Monday, March 26, 2012

Visionary, Editor, Writer, Storyteller -- Allan Gilbreath

Above all else, Allan Gilbreath is a storyteller, and a storyteller in the classic, dating back to the caveman days sense. For the lucky few who are able to hear the stories in person, their lives are changes simply by the listening. For the rest, Allan also (thankfully) writes stories down for posterity.

If you haven't read his work or caught him at a convention panel, you don't know what you're missing. But don't take my word for it. He gave us plenty of his own words in this interview.

Tell us a bit about your latest work.

My latest work is Allan Gilbreath: A Short Story Collection. I finally had the opportunity to gather years worth of my short stories under one cover. It is a bit eclectic with stories representing mysteries, steampunk, science fiction, humor, dark fantasy, and straight literature. It was a lot of fun to revisit the older works and have those “little flashbacks” to why I wrote them. It also inspired me to dust off a few older projects that have been waiting and get them rolling again.

What are the themes and subjects you tend to revisit in your work?

The supernatural keeps cropping up again and again. It is a topic that has always fascinated me. As a professional skeptic, I enjoy the fiction side of the imaginary world where there really are things that go bump in the night. As for as themes, I like writing characters that may be a bit older, wiser, cranky, or just plain tired. They have more depth and assumed back story to draw on. Youth and enthusiasm are nice and fun but age and treachery always win the day (or is that night).

What would be your dream project?

My dream project would be to carry one of my stories from creation to all aspects of production; book, e-book, audio book, then movie. I love all aspects of the multimedia process. Writing at the fundamental base of it is a solitary effort. A writer simply has to sit down alone and write. Once the draft is done, other people like editors and artists are involved. Each new version of a book involves new people and skill sets. It is fascinating to watch each level dissect and adapt your work.

If you have any former project to do over to make it better, which one would it be, and what would you do?

Actually, I got to update my first novel, Galen, a couple of years ago. While there weren’t many changes, it was nice to add a cell phone here and there and have the Internet be mentioned. There was also a small amount of editing back in a few scenes that had been removed years ago by other editors in the name of word count. I am still working on the last book in the trilogy and wanted to keep the same general scenery and gadget level in all three books.

What inspires you to write?

The sheer love of storytelling. Whether I am teaching a class, leading a seminar, or entertaining fans at a convention, there is nothing like the look in their eyes as you tell them the requested story that informs, entertains, or just good old fashioned cracks them up. I remember the feeling of wonder the first time I read books like Dracula and the Mysterious Island. The thought that someone out there in the world is reading something I wrote and losing themselves in my imagination is a powerful inspiration.

What writers have influenced your style and technique?

Jules Verne stole my imagination and led me around the world. Mark Twain taught me that humor was one of the most powerful forces on earth. Edgar Allan Poe showed me that everything had a darker side and that it was perfectly acceptable to explore where the whispers came from. However, it was T. H. White’s The Book of Merlin that pulled it all together for me. Heroes could have weaknesses and bad guys became that way for a reason. It was okay to explore something you feared and write about it. He also showed me that fiction could also be a social commentary and timeless.

Where would you rank writing on the "Is it an art or it is a science continuum?" Why?

I guess that I am going to rank right in the middle of the debate. Writing becomes an art after the science of learning your craft is at least an ongoing process. Writing like any other skill has basics that need to be learned before the real creativity can begin. Sadly, too many people today think that they are pounding out the great American novel and that if a publisher doesn’t understand the favor they are doing them by signing with them they will just pay to get published. The harsh reality is that even if they have a good story idea, their work is going to die a bad death. Once you have learned the basic skills of your craft, you can begin to become more and more creative. As you build up your body of work, your skills will sharpen and you will learn new and better ways to express yourself. The better you can express yourself, the more creative you can become; art and science in balance.

Any other upcoming projects you would like to plug?

I am planning on finishing the last of the Galen novels this year. The working copy name is Final Kiss and will feature Victorian style vampires, bounty hunters, and lots of getting bit. I am also working on a new Jack Lago mystery. Jack will have to confront another supernatural force and figure out the crime. There will also be another Inspector Peele/Duncan Essex steampunk story this year. Peele will handle the mystery and Duncan will handle the extraordinary gadget.

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