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Monday, 11 July 2016

NBTM & #GIVEAWAY - Less Than Human by Allen Long

GENRE

Memoir

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BLURB:

In Less than Human, Allen Long tells the story of his often nightmarish childhood in the wealthy suburbs of D.C., the wonders and mysteries of teenage love, his ill-advised journeys into corporate America and a hellish marriage, and ultimate breakdown.  And yet, his story is mostly one of triumph.  He draws strength from the joys of fatherhood, he finds true love in his second marriage, and through working with psychotherapists and leading a life rich in self-examination, he overcomes both child abuse and the resulting PTSD, finally learning that instead of being less than, he is, indeed, human.

Less than Human follows an unconventional path, arranged as much by theme and association as by chronology.  These stories take many forms, from driving narrative to lyrical reverie, at times evoking mythic overtones, and this variety, along with an unflinching confrontation with the conditions and consequences of childhood abuse, create its own form of suspense--in what direction will this book take us next?

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When I was in my twenties, I frequently wished my father would die and I had nightmares in which I yelled at him, telling him how much I hated him.  As I aged and made progress in psychotherapy, these dreams became more violent.  In addition to shouting at my father, I stabbed or strangled him to death.  Eventually, I stopped dreaming about my father. 

However, in 2012, Jamie, one of my brother Danny’s two sons, told me that he and his twin brother Rick hated going to our parents’ house alone on weekends when they were kids because invariably my father harshly spanked them.  I was outraged my father was still hitting children while in his sixties and my mother did nothing to protect them, just like before.  Had they learned nothing over the decades?

With this outrage came a new series of nightmares. In the most vivid one, I’m yelling at my father in the living room of my childhood home.  My father looks at me with eyes of utter evil and spreads his arms and shoulders in an odd and unnatural way that causes them to transform into a large pair of black wings.  While I look on with horror, my father morphs into a giant vampire bat and I wake up terrified.

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Allen Long will be awarding a $25 Amazon/BN to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Follow the tour and comment; the more you comment, the better your chances of winning. The tour dates can be found HERE


Personal

Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I was born in New York City and grew up in Arlington, Virginia.  I have a B.A. in journalism from Virginia Tech, an M.A. in fiction writing from Hollins University, and an M.F.A. in fiction writing from the University of Arizona.  I began publishing fiction shortly after acquiring my M.F.A. Presently, I work as a hospital nurse, and I’ve served as an assistant editor at Narrative Magazine since 2007.  I’ve published a mix of short stories and memoirs in literary magazines, and my book, Less than Human: A Memoir, came out in January 2016.

What was your favourite book as a child?
I really loved fairy tales.  When I was in high school, I really enjoyed The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings series.  Also, I was a comic book maniac from about first grade through sixth grade.  I also read a ton of science fiction books and collected Doc Savage and Conan the Barbarian novels.  I didn’t read a literary book until I was in college.  Looking back, I think one of the reasons I loved fairy tales and fantasy is that I enjoyed seeing good triumph over evil, since I perceived my brother and myself to be good while our physically abusive parents were evil.  Of course, I didn’t make this connection at that time.

When was that point in your life that you realized that being an author was no longer going to be just a dream but a career you were going to turn into reality?
When I appeared to be one of the most talented students in my creative writing classes in college, and I received a scholarship to pursue an M.A. in fiction writing.  

Writing


How did you choose the genre you write in?

I write both short stories and memoirs.  I like the freedom of making everything up from scratch for a short story, but memoirs are my natural form.  When I wrote my first magazine-length memoir, a writer/editor friend said, “This is the best writing you’ve ever done.  Why don’t you write some more of these?”  I did—the memoirs just poured out of me, and five years later I had completed book.

Are you a planner or a pantser?
I’m a pantser, but if I get stuck or need to take a story to the next level, I do enough planning to get me there.

Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
The book that really knocked my socks off was Ray Bradbury’s The Illustrated Man, which I read when I was thirteen.  That book is filled with great stories combined with beautiful language.  This is the first time I became aware of the power great language can bring to a story.  A writer publishing now who combines great story with beautiful language is Anthony Doerr.  I loved his novel, All the Light We Cannot See.

How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?
Whether it’s short stories or memoirs, I target magazines I want to submit to by using the Duotrope Database, which is available online for $5/month.  When I marketed my book, I used the Duotrope Database, The Poets and Writers online database, and lists of small presses in writing magazines such as, Poets and Writers, The Writer, and Writer’s Digest.

Can you tell us about your upcoming book?
My book is a memoir about how I experienced and overcame child abuse, PTSD, and a nightmarish marriage to finally find true love with my second wife, Elizabeth.  We recently celebrated our twentieth wedding anniversary.  The book also contains all of the major dramatic high and low points of my life.  Subjects include the corrupt business world, teenage love, fatherhood, and my struggle with anxious depression.

What was your favourite chapter (or part) to write and why?
If I were to give a reading, I’d read the chapter entitled ‘Free Floating,” about five days I spent in the psych ward of a hospital.  The environment is fascinating, and that chapter reads like a murder mystery—very suspenseful. Many readers will enjoy the final chapter, “Jimi Hendrix Saved Me from Zombies!” which contains Elizabeth’s and my love story.

How did you come up with the title?
The title is a triple play on words.  First, I felt that my physically abusive parents and my cheating and verbally abusive first wife treated me as if I were less than human.  Second, I felt that they were less than human because they were abusive.  Third, some animals, including elephants and a hummingbird, appear in the book, and these creatures are portrayed much more positively than the abusive humans.

