Interview with Benjamin Allen

What is your e-reading device of choice?
I use whichever device is most handy, and for a variety of reasons. My phone has several e-reading programs so I can read while waiting my turn at the dentist, but if I'm at home and relaxing on the couch I'll use a Galaxy Tablet with a black backdrop and white print. The black backdrop somehow makes the experience more dramatic.

The other reason I like to use different devices is for quality assurance. I use a Kindle Paperwhite and Nook to check my own text to make sure there's no unsightly page bleeding mostly in the front and back matter. I want to see text in my books and from other books compressed and viewed from the average reader's eyes. What you see and like in other eBooks needs to be what you see in my eBooks.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
Figuring out what I like so I can release similar content through social media for people who think and feel like me has been the most effective marketing technique so far. It's been figuring out what's real to you guys without SELLING something to you. How many times have you heard about those special razors with the free offer, or the mattress that's going to change how you feel about a third of your life, or the underwear that's so smooth you don't even feel it? We're all tired of 20th century marketing and I believe it's a dying tactic.

My marketing technique is: "Hey, you like this? Me too, this place is great, right?" I want to buy things you like to buy, read books you want to read, invest in the podcasts and people who make a difference to you and everyone else. In doing that, you and I have a connection. I'm not some random person telling you my books will change your life, I'm a critical and very picky consumer that you can see very quickly isn't going to sell you junk because I don't buy junk. I don't think anyone's buying junk anymore.
Describe your desk
My desk has my monitor, keyboard, phone charger, fingernail clippers, and noise-cancelling headphones. My process begins with changing my glasses from my machine shop glasses to my clean and perfect lenses so I'm not distracted by the many scratches and lacquer stains on the glass. Once I've brought everything up and have my coffee ready, it's time to make things happen.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in Texas, but we lived in Louisiana, Arkansas, and Oklahoma leading up to my 3rd grade. I remember we lived in a giant bowl on a mountain in Oklahoma in the early '90's. When it would freeze in the winter, we wouldn't be able to drive up the 45 degree slope that was a quarter of a mile to the dirt road outside the bowl. My sister and I would walk through the forests surrounding the house and see Native American Indian graves throughout the prairies and hills that reminded me of Scotland in the early morning with the lingering mists hovering over the landscape. As a kid, that house and location wasn't nearly as creepy there as I feel like it would be now.

As you can probably imagine already from my descriptions it had a profound impact on my eventual writing. While I was going to school at Muldrow Elementary, I had a teacher named Mrs. Ford who didn't tell me I would be a writer, she promised me. I was in 2nd grade and was bullied by most of the students there and in the schools after, once we moved to Texas. To not only hear that I would be a writer one day, but retain that promise during the darkest moments of my life and know that no matter what job I hold or which job I lose, at the end of the day I'll still be a writer whether I like it or not—it carried me through. I've since lost contact with Mrs. Ford, but I think about her all the time and hope teachers realize how important it is to plant seeds in every student.
When did you first start writing?
That's a hard question because I wrote Terry the Ghost Catcher, a three page series about a pterodactyl that caught ghosts with glass jars when I was seven years old. I wouldn't necessarily say that's when I started writing. I was 13 when I outlined the concept for what would later be my Chronicles of Aallandranon series, a series that has been dedicated to making the world I created back then come to fruition. I still wouldn't say that's when I started writing.

I started writing regularly when I was fifteen. That's when I began a daily habit and realized that impossibly hard things could be done with daily incremental presses of effort. My first book was completed that year and it was a mess. It was, I want to say and I'm not bragging, 350 pages. That seems impressive, but it was 350 pages of characters not really knowing what to do, walking across cool looking scenery, and having an occasional awkwardly written battle.

Writing books takes practice. I've written a lot of really bad books. It wasn't until around the fifth or sixth book that things started to shape up and begin looking good. Even now, I read books from just a few years ago and see a lot of redundant text and unnecessary phrasing that's been concised naturally over the years of reading and studying the craft.
What's the story behind your latest book?
Uh-oh, that's a scary question.

I recently found myself at a crossroads after completing the 3-Day Novel Contest this year and finishing the third book in my Hell-Sword series—the first of which will be up for pre-order by the beginning of October. What I've learned when you hit a spot to take a breath is to look back and clean up all the messes you've made in order to have a clean desk. All my eBooks had been unpublished because they were in an atrocious state. I was writing novels and submitting to agents and publishers while working full time, researching on how to buy houses, and even as we speak I'm preparing to go to aviation school because I've got to know how to write how to fly planes.

