Friday, May 25, 2012

Get lost in a Story with Children's Author Bill Allen


About Mr. Allen:

Bill Allen may be described as an unusual man who has accomplished an unusual many deeds. In fact, it has been said that if you total up all the things he claims to have done, he cannot possibly be less than seven hundred years old.

No one knows if this is true. All that is certain is that for a good many years he has been living in Melbourne, Florida with his wife, Nancy, writing software by day and, well, mostly sleeping by night. Every now and again he writes stories, too. But then I guess that's why you've stopped by to read about him.
 


With that, Get Lost in a Story Readers, today I have a treat for you.  Today, we veer away from adult-themed novels to bring you a children’s author whose themes should resonate with children and adults alike.  A children’s series author of the popular How to Slay a Dragon and How to Slay a Kingdom, his message is clear, his protagonist worthy.  Greg Hart, a boy (and not much of a boy at that, makes up stories as a result). When Greg finds himself in a strange new world, and is ordered by the king to defeat a dragon—a very large dragon--and rescue a princess, Greg is charged with a monumental task, one in which he just might find himself as a result.
But while Mr. Allen’s “Slaying Series” is taking off, today he’s here to promote his newest release, Orson Buggy’s Lessons for Losers 





Twelve-year-old Orson Buggy might have suffered every horse-and-buggy insult known to man, but that would require people actually talking to him. Over the years he has acquired only a tiny group of friends. His uber-loser friends. The worst of the worst. Now he has the chance to start over at a new school, without any of his loser friends holding him back. If he can just keep people from finding out his name, he might have a shot at being normal for the first time in his life.
Why, then, within five minutes do people start thinking he’s some sort of jerk? And why, by the end of the day, is everyone convinced Orson is the biggest deranged psycho-killer to ever roam the halls of Hugh Morris Middle School? Orson’s about to learn that help comes from where he least expects it, and when it comes to friends, new isn’t necessarily better.

Orson Buggy’s Lessons for Losers is a laugh-out-loud glimpse into one boy’s struggle with the absurdity of starting seventh grade.

AND NOW GET LOST IN A STORY’S FUN QUESTIONS FOR BILL ALLEN:

DONNELL:  Hi, Bill, thanks for joining us.  If you could live anywhere on earth, where would it be?

BILL:  Hi, Donnell, thanks for having me.  A lot depends on whether I can also be anything I want, because then I’d want to keep living in my house, but as a cat, having the humans feed me, pick up after me, give me free massages and generally pamper me anytime I make the slightest of noises. If I had to stay human, though, I’d want to be somewhere in the mountains, deep in the woods, where I could ski in the winter and hike all year round.  Of course, the way I ski, it would have to be a woods like the Enchanted Forest of Myrth, so the trees could slither out of my way.

DONNELL:  You have to stay human ;) What’s your favorite room in your house?

BILL:  Well, there are times when I have a nearly overwhelming desire to be in my bathroom, but if we’re talking true favorites, I’d have to go with the family room, mostly because that’s where the TV is and let’s face it, my wife and I are TV junkies. My computer’s in there too, so I can always write if I’m feeling particularly crazy. We even have a foosball table behind the couch, but before we can use it we have to play another game we call “Sliding Furniture Puzzle.”

DONNELL:  Your resume says you are 700 years old.  Is that true?

BILL:  Now, Donnell, I know you’re not that accustomed to interviewing men, but we’re really not that different from women when it comes to revealing our ages.  No matter what you have heard, I have NOT been telling everyone I’m 699 for a few centuries now.  The truth is, people only think I’m 700 because I tell so many “back in my day” stories, but if they ever actually paid attention to what I was saying (something few people ever do) they would realize I tell the same stories over and over again. In fact, the older I get, the more likely you are to hear the same tale again, probably five minutes after I told you the first time.
DONNELL:  I enjoy interviewing men, but you're right.  I haven't asked any their ages ;) You write children’s stories.  Is this something that possessed you as a child or something you fell into as an adult?

BILL:  I like to tell people I really had no choice but to write for children, since I never fully matured, mentally, but I actually did grow up at one point. It wasn’t until years later that I returned to the mental level of a seventh-grader.
DONNELL:  Why do you think that is?

BILL:  When I first wrote what would later become How to Slay a Dragon, I wrote it with adult characters for adults. Then I tried to find a publisher. I might as well have tried to fly. Everyone wanted children’s books, so I brushed off my keyboard and got busy rewriting for children. It was way more fun. Of course, by the time I was finished, the children’s market was completely saturated (Timing has never been my thing.) Fortunately J. K. Rowling made tweens start looking for more books to read, so publishers once again became more open to children’s submissions.
DONNELL:  So you do have experience writing adult fiction? Talk about the differences between adult fiction and children’s novels.

