Yes, I know it is a worn out cliché, but folks I swear if you look in the dictionary for Type A Personality, you would find a picture of Vicki Allen. To prove my point, let me list just a few of her titles and activities:
Pharmacist, drug store/restaurant owner, Mardi Gras Mask Maker and Krewe Member, Certified Zumba Instructor, Wife, Mother, Daughter,….. and my personal favorite – Author. Oh yeah, she likes scrapbooking and photography too. I have known for a long time that I would blog about her but our respective schedules are definitely not in sync, (imagine that) so I did the next best thing. I emailed her. The following post is a conglomeration of the answers she gave to my somewhat amateurish questions, and from my own observations from having met this little red-headed powerhouse in person a couple of times. Besides that, we are facebook friends, that being my only claim to her fame. But first, can I say how much she inspired me without even knowing it? It was probably 2002 or 2003. I can’t remember. Maybe it was 2001? Anyway, we were both set up in our booths at the Pecan Festival, she with her books and gift baskets, me with my paintings. I spotted her booth across the way and was drawn to the books. Luckily, I approached the booth at the same time a person I knew did and low and behold, she happened to know Vicki personally. I met her and was totally thrilled. I was talking to a real author! To make a short story simple, I took advantage of the moment and crammed every question I could think of about writing and publishing into my ten minutes of conversation with her. I can’t remember a lot of what we talked about, after all I was star struck, but I do remember one thing. She encouraged me to write. She encouraged me to believe that I could do it.
You know the rest of the story. It took me several years, but I took her advise and I wrote a few books. The first one I lost to cyber-space. That was shortly before I learned what a memory stick is. The second book – well, let’s just say that one never saw the light of a publisher’s day, and for good reason. It took on a life of it’s own and seemed to turn into an exorcism of every bad thing I could think of. Brrrrrr! Glad that one’s gone. The next one, I published. And I am very, very happy about that. By the way, thanks Vicki. Who is to say I could have done it without your encouragement that October day about a hundred years ago?
So humor me a bit, people, the following ‘interview’ is pretty much elementary answer-and-question style without much literary embellishment. But I’m tellin’ you, she’s dynamite, so hang on!
Q: What inspired you to write?
A: Not quite sure how it started. I’ve been writing since around age 7 when I used to ride around the neighborhood on my bicycle building onto the stories that randomly popped into my head. As I got older, I began to jot them down. In fact, I developed the plot for what later became my first book, “For Molly” at age 16.
Q: How many books in print, how many working on now?
A: Currently four books in print: “For Molly,” “The Search for Shannon,” “The Return” and ”Drink One to Me, Christian Bennett” with three more in the works.
Q: How do you write more than one at a time?
A: I’ve learned over the years to write down all ideas, dialogue, descriptive passage, etc., as soon as they come to mind. Some remain vague scenes or random snippets of dialogue, while others develop into full-fledge manuscripts. The more appealing the idea, the more I tend to build on it. “The Return” started from a single paragraph I scribbled down while working on “The Search for Shannon” and grew steadily from there. Once I become engrossed in a storyline, it’s difficult for me to put it aside, even while in the middle of another project so ultimately, I bounce between them as the mood strikes.
Q. How has your family encouraged your work?
A. My entire family has always been incredibly supportive of my work, allowing me time and space to write, reading rough drafts, serving as sounding boards as I toss around ideas, and even accompanying me on book tours—and after four books and three-hundred-plus author events and signings, that says a lot.
Q. Where do you write?
A. I can write just about anywhere, which is why I keep a little notebook in my purse to jot down ideas as soon as they come. I’ve found that nothing is quite as good if I try to remember it later. If my notebook is not handy, any scrap of paper will do. The majority of my books were constructed from handwritten notes, typed pages and rubber-banded stacks of envelopes, scrap paper and Post-It Notes.
Q. Tell me about the hut.
A. The hut is my creative mecca – a freestanding office designed by my husband after he read an article about Oprah Winfrey’s backyard retreat. At the time, our sons were young; our house was loud, constantly filled with rambunctious boys and I was in desperate need of a quiet space to concentrate. To the untrained eye, the hut is sheer chaos—a disorganized cluttered space littered with beads/paint/feathers, photographs and haphazard piles of binder-clipped manuscript pages, but to me, it’s heaven…
Where all the magic happens
Q. Live in the country?
A. We live on 2 acres backing up to a lake just outside the city limits. Close enough to still be in town, yet secluded enough to feel like we’re on vacation.
Q. How often do you write?
A. In an ideal world, I would write everyday. In reality, I write constantly in my head, but for the past couple of years, truly have only had pockets of time here and there to put a few passages on paper. Raising three children and owning a business have consumed much of our time, but now that our youngest child has started college, I am hoping to settle back into a daily routine.
Q: Character you love best?
A: Four-Way Tie: Susanna Robicheaux (For Molly), Lois Carson (The Search for Shannon), Doug Fairchild (For Molly), Javier Cabrera (Drink One to Me, Christian Bennett).
Q. Character you identify with?
A: As with most writers, there is a little bit of me in all of my characters. I don’t think one could pour as much heart and soul into creating them and not have at least some aspects of his own personality shine through. I identify most with my strong feminine characters – the take-charge types with vibrant spirits, dry wit and sharp tongues, which comes as a surprise to most of my readers. Where they are convinced they are meeting Ashley, they actually get Susanna. 😀
Q. Include friends as characters, names?
A. In all my books, only four characters are based on real people and only one of those carries the same first name.
Q. How does you separate work life, play life, writing?
A. Unfortunately, as noted above, work is the evil stepchild who presently demands the majority of my attention. When I do write, I prefer to hunker down in the hut at night or on my day off so I can get it all down without interruption. Play life? In short supply—Right now, play life is proportional to the time we can leave the pharmacy and get out of town 😀
A. The Search for Shannon was a fiction finalist for the Oklahoma Book Award.