So, I decided to launch my website and business amidst that chaos. What could go wrong? That meant cleaning up and re-releasing my eBooks. I also start my Apocalypse Theater Podcast in November. Yay! So, busy as I am, you're like "What's the story behind you're latest book?" and I get a deer in the head-lights look because as of now there's a ton of pre-orders and books that are ready for release, lots of podcast episodes in the mix, but novels—that will probably end up being Hell-Sword Book Four, which isn't set for production until probably February of next year.

That will be the longest period I've gone without writing a novel since I started writing—about four months of hiatus. But, like I said before: four months of hiatus to come back to a clean desk where I can pick up without interruptions or lingering concerns about unfinished projects. I'll take the peace of mind, thanks :D
What motivated you to become an indie author?
All the usual reasons authors give, but more recently because I had so many ideas that were getting bottlenecked by waiting for agents and publishers. When I write, it's to channel what's happening in my life. I rewrite and and rewrite a completed novel for six months after, but at a final revision that's been polished to perfection, I'm finished. I have other life events and frustrations to process—that NEED to be processed. New stories don't abandon me because they haven't been written, they keep knocking on the door.

After completing the third book in the Hell-Sword series, I realized it was tragedy that people hadn't read the first two novels. Each book is something I'd see in a movie or listen to from beginning to end because I'd just need to know what happened next. If it's something that I would love if it were made by someone else, I really think you'd love it too. So, at book 15, the puzzle is solved, the magic has happened, my podcast is getting strong: time to move on and let the world judge my works for what they are.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
When I was a kid, we only had one television. That meant if someone needed to watch TV, I couldn't play the Sega Genesis or Super Nintendo, I had to go outside. When I went outside, the worlds came to life. I was able to do everything from the video games and more. I experienced so many stories, but the only constant was that they needed to be better, bigger, more impressive. Awesome characters needed to have reasons for being awesome. I wanted to empathize with the enemy and see them with real motives for doing what they were doing.

Those stories began to fade at ten years old. For many wonderful years those vivid worlds kept me company, but eventually I went outside only to see the backyard and nothing more. I knew that there was the mud pit at the back where all the characters from the city said no one ever came back from. There were the giant trees that were like beanstalks that led to cloud worlds and mountains where magic swords were once commonplace. But I couldn't see it anymore. It was gone and reality was the only thing left. I went through a severe depression during my first three years of high school because it was like I'd lost a part of me that was so important it defined me. Who was I now if I couldn't be the hero anymore?

When you first start writing, it's frustrating because the words are all wrong, the ideas don't work, and the stories aren't what you wanted. The characters do things that are unexpected if you're true to the character in any kind of way. Why would they leave their home to go fight a dragon when everyone else had died in the process? Why would this hero be the hero to succeed and not become a skeleton burned to a crisp in the hallway of the dragon's lair? All of that bogs down the mind and makes you throw your hands up because what's the point if nothing is ever right?

But after a few books and a little satisfaction each time that brought me closer and closer to that feeling of being a kid and seeing those worlds begin to take shape and color, it gets stronger. It's now so strong that when I see an image in my head and hear epic music that goes along with it, I know it won't bomb, I know it won't be slow and boring, I know that each page will be more awesome than the last leading up to the big event and explosion because that's what this is all about. That's why you're here, and that's why I'm here.

That brings me joy. It brings me joy to make you feel what I felt when I was writing those words. I want you to stand up like I stood up and pace when you see the main character in danger, looking down the barrel into certain death. I want everything you read to be better and more entertaining than the last thing you read by me, and that is something I'm promising must happen because you're here and I'm here. We're going to see some epic stuff go down, and I'd better be just as surprised as you by the outcome. All of that brings me joy in the same way creating those worlds as a kid brought me joy.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
Life is short. Those stories hound me and beg to be written or told and I'm just the messenger. The idea that I might die and those stories would die with me is what terrifies me. My wife and I almost had a near death car accident not long ago. Afterward, I wondered what would happen if I had died and my family had to comb through my mess of works to see what was left. It made me realize that there was so much more work to do, that what's available isn't even 5% of what I have to give.

Only you can do the things you feel destined to do, and they don't happen during Netflix and chill, they don't happen at the bar or with spending hours hanging out with family in the evening, they don't happen tomorrow. At the end of the day, I can't sleep unless I know I did everything I could do to make tomorrow better than today.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I am a master restoration artist for brass instruments, mainly French Horns. I'm a terrible writer compared to my ability to fix French Horns. I don't know why I'm so good at this trade, but it's annoying.

Other than that, I spend time with my wife. If we get time we really love to travel. I'm getting to where I need to travel because better stories seem to come out when I listen to a new music album and see all the sights.
What is your writing process?
My writing process is to day-dream, to listen to music often, and to hear and read other stories. That sounds like very little writing, but it's step one. During that process, I write down my ideas in a notebook that I usually have with me. If I don't have the notebook, there's a notes app on my phone. After that, I don't do anything for a long time. Usually, an idea's first appearance sits on the shelf and gestates. Sometimes it will get absorbed into a different idea, sometimes it doesn't turn into anything at all—most times in fact. I've started and stopped so many stories that an idea has to reach a certain solidity to be ready to write. You never want to have to stop writing an idea.

