Terrie Leigh Relf: What is your writing focus?
Martha J. Allard: I write fiction, almost entirely contemporary fantasy. I also blog, mostly about writing.
Relf: What is your area of subject matter expertise?
Allard: I write contemporary fantasy because I believe in the magic of everyday things. I believe, for example, that Baba Yaga shops at my local Goodwill, because I’ve seen her there, in her black sweater that is so ragged it looks like wings, a collection of old vases and bird cages stacked in her cart. Or, in the case of Black Light, that there’s magic in the ritual of dying hair or lining your eyes with blue liner before stepping onto the stage.
Relf: How do you balance your creative and work time?
Allard: I can only say that I do the best I can. I have a day job, and it does feel as though I go days without spending time with my notebook. I try to write every day, and I carry my notebook with me everywhere. I remind myself that I love to write, and that I’m not going to stop – ever – so I just have to be patient.
Relf: What tips do you have for other writers?
Allard: I’ve said this before, but forget about writing what you know. Write what you feel. Make it the truest thing you know every time.
Relf: What are your thoughts on the creative process in general and your creative process in particular? Where do your ideas come from? What inspires and intrigues you?
Allard: I am one of those people that writes to find out what happens. If I already knew, I don’t think I could bring myself to do it. I used to think that I’d run out of ideas, but I’m not afraid of that any more. I begin with my notebook and pen and eventually the story takes shape. I have a lot of friends that write also, so we’re always talking about writing, and ideas seems to hang in the air. The idea for Black Light came from several David Bowie songs.
Relf: Where have you been published? Upcoming publications? Awards and other accolades?
Allard: My publishing credits up till now have been short stories. My e-chapbook, Dust and Other Stories, is available for Nook at Barnes and Noble. I’ve also recently co-edited an anthology of stories, Out of the Green, about fairies. My short fiction has been nominated for a British Science Fiction Award and also been chosen for Honorable Mention in Year’s Best Science Fiction, edited by Gardener Dozois.
Relf: What are you working on now?
Allard: I am working on a few short stories, a space opera novella, and a neo-Victorian novel, The Night Was Not.
Relf: What challenges have you faced as a writer and/or with a particular project? How did you meet them? What did you learn from these challenges and how did they make you a better writer?
Allard: I worked on Black Light off and on for over thirty years. While I started writing it in 1983, the year it takes place, I had to go back and write additional scenes for it this January. I am not remotely the same person I was then, and it was a challenge to go back to that in every way. I’m fifty-three now, and I have learned that I wouldn’t go back to my twenties for anything.
Relf: Since you’re a fiction writer, who are your favorite characters? How did they come into being, and what do you love – or loathe – about them?
Allard: The main characters in Black Light were all born in the lyrics of David Bowie songs, especially Asia Heyes. I saw him, the embodiment of my own first broken heart, in the dark and sweaty crowd in the song, “Lady Stardust.” And I love his brokenness, how he comes to fix himself. Trace Dellon, the lead singer of Black Light, is also a favorite, because while I understood Asia intimately, Trace was a puzzle, always twisting away from me when I wrote him.
Relf: Are you currently, or have you ever been, in a writing group?
Allard: I joined my writing group, the Flint Area Writers, in 1981. They are the people who taught me to write. I know that writing groups don’t work for everyone, but I couldn’t do it without their feedback.
Relf: I know our readers would love to hear about your networking, marketing, and promotional experiences – including tips.
Allard: I’ve been writing my whole life, but I’m new to modern publishing. I wish I could give advice, but I’m just learning myself.
Relf: What would you like to see more of in your specific genre? In the publishing field?
Allard: I’d really like to see more gender diversity and fluidity in characters across the board, and more queer characters in general. We have come a long way, but there’s a long way to go.