Interview with Gregory G. Allen, author of "Well With My Soul"
By Literal Exposure on November 04, 2011
About Gregory G. Allen
Gregory G. Allen moved from Texas to New York in the late 80s and has been in the entertainment business for over twenty years as an actor, director, producer, songwriter, playwright and author. He’s had over ten shows that he has written produced on stage, been the recipient of musical grants from BMI, ASCAP and the Watershed Foundation, and has had short stories and poetry published in Off The Rocks, Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal, The Oddville Press, Perpetual Magazine, Loch Raven Review, Word Catalyst Magazine, and Rancor’d Type.
He is a member of ASCAP, The Dramatist Guild, and the Theatre Communications Group. He now lives in the suburbs of New Jersey and for the past five years he’s managed an arts center on a college campus. Proud Pants: An Unconventional Memoir was published this summer and is available as a digital download on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. This is his first novel.
Could you please tell us a little about your book?
Well With My Soul is a book about choices we make in our lives and how it affects those around you. Told through the voices of two brothers (one straight and one gay), it follows them through fifteen years of their lives and deals with themes of religion, sexuality, addiction and ego. Choices deeply test the bonds of blood between these two as the book travels between Tennessee and New York.
Did something specific happen to prompt you to write this book?
I remember watching the story of Ted Haggard and all he went through and thinking “these high profile people in the closet must have a very tough life to stay hidden in such a way. What makes them live that life?” Those thoughts hung over me as I thought about self imposed homophobia that high profile people must go through and how ego/pride plays such a prominent role in choices they make. I was brought up Southern Baptist and writing a novel about religion and sexuality (set in the late 70s and 80s when our country was in a very different time) where I could show two sides to that story appealed to me. I enjoy taking readers to places they may not otherwise go and usually involve twists and turns they don’t always see coming.
What cause are you most passionate about and why?
I blog and write articles about so many different causes. Equality for all Americans has been a huge issue for me. Autism (because of my godson) shows itself in much of my writing.
In the last year have you learned or improved on any skills?
I come from a background of that of a playwright. So dialogue came easy for me. However, writing narrative was something I really had to work on. I feel the more I write (and read…reading is so important to me as a writer), the better I improve on that particular part of storytelling.
What are you currently working on?
When a book is finished, it is really just the beginning of the journey to get it into people’s hands. Marketing my novel, talking about it anywhere I can, book signings – all part of getting my name out there. I’m also working on some rewrites to my next novel due out in 2012 and I have a children’s picture book about autism out there looking for publication.
Do you have any advice for writers or readers?
One thing I would suggest to readers is the importance of reviews. If you read a book and enjoy it: help an author by writing a review on amazon, bn, goodreads. Readers really want to hear what others think of books. But my small caveat to that is to be sure and write what you like, dislike, how it made you feel and not a synopsis of the story. I have found (thanks to the internet where anyone can share their opinion), more and more ‘reviews’ have become a collection of major events in the story that can really spoil the experience for someone else. The publisher usually gives the rundown of how the want to assimilate the synopsis to the public, so I try and leave that in their hands. So by all means: please share your thoughts – but keep the authors original thoughts a surprise to the next reader.
Is there an author that inspired you to write?
When I read Running With Scissors by Augusten Burroughs, I knew I wanted to write a novel.
What are some of your long term goals?
World peace…oh wait, I thought I was a contestant in a beauty contest. ;-) I want to keep writing and tell stories. As an actor, director, producer and writer – I’ve always been a story teller at heart. Just with different mediums.
What do you feel sets this book apart from others in the same genre?
I have been trying for several years to get this book out. My editor (a twice published author by a major publishing house) told me it would be a tough sell because it is considered ‘literary fiction’ and people want genre. Luckily we have small presses willing to take chances. I think that brothers not seeing eye-to-eye may not be ‘original’, but this book has so many twists that it is bound to push some buttons in people. The gay community may get upset because my gay protagonist is not the most likable of characters. The religious community may be upset that a story about a minister is placed in the same book with sex in the bathroom at Studio 54. But I think those readers willing to take a journey will find a compelling story inside the pages. (As a side note: I am thrilled to have testimonials on my website from both clergy members as well as authors that have written amazing works in gay life that have both embraced this book.)
If you could go back and change one day, what would it be?
I live in NJ while my family lives in Texas. Christmas of 2002 I was going home on a Friday when my dad passed away a few days prior. I wish I could go back and have been there before he left. (But I know he’s very proud of all I’ve done the past 9 years.)
What is your favorite past-time?
When not writing or reading, I love to go to the theatre (and occasionally blog reviews about those shows). But to truly escape: nothing beats a great cruise to me. I’ve done the Baltic Sea and the Mediterranean Sea and both trips were amazing.
Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
Thanks so much for having me here and allowing me to share a little more about my writing…and about me!
About Well With My Soul
Well with My Soul introduces two brothers who, although close in childhood, have drifted away from each other and closed the door to engagement and emotional connection. The older brother, Jacob, flees his small Tennessee hometown to seek a new life in New York, where he imagines he will overcome his self-hatred and growing sexuality as a homosexual. The younger brother, Noah, stays behind and feels trapped by his role as caretaker for his aging mother. As they grow apart, both brothers go through a series of traumatic events that irrevocably alter their lives: while Noah, shackled by familial duties, finds courage in the sorrow of the past, Jacob’s frenzied search for freedom leads him into a labyrinth of fear and doubt which alienates him from his true identity and wreaks havoc in the lives of those closest to him. Covering the wild times of the 1970s and the restraint of the Reagan years and told through the perspective of both brothers, Well with My Soulis about the families we inherit and the families we build. It is an unflinching exploration of the way that we deal with what most unsettles us, at times using it for the highest form of inspiration, and at other times letting it confine us in previously unimaginable ways.
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