Once it's no longer a concept, not just a what-if question, once it becomes a real thing with real characters and real events that are happening out of my control on the paper, that's when I know it's a solid story. I know I can or could start outlining and it will become a project that will eventually be complete.

I'm weird in the sense that I only outline to the limit of what I need to know. What does that mean? That means that I only outline to the juncture of what event happens next. That way I've outlined what I'm writing, but I retain the same surprise as to how things play out that you as the reader need. If I know every single part of the book I'm going to write to a T, it's not very interesting—at least, not in my experience.

It also depends on the project. For the 3-Day-Novel contest, outline the whole book. It's a done deal, you just gotta ride the bike down hill at that point because the 3-Day is an endurance run and you don't want to spend time contemplating the confines of the universe you've created because there's no time. There. Is. No. Time. You think you have time during the 3-Day. You don't. No time to sleep, eat, or chat, it's just grind, grind, grind and even then the product at the end is pretty questionable.

Why would you do that to yourself, you ask? Why not? Different stories need to be written for different reasons. I save the stories I have zero time to write for the 3-Day Novel Contest because they won't leave me alone otherwise. It's probably not fair to the people who have to read those stories because my style isn't even close to their style, but at the end of the day I have another novel finished and one less story to pester me. Can't put a price on that.

Back to the main question, once I finish writing a story, I close it and sit on it while working on something different. I never stop writing though, and I wouldn't recommend stopping to anyone who's interested in getting into writing. People who say you should take two week breaks after completing a novel aren't pushing themselves hard enough. You should at least switch to short fiction while you figure out what your next project is, but always be working on new content for whatever project you're working on. Otherwise, you'll think it's cool to play that video game, or binge that Netflix series. I'm not saying don't do those things, but don't do them at the cost of your writing habit.

After a month or so of getting away from that story and thinking it's full of farts that haven't been aired out in far too long, you go back to it and it's a totally different animal. It doesn't look like the pile of crap you sloshed through during the first draft. If you look at it immediately after writing it, you'll be constantly disappointed, and the editing nightmare that follows never ends. I don't know why, but that seems to be the way it goes for me.

Anyway, any more writing information and I'd need to write a book xD
Published 2018-09-25.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

