By Melissa Warner Published March 3, 2022
Ms. Allen is one of several self published authors featured at the Northwest Ohio Teen Book Festival. Her first published novel is Veil of Sea and Secret, and will be either a three or four book series. The second is due out Fall 2022, though is as yet untitled. She has a variety of other published work including poetry, flash fiction, short stories, and a Kindle romance genre book under a pen name.
Prior to this, she worked at a library system for over seven years, and for almost all of that time, she ran a writing workshop. On several occasions, speakers came in to talk about self publishing. Four years ago she decided she wanted to self publish her writing, but then “life hit” and then the Covid pandemic and with that her “writing productivity took a dive.” Ms. Allen believes self publishing is “great because anybody can do it,” but “there can be a lot to wade through in terms of quality,” and there are “many more checks to put yourself through if you want to produce a quality product.” Benefits to self publishing include not having “gatekeepers to publishing anymore,” being “the master of your domain,” no longer needing an agent, greater diversity in genre and authors, and the ability to “do whatever you want, write about whatever you want.”
When asked why she writes YA, Ms. Allen responded that she has “always read YA, even in middle school.” She recalled her mother taking her to the library every week. They would read the same books and then talk about them. The teen years are “this magical suspended time where these younger people are learning about themselves, having these personal revelations… It’s a cool magical age, there’s a lot of self discovery.” She specifically writes fantasy because “I’m a nerd – I like dragons and magic. I like suspending my belief as much as possible because being an adult sucks a lot.” She especially likes “high fantasy” as it usually involves “better world building, …more complex characters, …and a deeper hero’s journey both personally and in their world – whatever they are against, it’s usually self and some external source.”
Her writing process is described as combination planner/pantser. Ms. Allen admitted that she “daydreams a lot” and that’s usually how she brainstorms. Her characters do not talk to her as some authors describe. Instead, she said “I’m bossy, I like to boss my characters around.” Characters “show me what they are doing [and] I guide them.” However, she has to write her characters in this series to be “strong voices” to help the reader separate them in this dual point of view writing format. Compared to when she started writing, she has learned that “I’m way better than I think I am. Even back then when I was terrible, I was still better than I thought I was.” She described that writers can have a “real lack of self confidence and impostor syndrome.” Explaining, “you can write something you like and set it aside” and come back after looking at someone else’s completely different work, and now think about yours “this is terrible, that was great but this is terrible…I would have done more with my writing career sooner because I would have had that confidence [of knowing I was better than I thought I was].”
Ms. Allen stated that a common misconception about being a writer is that “everything is a story, that everything has story potential… Everything might inspire a story, but not everything can be stretched into a story.” She also commented that “certain genre are more respected than other ones. [For example] if you write romance, people look at you like you write trash, when you can be an excellent writer and still write romance. It’s the same with YA.”
When she was little, Ms. Allen wanted to be a “nail tech… I like people and nail polish.” She has over 700 bottles of nail polish. Having grown out of that, at 15, she very specifically wanted to be “a corporate lawyer for Pepsi. I like to argue with people and I wanted to make a lot of money.” She acknowledged that that dream was perhaps not the most realistic. In high school, she wrote for the newspaper and was vice president of the art club. Looking back, she wishes that as a teenager she had known “you will wake up the next day and life will move on and generally speaking it’s not the end of the world.” She even uses this lesson as an adult, reminding herself that life’s events are a “blip on your life timeline. There are so many more positive experiences” to come!