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Saturday, April 3, 2010

Author Interview: Drue Allen

The Long and the Short of It is pleased to welcome Drue Allen whose debut novel The Cost of Love is being released this month by Five Star. The novel bug bit her six years ago, and she's been aggressively pursuing her dream of publication since then. But, twelve years ago she went back to school for a degree in English and stayed for a second, earning her MA two years later.

"I literally submersed myself in language. From that point on it was only a matter of deciding what I wanted to do with the tools I’d learned," she told me.

Drue has learned that sometimes characters have a mind of their own.

"In my upcoming release, I was shocked at one point to find ALL of my characters in one place at the same time. I stormed around the house for half a day, muttering, 'What the hell am I supposed to do with everyone in one room at the same time?'” she shared. "The scene worked itself out and became a turning point in the novel."

When her characters absolutely will not behave, though, and she's learned she has to push herself away from the computer.

"Go do a little gardening, take a hike, practice some yoga, sit with my husband on the back porch, watch the deer in the meadow. I need to participate in life, then I’m ready to write again—and I have to do it often," she said. "I write best in 45 minute chunks with 15 minute breaks in between. That’s not a lot of time, but in the summer I do it for ten hours a day and that adds up to a lot of writing time."

Her next novel will take one of the minor characters from The Cost of Love, Jasmine, and put her in the Olympic National Forest pursuing cyber-terrorists.

"I had the privilege of hiking there recently, and it’s a phenomenal part of the country. I like the idea of juxtaposing its rugged terrain with a techno-thriller plot," she said.

"Who is your favorite author and why?" I wondered.

"There are so many wonderful romance authors out there, and I also read different genres a lot. I’m going to answer way outside the box here and talk about the author that has probably changed my writing the most because I started reading him so late in my reading life—STEPHEN KING. The man is a master at writing compelling characters. For example, I agree with Nicholas Sparks when he described Liesel’s Story as 'a love story seeped in strength and tenderness.' Not what one would expect from the master of horror, which is what makes it such a lovely surprise, and what brings me back to King’s novels again and again. He knows how to surprise and captivate the reader. His characters are undeniably real—they bleed, and we care about them when they do. In a word, the guy rocks."

Drue is still juggling a day job along with her writing career, so her days begin very early. She gets up at 5 a.m., writes for two hours, then treks off to work for eight hours.

"Fortunately, we recently moved to a very small country town—so my trek is approximately three miles. I’ve recouped two hours writing time by eliminating my commute!" she told me. "After work, I come home, check my email (which is banned on my job) and do some outside things for an hour or two. Then I hit the computer again for another two hours—minimum. Week days I’m able to put in four hours of writing time. Most weekends I can put in six or more hours each day, though on weekends that we hike it might be less or none at all. I try to take off at least one weekend a month or I become a bitter, angry person. Makes for great writing angst, but poor interpersonal skills."

Hiking is one of the things she and her husband enjoy doing when she's not writing.

"Mainly because I’m not very athletic and walking is about the only thing I can be trusted to do without hurting myself," she explained. "It’s turned into quite the hobby—my husband and I have hiked the Olympic Mountains, Rocky Mountain National Park, Glacier, parts of Canada, Big Bend, nearly all of the Texas Hill Country, as well as parts of Oklahoma, Arkansas, and New Mexico. We have seen some very remote areas, and hiked trails we would never try again—but that’s part of the adventure."

"What did you want to be when you grew up?" I wondered.

"Honestly, I haven’t decided. You’re laughing, but my husband is holding his head in his hands. I have this idea that I can be SEVERAL things—for one year. For instance, a bar tender for one year. Wouldn’t that be great? Think of all the stories you’d hear in twelve months—enough to fill more than a dozen novels. I’d also like to spend a year working in a seaport town (doesn’t matter what I’d be doing), as a barista (I’m totally addicted to coffee), animal rescue operator, and possibly master gardener."

She admitted to being a bit compulsive about her writing—in fact, she said, "If you were to Google obsessive compulsive you'd find my picture."

She can't delete an email until she's answered it, and she doesn't like her email in-box to reach over a page. She has to file all papers, color code her excel charts ("yes, I HAVE excel charts," she said), and she keeps a tabbed writing binder for each project.

"In other words, I’m a total freak," she confessed. "I don’t think that’s because I’m especially well organized, but more because I’m a desperate person. If I jot down a sticky note by hand, a few hours later I cannot figure out who wrote the note or what it means. I’ll take it to my husband and ask him to interpret. I’ve learned coping mechanisms over the years that work very well for me—probably picked them up in grad school—but they come off as a bit odd. My handwriting is unreadable—which is very sad considering I’m a college professor. I SHOULD be able to write legibly. I TRY. I was recently in a week-long conference, and I was so bored I practiced writing the alphabet, determined I could make my handwriting better. Nope. It’s as unreadable as always."

On a personal note, I asked Drue, "Do you hate how you look in pictures?"

" YES! How did you know?" she replied. "You saw one, other than the one I submitted. That’s the ONLY semi-good one I have. I don’t know what happens to me in front of a camera, honestly. I’m not a Frankenstein-ish person, but when someone points a camera at me, something strange happens. It can’t be explained."

She admits to having many strange habits. "One that seems to irk people the most," she said, then paused. "Okay, it's hard to narrow down to one. I don’t eat white foods (any—no mayonnaise, blue cheese dressing—why do they call it blue when it’s white, cheese cake, you can name them all, I don’t eat white). Also, I read in the dark, semi-dark. Light hurts my eyes. I can see fine. I promise. Still, people insist on turning on lights for me. Thank you, no. I even asked my doctor, and he said it will NOT hurt my eyes to read in dim light. (That’s a wives’ tale.) If you see me reading in the dark, please wave and walk on. Or sit down and talk. Just don’t turn on a bright light."

Drue told me she's had some pretty horrible experiences in her past…including one year of eating nothing but eggs because they were 65 cents a dozen.

"They DO have a lot of protein," she assured me. "I don't think I would erase any of those experiences. First of all, I created most of those experiences through my own bad choices. Secondly, I learned from them and they made me who I am. So why erase them? I believe I experienced them for a purpose. I don’t recommend the egg thing though—definitely not healthy. Add some fruit."

"What's a saying you use a lot?" I wondered.

"Spot-on. You were spot-on when you said that I’m a bit odd, but still a nice person!"

Finally, I asked, "What advice would you give a new writer just starting out?"

"Surround yourself with positive people. As with any profession, there is a lot of negativity in the publishing industry and many times for good reason. Focus on what you have control over including the people you 'hang'” with (both physically and virtually). Focus on how you spend your time, energies, and resources. Keep your eye on the goal and have a plan."

You can keep up with Drue on her blog,

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