The Chronicles of Aallandranon - Episode Five - The Kidnap of Marissa Narcuss
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 42,020. Language: English. Published: September 2, 2019. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Space opera, Fiction » Fantasy » Epic
After gaining the rank of ultimate champion, Jonathan Tabith is given the opportunity to use his powers to find the princess of Narcuss that has mysteriously gone missing. His quest takes him to the faraway land of Mecha Asche where he is taken hostage. Is this where Jonathan Tabith finally meets his end?
Apocalypse Theater Podcast Transcripts — Episode Nine: The Magic Kingdom
Price: Free! Words: 13,720. Language: English. Published: March 13, 2019. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Apocalyptic
After a difficult subway train ride, Thereza, Nadia, and Kayla find themselves in a post apocalyptic version of the Magic Kingdom. Trouble ensues.
The Chronicles of Aallandranon - Episode Four - The Siege Of Enigma Station
Price: Free! Words: 29,490. Language: English. Published: January 31, 2019. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Adventure
Jonathan Tabith continues fighting to survive upon the planet of Aallandranon as his fellow survivors must learn—the hard way—how to integrate into this new Aallandron society.
Apocalypse Theater Podcast Transcripts — Episode Seven: A Message Out Of Time
Price: Free! Words: 7,320. Language: English. Published: January 2, 2019. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Short stories
After a teenage girl's mind is possessed by a strange entity, she must deliver a message to the movers and shakers that will revolutionize the way humankind interacts with the universe.
Apocalypse Theater Podcast Transcripts — Episode Six: The Big Day
Price: Free! Words: 7,260. Language: English. Published: December 24, 2018. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Apocalyptic
Episode six of the ATP begins the story of three military brats as they navigate a post apocalyptic landscape resembling that of the United States.
Apocalypse Theater Podcast Transcripts — Episode Five: The House On Swanson's Landing
Price: Free! Words: 9,690. Language: English. Published: December 17, 2018. Categories: Fiction » Horror » Weird fiction
This week on episode five of the Apocalypse Theater Podcast, Acts One, Two, Three, and Four feature a lake house's hidden secret and the belongings of a serial killer that's gone missing. Three children stumble upon the nightmare waiting for them under the house. Its unsolved mysteries will haunt them long into adulthood.
Apocalypse Theater Podcast Transcripts — Episode Four: House of Horrors
Price: Free! Words: 6,220. Language: English. Published: December 10, 2018. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Epic, Fiction » Science fiction » Short stories
The ATP Transcripts for Episode Four. Act One: House of Horrors. Elgar King proves he's ready for psionic training by using his basic intuition to find a kidnapped young woman. Act Two is Jenna's terrible encounter with little green men with glowing red eyes.
Apocalypse Theater Podcast Transcripts — Episode Three: Facing Your Fears
Price: Free! Words: 6,430. Language: English. Published: December 3, 2018. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Dark, Fiction » Horror » Weird fiction
Episode Three of ATP. Act One: Nightmare on the Ben, Four boys, one monster. Act Two: Facing Your Fears. Is it worth digging deep into your psyche to find out why you habitually avoid looking into the mirror at night? Maybe those fears aren't so unfounded after all.
Apocalypse Theater Podcast Transcripts — Episode Two: The Mountain King
Price: Free! Words: 4,840. Language: English. Published: November 26, 2018. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Short stories, Fiction » Thriller & suspense » General
Episode Two of the ATP. Short stories The Mountain King and Assassin's Feed to keep you busy on that long commute.
Dreadnaut
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 73,670. Language: English. Published: June 11, 2019. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Epic, Fiction » Young adult or teen » Fantasy
If you would have told me two years ago that I would both seal a monstrous demon to the Hell-Sword and be the one called to answer to The Great Old One, Cthulhu, I'd think you were trying to sell me a time machine or something because that's amazing you'd be able to know that, and maybe I won't go to that school for psionic students because that sounds really... not simple, guys.... Yeah....
The Last Necromancer
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 88,410. Language: English. Published: October 23, 2018. Categories: Fiction » Young adult or teen » Fantasy
It’s true that I was recruited to hone my psychic abilities to curb the threads of entropy from leading the universe to destruction, but I neglected to mention a quest I accepted that caused the release of Ryptose the World Ender, and that I'm the only necromancer left who can use the Hell-Sword to stop him…once my friends and I fix it, which only requires a small suicide mission.
The Quasar Lite Novel
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 136,270. Language: English. Published: September 23, 2018. Categories: Fiction » Adventure » Action
Amber and Daniel find themselves trapped in another realm where giants walk the earth beneath a perpetual starry sky. Using the Quasar Lite Sport Aircraft, the two must find Amber's uncle and figure out how to restore peace and order to the realm before an ancient prophecy can come to fruition.
Apocalypse Theater Podcast Transcripts — Episode One: World of Glass
Price: Free! Words: 8,670. Language: English. Published: April 8, 2018. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » General
In Act One, Hector finds himself in a world made of glass after he and his partner are separated while scouting a tunnel they find under a house in Montebourg, France. Act Two features a nightmarish encounter with a black widow.
The Chronicles of Aallandranon - Episode Three - The Prodigy Effect
Price: Free! Words: 18,000. Language: English. Published: September 28, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Epic, Fiction » Science fiction » Adventure
After relentless difficulty with the Aallandron natives of the planet Aallandranon, Jonathan Tabith learns and develops new skills in order to adapt to the new world.
The Chronicles of Aallandranon - Episode Two - Stranded
Price: Free! Words: 18,580. Language: English. Published: September 9, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Epic, Fiction » Science fiction » Adventure
Jonathan Tabith has crash-landed the Star Ship Enigma on an unknown habitable planet. Now, Jonathan and the crew must find their place on this new planet that has no shortage of surprises for them.
The Chronicles of Aallandranon - Episode One - Ant-Lion
Price: Free! Words: 16,760. Language: English. Published: September 7, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Space opera, Fiction » Fantasy » Epic
Jonathan Tabith and his crew of 5,000 begin their venture into deep space aboard the Star Ship Enigma. As an anomaly rips their ship apart, the crew's survival hinges upon whether or not they can survive the journey to a nearby planet.
To Kill a Monster
Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 105,820. Language: English. Published: August 30, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Thriller & suspense » Crime thriller
What would you do for success? Would you kill for it? And if you did, would you be able to remain the same person afterward? Ted Jones is a lowly writer with a plan to murder one of the most talented pop artists in the industry in exchange for the notoriety that will propel him to legendary status. He needs only ten seconds of access to Lady Gaga in order to change his future–at the cost of hers.
The Insomniac
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 24,360. Language: English. Published: March 11, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Thriller & suspense » Crime thriller, Fiction » Thriller & suspense » General
Lucian Ward returns to his home town from college to find his sister brutally murdered by a mysterious unnamed crime syndicate that she had been investigating. He takes action into his own hands in this short novel.