Interview with Kara Allen

When did you first start writing and when did you decide to become a writer?
I've been writing since I was very young. I remember enjoying the writing tasks throughout my primary school years, and being disappointed by how few there were during high school, but I didn't really decide to pursue writing until fairly recently. Out of high school, I actually went to university to do Zoology. I got through a year of it before I left, but I stayed in the animal industry for a few years after that. I worked in a pet shop, I started a shorter course in Companion Animal Services, and I applied to study Veterinary Nursing. The Vet Nurse program was completely full for the unforeseen future, and it ended up a blessing in disguise because I had to stop and think about whether I wanted to wait or if there was something else I was more passionate about.

I reapplied to go to university, this time with a Criminology degree as my first preference and Creative Writing as my second, and at the last minute I changed my mind--why not just do a course that I know will be fun and see what my options are afterwards? So, with maybe a day or two left before my preferences would get locked in, I switched Creative Writing to my first and I got offered a place a few months later. I'm in my third year now, and it's been over the last couple of years that I've come to remember just how much I love writing so I decided to really pursue it.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I read a lot--novels, stuff by friends, non-fiction, all kinds of things. There aren't many genres I won't read; if it's good, it's good! I fell in love with (ice) hockey while I was in America in 2013, so I catch NHL games when I can. I also blog, both on my personal website, and one created by a friend of mine, called Not Your Average Damsels (NYAD for short).
What is your writing process?
For a start, I work very slowly! I tend to craft line by line, so I'll get stuck sometimes on each sentence, trying to decide the perfect way to write it. Sometimes whole paragraphs will come to me fully formed and I'll manage to get out a whole chunk at once, but it's less usual. I do find it frustrating, but it does help to cut down my editing process quite a bit.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
No, but I'm sure I've got it stashed in the attic somewhere! I do remember a short comic I made in primary school though. It was about this shop where the owner made a new ice sculpture to put in the window every week, and a boy who fell in love with the girl-shaped sculpture and rescued her. I think I wanted to have her come to life, but I must have abandoned it.
What are you working on next?
My next story is going to be a novella based on characters who feature in Life-Changers. I fell in love with Ryanne and Evgeny when I wrote their pieces, and most of the feedback has proved it shows because they seem to be most people's favourites so far. I'm currently doing research for it, but so far I know it will be set in 1990s Ireland with significant flashbacks to Evgeny and Vlad's lives in Soviet Russia and the POW camp they're put in during WWII. I'm really excited about this piece, and I'm hoping to have a significant chunk of my research done so I can start writing by the end of 2014.
What do you read for pleasure?
Like I've said, I'll read pretty much anything as long as it's well-written, but I do have a few favourite genres. They're fantasy, historical, crime, and literary. I do also read a fair bit of non-fiction. I'm fascinated by animal emotions & behaviour, so I have a lot of books on those topics, and I also have a little section of true crime on my bookshelf, which is mostly about serial killers. People seem to find that strange, but it's just so interesting!
Who are your favorite authors?
Markus Zusak, Jaclyn Moriarty, and Garth Nix. Hands down, no question. I buy everything they write and read it all over and over. They're such talented authors.
What are your five favorite books or series, and why?
Markus Zusak – The Book Thief. Markus Zusak has been one of my favourite authors for over a decade now. The first book of his I read was The Messenger, and I'm sure I took it out of the library at least five times over the course of the next few years before I could finally buy my own copy. I've loved everything he's written, but The Book Thief blew me away. I don't think I'll ever not cry my way through it.

Jonathan Safran Foer – Everything is Illuminated. I actually saw the film before I read the book, and it's an amazing adaptation, but as always, I prefer the book. I fell in love with the character of Alex from the first page; he's probably my favourite fictional character of all time. He's so complex and delightful, and the way he used English, as a second-language speaker, is frequently entertaining, often strikingly beautiful, and so convincing.

Jaclyn Moriarty – Ashbury/Brookfield series. Jaclyn Moriarty is the reason I love the epistolary form in fiction. The books in this series are told through letters, transcripts, emails, school assignments, etc, and her characters always come through vibrantly. You never need to be told who's perspective a section is from, because they are so distinct from each other. I love the way she uses limited POV as well; the events are pieced together slowly, with each character only sharing the part of it they know until the final part falls into place and suddenly everything becomes clear. I don't think I've ever been able to figure out the ending before I finished either, but reading the second time I could always see the hints and clues that are littered through the story, which is a real skill.

Garth Nix – The Old Kingdom Chronicles. Garth Nix's worldbuilding is always wonderful, and I always have so much trouble deciding between this series and his Keys to the Kingdom series, because I love both so much. I think one of the things I really adore about this series though, is the excellent female protagonists, which is so rare in fantasy and sci-fi. And Mogget and the Disreputable Dog are some of the best animal characters I've ever read.

Evan Wright – Generation Kill. Generation Kill is a completely different kind of story from my usual fare, as both an Iraq war narrative and creative non-fiction, so I was a little surprised by how much I loved it. Evan Wright's writing is so gripping that I struggled to put it down even for a second, and his portrayal of the Marines and the horrors they face as the spearhead of the blitzkrieg on Iraq is both honest and extraordinary.
How do you approach cover design?
I've designed both of the covers I've made so far (my second story is being updated today!) as well as one for a friend, and I like to keep it simple. My first story Always, focuses on a knife with some kind of supernatural powers and the effects it has on my protagonist (or antagonist?), so it just felt right to me that the knife should be on my cover. My second cover, for Life-Changers, is more symbolic.
Describe your desk
Oh no. It's perpetually a mess. I try to tidy it, I do, and then I look up a day later and it looks like a bomb hit! I have my laptop, which I've got hooked up to another screen (so useful for writing because I can have my document open on my laptop and my research on the other screen), a pile of uni notebooks, a pile of children's literature novels I need to read for class, two pen boxes absolutely full of pens (I am helpless to ignore the call of buying new pens), a letter tray that I bought to help control my mess which is hidden under a pile of papers, and a box to hold my uni notebooks (which obviously is not being used optimally).

You could say I work in a state of controlled chaos. As long as you use the term "controlled" very loosely.
Published 2014-05-22.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

You Only Have One First Time
Price: Free! Words: 2,670. Language: English. Published: April 13, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Literature » Literary
(4.00 from 2 reviews)
Most people only get one shot at dying; Marisa never expected to be the exception.
Price: Free! Words: 750. Language: English. Published: July 4, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Historical » Australia & New Zealand
(4.00 from 1 review)
Irmgard and Horst escaped the chaos of post-WWI Germany to settle in the safety of a town on the other side of the world. In this award winning short story, they react to the news that Adolf Hitler has come to power in their beloved home country.
Price: Free! Words: 2,790. Language: English. Published: May 22, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Literature » Literary
(1.00 from 1 review)
Life-Changers is a literary short story with a diverse cast. It is told in short scenes, all related to each other in some way, that each takes on a new point-of-view character who faces a moment that changes their life--some for the better, but some for the worse. It explores what it means to be human and all the different ways we experience the world.
Price: Free! Words: 1,450. Language: English. Published: April 6, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Literature » Literary, Fiction » Thriller & suspense » Psychological thriller
(1.00 from 1 review)
Written in the second person point of view, 'Always' is a creepy, contemporary answer to Nikos Kavvadias' 'A Knife'. It is you who finds the cursed knife, but, unlike the protagonist in Kavvadias' poem, no one is there to warn you about taking it home. At only 1300 words, 'Always' is an easy read for the time-poor.