Today in the Library we have Brook Allen, who has dropped in to say hello and to share some insights into her life as an author.
You are very welcome, Brook, please introduce yourself:
Hi, Pam! Thanks for hosting me. I am a writer of historical fiction and particularly love ancient history. That said, I read historical fiction from all periods and sub-genres. My husband and I live in rural Virginia in the Blue Ridge Mountains and are parents to two extremely well-read and well-heeled Labrador Retrievers who answer to the names Jak & Ali. I recently completed the Antonius Trilogy, three books telling the life story of Roman statesman and general, Marc Antony. It was a fantastic experience, traveling and following his footsteps in Italy, Greece, Egypt, and Turkey. And my first book in the trilogy (Antonius: Son of Rome) won an international award recently; a silver medal in the Reader’s Favorite Book Reviewer Awards for 2020.
Which genre do you write in and what draws you to it?
Historical Fiction is my genre of choice. It offers such fascinating research and travel opportunities. My next project is American History, right here in my home county, and I’m just as excited to dig into this research as I was when I was in Alexandria, Egypt—Cleopatra’s capital city—taking notes. Historical fiction is so full of intrigue and adventure. Truly, when it’s written well, there is NOTHING boring about history!
Are you an avid reader? Do you prefer books in your own genre or are you happy to explore others?
Now that I’m an author, yes—I read all the time. And typically, I stick to my genre, but occasionally I sin and try something new. 😊 My TBR list right now is from here to Sri Lanka, so I have no clue when I’ll be able to deviate again. But that’s okay by me.
Are you a self-published/traditional or hybrid author?
As of now, I’m self-published and very proud of it. There’s a lot to be said about being indie. Most valuable is the liberty to write WHAT you want WHEN you want, and DO it the WAY you want. The down side is the time spent behind the computer monitor and the money out of your own pocket. But hey—it’s a dream fulfilled. And I’m not done yet.
Who has been the biggest influence on your writing?
New York Times Bestselling Author Margaret George—the grande dame of historical fiction. She has become a dear friend and ally. I read her Memoirs of Cleopatra three times. Eventually, I wrote her, telling her how her book had inspired me and within two weeks, we had started emailing one another regularly. We finally got to meet at an author’s conference, and she even wound up reading and blurbing my first book. How many indie authors have such support? I will never forget how this well-known, famous, yet humble writer put on her brakes, stopped, reached out, and lent a hand to a “nobody” in the industry. She is a special, special friend.
Has your country of origin/culture influenced your writing?
I think because I’m American, my writing does come across as “earthy”. I think of the incredible work of Robert Graves’s I, Claudius. My work on Antony is grittier, violent, bloody, sexy, and veristic. Graves wrote with dignitas. I guess my style is just more modern. I haven’t started writing my next book yet, but I have a feeling it’ll be similar, just in a much later period—not about Rome.
What part of the writing process do you find most difficult? How do you overcome it?
Formatting drives me loopy. It terrifies me, stresses me out, and makes me a nervous wreck. When I open my formatted copy up on my laptop and realize this will be the final read-through of my work before it goes to print, a cold sweat breaks out, and my hands go all clammy. Last month, as I was launching my last book in the Antonius Trilogy it was particularly crazy, because of some delays that were beyond my power to do anything about. Whew. I had to sit back, breathe into a paper bag like Sheldon does on Big Bang Theory, and let Jesus take the wheel. Being a control-freak, I’m not very good at the whole faith thing!
What was the best piece of writing advice you received when starting out?
Write what you WANT to write about. Don’t worry about trends in the industry. American author, Jeff Shaara said this very thing at the last Historical Novel Society conference: “Write what you want.” I think it’s the best advice out there, because if you don’t, there won’t be any passion in your work. Excellent writing needs to be full of zest, life, and characters a reader feels they can reach out and touch.
Do you have a favourite time of day to write?
When I’m actually writing and editing drafts of a manuscript, mostly any time of day that I have available is what I’ll grab. But when I have my preference, away from my day-job with freedom (like I had this spring during the pandemic), I love staying up late to write. I’m a night-person and am at peace when I don’t have to worry about work the next day. I crave the day when I can retire and write in peace! Ha!
If you could travel back in time, what era would you go to? What draws you to this particular time?
Since I’ve spent so much time on ancient Rome these past fifteen years, I guess it would be interesting to give it a brief visit. With the stipulation that I could get back!!! I’d go, fully expecting to meet Marc Antony, shake his hand and tell him I had written his bio. But with my luck, I’d wind up sold at a slave-market and sent to the salt-mines!
Please tell us about your latest published work.
Antonius: Soldier of Fate is the final book in the Antonius Trilogy. It deals with the final years of Marc Antony’s career and his romance with Cleopatra. There were huge battle scenes I had to write—in particular the final naval battle, which was HUGE. I had to put in a great deal of thought as to how to handle those sequences, but they were really fun to work on. Getting to think back to actual visits of archaeological sites where I went to research and learn about my novel’s material was rewarding and fulfilling as I fleshed out scenes and dialogue that I had pre-imagined in my head. If you love adventure, you’ll love the Antonius Trilogy. Antony’s life was anything BUT dull. It was literally one adventure after another!
SON OF ROME: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07NYTMRJS
SECOND IN COMMAND: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07Z1MWB4D
SOLDIER OF FATE: https://tinyurl.com/yycewwrz
If you would like to know more about Brook and her work, please check out her links below: