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Unwritten - Natasha Bedingfield

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Featured Author - Allan R. Shickman! - Part 3

MLM: Why YA Fiction? What was the draw for you?

ALLAN: Well, I have all of these adorable nieces and nephews, and I want to talk to them and leave them a memory of me. They and their friends are the ones I am speaking to—and I am not always as skilled or warm as I could wish when I am in their presence. My young adult audience is a bright-eyed eager crew, not at all like their jaded elders, that wear indifference in one eye and scorn in the other.

MLM: All of us are influenced and impacted by TV, movies, books and/or authors at different times in our lives. Who, what and which TV, movies, books and/or authors influenced you? When in your life did you discover them and why were they so influential for you? (Don’t be afraid to give us more than one of each kind!)

ALLAN: It is truly said that we are what we eat. I try to “eat” good stuff, and I am almost exclusively drawn to the classics, from Shakespeare and Milton to Fielding, Scott, Emily Bronte, Jane Austen, Thomas Hardy, Dostoyevsky, Melville, Twain, and Thomas Mann. I get different things from each one, and sometimes they are very little things, sometimes more general. I am particularly interested in the symbolic or metaphoric detail, and in motifs of imagery. Movies get to me too, but it is mainly novels and plays. I have read some of them so many times that the language sticks in my mind. I am still rereading books that I first read in high school. I also suspect that symphonic music has had an effect on my writing, especially the coming book. A symphony can be like a story, and a story can be like a symphony. Right?

MLM: Considering the TV, movies, books and/or authors mentioned, is there one TV, movie, book and/or author in particular that you try to emulate in your writing? Which one(s) and why? Please be as specific as you can! J

ALLAN: One in particular? No. Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov is my favorite; add Thomas Hardy’s The Mayor of Casterbridge, Scott’s Ivanhoe, Milton’s Paradise Lost, Shakespeare’s great tragedies and histories, e.g., Richard II. I’m afraid it’s a rather gloomly list, but I laughed my head off at Thackeray’s Vanity Fair. Melville’s Moby Dick influenced me a lot with its mad hero, Captain Ahab.

MLM: If you could describe your writing with a word or phrase, what would it be? Please look beyond words like mysterious, suspenseful, creative, unique etc., and delve into the core of your writing to tell us what word or phrase you want readers to take with them when they've finished reading your story.

ALLAN: I want my young readers, and the older ones too, to finish my book feeling moved and changed by the intensity of what they have experienced. I want them to dream of Zan-Gah at night. Short phrase? “It harrows me with fear and wonder.” (That’s what Horatio said when he saw King Hamlet’s ghost.)

MLM: In Part 2 we asked if you believe in mystical Irish lore such as Leprechauns. Have you ever used any type of Irish lore in one of your stories? If so, which lore and what was the situation?

ALLAN: I can’t claim to have used, or much thought about Irish lore. There was a time when the people of Eire were primitive too, struggling for survival and believing in spirits and numerous gods. Some of that animism survives today in stories of faeries and unseen little critters. Actually, I have been touched by Old Testament lore: David with his sling, twins Jacob and Esau, the Beautiful Country as a “Promised Land” and the object of contention between warring tribes.

MLM: Also in Part 2 we asked you about your views on March. Does this show through in your writing? If so, give some examples how, please!

ALLAN: I think it does. Writing about prehistoric people in the Zan-Gah books, I tried to be as sensitive to weather changes as they would have been. How they would have welcomed March, the first month of spring, having endured and hopefully survived the horrors of winter! What explanation would prehistoric people have given for a tree that remained green all winter, a cave that stayed at 58 degrees the year around, or for March’s miracle of the land’s renewing fertility?

MLM: Who decides what characters/creatures you write about, you or your muse? What kind of influence do you have over their actions and the plot, or is the muse always the one deciding the journey the characters take?

ALLAN: Milton had a “heavenly muse.” Me, I just dream and collect ideas at random. Then I organize, structure, articulate, and embellish my dreams. In the process, my characters take on lives of their own, and surprise me. The character Rydl was such a surprise. I invented him in the middle of the first Zan-Gah book, and his development through three books thrust itself at me without any planning. It must be a muse, I don’t know.

MLM: Of all the stories you’ve written please tell us:
a.)Which character/creature did you have the most fun creating and why? What about this character/creature makes it stand out above all the others?

ALLAN: I think Rydl also was the most fun in creating. He kept on developing! He was a frightened child when he first appeared, but by the end of the first Zan-Gah book he had begun to take on maturity and stature. In the sequel of the book series, he showed his budding genius, and in the third book, which I will call Dael and the Painted People, he develops even further and becomes a still richer character.

b.)If you had the opportunity to meet just one of your characters/creatures in real life, who would it be and why?

ALLAN: Zan’s lovely, delicate, and intelligent wife Pax would be nice to talk to.

c.)Which of your characters/creatures would you never want to meet under any circumstance and why?

ALLAN: I hope there is no such character. My meanest developed character is the shaman in the not yet published third novel. He is a real stinker; I don’t have much good to say on his behalf. But it is an important point of my books that the worst of us has some good in him and is redeemable. Of course there is the man-eating lioness. I would never want to meet her!

d.)If you could choose to visit one setting/world you’ve created which one is it, where is it and why this destination over all the others? What makes it stand out over all the others?

ALLAN: The landscape of the land of the red rocks is described at length in the first book, and more briefly in the other two. It is dramatic and frightening, and stunningly displays nature’s power and vitality—more than any other in the Zan-Gah stories. I’ve seen such places in Utah and Colorado, and was definitely inspired by them. However, the fictional region I describe in the book series is not necessarily meant to be in the United States. It could be in Asia Minor, Europe, or Morocco, for example. I also have to mention the cave of the Na women. It was modeled after Onondaga Cavern in Missouri, to which I made a pilgrimage for research purposes. What a wonder! I strongly recommend a visit. March would be a good time.

MLM: On that note, we’ll end our interview for this week. Thank you so much for joining us this week!

ALLAN: Thank you for allowing me to talk so extensively about myself and my book series.

MLM: Be sure to check back for Part 4 when we take a closer look at Zan-Gah and the Beautiful Country!