Gregory G. Allen has just released his novel, Well With My Soul, a raw and honest novel throwing you in the middle of polar-opposite brothers. Pitted against temptation, adversity, and familial tension, we are taken on a journey with these two men that is sure to invoke emotion. Below is an interview with Allen, speaking about this novel, his own relationships, and his future plans. For a list of his future appearances in and around Philly, click here.
Danielle Zarcaro: What did you do or work on while you were writing Well With My Soul?
Gregory G. Allen: Well With My Soul was a collection of many years for me as a writer. I originally wrote it as a play that had several flashbacks. After the initial reading, I went back to the drawing board and decided to novelize it to truly cover more of the span and scope of the story. A mentor suggested I move it to 1st person POV and the challenge was to get everything from the perspective of one of the two brothers. Writing is a ‘side gig’ for me. Around the time I did the reading, I had just started a new job managing an arts center on a college campus. I think leaving corp America (after 13 years) and returning to an artistic job was the best thing I could ever do for my writing. The creative floodgates were opened!
DZ: How often do/did you set aside for writing?
GGA: I tend to write when I’m inspired. And inspiration usually hits during the night, so much of my writing would be later in the evening. When I’m working on any given project, I tend to become engrossed in it so much that it takes over and I write daily. Now that I’ve moved into the marketing aspect of this novel, my writing has mainly been on my blog.
DZ: How closely does this novel mirror your own life experiences, and how much of it is taken from others’ lives?
GGA: I’ve always said it is hard as a writer not to put elements of yourself into your writing. Pieces of me, my life, my family (or things I’ve come in contact with) sometimes make their way into my stories. This does not make it autobiographical. I’m 42 and was never at Studio 54 in the late 70s or early 80s. (I was playing with my Atari at home.) But I did move to New York in the late 80s and dealt with my own issues of coming out of the closet and working in the entertainment world. I also grew up in a religious home and so writing about religion in this story was second nature to me. I’ve met many people through my years at different phases of dealing with homophobia and coming out. Coupling that with news of the Ted Haggards and other prominent figures who have been ‘outted’ – I wanted to show what it must be like for someone to deal with the closet (in or out). So to answer the question, it is an amalgamation of truth and fiction.
DZ: If you could tell your younger self something, what would you say?
GGA: I’d tell him to keep going for it…not to give up. He’s going to be able to obtain goals if he works hard at it. I look back with no regrets. I’ve worked in many areas of the arts (actor, director, producer, writer) and have loved all aspects of it. Goals have changed and shifted over time, but I’m happy for the journey I’ve been able to go on.
For the relationship readers:
DZ: How long have you been with your current partner? What would you say is the key to a healthy relationship?
GGA: I’ve been with him for 11 years. Three years ago we had a civil union when Jersey finally allowed that to happen. For me, healthiness comes from communication. If you are going along in the dark and not knowing where the other’s head is at, things can quickly go downhill. Make sure you put time into talking about it and not just going along for the ride. All relationships need to be tended and nurtured. And oh yes – laughter. We can make each other laugh so hard and that is great for the soul!
DZ: How important was the support of your family and friends in completing the novel and getting it published?
GGA: Very! Writing is lonely. I come from a theater background and there is a team and you’re working as a group. Not so with writing. Thankfully I have such a supportive partner, family, and friends. They would sometimes let me obsess over the book as I share ideas and thoughts – and give great, helpful feedback. I needed their honesty so I wasn’t just writing this ‘for me.’
DZ: Who or what is your biggest inspiration?
GGA: I find inspiration from many things. I wrote a novelette memoir “Proud Pants” about my older half brother who passed away at 34 and had a wasteful life. Writing that book, I came to terms with the fact that he inspired me most of my life to excel and succeed so I would not turn out as he had. I’m also inspired by writers such as Augusten Burroughs who has no fear in writing raw, truth in his stories. But had my mother and father not instilled me the notion that I could do anything I put my head to – I wouldn’t be doing what I am today.
DZ: Do you have any other projects in the works?
I have a children’s book on autism that has been submitted for a contest and a novel due out in 2012 that has a female protagonist who uncovers a horrible past during therapy and must patch her life back together.