What has been the best compliment?
My oldest son complimented me on how I portrayed my first wife, his mother.  He said she was well-rounded and sympathetic despite her bad behavior.

What sort of writing environment do you create? I.e. music or not? Pen and paper or laptop/PC?
I like to write in my quiet study on my PC with nobody home or just my wife absorbed in her cooking downstairs.

How important are the names in your book? Did you choose them based on how they sounded or looked, or was it completely random?
Sometimes a name just pops into my head when I create a character.  Sometime I construct the name.  In my book, I named the doctor who was in charge of the psych ward Dr. Goodwell.  Also, I have a woman character named Kirsten Drake.  She’s a very angry and dishonest character, and I named her Kirsten because Kirsten strikes me as kind of a harsh-sounding name because of the k sound—my apologies to all of the Kirstens out there.  Also, Drake has a k in it, so her name begins and ends with the harsh k sound.  In addition, if I know a character was born in say, 1956, I’ll look up on Google the most popular baby names in 1956 and pick one that seems to best match my character’s personality.

What is your best marketing tip?
Write a killer good book, so it will appeal to a publisher.  I finished the first draft of my book in 3.5 years; then I spent 1.5 writing the final chapter and completing five cover-to-cover revisions.  Once sold, promote it over all social networks to which you belong.  I also recommend a virtual book tour.

What is your least favourite part of the writing or publishing process?
Starting a short story—it takes a lot of energy to bring a story to life, and your first draft is going to be a million miles away from the final product.

What is your favourite part of the writing or publishing process?
Revising.  I love taking a pretty good piece of writing and polishing it until it sings. 

 Allen Long was born in New York City and grew up in Arlington, Virginia.  He holds a B.A. in journalism from Virginia Tech, an M.A. in fiction writing from Hollins University, and an M.F.A. in fiction writing from the University of Arizona.  He has been an assistant editor at Narrative Magazine since 2007, and his fiction and memoirs have appeared in a wide variety of literary magazines.  He lives with his wife near San Francisco.


Author’s Facebook page:


Tour Organised by: 

Goddess Fish Promotions


33 comments:

  1. I enjoyed the interview; thank you for the chance to win :)

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    1. Glad you enjoyed the interview. Good luck with the contest.

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  2. I really enjoyed reading your interview, thank you!

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    1. Glad you enjoyed it, Nikolina. Thanks for stopping by.

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  3. What do you find to be the most challenging part of writing? And the most rewarding?

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    1. Peggy, please take a look at the last two questions above, and let me know if that answers your questions. Thanks for stopping by.

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  4. Thanks for hosting me. I look forward to addressing all reader questions and comments.

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  5. Happy Monday and thanks again for the chance to win

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    1. Hi, James. Good luck with the contest.

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  6. In case anyone is wondering about the alligator image on the book cover, here's the explanation. When my brother and I were in elementary school, our negligent parents encouraged us to swim in a Florida lake inhabited by an adult alligator while they visited inside with our grandparents.

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  7. Great post, I enjoyed reading the excerpt :)

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    1. Thanks, Victoria. Glad you enjoyed the excerpt.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed the interview, MomJane. Please let me know if you have any other questions.

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  9. Great interview and thank you for sharing that excerpt. This must be a very emotional read. I wish you continued good luck on the book tour! :)

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    1. Clojo--thanks for your comment. Despite some of the dark subject matter, I think the book overall provides an uplifting read. Here's a quote I like from a reader who gave me a five-star review on Amazon: Allen Long’s writing style is unique in that in draws the reader in, tells of sadness experienced by the author, but has an undertone of triumph and joy. Even as you read the chapters outlining Long’s abuse at the hands of his parents, you still know there will be a triumphant ending. I enjoyed this memoir much more than most memoirs telling of abuse

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  10. What are your ambitions for your writing career?

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    1. Hi, Becky. I'm guessing my next book will be a collection of magazine-length memoirs. I'd also like to publish more short stories--I published three and then turned my hand to memoirs, which come naturally. If I write a story that really captivates me, I'd consider turning it into a novel. Thanks for asking.

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  11. Readers, I'm signing off for the day, but I'll continue to address questions and comments that come in. Thanks, Merissa, for hosting me.

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  12. I'm back and thanking you once again for the opportunity at winning your great giveaway

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    1. Rita--Glad you enjoyed the interview. Please let me know if you have any additional questions for me.

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  14. Shared on G+, have a great day!

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  15. Thank you for offering us this giveaway, have an enjoyable Wednesday!

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  16. Have an awesome weekend and thanks for the opportunity to win your great giveaway

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    1. Thanks, James. Good luck with the contest.

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  17. Thank you for the opportunity to win and have a blessed Sunday

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  18. Shared on Facebook to help spread the word around! :)

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  19. Good morning and thank you once again for the chance to win

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  20. Wow. This book sounds like it's right up my alley, in terms of genre & subject matter of the kinds of books I prefer. ...I love memoirs, in particular those with a psych aspect. (My education/training/career are in Clinical Psych.) And I loved reading the interview! That's one of my favorite things about these book blitzes, blasts, tours, or what-have-yous: Getting to know the author a bit. I especially enjoyed reading about Mr. Long's methods for selecting character names. Very interesting!

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