Allan Cole is a best-selling author, screenwriter, and former prize-winning news reporter. He is well-traveled, adding personal experiences to his writings. Allan was bitten by the 'writer bug' at the age of five. Before he took up pen and paper, he was keen to learn violin. His parents conceded to an accordion, but Allan found that music was not to be. His writing menu includes science fiction/fantasy, historical novels, and A Cop's Life, based on his Uncle Tom's law-enforcement experiences.
Allan's books have been translated into Polish, Romanian, Russian, German, Czech, Hungarian, Hebrew and Dutch. Screenwriting accomplishments include episodes of Walker - Texas Ranger, Quincy, Werewolf, Galactica 1980, Magnum PI, and The Incredible Hulk. On Allan's list of favorite authors is Nevil Shute, C. S. Forester (Horatio Hornblower series), Mary Renault, John Steinbeck, Kenneth Grahame (Wind In The Willows), and Walter Mosley. In Allan's words, 'the problem with books … once you start, you can never stop. Books, books, books! What invention could be more perfect?'
Q: In 1993's A Daughter of Liberty (A Shannon Family Saga), you and co-author Chris Bunch made your protagonist a heroine, Diana. What prompted you to highlight the roles of women in Revolutionary times?
A: Our first idea was tell the story of the Shannon family through the eyes of several members of the clan. But when Diana's turn came, she just simply wouldn't give up her spot. Any writer will tell you that when your character stands up and starts talking to you - chewing you out - then you'd better listen. Especially if it's a strong-willed woman like Diana Shannon. Also, as she pointed out, life was certainly rough for people in the Colonial era. But a woman's lot was far more arduous. Not only did many die in childbirth, become old before their time from incredibly hard work, but they had few rights. They couldn't vote. If they were married, their property wasn't their own, but belonged to the man ... and there were countless other things ... indignities. And so Diana finally convinced us that she should be the featured character - the heroine of the tale. And we were certainly glad that we did so. Although it was intimidating at first for two male authors to write from the POV of women. To keep ourselves straight, we continually circulated the ms among our wives, female friends and my own daughters. We even taught ourselves how to crochet so we could write the descriptions with some accuracy.
Q: Your acknowledgments in A Daughter of Liberty indicate that diaries and letters were important resources. Were they from family records of descendants from this 1778 - 1814 period? What additional method(s) of research did you and Chris have at your disposal?
A: Our best material came from diaries and letters of the people who lived during those years. We wanted to not just know the facts of the era, but how people lived and worked and played. What did it look like outside their window? What was it like to live in one of their homes? What were their hopes, dreams, disappointments, victories? How did they get rid of their garbage? You don't tend to get that from histories, which are mainly written by white academic men. The internet wasn't available to us in the early 1990's, so we had to rely on books and interviews with experts all over the country - everyone from people at the Naval Institute, to the kind ladies at the Cherry Valley (NY) museum, and several historian (Roman Catholic) priests at Loyola University in Los Angeles.
Q: How long did it take you and Chris to complete A Daughter of Liberty, i.e., from birth of the idea, through writing time, publication review, and final publication?
A: It took us about three months to write and do initial research for the book proposal - sample chapters and the outline. It took another couple of months to make the sale. And then about eight months to write the book.
Q: With respect to co-authoring books, how do you divide writing responsibilities, i.e. which author writes which sections, chapters, et al?
A: When Chris and I were partners we drew up thorough outlines of the book, then split up the chapters. Of course, some chapters would be more ideal for Chris to write because of his background, while others might be more to my liking. When we were done, we swapped chapters and rewrote them. This would make up our first rough draft. Then we'd rewrite a couple more times and ship the ms to the editor.
Q: In planning a story, what are your techniques and methods for focusing on each day's progress to begin & end a book (taking into consideration publishers' deadlines)? Do you lock yourself in a room, too? :-)?
A: I write five days a week from nine to six. I take weekends and holidays off. At the start of each day, I rewrite the section I'd completed the day before. Then I write the new section. This way, my first rough draft is actually fairly smooth, which makes the going a lot easier. I try to avoid distractions. For instance, I won't pick up a book to read at lunch, unless it is research material, because I'd get too absorbed. So I tend to read things like encyclopedias, or dictionaries., or books of amusing facts.
Q: Your fantasy/scifi books include variations in theme, from the Sten series, The Timura, The Far Kingdoms, and others. How did you arrive at the theme for each? Did you plan on them being series from the first book written?
A: Each of those books were conceived as a series. We plotted all eight of the Sten novels before we wrote them. The same for The Far Kingdoms and The Timuras. Although, we only plotted the first three Far Kingdoms books. After Chris and I broke up the band and went on to solo careers, the publisher wanted a fourth book. I did that on my own, with Chris' approval, of course. (He gets 50% of the foreign rights, since the Safar story was conceived by both of us. Just as I get 50% of the foreign rights to Chris' Shadow Warrior trilogy. Although I didn't write those books, they were conceived by both of us.)
Q: It has been noted that your Timuras Trilogy will be re-published in the coming months. Would you care to comment on the trilogy, the titles, and due date of release?
A: Wildside Press will publish the Timuras Trilogy in a large single volume, probably in September. There will be a single-volume hardback for collectors and a trade paperback for bargain seekers. The books in the series include: When The Gods Slept, (formerly Wizard Of The Winds), Wolves Of The Gods and The Gods Awaken. Wildside is a small, but prestigious company dedicated to getting classics back in print. Thankfully, they had a high opinion of the Timuras and chose those books for a Fall release. Stay tuned to my homepage (www.acole.com) for further details.]
Q: Have you seen any changes, differences in today's scifi/fantasy stories, compared to your own writings?
A: There's a very talented group of people working the field today and they have to be, because there is an unfortunate trend by the big bookstores to let phony books like the Star Trek or Star Wars series crowd legit stuff from the shelves. And most publishers are more interested in putting out "brand name" books then to encourage the careers of new authors. That's a pity.
Q: You have a couple of mysteries in the making. Can you tell us anything about the upcoming books and estimated release dates?
A: It's a little early to get into those just yet. Publication is probably six months away for Dying Good, which is set in Boca Raton, Fl. And a year away for Drowned Hopes, also set in south Florida. The first features a macho hero who makes his living "trading favors." The second, focuses on a woman artist who is down on her luck and runs afoul of one of the most unusual villains I've ever created.
Q: Please share any additional thoughts or comments with our readers.
A: I saw a disturbing statistic recently - that 51% of American adults didn't read a single book last year. That's not only appalling, but scary as hell. Obviously, I'm preaching to the converted here. This is a site that honors books. However, it seems to me that all of us should make a special effort to teach our children just how important books can be in their lives. Not just for learning or for pleasure, but sometimes for sheer escape. I remember some terrible times that I survived with my psyche intact only because I buried my nose in a book, instead of feeling sorry for myself.
May the wind be forever at your backs ... Allan.Find out more about the author, his 'Life and Times', all his books, and what he likes to read at ACole.com
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