Indie Author Of The Month; K.M. Allan

I used to do a feature on my blog called Indie Book of The Month. Like a lot of things it started with good intentions and then fell by the wayside. Basically, I used to interview an indie author if I had read and enjoyed their book and I’d post the interview plus the author’s links on here. I’d like to do more to support fellow indie authors, as I know so many and they are often very talented yet under-rated or unknown authors. It’s a constant struggle for indie authors to get their books seen so anything we can do to help each other is a bonus. With that in mind, I’ve changed the feature to Indie Author Of The Month. These will still mostly be authors I have read myself, but not exclusively. They will certainly all be authors I follow and whose content I enjoy. So, please may I introduce you to the lovely K.M. Allan who I have been following for a while now. Her debut YA novel Blackbirch: The Beginning came out last month and I enjoyed it very much.

1) Tell us about your latest release. What is it about and who is it aimed at?

It’s called Blackbirch: The Beginning and it’s the first book in a four-book Fantasy YA series. It centers around 17-year-old Josh Taylor, who has suffered a family tragedy and been forced to move back to the town he was born in, but can no longer remember. It’s not the only thing he’s forgotten, and when he starts having weird dreams about monsters and magic, long-buried secrets and danger wreck havoc with his life. It’s for 14 year-olds and above.

2) Tell us about your publishing journey so far.

It’s been a long one. I’ve been writing this series on and off since 2001, and started querying it back in 2015. After 22 rejections, it was signed with a small press in 2019, but it wasn’t a good fit and we parted ways. I then decided to self-publish, about a month before release, and that was a real learning curve. I have enjoyed it, though, and now the first book is finally out in the world.

3) When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?

I can’t remember wanting to be anything else. I’ve always been a big reader and wanting to write stories was just a natural progression.

4) What is your typical writing day like?

Since June 2019 I’ve been writing at 6am with the #6amAusWriters on Twitter, so my day always starts by checking in with them and doing something writing-related for at least an hour. After that, it all depends on what’s happening during the rest of the day. I basically try to write whenever I can sit down at my keyboard. Some days that’s only for ten minutes, other days I’m lucky enough to write for hours.

5) What is your writing process? (how do you plot a book, come up with characters, find motivation etc)

I’m a total pantser, so I rarely plot, especially a first draft. I’ll start with an idea for a scene or a piece of dialogue and write until I come up with something I can work with. I get a lot of ideas taking walks, or just doing something boring like cleaning and letting my mind wander. Motivation is probably something I struggle with the most, but I find having a routine and writing schedule (i.e blogging on Tuesdays, editing Wednesdays, writing one chapter a day) helps.

6) What has been the most positive thing about your publishing journey so far?

The support. I’ve been part of the writing community through social media for 5 years, and my writing blog for the last 3, and the support I got from these communities when my book was released really blew me away.

7) What has been the most negative thing about your publishing journey so far?

Definitely the technical process of publishing a book. There’s a lot of things to learn, and some of it is not immediately clear. It can be very time consuming and frustrating.

8) What can we expect from you next?

I am planning to release each book in the series 6 months apart, so what’s next is book 2. I plan to get that out in July, and it’s with an editor now. In the meantime, I’m working on writing/editing books 3 and 4.

9) Tell us three fun facts about you

I am an identical twin. I believe there is a Simpsons reference for every situation in life. I can’t not finish a book or a movie, even if they’re bad.

10) What is the best advice you could give to aspiring writers?

Everyone has their own writing journey, find yours and don’t compare it to others. Work out how you write best, stick to it, and remember that you can always learn more.

Thank you so much to K.M. Allan for allowing us a glimpse into her writing life. If you would like to find out more about her and her writing, please follow the links below. Blackbirch: The Beginning is available in ebook and paperback and I can guarantee it is a great read and a fantastic start to a series!

Author Bio

K.M. Allan is an identical twin, but not the evil one. When she’s not writing, she likes to read, binge-watch too much TV, and take more photos than she will ever humanly need. Visit her blog at www.kmallan.com to discover the secrets of the universe, or at the very least, some good writing tips.

