Today, I'm interviewing Chris Allinotte, the excellent author who contributed the short story There's an App for That to "The Temporal Element." Thank you for taking the time to be interviewed, Chris.
For a warm-up, could you tell our readers a little bit about yourself?
ALLINOTTE: Well, I’m Canadian, for one, and I’ve recently seen a lot more of the country as we picked up and moved about 1,300 miles west. I went through school and university with the intent of becoming an actor—and I was, for about 2-3 years in Toronto, before meeting my wife and starting a family (which was way more fun than waiting tables and starving). Since then, I’ve been a professional marketer by day / writer by night and weekend.
MTI: Speaking about your writing, tell me, what first compelled you to weave fiction, and what's your favorite type of story to write?
ALLINOTTE: I’ve always been a storyteller. Even when I thought I was going to be an actor, it was always the writing part that I liked best. Throughout high school, my favourite subjects were English and Creative Writing. Basically any time I had the chance to tell a story “out of my own head” I was happy. I think I knew it was serious when I wrote my first story that wasn’t for a class assignment or anything—a werewolf story called “Howl.” My favourite stories to write are the ones that surprise me. By that, I mean that sometimes I willsit down with the intention of writing a story with this flavour, or that kind of scenario, just to see if I can do it. Sometimes it works, like my first piece of “Noir” fiction that I ever wrote (The Sins of the Past, that was published at Thrillers, Killers n’ Chillers.) Other times, it’s fallen completely to pieces, like my first-ever NaNoWriMo novel. Either way, I’m learning something, and it’s fun. If the writer is having fun when he’s writing the story, I think it shows to the reader.
MTI: Yes, quite so. Now, if you had to pick the one author who has influenced or inspired you the most, who would it be?
ALLINOTTE: It will sound a little cliché, but my biggest influence, bar none, is Stephen King. I started reading his books when I was 12, and they had a huge impact on me. His nonfiction too—I share his view that whatever form you write, people had better be getting a damned good story when they pick it up, or you’ve wasted their time. For the past few years, as I’ve tried to get more “craft” in my writer’s craft, and more tools formy kit, I’ve broadened my reading as much as possible. Right now, I’m really enjoying some classics—masters of the craft who I never managed to get around to before. Algernon Blackwood, in particular, has a style that I really enjoy. His ghost stories are some of the best I’ve ever read; he knew how to ratchet up tension. Also, I’m reading a Rudyard Kipling collection right now. All I can say is that “Damn. He’s good.” Honestly, I’ve never been transported so quickly into a fictional world as when I’m reading Kipling.
MTI: The Temporal Element is an anthology devoted entirely to time travel adventures. These fictional accounts are fascinating, of course, but do you ever believe that humanity will discover a viable way to travel backwards and forwards through time?
ALLINOTTE: It’s funny, because just this past year there was that incident in Italy where some scientists had, at least for a month or so, thought they’d broken the speed of light—which is to many a scientist and sci-fi fan, the main hurdle one must cross to attain time travel. If nothing else, it got everyone thinking about it for awhile! But personally, I don’t think humanity will ever travel in time. My main reasoning is that it won’t happen, because it hasn’t happened yet. If we eventually discover the mechanism to travel back in time, chances are someone would have gone back before now already. And if they did that, then the world would be in an ever-changing state of chaos, as history is constantly being rewritten. Wait a minute...
MTI: Whether probable or not, if you could go back to any point in history, when would you visit?
ALLINOTTE: That was one of the best parts of writing “There’s an App for That.” I got to explore what it would have been like at all these different times for the intrepid time traveller. Based on where my thoughts took me in that story, I am no longer interested in seeing dinosaurs. I’d probably like to visit our recent past—the early 1900’s. That’s when some really cool things were taking off. Cars were a new thing, human powered flight was starting to leave the realm of fantasy. I think it would be tremendously exciting. Oh—and I would also really like to go drinking with William Shakespeare.
MTI: Looking forward, what futuristic piece of technology would you like to own or have for personal use?
ALLINOTTE: I’m old enough to remember when a TV was a massive piece of furniture, about the size of a loveseat, and when a home computer required you to “press play on tape” if you wanted to run a program—so I’m already living in the future. My cell phone, which is already three generations behind, is still more amazing than anything I’ve had access to in the past thirty years. But—if I’m shooting the moon—I’d love to have a machine that I can dictate my stories into, and have it appear onscreen 100% correct, AND have it already formatted and ready to go. It would also immediately highlight adverbs, and clichés. That or some kind of invisibility cloak/jet pack combination. Either way.
MTI: Turning back to your writing, can you tell us a little about what you're working on right now?
ALLINOTTE: My current work in progress is a sci-fi/horror story that actually began early last year as a much shorter, completed piece. I’ve since come back to it, and wanted to add more to the story, as reading it over, I noticed that there’s not enough time to care what happens to the protagonist—and that’s vital. If I needed to paint a very broad idea of the plot, it’s something like the videogame Silent Hill, set in the post apocalypse world of Terminator.
MTI: Tell our readers a little about your short story collection, Gathering Darkness. That's been available for a while now, hasn't it?
