Name Martha J Allard, though almost everyone calls me Mart
Age I am 53 years old! I can’t believe it.
Where are you from : I’m from Flint Michigan
A little about your self `ie your education Family life etc
I am a lifelong resident of Flint Michigan. I went away to school, to Eastern Michigan, and even moved to LA for a while around the end of the eighties. But I missed all the shades of green that we have here, so I moved back. I live in an old house, with four cats, and two roommates, who I’ve been friends with for 35 years…. a nephew, part time. And a giant gold fish….
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
I’d love to! My first book just came out from Automatism Press at the end of May. It’s called Black Light, and is about a rock band in L.A. in 1983….. Oh, and a psychic vampire.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
So I’ve had two religious experiences in my life. Both happened when I was 13. The first was that I saw Star Wars. It was the first movie I ever saw by myself, and after the credits rolled, I didn’t want to go back to my life. I walked out of the theater, into the mall, and intended to wait for my mom to come and pick me up, but I ended up spending the rest of my allowance on a notebook at the drugstore, and a pen. I started writing my own story right then, that day. The second? We’ll get to it in a minute.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I’ve been asked that before. I think I really began to think of myself as a writer when I realized that I had more published short stories than unpublished ones. It happened slowly. Then I thought, “Now I can say I’m a writer.” Which is dumb, because the truth is, we are writers when we put the pen to the page. .
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
Black Light is my first book—believe it or not. I started it, with my best friend thirty-three years ago. The inspiration for the story comes from a couple of different places. First, remember I said I had two religious experiences? The second one involves David Bowie. I was a teenaged insomniac, and I used to sneak downstairs in the middle of the night to watch videos (pre-MTV). One night I saw I Am A DJ, by David Bowie. Something about the shrill desperation of the song was comforting. It made me feel less alone in the middle of the night. Asia, especially was born from that. Another inspiration was the feeling of having your heart broken for the first time. Not just romantically, but by the process of finding your place in the world.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
I think my style is what the kids today call pantsing. Following a plot line is like death for me, because I write to see what will happen next. I tend to let the characters control as much of the plot as I can manage. Turns out, they always have much better ideas than I do.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
Black Light is the name of the band. It came from a line from the Police’s song, King Of Pain. “There’s a little black spot on the sun today, that’s my soul up there.” It’s always reminded me of the relationship Trace has with Albrecht Christian. Not a Bowie song, which is weird, I know, but from the same era as the book.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Don’t stay silent. Tell people you love them, or hate them, even. Come out of the closet, as loud as you can. Just speak. Tell people how you feel right now.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
I’ve never been in a rock and roll band, but I lived in L.A. for a while. Both places the band lives in were places I stayed while I was out there. And I’ve lived a lot of the little things that they live—having to run the heater in your car in ninety degree weather so you don’t over heat? Yep, been there. Ending up in the extra hotel room bed while somebody else is having sex… Yeah, that happened. Being so in love that you want to die, but incapable of speaking it out loud, that was me too. And the emotions are all things I’ve felt. A lot of my twenties ended up in the story, as well as most of the people, in some way.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
Those are two really long lists, so I’ll mention the top few in each. “Something Wicked this Way Comes,” by Ray Bradbury. Also “Someplace to be Flying,” by Charles DeLint. Those are to two biggies. And a really almost forgotten Harlan Ellison book called Spiders Kiss. That was the first rock and roll/magic novel I read more than thirty years ago, and it stuck, clearly.
As far as mentors go, I keep finding new ones. The three women come to mind, especially when I think about finishing Black Light. The first is Loren Rhoads, who is also my publisher, also the woman I started the book with all those years ago. We wrote together when we were kids, and still do, when we can. She helped me shape the idea of what I wanted to see on the page, and then helped me make it better. Also, Melodie Bolt and Kacey Vanderkarr. Both of them are wonderful writers, younger than I am, and both have a much better sense of grammar! They helped me line-by-line through the last part of this book, and are constant encouragement whenever I need it most.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest and who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
Kathe Koja is a writer that I’ve admired from afar for a long time. She’s not new, but she never fails to capture my attention. She has recently written three books that I find fascinating, the first of which is called “Under the Poppy.” They begin in Brussels, in 1870. Her style is unique, and her characters have inspired hero worship in me.