Book Links

https://kmallan.com/blackbirch/

Social Media Links

https://www.facebook.com/k.m.allan.author

https://www.instagram.com/k.m.allan_writer

https://twitter.com/KMAllan_writer

An Extract From A Song For Bill Robinson

Release day is fast approaching! I am just putting the final touches to everything and double checking everything is okay before I set up the Amazon pre-order link. I hope to have that done in the next few days.

But to keep you entertained, I hope you enjoy this sample chapter from the novel!

12

Bill was lying to both Pete and Summer when he said he knew what he was going to sing on Saturday. He didn’t know, and it was driving him insane. It wasn’t as easy as people imagined. He couldn’t just get up there and sing what he wanted to sing. There was so much more to it than that. There was the audience for one thing. They came expecting entertainment. They didn’t want to be subjected to anything too new, too obscure or too noisy. More than anything, he knew they wanted something to sing along to.

He spent the rest of the week trying to figure it out. He didn’t want to get on the stage and sing karaoke songs like all the others. He wanted to sing. He wanted to perform.

Last time he had been showing off. He’d picked a song from the machine a week in advance, probably the hardest one on there. It was never about emulating the original version. He just listened to the lyrics and thought about what they meant to him. He’d spent hours like that, lying on his bed with the music in his ears and his eyes closed.

He’d mouthed it in silence to begin with, getting to grips with the feel of the words in his mouth. Bill smiled about it now, as he paced his room, picking up records and putting them down again, running through his playlists again and again, thumbing through Spotify and YouTube. What did he want to sing? What did he want to say?

Dog Days Are Over, by Florence and The Machine. He’d picked it because it was shouty and loud. Because he could lose himself in it. Because he liked the words and he thought about Summer when he sang it, and he didn’t even know why, except you had to think about something, someone?

But now? What now?

That had been before. Dog Days Are Over. He’d felt like that…like he could forget about his mother and the horrible aching betrayal of it all, and he could sing anyway. He didn’t sound like her. He didn’t sing or move like her either. He could just be himself and still blow their minds. He could walk around this cesspit with his head held high.

This was after. Now he had to pick a song knowing that the entire estate knew a gang of masked youths had kicked the shit out of him. He had to pick a song after that? And sing it in front of all of them? Including McDonnal? No, it wasn’t easy.

Bill thought about drink warming his belly, fingers of comfort snaking through his veins, bringing him up tall, and what would he sing when he felt like that? Something old and warm and comfortable. He could sing one of his mum’s favourite songs. His voice smooth and silky yet strong and growling when he needed it to be. Something by The Foundations or The Four Tops. The audience would like that. Everyone knew those old soul songs.

He could sing something new he was getting into, but he didn’t know how that would go down. He was into some dark stuff lately which wouldn’t suit the community centre atmosphere. People went there for a good time, or for some company, some support. They went there for hope. He couldn’t take that away from them for the sake of showing off.

Then there was his bloody dad.

They’d always clashed, Bill thought, as he opened the window and felt the cold night air on his cheeks. People said they were too similar; short tempered and impatient, but Bill didn’t buy that. They were nothing alike. He liked to be left alone, whereas Andy craved company. Bill liked to keep his thoughts to himself, but his father liked the sound of his own voice too much. Like now. Bill could hear him downstairs, his voice rising and falling, laughter, punctuated by angry exclamations. He could have been arguing with someone or shouting at the TV or just talking to himself. He could never be still or silent.

His dad was one of those short, angry men, he mused, gazing out of the half open window. He had a chip on his shoulder and a point to prove. He was so annoying most of the time, so over the top, especially lately with all the overprotective crap. He was embarrassing.

But those bastards had made him cry.

Bill didn’t think he would ever forget it. His father leaning over him, touching his hair with tears on his cheeks. It was the first time he had considered what his dad had been through. Until that moment Bill had only viewed the attack through his own eyes. He had not stopped to think about how his father must have felt that night.

