Pia shares Her Dark Half - Issue #7 - Mark Allen

My tips and a nudge to embrace your artistic (dark?) side

"I just go wherever the story and my characters take me. There is nowhere so deep and dark that I won't go there. All I can do is be brave and write honestly" - Mark Allen

In my previous newsletters, I've been sharing my tips and nudges on how to access your 'shadow' or dark side for your artistic endeavors. It's time to change it up a little and let another creator share their experience and some of their own insight!

Today I have a special treat for you, especially if you are interested in writing horror!

Let me present to you: Mark Allen!

*applause, applause*

Mark is a retired FMF Corpsman, a published novelist, produced screenwriter, cancer surviver, husband and proud member of Horror Writers Association (on twitter #HWA). He's also repped by Judy Fox Personal Talent Management. Mark is the real deal and I love his twisted mind!

Click here for Mark's full bio.

Full disclosure: I met Mark several years ago when he was working on his horror film Delirium. We hit it off right away and bonded over our love of all things horror. He's since moved up to the Pacific Northwest, but we've stayed in touch and still follow each other's creative journeys.

So, let's get straight to it!

An Interview with Horror Writer Mark Allen

What attracts you to the dark side?

Mark Allen: I'm not sure I can find any one thing and point to it and say, "That's why I'm attracted to the dark side". I was watching old Boris Karloff movies and Lon Chaney movies, Bela Lugosi, that kind of thing, from a very small age. Later on, I got introduced to Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee in all the Hammer Films productions. This would have been on late night TV in the late 60s and early 70s. I was drawn to the characters and the stories, not the blood and gore, although I certainly never had a problem with that, even as a kid. Once I was around 12 or 13 and was making my own money, I stated buying books -- FRANKENSTEIN, DRACULA, a lot of the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Jules Verne, Oscar Wilde. I read all the time. And of course, I was writing short stories and drawing comic books by then, starting to learn the craft.

What stories or subjects in horror inspire you and how do they influence you?

MA: Within the conventions of the horror genre, you have an immense amount of maneuvering room for creative expression. And you can write about things and state opinions that if you did it anywhere else or in any other genre, you'd be accused of preaching or beating your audience over the head. But in horror, you can talk about profound and fundamental things about life, love, loss, death, and the eternal struggle between good and evil. Not only struggles between different characters, but the eternal struggle within ourselves. It has been said that within all great horror movies and literature, there's a love story that went monstrously wrong. And I tend to agree with that. So many times in a story, it's really all about the subtext. What's going on beneath the surface? What's the underlying theme? What is the author REALLY talking about?

What is your process when tackling a new project? Where do you start?

MA: I start with the characters. ALWAYS. I have to know their names, what they look like, etc. But I also have to know their personality traits, when/where they were born, what kind of childhood did they have, what have they overcome in their lives, and how has past trauma shaped them? Are they educated? Smart? Dumb as a bag of rocks? I have to know my main leads and my key support characters before I can write one word of story. That way, once they start to speak to me, THEY will tell me the story. All I have to do is try to keep up. I do plot/ outline, but only in the vaguest of terms. I usually know where I want to start the story, how I want it to end, and maybe two or three other major plot points. But that's all. The writing journey, especially in that rough draft, is a voyage of discovery. That's where I experience the purest joy of creating, of being an artist.

Amazon.com: BLOOD RED MOON eBook : ALLEN, MARK: Books

What are your biggest challenges when writing and how do you overcome them?

MA: There are so many distractions vying for my attention. We all deal with it; it's the modern world. I simply have to mentally block them out and remind myself it's "the seat of my pants to the seat of a chair". I learned a long time ago back in my military days that you never escape doing the grunt work. You have to put in the sweat equity every single time. It never gets any easier, and there are no shortcuts. But that's how art gets made. Novels (and screenplays!) get written one word at a time, and they don't write themselves.

How do your family and friends feel about your work and how much does their opinion influence you?

