I was fortunate enough to get a chance to parlay with Allan Leverone, the author of The Lonely Mile and a bunch of other books. My review of The Lonely Mile will be up in a day or two. Take a look at what he had to say and then go pick up a book or two. You’ll enjoy them.
Where are you from and what do you love most about your hometown?
I grew up in a very small town in central Massachusetts named Harvard (no relation to the much more famous university outside Boston). It was the kind of place you could leave your front door unlocked and not have to worry about someone busting into your house and sticking a gun in your ear. Of course, that was a long time ago. Everybody knew everybody else and while that was sometimes not a good thing, I wouldn’t trade my childhood for anything.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? How has that childhood dream affected your career?
As a young child I was convinced I would be the shortstop for the Boston Red Sox, and as bad as they were when I was a kid, I probably could have. I always wanted to write, but it never occurred to me until much later that I might actually have anything to say that anyone else would want to read.
Tell us about your latest book. Do you have anything new in the works and can you tell us a bit about it?
THE LONELY MILE tells the story of Bill Ferguson, a regular guy who does something extraordinary, breaking up a kidnapping and saving a teenage girl from a horrible fate. He reacts the way we all like to believe we would. But in so doing, he places his own family directly in the sights of a psychopathic kidnapper/murderer. When his daughter disappears days later, he must battle his own feeling of guilt and responsibility even as he races to save his only child. But there are forces at work which go much deeper than just one kidnapped girl, and Ferguson may not be able to save his daughter or himself.
I’m always working on new material, and in September, my novella, DARKNESS FALLS, will be released by Delirium Books as part of their limited edition collectible hardcover novella series. The hardcovers are sold out, but an ebook version will be available beginning late in the month. I’m very excited about it.
Why did you write this book?
I wanted to write a thriller featuring a regular person as the protagonist, someone like you and me, someone who’s not a superhero, who’s not bulletproof, who questions himself and is uncertain and blames himself for his daughter’s disappearance. I wanted a guy who, despite all these doubts and uncertainties, fights his way through them because he simply has no choice. The question is, will he be able to succeed?
How did you come up with the title?
The significance of the title, THE LONELY MILE, is revealed toward the end of the book, so I won’t say it here, but I wanted a title that would convey the sense of bleak desolation Bill Ferguson feels when he realizes his actions have been directly responsible for the disappearance of his only child.
The manuscript was untitled for a very long time while I was writing it as I struggled with potential titles, but I believe the title I ultimately decided on very much conveys the mood of the book. By the way, the cover design by StoneHouse Ink perfectly captures what I wanted; I’m thrilled with how it turned out.
How did you choose your genre?
I’ve always been drawn to horror and thrillers, to stories about people being pushed beyond their limits. Even as a young child, I read Edgar Allan Poe at the same time I was reading the Hardy Boys. I’m fascinated by the dark side, which probably says something I’d rather not acknowledge about my personality, but which is very definitely there.
What inspired you to be a writer?
The ability of talented writers to draw the reader into worlds which may be totally foreign to them is almost magical. When I’m reading and absorbed in a book, time flies by at a rate which seems impossible. Some of my earliest memories as a reader are of shaking my head and thinking, “Man, I wish I could do that.” Finally I decided to try.
Who is your favorite character in your books? Why?
I like characters who must rise above and beyond what they’ve ever believed they can accomplish. To me, it’s much more impressive for someone to have to face his or her fears than to stand there, barrel-chested like Superman, while bullets bounce off his chest. This is a common theme in pretty much all my fiction, both long and short, and while I’m not going to name any specific characters here, you’ll recognize them if you read my work.
Have you ever used contemporary events or stories “ripped from the headlines” in your work?
Not really, although much of the inspiration for any writer of fiction, I believe, necessarily comes from things they have seen and heard. FINAL VECTOR, for instance, involves terrorists and airplanes—we’ve obviously all heard that story before—but the plot of the novel is totally unrelated to the events of September 11, 2001.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging about writing?
I like to write every day, at least six days a week, and with a full-time job and a family which deserves my time as well, carving out the portion of a day to write is not always easy. Sometimes actually sitting down and getting started is almost impossible, but once I do, within minutes I’m completely absorbed in whatever world I’m trying to create.
What advice would you give to writers just starting out?
Write, write, write. Writing is no different than any other endeavor—if you want to be good at it, good enough to set yourself apart from the pack, you have to dedicate yourself to it. Elite athletes have an innate ability, but unless they work to develop that ability, it’s mostly going to go to waste. I believe writing is no different.
Do you ever suffer from writer's block? If so, what do you do about it?
I don’t know if I believe in writer’s block. Sometimes ideas come easy and sometimes they don’t but the process of writing always remains the same—you have to sit your ass down and do it. I will say this: some days are a lot easier than others. At times I sit down and the story just flows out of me, almost like magic. Other days, it’s nothing but a struggle. The key, though, is simply to keep going. Writing is about revising and editing and polishing, and there’s a writers cliché that says, “You can’t edit a blank page.” So even if you believe what you’re writing on any particular day is total crap, keep at it, because out of five pages of crap might come a paragraph, or even a sentence, that shines like gold in coal.
Who is your favorite author and why? What books have most influenced your life?
I have a ton of favorite authors, so narrowing it down to one is probably impossible. But someone like Lawrence Block, who has worked at his craft for a lifetime and supported himself with that work, is impressive as hell to me. He’s created marvelous characters and series, his dialogue crackles both with realism and originality, and in my view, any writer could do a lot worse than to emulate him.
As far as books are concerned, it’s again difficult to narrow them down, because I’ve read so many. But Stephen King’s THE STAND has it all, in my opinion: memorable characters, a compelling plot, and a well-constructed story.
How did you deal with rejection letters?
I’ve always tried to remind myself that it’s not personal. I fully understand my work will not appeal to everyone, and even the most successful or most critically-acclaimed authors—people who could write circles around me without even breaking a sweat—have their share of detractors. Just because one person doesn’t like my work, or even one group of people, that doesn’t mean it won’t find an audience. I look at reviews the same way. It’s just not possible to make your work palatable to everyone.
If you’re going to put your work out for public consumption, you either learn to accept the bad with the good pretty quickly, or you’re going to find yourself miserable a good part of the time.
What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?
Fearlessness, a great imagination, and a reliable thesaurus. The ability to survive on very little sleep doesn’t hurt, either.
What's the weirdest thing you've ever done in the name of research?
When I wrote FINAL VECTOR, a portion of the action takes place inside an air traffic control facility. I happen to be an air traffic controller. So I took a notebook and pen and walked around the facility examining things, taking notes, etc. The facility is protected 24/7 by armed guards, and I fervently hoped none of them had itchy trigger fingers as they tried to figure out what the hell I was doing.
You can get more information about Allan at his website, http://www.allanleverone.com. Also, be sure to check out his books on Amazon.