And it pissed him off.

Maybe blood was thicker than water after all. Maybe he owed him a good night. He leaned out of the window, pushing it further open. A stroll in the dark was what he needed. A chance to think about it. Something would come to him then. The Clash, maybe. The Buzzcocks. His dad loved all that stuff. A grin pulled at his lips as he pictured himself getting up on the stage to sing something by The Sex Pistols. Then there was Tom Waits. Andy had always been a fan.

Something pulled at his mind then. Guitar intro. Low and dark and thrumming, giving the suggestion that something was about to happen. The drums building up with the guitars. And then when it kicked in it was gentler and sadder than expected. He could have jumped up and down in excitement when it finally came to him. He recalled the first verse, something about flirting with death and not caring about it. And it all fell into place, the rest of the words, and the music that spiralled between the two short choruses. It would be blinding. It was exactly what he wanted to say.

He decided to sneak out anyway. He could find it on his phone and wander around having a quiet sing. Bill turned at the exact second the brick came flying towards his head. He felt it spin past his cheekbone and ducked away instinctively covering his head with his arms. It rolled across the bedroom floor and sat there ominously. He rushed to the window, leaned out and looked around.

‘That all you got?’ he roared without thinking. ‘Come on then!’

He regretted his outburst when his father came pounding up the stairs and into his room. Perhaps Bill could have made up an excuse, if Andy had not stubbed his toe on the brick lying in the middle of the carpet.

‘What the bleeding-hell?’

Bill pulled the window shut and whipped the curtains together. He faced his father and watched him pick up the brick and turn it over in his hands. He held it out to Bill, his eyes bright and accusing.

‘This just come through the window?’ Bill paused, and his father reddened. ‘Eh? Did it?’

‘Looks like it, doesn’t it?’ he responded sulkily, pushing past him.

Andy rushed to the window where he yanked back the curtains and stared out. ‘Just like that?’

‘Yes!’

‘Right, that’s it then,’ Andy stormed from the room, taking the brick with him. ‘I’m calling Collins over.’

Bill followed him from the room. ‘Oh, for God’s sake, what’s the point? I didn’t see anyone!’

Andy stopped and faced him on the stairs. ‘That’s all I ever bloody hear from you! I didn’t see anything, I didn’t see anyone! What are you, bloody blind?’

Andy trotted down the rest of the stairs and picked up the phone. He pointed the brick at his son. ‘I’m not sitting here and taking that!’ he told him. ‘This is our home!’

Bill made a noise of disgust and walked through to the kitchen. ‘Go on then!’ he yelled back over his shoulder. ‘You’re wasting your time!’

Bill stalked around the kitchen, shaking his head and feeling penned in. Minutes later his father stormed into the kitchen and stood in the doorway, hands on hips, legs spread.

‘He’s coming over. You’re gonna sit in here and talk to him.’

Bill threw up his hands. ‘About what?’

‘About everything!’ Andy growled in return. ‘Now, I’m not bloody stupid, Billy-boy. I wasn’t born yesterday! I know there’s something you’re not telling me about all of this. Why is someone targeting you?’

Bill slumped into a chair, folded his arms and shook his head. ‘How do you even know the same person threw the brick? Probably just kids mucking about. You’re gonna look a right dick when Collins turns up!’

‘You’re gonna look like a dick when whatever you’re hiding catches up with you!’

‘What?’

‘I’m not stupid,’ Andy warned him again, his breathing finally slowing down. ‘You’re seriously expecting me to believe you was just minding your own business one night, and a whole gang decided to target you? No. There’s more, and I know it. Sit there! And don’t even think about moving a muscle until Collins gets here!’

Andy spun around and marched back into the lounge, where Bill heard him collapse onto the sofa and swear at the dog. Bill rested his elbows on the table and dropped his head into his hands. Suddenly Saturday night seemed a very long way off. He exhaled frustration through his fingers, then dropped his hands and sat back in the chair. A brief glance at the door, considering escape, but Andy must have been a mind reader too.

