Interview with Jeffery Allen — Portal, Book One, The Enhanced Series

Jeffrey released his first serial novel in 2013. His love for comics started at an early age when his mom dumped hundreds of Marvel comic books on his bed after a weekend of garage sale shopping. After many attempts and a few years in the military (yay! G.I. Bill), Jeffrey finally completed a B.S. in Business Management and International Studies, much to the relief of his family. Why he double majored is still a mystery that even he cannot answer. 

By day, Jeffrey is a multimedia specialist, described by his wife as, ‘does something with computers.’ He has worked as a project manager, instructional designer, graphic artist, video editor, and game developer. When he is not working on his computer, he is playing with his kids or working in a room in his basement nicknamed The Lair.

Interview with Jeffrey Allen portal_book_cover_400
author of The Enhanced Series:
Portal, Book 1
8/01/2014

I was wondering where you get your story ideas?
I am enthralled by the stories from history and current events. We live in a very volatile time and our world is rapidly changing as technology brings us together and keeps us apart. Language barriers are breaking down but we are not any closer to understanding each other. I find this quandary fascinating and heartbreaking and that’s why I think it makes a good story.

The superhero genre fits well into this mold because metahumans are superior in every physical and mental measure, but they are a minority and must exist at the whims of the politicians and tyrants (who are usually non-metahuman) of the world who make the rules.  Portal is not only about how the Enhanced adjust, sometimes violently, to the increasing restrictions on the use of their powers, but also the reactions of normal people to the increasing threat Enhanced pose to the world.

What is the usual process for your fiction writing? Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I’m most definitely a plotter. Before I even wrote one word of Portal, I had four pages of notes and numerous sketches about characters, settings and book outline.  I added the character list and glossary on my website to help readers and also for me to reference (they were stored in my Google Drive as documents). I’m just not experienced enough to keep everything in my head. For The Forgotten, I’m trying something different and using software called Snowflake. It’s a simple XML database builder that begins with basic questions about plot points and expands over a dozen steps.

Lady-JusticeOnce you have an idea that sparks your imagination do you research your idea or do any world-building exercises, or do you just begin to write and see where the Muse takes you?
I thoroughly research ideas before I add them to the story. I also try to learn the basic lingo for equipment. Far too often, writers use the wrong terms, especially involving firearms. I wrote a few articles for the Pen and Cape Society and The Pen in the Stone explaining how weapons and body armor really work to help others. After I decided to move Portal from the thought cloud to paper, I did a lot of research on special relativity and theoretical physics, rereading A Brief History in Time and The Universe in a Nutshell by Stephen Hawking and Michio Kaku’s Hyperspace for references. Since much of Portal was from Michael’s perspective, I needed to understand what he would see at the center of a massive object (himself). I also had to describe Vengeance (Michael’s psychotic alter-ego) warping space-time around a supervillian to keep him from teleporting away and then ripping him apart using a mini black hole.

ScimitarWhat is your daily writing time like?
I have small children so my life revolves around their schedule. As any parent knows, any time alone after a hard day is a luxury, but when I’m also writing, let’s just says it’s never enough. I can usually squeeze in 30-45 minutes a day when the kids are going to sleep and maybe an hour or two on Saturday and Sunday before they wake up.

Are you a full time writer? If so when did you make the decision and what factors led to the decision? If you are not a full time writer…Is your plan to one day being a full time writer?
I call myself a hobbyist writer. I never intended to get involved with the writing community, but that is exactly what happened. I was lucky to meet Drew Hayes early in my plunge to online fiction and through him, I have been introduced to many other wonderful people with a wide range of knowledge and experience. Although writing is not a natural talent for me, I have always been creative from digital media to metalworking. I love thinking of ideas and bringing them to life.

VengeanceCan you tell us about your experience working with your current publisher? (Any other publishers?) (Or your self-publishing experiences?)
Self-publishing has been an interesting trip. When I decided to take the plunge, I visited several websites focused on hosting stories but they were too limiting. It took a couple of days but I designed and developed ThePenintheStone.com from the ground up. I chronicled some of the early decisions, including rewriting some of the WordPress plugins to work properly for serials, and in the end, I think it was the right decision. I received many compliments from readers on my first background image of the destroyed Los Angeles and my comic covers are very popular. I added the drone background a few months later after one of my chapters featured it in action.

For most people, I would suggest a serial website to start, such as Drew Hayes’s StarterSerials.com to get your feet wet. It is not easy keeping a website running smoothly, posting regularly, and creating new media unless you have experience as a web developer.

NetWhat is your current release and (without spoilers) tell us about the new book or series.
The Enhanced Series is my look at what would happen in the real world if people had superpowers and it would be nothing like the comic books. I just wrapped up Portal, Book 1 of The Enhanced Series, in mid-July. In August, I am releasing a prequel short story titled Inheritance that focuses on a robbery many years before the beginning of the book. The story is based on a real event in 1997, but when you add in superpowers, things tend to go from bad to worse rather quickly. In October, the story continues with Paradox, Book 2 of The Enhanced Series.

Can you tell us about some of your other writing (fiction or nonfiction) and any appearances or signings that you have planned?
In between the two books, I have ventured into science-fiction with The Forgotten hosted by StarterSerials.com. After a violent civil war that ends with the nuclear destruction of one side, the planet Cygnus is ready for peace. But after alien spaceships appear in the sky, the people face annihilation by the advanced visitors. A veteran of the civil war knows that aliens are not a new life form, but the descendants of the people the original settlers left behind on Earth.

JTF-AgentAs an author what inspiration or advice would you give to a writer who is working to make the transition to Author?
Don’t give up. There were many times I wondered if I was in way over my head (I still do), but I keep trying and I keep improving. Even I can see my writing has improved by leaps and bounds since I started writing Portal. I don’t believe a great author is just born, but great writing must be developed, just like any other thing worth achieving. Now, if a publisher wanted to pay me a lot of money, then priorities might change and I could refocus on writing, but for now, I’m a developer.  I do enjoy the creativity and exploring the what-ifs of my imagination. If you truly want to be a great author, you need to focus on achieving that goal and be prepared for the highs and lows.

Atomic_PowerWho is your favorite author, and can you recommend a book by that author?
I could easily say Robert Jordan and George R.R. Martin are favorites, and they are great writers, but I am not a big fan of long sagas that stretch decades to write.  Jordan’s Lord of Chaos is probably one of the best fantasy books ever written, especially the climactic battle. If I had to choose a current favorite that would be Andrzej Sapkowski, the Polish author who breathed life into one of my favorite characters ever, Geralt of Rivia, the witcher.

Since I write in the superhero genre, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Alan Moore, the creator of The Watchmen. If you consider yourself any type of comic fan, you should have read it already. The movie was a valiant effort but just didn’t capture the essence of the graphic novel.  And Alex Ross created one of the best comic series ever with Kingdom Come. Moore and Ross had a huge impact on my story development for The Enhanced Series.

TheForgotten_bookcoverIf you would like more information about Jeffery Allen you can find his books and updates about his writing on Facebook Twitter, and on his website.

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