My favorite author is Charles De Lint. Though he hasn’t written many adult books lately, the novels and short stories he wrote in the eighties and nineties pretty well invented urban fantasy, or mythic fiction, as he prefers to call it. His work inspired me to write about dangerous things, even if I thought no one wanted to read them.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
Happily! I’ve belonged to the same critique group since 1981. The Flint Area Writers have heard everything I’ve worked on since then. They offer endless critique and encouragement.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Yes, even though I have a day job. I see writing as my way to get through life.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I wondered how I would feel when it was finally over, if I would have regrets, or realize, after it was too late, that I’d made a terrible mistake. The good news is, no. It is all what I meant to write.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I was a bad sleeper as a child, and spent a lot of time staring at the ceiling in the dark, waiting for something to happen. I told myself stories because it’s lonely in the middle of the night, and the dark is scary. But it wasn’t until I saw Star Wars that I started to write things on paper.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Sure. This is bit of my neo-Victorian novel called (at the moment) “The Night Was Not.”
The main character, Kerry Hazard is just landing his airship:
It was just past mid-day when Kerry set the Starshine down. Through the bridge’s viewport Margrave seemed a city entirely made of glass. When he stepped out onto the deck to inhale a breath of the frozen air, Kerry realized there must have been an ice storm during the night. The shine had been a trick of the fierce sunlight. It coated the street, buildings, every branch of every tree. It gave the place a treacherous beauty that Kerry found appropriate. Even here, in the Strolls, where he’d grown up, cutting purses on the cracked cobblestones from the time he could reach a man’s pocket.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
I am not a fan of literal description when I read, so I work hard in my writing to make all my descriptions do double duty. I want them to show the visual, provoke emotion in the reader and color the mood of the scene. Sometimes it works out. Sometimes…. I only get close to what I want.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
The opportunity doesn’t come up very often to do that. Even though I write about magic, most of my stories take place close to home, or a home I have had. Black Light is set in places I have lived, L.A. and Michigan .
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
The front image is by Julia Gollbach of BioBlossom Creative and the back is by Mason Jones, of Automatism Press.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Writing the end. I’d lived with these characters in my brain for so long that I was shocked at how hard it was when they left. It sounds silly, but I didn’t expect it to be so final.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I learned a lot. I learned not to give up, for one thing. Also, I learned that time and distance really does give you perspective. I found a version of the book in my mother’s attic over ten years ago and read it. That incarnation of Albrecht was forty-two years old. Trace believes Christian is the oldest person he’s ever met. Because he was the oldest person I could imagine at the time, when I was 20. Of course, reading it when I WAS forty-two was a completely different experience.
Fiona: If any of your books was made into a film who would you like to play the lead
Albrecht Christian: Ralph Fiennes
Trace: Douglas Booth
Asia: Douglas Smith, maybe.
Tommi: Johnny Weston
Weird: Ewan McGregor
I have to tell you that almost none of these actors were my choices. I had to ask my younger friends, because all of my picks were too old now, or dead. Sigh. I also have to say that Tom Hiddleston was in the running for both Albrecht and Weird. Because who doesn’t love Tom Hiddleston?
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Ignore the advice “write what you know.” That’s where we all start. We can’t help it. Write what you want to understand. Write what you feel. Make all the words exactly what you want to say.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
I love you. Come to my house, and I’ll cook for you. Seriously. Thank you.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
“Every Heart A Doorway,” by Seanan McGuire. Stepping Stones, by Kacey Vanderkarr.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
The first novel I remember reading was Anne of Green Gables. It left with me an obsession with redheads.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Too many things make me cry, both ugly and beautiful things. I cry when I hear songs-specifically “Life On Mars” and “Bewlay Brothers,” by David Bowie. Things that make me laugh: Robert Downey Jr, my silly cat Henri, any Star Wars joke, especially about Stormtroopers not being able to shoot things.
Fiona: Is there one person pass or present you would meet and why?
Well, most sadly, David Bowie. I never wanted to meet him when he was alive, because I loved him too much, but now, you know…. I miss him almost as much as I miss Trace and Asia.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why ?
“She Has Done All She Can.” Because I hope that will be true.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?
I am a crocheting fiend. I also have a garden. (Wow, how old do I sound?)
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I don’t have TV, so I don’t watch a lot of current things. I’m a Supernatural fan, because, well, shotguns and angst. Also Ripper Street, and I was fond of Strange Empire, also, of course the animated Star Wars series, Rebels, when I can see it. And I’ll go to almost any movie, especially in the summer. I love the dark of the theater.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music :
In that order: ginger, black or pink, rock and roll, and of course, especially Bowie.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
I like to think I would have been a musician, but I would have been far more like Asia than Trace. Asia’s stage fright is something we have in common.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?