Monday 2nd December - G. Allen Wilbanks

Sixteen Questions for Sixteen Authors

Contributor spotlight : G. Allen Wilbanks, author of “Bad Neighbors”

Popping round today from the flat next door and sitting in the interviewer's favourite armchair is G. Allen Wilbanks, who wrote the short story “Bad Neighbors” for the “Dragon Bone Soup” anthology (published in December 2019). You have heard of the neighbour from hell, maybe even experienced one, but how would you deal with the neighbour from Faerie? And is a love of crisps a hill worth dying on? These and other important questions are answered in Gary's humorous fantasy of 4,000 words.

What is your real name and what name do you write under?

My name is Gary Wilbanks and when I write I use my real name, however I go by my first initial and middle name. All of my published stories are under the byline, G. Allen Wilbanks.

Where do you hail from?

I have lived in northern California my entire life. I was born and raised in San Jose, but later moved to Sacramento where I currently reside.

What is the greatest thing about the place you call home?

I live in a home that sits in the middle of five acres of property. My closest neighbors are almost a quarter of a mile away. I love the feeling of isolation and solitude. When I write, I love the comfort of knowing I won’t be disturbed every few minutes by someone knocking on my door to sell me a vacuum cleaner or ask if they can get their ball our of my backyard. I’m still close enough to civilization to order a pizza, but far enough away I can hide from the world, lock myself in my den, and write without interruption.

When and why did you start writing?

I started writing from a young age. In my early teens, I was a voracious reader with a love of all things fantasy, horror, and science fiction. It seemed only natural that before too long I was trying to write my own stories. Most of my early stuff was pretty bad and, although I still have it stuffed away in folders, nobody has been allowed to read it. It took about ten years before I let anyone actually read what I was writing and another five before I began submitting to magazines. I published my first story in 2000 and haven’t stopped since.

Early bird, or night owl?

Definitely, a night owl. Although I try to stay on my family’s schedule which has me in bed by 10 PM and up early the next day, this is by necessity, not by preference. On weekends, or when I have the house to myself for a couple days, I tend to sleep late and stay up long past midnight. I get some of my best writing done later in the day, and there are nights that I sneak out of bed, trying not to wake anyone up, because I thought of a new story idea that I want to write down before I forget about it.

Who is your favorite author?

It’s really hard to pick just one. I love Stephen King, Robert McCammon, and Dean Koontz when I want to read something dark or demonic. For science fiction, I still go back to the classics and read anything I can find by Isaac Asimov or Robert Heinlein. But my all-time favorite author has to be Piers Anthony. It was his Xanth novels that made me fall in love with fantasy fiction and ultimately made me want to begin writing down my own ideas.

How did you come up with the premise for your story?

Most of my stories come from the same place. I will wake from a dream, or be listening to music, or just hear a part of a conversation and a picture will stick in my head. That single snapshot or scene in my mind will stay with me until I can create a story line to explain where it came from. For “Bad Neighbors,” I woke up one morning after dreaming about an elf threatening me with a sword and telling me he couldn’t sleep because I was being too loud. That sort of a premise is begging to be expanded into a bigger story.

Do you ever experience writer’s block? How do you handle it?

Yes, and no. I have never been unable to write when I want to write, but I do find myself procrastinating frequently. I have planned to spend several hours writing, then suddenly I get derailed when I decide I would rather watch television, play on social media, or just take a nap. I suppose you could call this a block. When I sit down at my desk and set aside the distractions, however, I usually have no problems writing. For this reason, I try to make myself write at the same time each day to help create a routine.

Who do you write for? What is your target audience?

This is an easy question to answer. I write for me. If I am writing a short story, or even a novel, if I decide I’m not enjoying the plot or the characters I will change it, or sometimes throw it out completely. I know that not everyone will like the same things that I like, but I also know if I write something that I absolutely hate, I can’t reasonably expect anyone else to care about it either.

Are you a plotter or pantser? If you ever tried to switch, how did that work out for you?

I am pretty much a pantser. When I write a short story, I have most of the details in my head when I start out, but the characters more often than not start to pull the plot in directions I had not originally planned on. For novels, I do a little more planning, but not much. I know I have to get my characters from point A to point B, but the method in which they get there is sometimes a complete surprise to me as it happens.

I have tried to plot out stories in more detail in the past, but I find when I spend too much time laying out every little piece of the plot I get bored and end up setting the work aside for something else I consider to be more fun. Sometimes the original story never gets finished because I simply got tired of it.

Stand alone books or series, and why?

Currently, the books I have written are stand alone stories. I think this is for the same reason that I tend not to plot out my stories in too much detail. I get bored easily. A stand alone book, when it’s finished, lets me move on to a completely new project. I get to meet a whole cast of new characters and find out what motivates them to move through a brand-new plot line. Series require some serious planning and forethought. I am currently working on a novel that could be the first of a longer series of books. It might also be a one-off. We shall just have to wait and see where it goes.

Are you a tea or coffee person?

Neither. I can’t stand either one of the noxious potions. I do need my caffeine, however, to continue to function during the day. I get my daily dose from diet soda. When I write, I typically have a can of soda on the desk next to me. I know, I know. I’ve read all the health reports on artificial sweeteners and I know I should quit. But we all have our vices, and this is one of mine.

If you were banned from writing, what would you do in your spare time?

If I were banned from writing I would probably do a little more camping, read more books, and watch more movies. Then, when no one was looking, I would do some more writing. I will keep writing as long as I possibly can. Even if no one is publishing or reading any of it, I will continue to write. The process is something I look forward to every day. It is cathartic. It eases my stress, lets me hide from the darker parts of the real world around me, and lets me explore my own creativity. Writing is not something I will easily or willingly give up.

What are you working on right now?

I am currently working on three short horror stories for a series of anthologies due out next year. I am also in the middle of a rewrite of my next novel, a fantasy tale about a girl who suddenly finds herself in possession of a magic creature with the ability to grant her one wish.

What are your plans for the future?

In the past year, I have been focusing on writing short stories. I have had several of my stories accepted into about two dozen anthologies that will publish throughout the end of this year and into the beginning of 2020. My goal for next year is to write fewer short stories and to put more focus into my novels. I would like to have my next book completed by early next year.

How can readers find you online and on social media?

Readers can find out more about me on my website: www.gallenwilbanks.com. You can also check out my blog post at www.deepdarkthoughts.com, where I try to give a humorous spin to the weekly events in my life.

For social media, you can follow me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/gallenwilbanks/ or on Twitter at https://twitter.com/gallenwilbanks.

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