I’ve always been a bigger fan of the fiction genre over non-fiction. I guess, I really enjoy reading because it allows me to experience things that are new and exciting. I want a book to take me on an emotional roller coaster to feel something extraordinary. Rarely do I get such an experience with non-fiction. I was very lucky to have had the opportunity to interview John Allen, author of “A Splash Of Kindness.” After speaking with him, I think I might have a slightly different perspective on the non-fiction genre.
Michael: John, can you tell us a bit about your background?
John: I have a background in advertising. I wrote copy for newspaper ads, and I also wrote jingles for television and radio. I have always enjoyed working with words—coming up with word combinations, rhymes, and full stories.
Michael: Seems like you are fully emersed in writing on a daily basis. Where and when did your writing journey begin?
John: When I was in second grade I began a series of stories referred to by my mom as the “road stories.” Every story began, “I was walking down a road…” I would then encounter a cat, a friend, a puzzling situation. But each story began with me walking down a road.
Michael: Wow, that’s a very young age to start writing a short story series! Your passion for writing is quite apparent. You must have also loved reading. Who are your favorite authors and how have they influenced your writing?
John: I admire Fitzgerald for his lyricism, Hemingway for his precision, and Wodehouse for his flawless plotting. I marvel at Willa Cather. She makes writing seem so easy, and yet she accomplishes so much in her stories.
Michael: That is a fantastic list. As an advertiser, copy writer, and mucisian, your day must be a busy one. What does a typical day in your life look like? And how does your writing routine fit into your day?
John: I have one to be honest. My days are not structured. I will wake up with the intention of putting in a solid three hour block of writing…but then “life” happens.
The car needs to be taken to the repair shop, I forgot that I have a doctor’s appointment, a friend calls and needs help…and so I don’t have a set time for writing.
There are times when it is a real struggle to write, and the results are not satisfactory. And then there are times when five or six hours go by and I find I’ve produced a fair amount of writing that I am pleased with.
Michael: I hear you! You try to set yourself a routine and then “life” happens and ruins it all. So, how did you come up with the idea to compile a book of true short stories called, A Splash Of Kindness? And where do these stories come from?
John: My short holiday novel Christmas Gifts, Christmas Voices dealt with the theme of the ripple effect. In the story, the main character finds out that some acts of kindness he performed years earlier had profound, positive consequences.
So it was a kind of natural transition to start writing ripple effect stories that were non-fiction. And the funny thing is that some of the stories are so fantastic in nature that they almost read like fiction. For example, young Jesse Owens was the least likely candidate for future Olympic fame. Or the story of the young Idaho farm boy who had an epiphany that literally changed the world almost reads like science fiction.
Michael: Fascinating! I know that there are a lot of readers out there that enjoy true stories that have that bit of mysterious power in it. What do you think sets your short story compilation apart from others current on the shelves?
John: I made an effort to achieve (hopefully) a consistency of voice. I wanted each story to have a “personal” feel, not too formal. In the historical stories, I tried to avoid a scholarly tone.
Michael: That’s great! That’s always been my problem, when trying to read non-fiction. A lot of it is so formal and scholarly that I don’t get to experience the passion of the writer’s voice. Talking about a writer’s passion in their writing. Whose story is your favorite in your compilation and how much of yourself can you relate with that character?
John: That’s tough. I have such admiration for everyone I wrote about. But I am particularly fond of the chapter on Holmes. He refused to be pigeonholed. And he was courageous in defending his beliefs.
Michael: Which of the true stories did you have the most fun writing?
John: It was fun (and embarrassing) writing about the incident in The Lesson. One summer, as a young boy I really got off track, and forced my mom to get out of her comfort zone in order to teach me an enduring lesson.
Michael: That’s great that some of the stories are so personal. It really helps the non-fiction book read more like a novel than a history book. What do you hope for your readers to take away after reading your short story compilation?
John: I hope that when readers are finished with the book, they will truly believe that everyone has to power to make a positive difference in the world.
Michael: I love books with such a possible message. Now, aside from writing books, I understand that you also an gold-record winning songwriter. Can you tell us about your song writing?
John: For as long as I can remember, I have had melodies echoing in my head. Sometimes a complete melody would come to me spontaneously. Sometime I would play with a three or four note motif and develop it into a full song. Sometime I compose at the keyboard, but other times I just hear the melody in my head, and then work out harmonies on the keyboard. When we lived in Nashville, I was able to hang with some gifted songwriters and observe their techniques for crafting songs. Here’s are youtube links to three of my songs:
Michael: That’s amazing! I find it so rare today where a writer is gifted in both word and music. Where have your two worlds of song writing and book writing crossed paths?
John: Years ago, I wrote a musical play based on the life of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (A lot of the research I did for the play, I also used for the chapter on Holmes in my book.) It was challenging because I wanted to be true to the story of Holmes’ life, but the genre demanded that I sustain humor throughout the play. So it was kind of a balancing act. The songs had to advance the plot; the dialogue had to lead into the songs; the overall play had to be compelling enough to hold the attention of the audience.
Michael: I love musicals! That really takes a tremendous amount of talent! I am so impressed, John! What do you have in store next for your readers?
John: I have just finished another Christmas book. And I’m working on material for a follow up to A Splash of Kindness. There is also an ongoing fiction project that deals with forgiveness.
Michael: Well, it sounds like you’re going to have another amazing book coming out! Thank you so much for sharing with us your story and your songs!
What an amazing book! Find it now on amazon by clicking on the image below.