BILL:  For the YA and tween markets, I strongly believe there’s only one difference: the age of the characters.  A lot of people think this isn’t true when it comes to humor. They think the subtle nuances that make something funny for adults will be overlooked by tweens. Sometimes they’re right, but children are a lot smarter than we give them credit for. And when it comes to picking up subtle nuances, kids often catch things adults miss. You know, like monsters under the bed and ghosts in the attic. Even if kids do miss a few things, as long as they catch some of the humor they’re going to want to uncover it all. They might even read the book more than once, looking for things they missed. When was the last time you watched a Disney animation or Pixar film? Those guys get it right. They throw in a lot of adult humor because they know parents are going to have to watch the films too. Much of this goes over the heads of the kids watching, but it doesn’t stop them from enjoying those movies and wanting to see them over and over again.
DONNELL:  Your stories seem to carry a theme of bullying and underdogs.  You’re now a successful children’s author and a software engineer.  How much is Bill Allen like Greg Hart or Orson Buggy? And what message do you hope readers take away from your books?

BILL: Okay, you got me. There’s more of the young Bill Allen in both of those characters than I care to admit, from being the scrawniest kid (and therefore the fastest runner) in class, like Greg Hart, to living a life where everything seems to go wrong, like it does for Orson Buggy (Actually that one hasn’t changed a lot since I’ve become an adult.) I would hope that kids who read the Journals of Myrth books learn that being a hero doesn’t necessarily mean bravely facing everything that comes your way. It’s okay to be afraid of the unknown. You just can’t let it stop you from taking the steps you need to move toward your goals.  Orson Buggy is a different animal. I’m not sure how far I will carry that series, but the two books I’ve finished so far are so packed full of lessons, I could barely come up with enough humor to hide them all. Orson has an overwhelming number of shortcomings, but since the books are told from his point of view, he doesn’t know about most of them. Over the course of the series I plan to have him learn a lot about relationships that I hope will stick with young readers.
DONNELL:  When you’re not writing where will we find you?

BILL: Probably in front of the TV (see previous admission about being a TV junkie). Don’t get the wrong idea. I’m not a total couch potato. I’d like you to show me another 700-year-old who’s still playing soccer and sand volleyball every week. But that’s the point. I’m 700 (actually 699) and still playing soccer and sand volleyball every week. I need my recoup time!
DONNELL:  So, as a software engineer, I assume you’re organized and have no problem with technology?

BILL:  HA!. . . . . . . . Oh, you want more. Being a software engineer provides a constant reminder of how little I know about technology. Most of my time is spent in total overwhelm mode. When I leave work, I try to leave technology behind. I’m the guy that buys the cell phone that can make and receive calls and hopefully do little else. I don’t have a data plan. I’ve set a personal goal to never send a text message, and so far I’ve been successful. As for being organized, I, er, can be (much like the alcoholic who can stop drinking whenever he wants. He just doesn’t want to.) My wife does make fun of me for constantly making lists of things I need to do and then never doing any of them. Hey, I do my part. I put them on the list. It’s not my fault they can’t be done from the couch.
DONNELL:  When writing, do you act out your scenes?

BILL:  Hmm…I’ll bet you get a lot of interesting answers to this from your many romance author guests, but no, I don’t act them out. Not that I wouldn’t like to, mostly because I’m a firm proponent of the Benjamin Button approach to living life in reverse, and to effectively act out my scenes I’d need to start off by becoming a kid again.  To further answer your question though, a lot of times when I’m first writing scenes I’m not clear on what I want to happen, aside from a few key points. During the edits I know what’s going to happen, so I can picture the scene a lot better in my mind, as if I’m watching the characters act on screen. That’s when I get to add in the details that make it come to life, especially when it comes to the timing of all that sarcastic dialog.
DONNELL: Are you superstitious?

BILL: Absolutely not, knock on wood.

DONNELL:  If you could meet anyone, past or present who would it be, and why?
BILL:  Oh, I see where you’re going with this. You’re fishing for me to say Donnell Bell here, aren’t you?  Well, that would be amazing. A lot of other possibilities run through my mind too. Gandhi? John Lennon? Any one of a dozen Victoria Secret models? But if I really had to choose just one, I think I’d like to meet the guy who invented the four-way stop sign. I’ve got some choice words for him.

