-dreams.
Q: Last but not least, the magic genie has granted you one wish. What would that be?
In terms of my writing, it would be to see one of my stories make its way into a film adaptation. I know that’s probably a bit of a cliché wish, but it’s something that beckons to me because my writing process is very visual, and I take effort to relay the impact of image, and the composition of image, in my prose. To have those inner visions successfully translate through my writing and the imaginative lens of other people to a physical image would not only satisfy me but also fulfill a creative aspiration.
Q: Thank you so much for this interview! Do you have any final words?
And I would like to thank you for allowing me the space to chat. In closing, I would say that I’m aware of the number choices available to readers, and that I’m aware I’m only one more voice to consider. So I’d like to invite readers to sample some of my writing and give them the opportunity to see if it’s a good fit to their reading tastes. At my website, rolandallnach.com, all of my published short stories are available for reading, along with excerpts of my books. Drop by, have a gander, and enjoy!