Justin Allen talks about his new novel The Year of the Horse in an interview on the popular blog MrsMagooReads.com:
Q: Year of the Horse is a mix of western, fantasy, and historical fiction. If you had to pick just one of the three genres to write in, which would you choose and why?
A: Darn! That’s a beast of a question. The whole basis of what I do, writing-wise, amounts to finding or making connections. How is fantasy connected to western? How is history related to fantasy? I think they’re all intertwined. Have you ever seen any of the old Clint Eastwood spaghetti-western movies? If you’re at all like me, you watch those movies and think – wait a minute, when exactly is this supposed to be taking place? You show me the Civil War, but don’t give me any details. And where are they anyway? How can that great big desert be right outside a Confederate Prisoner of War camp? That doesn’t look like any part of Georgia I’ve ever seen. Plus, how in heaven’s name does Clint’s gun always have just the right number of shells in it?
I guess that what I am trying to say is that for me these genres can not be separated. They are one and the same. They are ALL fantasy.
Q: Which of the characters in your novel do you most relate to?
A: You know, I’d like to say Lu. I really, really like Lu. Plus, he is the boy who gets chosen. But facts being what they are, I guess I am probably most like Sadie. Her upbringing is not so very different from mine. She grew up in the west, and so has a generous dollop of that coarseness that we westerners so like and admire. I think I am fairly loyal, as Sadie most assuredly is, and I hope I am as open to new ideas, new people, and new experiences (maybe I’m not, but at least I’m trying). Plus, I gave Sadie my desire to travel. I wish I could be as good-looking as Sadie, and could wind up with all her money, but those are just surface things. Money and looks aren’t everything - they’re not even the most important things. Sadie knows that, I think. I think she would agree with me in saying that character, the deepest most core attributes of a person, are what really count.
Q: What advice would you give to any aspiring young writers?
A: I’ll give you two pieces of advice - no extra charge.
First of all, read! And don’t just keep reading the same thing over and over. Read widely. New insights will come from reading books, articles and stories that seemingly have nothing whatsoever to do with the subject you think you are trying to hack out of the jungle of your mind. Read comic books and medical manuals, newspapers, blogs, the backs of cereal boxes, children’s picture books, mysteries, science fiction, the textbooks you are supposed to read for school anyway (but often don’t), plays and movie scripts, books that feel beyond your level, and books that are too young for you by far. Doesn’t hardly matter WHAT you read, merely that you READ. And second, strike adverbs from your writing. The adverb is the single most poisonous thing to be injected into any sentence. It steals from your verb, leaving it wimpy and weak. Worse yet, the adverb seldom (maybe never) adds any useful information to a sentence. The context of most any story or novel is such that the adverb is almost always superfluous. I tell you, adverbs ought to be declared illegal.