‘Don’t even think about it, Billy-boy,’ his voice came from the other room. ‘I’m a lot faster than you right now!’

PC Collins knocked on the door twenty minutes later. He came through to the kitchen, his hat in his hands and his cheeks flushed red from the cold night air.

‘Thanks Andy,’ Bill heard him saying, before he glanced at Bill, and then gestured to a chair. ‘Mind if I sit here?’

Bill sighed, slumping forward again. ‘Look, he’s totally wasting your time. It was just a stupid brick! Could have been anyone!’

Collins flipped open his notebook and started writing. ‘Well,’ he said, sounding weary. ‘The thing is, you might be right, but we have to consider what’s already gone on, don’t we? Now obviously in the eyes of the law, a brick is not much to go on and no damage was done, but we can’t help connect the dots to other things, eh?’

Bill breathed out and in again, willing his frustration to lay low. ‘Connecting dots is just useless though,’ he tried to point out. ‘That won’t stand up in a court of law, will it?’

‘No, course not, but that’s not the point right now.’

‘What is then?’

‘The point is keeping an eye on the situation,’ Collins explained calmly. ‘Making sure things don’t escalate. Your father did the right thing calling me, and he also did the right thing when he called us about the video. Sometimes lots of small parts add up to the whole, you see?’

Bill shook his head and glowered. ‘Not really.’

Collins laughed softly. ‘Well, you will. Okay, so you were in your room? At the window? The window was open?’

‘Yes,’ he growled. ‘Then I turned away and the brick came through. And no, I didn’t see or hear anything or anyone.’

‘Okay,’ sighed Collins. ‘And you’ve not had any altercations with anyone in the last few days?’

Bill thought briefly about punching Logan in the community centre. ‘No.’

‘Okay-‘

‘Look, can I ask you something?’

Collins lowered his notebook. ‘Of course.’

Bill scratched his head, then pushed his hair back from his face and bit his lip. ‘Just saying…I mean, if I thought I knew who attacked me, but I couldn’t prove it? That still wouldn’t help me, would it?’

Collins closed the notebook, folded his hands on the table top and looked at Bill very seriously. ‘If you have any idea who attacked you, Bill, you need to tell me now.’

‘But what I’m saying is, it won’t help, will it? I can’t prove anything.’

‘Well, let’s say you thought you had an idea, it would depend on why. So, let’s say, hypothetically speaking that you did have an idea? Why that person?’

Bill shrugged. ‘Instinct.’

Collins nodded. ‘Nothing else? No recognition? Of shape or form or voice? Stature?’

Bill shook his head. ‘Nothing obvious. Nothing that can be proven in court. That’s what I’m getting at. You need actual proof, don’t you?’

Collins nodded slowly. ‘Yes, you do. But imagine if I had a name? Then depending on who that might be, and what their reputation and record showed up, I might be able to get a warrant to search their home. You see? I might be able to question them, and you know, sometimes that’s all you need, because they don’t have an alibi for that night, or they’ve got some incriminating evidence in their home.’

Bill smiled softly. ‘No one would be that stupid.’

‘You’d be surprised, Bill.’

Bill shook his head. If there had been any evidence, it would have been destroyed that night. And the gang would provide alibis for each other.

‘There were four of them, you say,’ Collins said to him then. Bill nodded. ‘A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.’

‘What does that mean?’

‘It means not all of those four will be as strong as the others. Someone will crack.’

‘They might,’ Bill corrected him. ‘That’s what I’m saying. Might and maybe are no good for me, are they? You can’t promise me anything.’

‘I can protect you.’

Bill laughed out loud. ‘No, you can’t. No one can do that for anyone. Can I ask you something else?’

Collins slipped his notebook into the breast pocket of his uniform. ‘Go for it.’

‘Has there been any progress on the Lewis Matthews murder?’