ALLINOTTE: Gathering Darkness has been out since June of last year. It took me a long time to come up with that title, but it’s an appropriate one. The book collects my favourite stories from the beginning of my current "writing career"—being the moment I decided to start sharing my stories with publications, to the present. It’s a sort of Yearbook that I can look back on and say “so that’s what I was writing then. ”At the same time, I was pretty ruthless in my selection process. Out of about 60 possibles, I pared it down to the 28 that are in it now. I wanted the book to reflect my voice as a writer—which seems to have worked. A lot of the reviews I’ve had on the book refer to the stories as being similar to the Twilight Zone, or Tales from the Crypt. I get that. I grew up on A Nightmare on Elm St. and Evil Dead. I collected monster trading cards, and comic books. For me, horror needs to have a little fun. Why else are people subjecting themselves to such grotesque, awful things, except as a bit of entertainment—I say you might as well get a little laughter along with your screaming for your money. That’s what Gathering Darkness is all about. On another note, I’ve just made the e-book exclusive to Kindle, so I can run a few more promotions with Amazon than I could before. I’ve got new stuff coming, but I don’t want to forget about this one either.
MTI: Other than There's an App for That, appearing in The Temporal Element, do you have any other stories planned for publication in the near future?
ALLINOTTE: I’ve got one flash piece that will probably be up at Thrillers, Killers n’ Chillers in the near future, but otherwise, I’ve still got three or four other pieces that are in various stages of completion. I’m slowing my pace down a little these days. Part of it is less writing time, but the other is a desire to be a little more meticulous with my craft.
MTI: On a lighter note, have you watched any good tv lately?
ALLINOTTE: American Horror Story. I have wanted to see a show like that on TV forever and that they’ve just finished a second season is awesome. This is some of the coolest storytelling I’ve ever seen on TV, and the cast is amazing. Jessica Lange needs to win everything for her work in this show.
MTI: What sort of music do you enjoy?
ALLINOTTE: I listen to pretty much everything, but when I’m writing, I tend to gravitate towards the same few artists—Tool, Within Temptation, Apocalyptica, and Alice Cooper. Especially Alice Cooper. He is the horror-author’s musician.
MTI: You have the attention of some prospective readers. Do you have any words of wisdom to share with them?
ALLINOTTE: This has been said before, and most likely more eloquently: If you’re a fellow writer—keep writing. Do it. Make yourself do a page a day if you need to, but do it. Also—be a reader, too. See next point. If you’re a reader—read EVERYTHING. Read the authors you like. Read some authors you don’t like. Read comic books. Read classics. (Pro tip: they are called classics because they are great stories. Not just because they are old. Usually.)
MTI: And, as we wrap up this great interview, would you like to share a few paragraphs of fresh material with us?
ALLINOTTE: First, thanks very much for the interview, Martin! It’s a real honour to be part of the Temporal Element Anthology. Secondly, here is something that’s still in progress, but I like this particular passage. The working title is “Summerfriend.”
"Hey. Come look at this."
Michael started to reply, but Karen cut him off with a finger to her lips, "Be quiet. You'll scare it."
Following her gaze, Michael saw the snake. It was about three feet long, charcoal black, and had a grotesque bulge just behind its head. The snake's tongue flicked out around the tip of mouse tail that was still poking out of its mouth. Michael was transfixed. "Cool," he said.
"Think we can get him to spit it out?" the girl whispered.
"What?" Michael looked at her. He must not have heard her right.
"Come on," she said, "I bet if you pick it up by the tail and smack it on the tree, the mouse will fly out."
"I'm not doing that."
"What, are you chicken?" she was still whispering, but her tone and expression were mocking again.
"I'm not chicken," said Michael. "I don't want to."
The girl gave a disgusted chuckle and said, "You baby. Watch this."
Without another word, her hand darted out and seized the snake by the tail. It slung itself up in a tight arc, trying to bite her, but its mouth was too full to do anything. She stepped back, and swung the animal hard by its tail, directly into the first of the birch trees. Michael winced at the sound, which was like the breaking open of an apple. The snake now lay ruined on the ground. Around its neck, the skin had split and burst open.
Michael had to turn away when he saw a tiny pink paw poking out one of these new slits.
"Ew," the girl said, "It's still alive."
Turning back, Michael saw the snake still working its jaws pathetically. Revulsion tried to overcome him, but he had the idea that he should put the thing out of its misery. Raising one muddy shoe, he stamped down hard on the dying reptile's head, and ground it into the dirt.
Something in his chest hitched. This was so wrong.
"Cool, look at the blood," said the girl. "And those are its brains."
"Shut up," said Michael. "Just shut up."
Looking away from the mess at his feet, he saw that his words had had an effect. The girl's expression had grown sullen, and her lower lip was stuck out. She was probably going to cry.
Good, thought Michael, she should cry. This was a really bad thing to do.
"I'm sorry," said the girl.
"You should be," replied Michael.
"I am," she said, and looked back over her shoulder to the woods. "Look, um, I have to go. Can I play with you tomorrow?"
At that moment, Michael didn't see any of the cruelty that he'd witnessed just moments ago. He saw a lonely kid his own age. "Yeah," he said. "No more killing stuff though, okay?"
Thank you, Chris, for that great interview and the intriguing sample. Those who want to check out his story, There's an App for That, along with 20 other fascinating time-travel tales, can order The Temporal Element.