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Interview with Shaun Allan, author of Dark Places

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Dark Places is a collection of 13 stories and 13 poems, each with a paranormal theme.  The stories range from somewhat whimsical, as in ‘The Last Dance’, to horror, such as ‘The House on the Moor’ and ‘Dark Places’. 

The poems were all written when I was in my own ‘Dark Place’ and the whole collection was prompted by an author friend of mine.  She’d asked me to critique one of her stories and I mentioned it was quite dark.  She said she was in a ‘dark place’ when she wrote it and the phrase stuck in my head.  I wrote the title piece and added the other stories thereafter.

So darkness is the unifying theme?
I think, mainly, the stories are about a lack of control – being victims of circumstances you can do nothing about.  In ‘I Am Death’, Death himself ponders life and what he must do.  In the poem ‘So’, the final line is ‘Welcome my fate’ and many of the ‘heroes’ can only do that.  They become witnesses to situations out of their control; death, murder, possession even.  There are many times in my past that I’ve felt not entirely in control of events, so I suppose Dark Places (much like Sin) is my therapy!

We were going to ask you about your novel, Sin (interview here). That was definitely dark. Why are you so attracted to darkness?
I’m not sure, really.  I do have a couple of children’s books which are silly poetry, and some humorous short stories (The Four Wotsits of the Doodad and Tooth), but I find it easiest to write when I’m delving into the darkness inside of me and seeing what I can find.  Death, ghosts, things that slide in the shadows – it sends a shiver down my spine just thinking about it.

Do you have a favourite story in Dark Places?
I quite like ‘I Am Death’.  The thought that Death, the Grim Reaper, is forced to do what he does – take the souls of the living – and wants to feel something for those passing intrigues me.  It’s not his fault – again, much like Sin.  I have a soft spot for ‘The Last Dance’ as it actually moved my wife to tears and has been called emotional by others.  ‘Fair of Face, Black of Heart’ is top of my list too, mainly because of the research I did into autopsies and the roles of those involved.  I had a great contact ‘in the business’ who was invaluable in telling me such things.

Are there any books out there that are similar to Dark Places?
Well, Dark Places isn’t just an anthology of poems or of stories.  It’s a combination of both and the poems, particularly, are quite personal as they reflect how I was feeling at the time.  I haven’t come across another book quite like that.

You mentioned your other work.
I have a paranormal thriller called Sin, about a man (Sin) around whom people die.  He puts himself into an asylum to try and stop the horrors, but a failed suicide attempt finds him on the run from the one other person who knows, and from himself.  Oh, he has his dead sister to help him!

As I mentioned, I have two collections of children’s poetry – Zits’n’Bits and Rudolph Saves Christmas.  Zits has poems ranging from Spider on my Ceiling to Zits and I Want to be Five.  Rudolph has a short story about how Rudolph has to prove his innocence when he finds himself in prison for attempting to sabotage Christmas.  It also has a number of poems, similar to those in Zits’n’Bits, including The Abominable Snowdrop and A Zombie Christmas.

Added to that is Sin’s blog, which is his diary from within his asylum, written from his point of view and some short stories.  These range from science fiction to humour to erotica!

Sin’s blog? Tell us where we can find that, and the rest of your presence online.
My website is http://www.shaunallan.co.uk

As well as Sin’s blog, I also have my own blog where I lay down my thoughts, film reviews, and more and where Sin often hijacks to carry out interviews with various authors etc..

How can we connect with you on social media?
My Facebook page is http://www.facebook.com/singularityspoint.  I’m on Twitter at @singularityspnt and Sin is at @SinNotSinful.  There’s also Google+ at http://www.google.com/+ShaunAllan

What are you working on next?
I’m working on the sequel to Sin, to be called Mortal Sin.  I currently need to talk to a police contact I have to find out what might happen next – Sin, or whoever this man might be – has just been arrested as he was covered in blood.  But it’s not his and he has no idea how he arrived at his current location.  Nor does he actually know who he is.

I’m also almost finished on the first draft of a children’s book about how the youngest of three witches, all of whom has lost their powers, must save their village from a shadow that is ‘stealing’ all the people!

Before we let you go, can you share one of your poems with us?
Certainly.

Candle
I crouch to the candle,
my hands almost touching the flame,
but its heat washes past,
avoiding my sore, cold fingers.
I bear it no grudge.
Who am I to pass judgement
on a sprit as free as the fire.
The flame is company.
The flame is a friend.
Even though it denies my necessity,
the flame is a comfort yet.
The candle burns slowly.
I watch the melting wax
running down the side,
anxious to escape
the flickering feast.
I shudder.
I can see my breath.
At least I know I’m still alive,
unfortunately.
The wind howls beneath the door,
a thousand wolves fighting to gain entrance,
fighting to reach me.
I should open it.
I should give them what they want.
Me.
But, of course I don’t.
As worthless as I feel,
as strong as the impulse is,
I don’t.
I still, uselessly,
sit with my hands to the flame,
and wait.
I don’t see the room about me,
it disappeared long ago.
Vanished along with my will.
My world is now the flame,
and my hands held before it.
I shudder again,
and I cough.
I can taste blood,
again.
The shadows whisper,
dark, sinister notions,
but I pay them no heed.
Their insights are no darker than my own.
I feel tired.
My eyes feel heavy.
I’d close them,
but I know that, in time,
I’ll open them again,
to another morning,
to a dead candle.
The desire is too strong,
and I sleep,
but I was wrong.
I don’t open them again.

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