LOL, Bill, what original answers, and I'm so depressed.  You'd rather meet the creator of the STOP SIGN than me?  Well, GLIAS readers, there ya go.... 

GLIAS Readers, today I'll be giving a copy of Orson Buggy's Lesson for Losers to one lucky commenter.  But to be entered, answer this question: 

BILL ALLEN:  If you could live your life in reverse, what steps would you take to prepare for your 21st birthday party. (If you're younger than 21, don't post your answer until you're 22.)


Note: Offer void where prohibited. Prizes will be e-mailed Internationally. Odds of winning vary due to the number of entrants. Winners of drawings are responsible for checking this site in a timely manner. If prizes are not claimed in a timely manner, the author may not have a prize available. Get Lost In A Story cannot be responsible for an author's failure to mail the listed prize. GLIAS does not automatically pass email addresses to guest authors unless the commenter publicly posts their email address.
Join us on Monday when Liz Selvig hosts Jennifer Bernard, Tuesday when Jillian hosts Jill Limber, Wednesday when Angi hosts Clover Autrey, Thursday when Alexa hosts JK Beck/Julie Kenner and on Friday .... Jillian gives us a sneak preview of The Gentlemen of Scotland Yard!

20 comments:

  1. LOL, you geekoid!!!!!!!!!!!! Loved this. I'd almost want to have an affair with you, but being 799 years old, I'm really only interested in men less than 499. You're WAY too old, brat.

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    Replies
    1. Maybe so, but people tell me I don't look a day over 450.

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  2. Bill's entertaining interview and my first cup of coffee - what a great way to start my day! Thanks, Donnell and Bill.

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  3. Good morning, Bill. What fun answers to my questions. Well done! Gosh, To get ready for my 21st birthday, I think I'd do with less ice cream and be a better driver. What a hard question :)

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  4. Love, love this interview. I can see why the wise ladies at Belle Books grabbed up your writings. As for your question...I'd make sure the car we were driving didn't run out of gas in the middle of nowhere. Nuff said?

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    Replies
    1. Sounds like there's a story in there...

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  5. BILL! Some folks have picky eaters for children. I have picky readers! I'm thinking How to Slay a Dragon and Orson Buggy might be the way to go. Yay!

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    Replies
    1. I'm not saying mine are the best children's books ever written, but just between you and me, I think they're way ahead of whatever is in second place.

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  6. WELCOME to GLIAS, Bill.

    What an interesting question...living in reverse. I'd say, gain confidence in myself, write more, and never get unhealthy (overweight). Best advice.

    Thanks for the great interview!
    ~Angi

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  7. I loved this interview. Confession time. I read young adult. I recently started re-reading the Trixie Belden books, now that they're available electronically. I enjoy them. I loved the late Howard Hopkins's The Nightmare Club stories because they were horror without too much gore or darkness. I definitely will give Bill Allen's book a try!

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  8. Wow, Bill, you certainly have fun in your life! Love the premise of your book and I love, love, YA stories. Can't wait to read yours.

    If I could live my life backward, I would definitely plan to take my young hubby and myself out to a really fun live music bar and, knowing that for the 36 years after that he'd hated to dance, would make him learn! Modest, but there ya go!

    Good luck with the book!

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  9. what a fantastic interview to kick off a holiday weekend! Bill, you're a hoot! Thanks for the laugh and best of luck with poor Orson Buggy (really, what were his parents thinking?!? *s*)

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  10. Nice interview. I'm in the process of reading Orson Buggy's lessons for losers. Love it.italic

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  11. I loved this interview; it was very entertaining!

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  12. I was scrawny too when I was young, Bill. It wasn't until I reached my late 30s that I became the muscular, heart-breaking man that I am today.


    Great interview, though! And I loved your book. Awesome.

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  13. Very fun interview. I'd work out more and plan for the party.

    bn100candg(at)hotmail(dot)com

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  14. Well guess what, Bill? I live in the Smoky Mountains, in the woods (though not too deep - but we are surrounded by trees and woods around us!), and though I do not ski, there is ski'ing here, and I can hike any time I want to - even without getting in my car and leaving my cove!

    :-D

    enjoyed the interview!

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  15. I am now the proud owner of Orson Buggy's Lessons for Losers. Bill, thank you for joining us, and to everyone, thanks for stopping by. We'll let you know who won the drawing! Thanks, all.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, Donnell for having me. You've got a great site here, and a lot of authors who appreciate it.

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