MA: Nowadays my family is cool about what I do. As a kid, most of the family thought I was a little nuts, and Mom worried over my obsession with monsters, werewolves, vampires, and the like. But I plowed ahead even without their overt support. I had to write. I had to because I found that I couldn't live a life where I DIDN'T write.

Have you ever scared yourself?

MA: No, but I have written stories in the past where something really dark happened and I paused and asked myself, "Where the hell did that come from?" I don't ask those questions anymore. I just go wherever the story and my characters take me. There is nowhere so deep and dark that I won't go there. All I can do is be brave and write honestly.

Nocturnal - Kindle edition by Allen, Mark. Download it once and read it on your Kindle device, PC, phones or tablets. Use features like bookmarks, note taking and highlighting while reading Nocturnal.

What are you working on right now? Any projects coming up?

MA: I am finishing up a novel, a sequel to NOCTURNAL, my debut novel. My vampire is back, still in San Diego and hanging out at LeStat's when he's not making a fortune as an online stock broker. Then he reluctantly gets pulled into a police hunt for a serial killer, and his Vampire Mother, whom he hasn't seen in over 100 years, shows up with her own dark agenda. On the screenwriting front, I am working with my Literary Manager down in Los Angeles. We are trying to set up a feature film screenplay of mine that has franchise potential. We're also polishing another feature film script that is already a multiple award winner. Sometime in 2023, I will start writing the second and third novels in my werewolf trilogy (what I call my Caleb Jacobsen Saga) that began with BLOOD RED MOON. I am going to write the sequels back to back. Then... we'll see.

What advice do you have for inspiring writers or artists in general?

MA: The biggest thing is this -- writing is an art and a craft. But it is also a learned technical skill (hence, the "craft") just like anything other artistic or technical endeavor. Practice makes perfect; you don't get better if you don't do it. Writers... WRITE. Every day. No excuses. Also, you'll meet a LOT of naysayers, people who don't believe you can do it. Unless you're hearing this from an established writer who is already doing what you want to be doing, DON'T LISTEN TO THEM. Because, what do they know? Just because they gave up their dreams doesn't mean you have to give up on yours. You may have to dissolve friendships. You may have to not talk to certain family members very much. You'll have to cut anything and anyone who distracts or holds you back on your journey. It can get a little ruthless, but that's what you have to do if you're serious about your art. You may not have a spouse or significant other. You'll often feel alone because you will be. But you must plow ahead anyway. Get into writing groups where you can be around like-minded individuals who are on their own journeys. Make friends with people in various aspects of writing (editors, agents, etc) and the Arts in general. They will become your tribe. More than anything else, be honest with yourself as to why you want to do this: Don't do this to make money or get rich. Don't do this to be the life of the party. Don't do this to be the "cool kid". Don't do it to get laid or to have bragging rights about something. Do it because YOU FUCKING LOVE IT. Do it because you can't NOT do it. If you're doing it for these last two reasons and not the former, then you have a chance of actually accomplishing something that will be spectacular. And I'll be there clapping loudly and cheering you on!

How can people find you or your work? Websites and social media links?

MA: Both my novels, NOCTURNAL and BLOOD RED MOON are available exclusively on Amazon.com in paperback, Kindle, and Kindle Unlimited. I wrote and directed a teen slasher film back in 2005 called DELIRIUM. I don't know if it's available anymore. It was one of those quickie, no-budget, straight to DVD films that has pretty much been lost to time and obscurity. My other film, EARLY GRAVE (2013), which I wrote and co-produced, is available for rent on Amazon Prime, and was available for free (with ads) on Tubi, Pluto, and some of the other streaming services. I'm all over social media. I'm on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn. I'm an easy guy to find, and I love talking about the craft. Hit me up!

Thank you so much Mark, for taking the time to do this inspiring interview for my readers! I look forward to catching up again once your gestating projects are ready to be devoured by us all!

That’s it for today - have a creative weekend! Cheers!

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Dark Greetings….and ‘see’ you in two weeks!


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