Allan Leverone is the author of five novels, including the Amazon Top 25 overall paid bestselling thriller, THE LONELY MILE. He is a 2012 Derringer Award winner for excellence in short mystery fiction, as well as a 2011 Pushcart Prize nominee. Allan lives in Londonderry, NH with his wife and family, and a cat who has used up eight lives.
Why was writing PARALLAX VIEW so important to you?
I’ve always had a keen interest in American history, and wanted to write a fictional thriller that was historically based. I chose 1987 - late in the Cold War - because I lived through that era and can still remember the sense of excitement I got from watching the Berlin Wall come down and the Soviet Union crumble.
In addition to the historical aspect, I wanted to create a strong female lead character, a kick-ass female protagonist who is beautiful and sexy but also competent and tough as nails when need be. I believe I succeeded with Tracie Tanner, the CIA operative at the center of the nearly nonstop action in PARALLAX VIEW. Picture James Bond, only female and American.
What was the writing/creative process like?
At times it was tedious, at other times exciting and rewarding. To write a book requires dedication and the discipline to work every day in pursuit of a goal that at times seems nearly unattainable. You have to write when you don’t feel like it, when you have a headache or would rather be goofing off, or when there are chores waiting to be done.
When I’m working on a novel, if I take more than, say, one day off a week, I lose all momentum, and I can almost feel the story leaking away from me. I try to write fifteen hundred to two thousand words a day, six days a week, from the moment I write “Chapter One” until I type “The End.”
Accomplishing the goal is easier some days than others, but that’s the system that seems to work best for me.
How did you come up with the title?
Usually when I’m writing a book, the title will take shape sometime during the writing of the first draft. PARALLAX VIEW was different, however. I was nearing the end of the manuscript and I still had no idea what title would do justice to the story.
One day I was describing the plot to a longtime friend and fellow air traffic controller. He listened patiently and then out of the blue, said, “What about PARALLAX VIEW?” I immediately fell in love with his suggestion because it fits the story like a glove.
Parallax view is the concept that states the angle at which an object is observed will affect how that object is seen and interpreted by the viewer. It’s perfect for a Cold War spy story in which everything may not be as it seems and the hero of the book is never quite sure whom she can trust.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I wrote my first fictional story when I was about eight, and I’ve considered myself a writer ever since. My original intention when I went to college was to become a newspaper journalist, and although I changed majors after my freshman year and basically stopped writing for most of the next three decades, I’ve always been an avid reader.
About seven or eight years ago, the writing bug returned with a vengeance, and when I started seriously writing fiction, I was extremely thankful for a lifetime of devouring mysteries, thrillers and horror novels!
What books do you believe influenced you in your life?
There have been a lot. When I was young, the Hardy Boys series, those wonderful mysteries for teen readers written by Franklin Dixon, introduced me to the world of genre fiction.
When I got a little older, I was given a thick volume containing the complete set of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories that had been my grandfather’s, and I was absolutely entranced by everything about Holmes and Victorian-era London. I still have the book today.
Then, in my mid-to-late teens, I discovered a guy up in Maine by the name of Stephen King, who was setting the world of horror fiction on its ear, and began gobbling up his books as fast as I could. ‘SALEM’S LOT blew me away, and in my opinion, THE STAND is a modern American classic, not just in the horror genre, but in the world of fiction as a whole.
All of the work from these authors, as well as many others, turned me into the writer I eventually became.
How much influence did you have in the cover of your book? Did you initially have a different idea of how it would look?
I’ve been very fortunate to work with some unbelievable cover artists. All of the publishers I have worked with – Medallion Press, StoneHouse Ink, and DarkFuse – have made a concerted effort to produce cover art that was true to the vision I had for my book, and I’m extremely thankful to all of them. The same quality work has gone into the covers of the books released under my own imprint, Rock Bottom Books.
That said, my creative talents definitely do not run toward graphic design. The only credit I can take for any of my covers is the original concept handed over to the artist, and even that, in every case, was hazy and mostly unformed. I had a basic picture in my head that I had trouble even visualizing myself, much less describing to the cover designer.
The fantastic covers that resulted from those extremely generalized visions are all thanks to the hard work and talent of the designers, and I consider myself extremely fortunate. Cover art can make or break a book.
Can you describe a typical day for you?
Like the vast majority of writers out there, I don’t have the luxury of writing full-time. I’ve worked the last thirty-one years as an FAA air traffic controller, and for me, a typical workday would consist of working radar approach control for Boston’s Logan International Airport.
I’m fortunate to have the career I do, because during the time I’m actively involved in air traffic control, my attention is obviously on the airplanes, but when I get breaks, my time becomes my own. That’s when I write. I work four ten-hour days a week for the FAA, and as long as I keep myself properly motivated, I can usually get a decent amount of writing done on my work breaks.
The other three days a week are spent at home, and there I do typical homeowner-type stuff, while always setting aside a couple of hours per day to write.
It’s definitely not glamorous – I don’t get to run around and solve murders like Richard Castle – but it works for me.
What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?
I’m blessed with an extremely understanding wife. Between my full-time job, my more-or-less full-time writing gig, and chores around the house, it goes without saying that my days are pretty full. So when I have an opportunity to take a break from everything else, I like to simply spend time with my family.
My kids are all in their twenties, so I don’t see them as much as I would like, but my granddaughter is around a lot, and there’s nothing I enjoy more than hanging out with my wife, having a drink and watching TV. Again, not very glamorous, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.What do your family and friends think of your writing?
My family is and has always been extremely supportive. From the moment I announced I wanted to try writing fiction, my wife has been my Number One cheerleader.
My friends and co-workers seem to think it’s kind of cool as well. Air traffic controllers tend to be a pretty quick-witted bunch, and as a rule aren’t afraid to needle other controllers. So I take a fair amount of good-natured abuse – I’ve been called Stephen King more times than you can possibly imagine – but I know they’re excited for me and are always among the first to buy my new releases, both in electronic and paperback formats.
What do you think is more important – a good plot, or good characters? Why did you choose the one you did?
Genre fiction, which is what I’ve always loved to read and what I love to write, is by it’s very nature plot-driven. When I’m writing, I try to put my characters in harm’s way and then see how they react. In a way, I feel kind of sorry for my characters, because if they’re able to get around the obstacles I place in their way, I throw in some more. So there’s no question plot is important.
But unless the reader can connect on some level with those characters, why the hell should she care what happens to them? For that reason, I believe good characters are critical to the success of a book.
And by “good characters,” I mean fully fleshed-out, believable people. This is true not just for the heroes of the story but for the villains as well. Even the actions of the most unlikable, nasty scumbag of a bad guy have to make sense within the context of the character – their actions have to be reasonable, at least to themselves.
As an author, if I can accomplish that, I feel I’ve done my job, and can then hope to draw you, the reader, into my fictional world.