Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Meet Allison M. Dickson

I know you're all wondering if I met Allison on Facebook, and the answer is yes, I did. But I met (virtually) her a while back in a group where she didn't post a whole lot. Then, one day, I saw that she'd put some of her short stories up for free on Amazon and I downloaded a few. I'm going to count the next day, when I posted on her Facebook wall about how amazing her stories were, as the day I met her. Oh, she'd been witty and fun the whole time, I just didn't realize it until I read her work. I've reviewed a couple of her stories over on See Spot Read. Take a look-see over there and then come back and meet Allison, who graciously agreed to answer my questions.

1. How long have you been writing?

I was an early reader and always had my face buried in a book. I remember being about six or seven and practicing my words on a sheet of paper and telling my mom that I’d like to write books one day. She said that sounded like a great idea. For most of my life, up until I went to college, that was my dream, even though I wasn’t sure what exactly I wanted to write. I did a lot of short stories and worshiped Stephen King, and that was what I really wanted to do. But at some point I switched tracks to journalism, because I wasn’t sure I had it in me to write novels, and I was convinced that journalism was the only way to get a paycheck as a writer. It wasn’t until I was in my late twenties that I actually decided to stop with that nonsense and return to fiction and try to make my dreams a reality, with the full support of my husband who understood that doing this would mean he would be the sole breadwinner for the foreseeable future. I was already a stay-at-home mom at that point, so it wasn’t a huge shock to our lifestyle or anything. I’ve been writing, in earnest as a fiction author, since about 2007 or so, and it’s finally starting to pay off in the literal sense.
2. What's the first thing you had published?

My short story, “Aria,” which was accepted into a horror anthology in ’08. It was the first short I’d written since I was about 16, and it read in many ways like I was still 16, but that antho editor liked it, so I was thrilled. I eventually put it up for sale in my Amazon store (after some considerable editing), and for the most part, it has been well-received. Though I still consider it the red-headed stepchild in my collection, I credit that story for making me believe that others might just like what I write and that I should keep going.
3. Do you write full time or do you have a day job?

I do typically write full time. For the last few years, I have done seasonal employment in order to help bring in some extra money, but I’m not sure I’ll need to do that anymore now that the writing is starting to take off.
4. What is your writing routine? Where do you write?

My routine is to try and write as much as I can in the daytime hours when the kids are at school and my husband is at work, but it doesn’t always work out that way. Some of my writer friends say they envy that I don’t have a day job interfering with my writing (and I know what they mean, because I’ve worked a day job as a writer, and it’s hard), but a household doesn’t run itself. Cooking, cleaning, taking sick kids to the doctor, grocery shopping, paying bills, etc always have to take priority. That means a lot of time, like any other daytime worker, my writing happens late at night, after everyone’s gone to bed and there isn’t a whole lot else calling for my attention.

 Up until recently, I always wrote in my living room on the couch with my laptop, because we lived in a very small house. But we just moved into a larger place and I will now have dedicated office space. This thrills me more than you can know.

5. Have you always been a fan of the Horror genre?

Absolutely. I was the little kid watching Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, and Friday the 13th and then sitting up half the night with horrible nightmares. For some reason, though, the nightmares never kept me away. Part of me liked being afraid. I remember every Saturday night watching shows like Monsters and Tales from the Dark Side, which to this day kind of mirrors the type of short work I like to do. Stephen King was also a huge part of my life from age eleven on. I did and still sometimes do mingle with other horror authors like Robert McCammon, Richard Matheson, Peter Straub, John Saul, and Anne Rice (hold the Dean Koontz please), but King still remains my greatest literary muse. However, science fiction has become a big part of my life as well, and that influences a lot of what I do. As does mainstream fiction.
6. What scares you? Any silly phobias?

Nothing too silly. You’ll never find me on some daytime talk show screaming bloody murder at a handful of cotton balls or anything. Okay, I take that back. I’m a wee bit phobic of gummy worms and those Styrofoam shipping pellets. But I’m truly afraid of being lost and of falling down. Terrified of plane crashes and of the ocean. So the idea of a plane crash happening in an ocean is perhaps one of my greatest fears. You know that plane crash scene in Castaway? It was extracted directly from my worst nightmare. Well done, Robert Zemeckis.
7. What other writers do you admire, or have influenced you the most?