‘Well, I’m not obviously meant to discuss that case with anyone.’

‘I’m not just anyone. It might affect me. Have they got any idea who it was? Or why?’

Why is the biggest problem,’ Collins sighed, getting up from the chair. ‘Lewis was a nice kid. Worked hard at school and kept himself to himself.’

‘So, why’d someone stab him then?’

Collins shrugged. ‘The only angle we’ve got to go on is his father’s colourful background, but that’s about all I can say about it to you right now, okay?’

Bill nodded, knowing the officer had already said more than he was supposed to. It was enough anyway, he reasoned. Enough for Summer.

First Draft Madness

Last week I finished the second draft of The Boy With The Thorn In His Side – Part 5. I originally scribbled this book into a notepad about six months ago. Finishing the second draft was exciting, because I managed to untangle the ending I had got in a mess with, and this lead to such excitement about the planned and plotted Part 6, I just couldn’t resist launching right into it.

So, in the evenings I am currently editing a chapter or two a night of Part 5, (making this the third draft). While in the day, any chance I can get, I am writing brand new, first draft Part 6 into a notebook. I am so excited!!!!

I have realised over the years that writing the first draft of a novel has a really strange affect on me. I love it but fear it. I can’t get enough of it. It is something I get addicted to, but also can’t wait to be over. I thought I’d list the things that happen to me when writing a first draft. Perhaps if you are a writer, you can relate? Feel free to comment if you do!

  • I feel nervous. This is a very, very weird thing. Now, I don’t think of myself as an especially anxious person, but like everyone, I have my moments. However, there is nothing that can make me quite as anxious and tense as writing a first draft. It’s really really hard to pinpoint why. All I know is that I will wake up with a nervous tight feeling in my belly, go about my day with that same heavy, almost painful sensation, start to panic about what it means, only to find it goes away completely once I start writing. This does not happen with the subsequent drafts of novels. Just the first! I guess it makes me nervous, though I’m not sure why. Maybe its nervous excitement? The longing to be writing is so strong that knowing I can’t do it until later makes my body tense? I have no idea.
  • I am addicted. This is the worst thing and also the best thing. Obviously, feeling addicted to what you are writing is a good thing because there is no danger of writers block or any kind of procrastination. I am utterly in love with the act of writing and shaping this novel and it feels like that too, like butterflies in my tummy. But it’s not the easiest thing to live with. When you’ve got two day-jobs, multiple pets and four children, it’s hard to find the time to squeeze writing in and when in the midst of the pure addiction that only happens with the first draft, it’s a bit like torture not being able to write.
  • I am distracted. Beyond belief! When I was a kid I was constantly being told by people that I was in my own little world. They were right I really was. And I still am. I’m still that kid. In a constant daydream I struggle to break free of. I am constantly thinking about my book and my characters. Plot twists and story-lines weave through my head all the time, which is exciting and brilliant, but I’m meant to be reading to my child? Or making dinner? Sometimes I wish the voices in my head would be quiet. Or at least wait until later. But they have other ideas and I just have to deal with it the best I can.
  • Creativity is at its peak. I usually have a plot before I start writing. In particular, with these books as they are part of a series, the plots are somewhat already in action, and at the end of the last book I would have written an outline for what happens in the next. But something exciting happens with the first draft of a book. Yes, I’ll have my basic plot, but every time I write a chapter, I get new ideas for the next ones. The next chapter will write itself in my head before I have finished the one I am on. The next chapters will line up in my mind while I am walking dogs and cooking dinner…it’s like a constant bubbling? I truly believe the more you write, the more your mind wants to write. The ideas flow once you let them, once your provide that release. It’s like they know it’s coming and they are finally getting their turn! It’s really quite amazing. So although my basic plot probably won’t change, in the process of writing the first draft, creativity will hit the roof. I also find I have way more ideas for blog posts, poems and short stories during this time!

