Today, we’d like to introduce you to a wordsmith from across the pond, Bret Allen! Bret has published a collection of short stories you can sink your teeth into, Strange Matters. As his tagline on his website reads, “Doing Words,” Bret not only writes tales of fantasy, myth, and magic, but he also provides professional copywriting services. We hope you’ll enjoy getting to know a bit more about Bret and his words.
- Tell us a bit about yourself and how your book, Strange Matters, came about.
Well, I live in Stoke-on-Trent, which is in the midlands of the UK. I’ve been dabbling with writing since I was 16, but never really finished things. I wrote a few short stories here and there, almost always fantasy and had the same bunch of unfinished novels that all writers have, but they actually became useful in my late 20s.
I started writing more short stories as a way to explore some existing ideas (without resorting to full novels) and hone my skills a bit. When I had several stories and some good feedback, I decided it was time to use them, by compiling a collection. A lot of time passed while I added to the set and polished the existing stories, until I finally had Strange Matters! I’m really proud of this book, because it represents my first finished work, from first keystroke to printed object.
- Are you planning more writing projects and if so, will you stick with the fantasy genre?
Absolutely! Strange Matters contains a short called ‘Arcturus’ which dips into the first setting I ever devised (it’s changed a great deal since I was a teenager!) and I’d love to actually write the full novel, which takes place a few years after the short.
More likely, I’ll write a full-length Sleepwalkers tale. There are three in Strange Matters and the setting is far more developed than that of Arcturus. It also requires a lot less research, being set in the modern world! Whatever happens, I’m staying with fantasy. Perhaps for life!
- Can you describe your writing process? When and where do you do most of your writing? What kind of technology do you use to create and compose?
For the most part, I’m part of the dive-in school of writing. I rarely plan, except for having a rough idea of the shape of a story. That’s not to say that I always get on with that method- it’s probably the cause of my huge editing time!
I do most of mine at my desk in my living room, when I can snatch an hour or two after work. I’m rubbish at managing time and I can’t force writing, so my progress is slow. I have a mighty desktop PC to write on, but that can be distracting, because it’s also the source of my second love, gaming! I’m a Microsoft Word man, too stuck in my ways to change.
- How do you generate ideas for your stories?
I like to say they come from daydreams and nightmares, which is broadly true. The Sleepwalkers setting started with a dream and was developed on the back of some idle daydreaming in a park! Most ideas, however, spark from reading or seeing something interesting. For example, I came across the Buda legends while reading about African mythology, leading to The Wordsmith.
- What are you reading now? Who is your favorite author? In your opinion, what constitutes good writing or conversely, bad writing?
I just read Tom Holt’s Earth, Air, Fire and Custard! That’s part of a set of modern fantasy comedies, which really poke fun at the genre. Tom especially excels at putting ordinary people in situations with magic, goblins and the like, then pointing out how hilariously useless they would be.
My favourite author however is Neil Gaiman. He captures amazing ideas based on mythology and history and manages to do loads of modern fantasy tales without resorting to vampires or werewolves. I’m really not sure what makes writing good or bad, but in his case, I think it’s an understatement. Knowing how to let the reader draw their own conclusions and imagine the really scary parts, without holding their hand and also without being too vague… that takes skill and confidence!
- What advice can you give to first time authors?
I always recycle some of Gaiman’s advice… WRITE! Really, you can only get better by practicing. The more you create, the better. Don’t worry too much about the rules, either!
We hope you enjoyed getting to know Bret. You can find out more about him and his work at the following link: http://bretallen.info/book/strange-matters/
Anne, Nancy, and Eric