Other than those I mentioned above, I would say Robert Heinlein has been a big influence, as well as Neil Gaiman, Joe Hill, Dennis Lehane, and Gillian Flynn. Also the writers I know personally. Ian Thomas Healy is one of my dearest friends and one of the most dedicated writers I know. If it wasn’t for his help in those early days, I probably wouldn’t be writing this, or much of anything for that matter. His drive and work ethic and ability to construct a plot are constant inspirations to me. Anyone who likes superheroes should check out his Just Cause books. Gae Polisner writes gorgeous young adult literature (everyone go buy The Pull of Gravity, now on paperback!), but she is also a wonderful person who brightens the days of anyone who knows her, and she reminds me of the importance of humor and whimsy in daily life. Writers need these things, otherwise we get our heads lodged too far up our own asses. Vincent Hobbes is equal parts friend and mentor. His discovery of my work on Amazon pretty much changed my life, as it led to my relationship with my current publisher, Hobbes End Publishing, with whom I’ve now signed two novel and two short story contracts. I look forward to a long and bright future with them.
8. I know most writers hate the “where do you get your ideas” question, but as a writer, I ALWAYS want to know. I noticed that you include a brief message in the back of your books that often answers the question. What made you decide to do so?

The literal answer to “where” I get my ideas is usually when I’m driving or dreaming, but often I get most of my ideas through conversing with other people.  A certain point or turn of phrase will get caught in the little idea filter in my brain, and then I’m off and running. I write those little author notes, because I actually do love to answer that question. I’m always the person going directly for the “trivia” section for movies on IMDB.com, or who spends far more time on Wikipedia than is healthy. I also love to listen to the director’s commentary on DVDs. That kind of stuff fascinates me. Like you, I want to know where creative people get their inspiration, and in many ways I still feel like a voracious reader pretending to be a writer, so I want to do those things that I as a fan would want other writers to do.  I pull inspiration from infinite places. Sometimes I still feel like a little kid, easily awed and amused by the littlest things, and I think that’s what makes me the kind of writer I am.  Even though I write a lot of dark fiction, I can’t be too cynical. It stifles my creativity in a pretty big way..
9. Best writing advice you've ever been given?

On Writing by Stephen King changed my life.  I sometimes like to pull it down and re-read it when I’m feeling a little discouraged. It’s chock-full of amazing passages and quotes, but here is one of my favorites:

“You can approach the act of writing with nervousness, excitement, hopefulness, or even despair--the sense that you can never completely put on the page what's in your mind and heart. You can come to the act with your fists clenched and your eyes narrowed, ready to kick ass and take down names. You can come to it because you want a girl to marry you or because you want to change the world. Come to it any way but lightly. Let me say it again: you must not come lightly to the blank page.”

10.                  What advice would you give any newbies out there?

Writing is about 10% magic and 90% work. If you want to be a writer, you can’t just think up neat ideas and take a few notes and then procrastinate for about five years, growing more and more bitter that some fairy didn’t descend from the heavens to sprinkle you with magical time-giving dust. No, to be a writer, you have to actually write the story. And then you have to finish that story and start the next one. You have to be willing to bleed and maybe even cry a little when it comes time for the big edit. You may even have to sacrifice a good bit of your social life and be comfortable in solitude. But most importantly, you have to treat it like it’s your main job and give the craft the weight and respect it deserves. A writer, a real writer, doesn’t think of what they do as a fun little distraction when they aren’t doing their “real jobs,” or that thing they would love to do if they “had time for fun little hobbies.” No, the writing is the real job. That other thing you might have to do to keep the lights on and bread on the table is a paycheck that allows you to survive so that you can do what really makes you live. Once you make those little adjustments to your priorities, you’ll be well on your way.
Allison M. Dickson lives in southwest Ohio and has been writing since she could hold pencil to paper. It's only in recent years that she started treating the craft as a career. After earning a few small publishing credits, she started selling her stories online, where she gained a decent following with such dark tales as "Dust" and "Vermin." She soon caught the attention of author and visionary Vincent Hobbes, and her relationship with Hobbes End Publishing solidified with her two contributions to the second volume of The Endlands, and finally with their recent acceptance of her upcoming science-fiction novel, The Last Supper. Her other obsessions include food, movies, cracking bad jokes with her family over dinner, taking pictures of her giant cat, and harboring secret fantasies of being a Bond girl/sword-wielding martial arts master.
You can read more about her life through her blog at http://www.allisonmdickson.com
Twitter : http://twitter.com/msallied
Facebook author page: http://www.facebook.com/authorallisonmdickson

And you folks are so lucky! Several of Allison's works are free right now on Amazon! Go to her Amazon Author page and go down the list of works. You won't be sorry. Pinky swear.