Sole Focus

News, Views, Rantings & Ramblings by Carey Parrish

My Photo
Location: Georgia, United States

Saturday, October 8, 2011

A Visit With Novelist Gregory G. Allen

Gregory G. Allen is a man who is amassing a devoted following with his most recent book Well With My Soul. The book has in fact been submitted for a Lambda Literary Award. Having read the book, I can only say that it more than worthy of the praise it is receiving. You just can’t put it down. Not that long ago Greg and I began following each other on Twitter and the rapport we developed was immediate. This is a man who has the sheer energy to draw you in, whether it be a conversation or a work of fiction, and he is a loyal friend. A native of Texas who now resides in New Jersey, I asked Greg for an interview and he happily obliged. His background as a producer and a director gives him a unique voice through which he crafts his stories, and the insight into his brilliance is quite refreshing indeed.

CP: Greg, thanks for visiting with me.
GA: Thank you for having me to your site.
CP: How long have been writing professionally?
GA: I had my first musical produced by a theatre company when I was 14. A children’s musical called “Dracula Bites at Dusk” (it was the early 80s…what can I say.) I wrote three more musicals throughout high school and when I moved to NY, became involved in the BMI Musical Theater Workshop and wrote more shows then.
CP: What first got you interested in writing?
GA: Writing for the stage, it was definitely my love of performing. I was acting and singing since I was five. By 5th grade, I was writing short stories and ‘plays’ that I would direct the neighbor kids in my backyard. I think writing my original musicals in high school was an extension of being a ‘story teller’ as an actor. That need to tell stories followed me into adulthood as I became a director and producer as well.
CP: Your book Well With My Soul has been making a lot of noise. What is the book about?
GA:  Well With My Soul is a book about choices we make in our lives and how it affects those around us. It follows two brothers (one straight and one gay) through fifteen years of their lives and it is told through each of their voices. With themes of religion, sexuality, addiction and ego, there is a little bit of everything in this book which accounts for some of the noise. J It’s certain to ruffle some feathers when you have a minister’s story in the same book that has sex in the bathroom at Studio 54.
CP: Where did you get the inspiration for the story?
GA: I first wrote this book as a play and the moment I heard it read aloud, I knew I needed to novelize it. I had been following so many stories in the news of high profile men being caught in homosexual situations (the Ted Haggards of the world) and I wanted to attempt to get inside of the mindset of someone who felt more comfortable in a closet than out of it. The self imposed homophobia mixed with extreme ego of thinking they could never get caught really intrigued me. I was brought up Southern Baptist and writing a novel about religion and sexuality (set in the late 70’s and 80’s when our country was in a very different time) where I could show two sides to that story appealed to me. I really enjoyed stepping inside the mind of each brother to show opposing views. CP: To what do you attribute its popularity?
GA: I think I tend to write raw stories that do not always go where people expect. And I know people can easily get upset over twists in a novel, but those turns can contribute to bigger conversations. I knew writing it that a certain section would be upset over the portrayal of religion in the book as would some of the gay community for my gay protagonist not being such a likable character. But to me – that is truth. There are good and bad in all groups and nothing is ever completely black and white. I think that is why I was so happy to get such great feedback from both clergy as well as some gay authors that I know and admire.
CP: I understand you’ve been nominated for a Lambda Award for the book. What does that kind of recognition feel like?
GA: It’s almost strange for me to talk about any kind of nomination with the book just ‘officially’ coming out on National Coming Out Day, but it is a real honor. It is wonderful to know an organization like Lambda is looking at my novel and I guess I’ll be holding my breath until finalists are announced in spring. 

CP: Have you another book in the works right now? If so what can you share about it?
GA: My next book completely shifts gears and is a female protagonist book about a woman who unlocks a terrible past through therapy and has to work to patch her life back together.
CP: What’s next for you?
GA: The next few months will be busy with some book signings and blog tours for Well With My Soul (heading to Philly to Giovanni’s Room…the oldest gay bookstore in the US…so I’m excited about that). I’ve also submitted a children’s book about my godson with autism for a competition that I’ll be asking (begging) readers to vote on in Nov/Dec.
CP: Now a few nosy questions for your fans & readers: Married/Single/Divorced/Involved?
GA: I have been with my partner for 11 years. Three years ago after NJ (where he & I live) approved civil unions, we made it as official as our state would let us on 8.8.08
CP: What are your hobbies?
GA Reading, theater, music, and travel. We love to go on cruises. We’ve done Mexico, Caribbean, Canada, Baltic Sea & Mediterranean Sea.
CP: What are you reading these days?
GA: I’m just finishing up In Leah’s Wake by Terri Giuliano Long and next plan to read Chasing Amanda by Melissa Foster.
CP: What music are you listening to?GA: I just finished cleaning my office (which I had been putting off) and had Eva Cassidy going along with Alison Jear.
CP: Favorite movie?
GA: Somewhere in Time. I know, I know. I’m a sap! (Years ago...I even started writing a musical based on it.) When I met my hubby, I had no idea how much he loved it too. We traveled to Mackinac Island (where the movie was filmed) and had an amazing vacation. (Now THAT was too much information!)
CP: Favorite food?
GA: I love a chicken burrito bowl from Chipotle Mexican Grill
CP: Personal preference: Long sleeves or barefoot weather?
GA: Barefoot weather. After 24 years living up north (since I grew up in Texas), I’m so over the winters.
CP: What advice or wisdom can you share?

GA: If there is something you have a passion for in life: whatever it may be – go for it!
CP: And what are you most proud of?
GA: This ties in with the above, but I walked away from 13 years in corporate America to return to the creative arts and I’m so happy I did. It was frightening to leave the security (and money) of that job, but it was the best choice I ever made.
And readers all over are glad he did make that choice. Talking with Greg is a refreshing look into a truly creative mind. His warm persona and genuine interest into everything he’s doing is quite a nice thing to find nowadays. I’ve a feeling that Greg is going to be making magic for a long time and his audience, ever growing and adoring, will keep right on coming back for more with each new piece he writes. I’m happy to recommend Well With My Soul and if you get the chance to do so, find Greg through his website or Twitter and get to know the man for yourself. He’s definitely someone whose presence will make your life fuller.