There are loads more things I could say about writing a first draft. I think it’s important to let go of how clumsy and new it is, and just embrace the ideas as they flow. Subsequent drafts are for tidying up, tightening up and cutting down…and I enjoy that process just as much for different reasons. But the first draft is a crazy time…a crazy thing. I will be a bit sad when it is over for this book!

How My Books Are All Linked Up

With the imminent release of The Boy With The Thorn In His Side – Part Three, (released February 22nd, available for pre-order now!) I thought I would write a post about how all of my books are linked to each other.

Some of the links are quite obvious, but others are more subtle so you might have missed them. Let’s start with my first release, YA novel, The Mess Of Me.

themessofme-BLANK (1)

The Mess Of Me is linked to The Boy With The Thorn In His Side series, by location. Lou and her best friend Joe live on an estate on one side of a bypass and have to cross over the bypass via a bridge to reach their school on the Somerley estate. In The Boy With The Thorn In His Side, Danny and his friends attend Somerley school in the first two books. Danny is also mentioned in The Mess Of Me, by Joe, who is angry with his stepfather and issues a vague threat about doing what Danny Bryans did in the 90’s. The narrator Lou explains to the reader that Danny Bryans was imprisoned for knifing his stepfather to death, and that his is a well-known and notorious story in their area. She also mentioned his name is engraved on a bench near where he used to live.

theboywith-final-part 1

The Boy With The Thorn In His Side will later on in the series, have links to two as yet unreleased books. A Song For Bill Robinson, which I hope to release later this year, and a book which has the working title of The Lane Brothers. The Lane brothers appear in The Boy With The Thorn In His Side Parts 5 and 6, which are not out yet. Danny will also appear in their spin-off book.

thisisnowhere-New

This Is Nowhere is linked to Elliot Pie’s Guide To Human Nature by location. This Is Nowhere is set almost entirely in my home village, Hurn. All of my books contain real locations, but I usually fictionalise them and change the names of towns and streets. In this book, I kept everything real. The character of Jake returns home to Hurn after running away as a teenager, and the house he lives in is my actual house now. In Elliot Pie, I have fictionalised some of the locations, but kept Hurn real. Elliot cycles out to Hurn when exploring new places and befriends a lady called Sandra. Sandra lives next door to Jake and May. They are not mentioned by name, but eagle-eyed readers might have picked up on her mentions of the neighbours, and the fact she dislikes the long-legged lurcher type dogs they keep. Both books contain scenes set on the beautiful Sopley Common, a real place, and probably my favourite place in the world.

JshHMmZ

Elliot Pie’s Guide To Human Nature is linked to A Song For Bill Robinson, a YA book I hope to release later this year. Both characters live on Hoppers Close, on the Holds End estate. In Elliot Pie, he longs to escape this small world and frequently cycles away from the area to make new friends. At the start of the book, he mentioned the other people who live on Hoppers Close (based on a close I used to live on as a teenager) and tells the reader a bit about the Robinson family. He also spots Bill Robinson walking across the close with his guitar on his back. A Song For Bill Robinson is set almost exclusively on the Holds End estate. It’s a fictionalised version of a council estate named Townsend, which is where I grew up.

And as I have already mentioned, A Song For Bill Robinson links to The Boy With The Thorn In His Side series, in particular, the last three books, where Danny is an adult and running his own nightclub. Indie nightclub Chaos features heavily in The Boy With The Thorn In His Side series, and in the later books is a place up and coming bands can audition for regular slots. At the end of A Song For Bill Robinson, he and his band secure such an audition at Chaos, and Danny Bryans is mentioned. He may even appear briefly in the sequel to A Song For Bill Robinson, Emily’s Baby.

The only book not obviously linked to the others is The Tree Of Rebels, because it is set in the future. In my mind however, the location is a future version of the places I have already fictionalised in my other books.

I’m not sure why I like to link my books up. It sort of happened naturally and has become a habit. It’s easy to do because I tend to use the same real and fictionalised locations and my characters tend to be similar in class and background. Plus, it’s fun. It means I never really have to say goodbye to anyone!