Less Than Human
by Allen Long
In Less than Human, Allen Long tells the story of his often nightmarish childhood in the wealthy suburbs of D.C., the wonders and mysteries of teenage love, his ill-advised journeys into corporate America and a hellish marriage, and ultimate breakdown. And yet, his story is mostly one of triumph. He draws strength from the joys of fatherhood, he finds true love in his second marriage, and through working with psychotherapists and leading a life rich in self-examination, he overcomes both child abuse and the resulting PTSD, finally learning that instead of being less than, he is, indeed, human.
Less than Human follows an unconventional path, arranged as much by theme and association as by chronology. These stories take many forms, from driving narrative to lyrical reverie, at times evoking mythic overtones, and this variety, along with an unflinching confrontation with the conditions and consequences of childhood abuse, create its own form of suspense--in what direction will this book take us next?
When I was in my twenties, I frequently wished my father would die and I had nightmares in which I yelled at him, telling him how much I hated him. As I aged and made progress in psychotherapy, these dreams became more violent. In addition to shouting at my father, I stabbed or strangled him to death. Eventually, I stopped dreaming about my father.
However, in 2012, Jamie, one of my brother Danny’s two sons, told me that he and his twin brother Rick hated going to our parents’ house alone on weekends when they were kids because invariably my father harshly spanked them. I was outraged my father was still hitting children while in his sixties and my mother did nothing to protect them, just like before. Had they learned nothing over the decades?
With this outrage came a new series of nightmares. In the most vivid one, I’m yelling at my father in the living room of my childhood home. My father looks at me with eyes of utter evil and spreads his arms and shoulders in an odd and unnatural way that causes them to transform into a large pair of black wings. While I look on with horror, my father morphs into a giant vampire bat and I wake up terrified.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Allen Long was born in New York City and grew up in Arlington, Virginia. He holds a B.A. in journalism from Virginia Tech, an M.A. in fiction writing from Hollins University, and an M.F.A. in fiction writing from the University of Arizona. He has been an assistant editor at Narrative Magazine since 2007, and his fiction and memoirs have appeared in a wide variety of literary magazines. He lives with his wife near San Francisco.
Author’s Facebook page:
Interview with Allen Long
As a kid did you write or make up stories?
Yes, I’ve been telling stories for as long as I can remember. When my brother and I were kids, we had our own rooms, but we spent every summer sleeping in twin beds in our basement. I told him a story every night that I made up on the spot. In sixth grade, my teacher asked me to write a short story a week instead of completing the regular English assignments.
Where does most of your Character inspiration come from?
I think about what each character wants most in life and how his/her personality has been shaped by his/her environment and life experiences.
Do some qualities of your characters come from real people?
Yes. Sometimes they come from friends, family, or people I’ve met or heard/read about. Also, bits and pieces of myself often get woven into my characters.
What was the inspiration for your book?
My book is a memoir, so my life story was my inspiration. My book is about how I overcame child abuse, PTSD, and a nightmarish marriage to finally find true love with my second wife Elizabeth. We’ve been married twenty years. The book also captures the most dramatic high and low points in my life. Other subjects covered include the corrupt business world, teenage love, fatherhood, and a nervous breakdown.
What is your favorite spot to write?
I like to write in my upstairs study on a PC in silence. I like for the house to be empty or for my wife to be absorbed with her cooking downstairs.
What advice would you give budding writers?
First, focus on producing the highest possible quality of work that you can. Polish until you believe your story is virtually perfect and you can’t make it any better. It helps to work with an editor skilled in the use of language as well as story content and structure. Then turn your efforts toward getting the story published. When I was young, I wanted to finish a story as quickly as possible so I could send it to magazines. Now I work patiently on a story until I feel it’s perfect. One story took me five years to complete! However, since I’ve been following this approach, I usually have my story or memoir accepted by a magazine within about six weeks of me sending it out.
Second, realize you’re going to have to write a lot of drafts of your story to get it right. I’m an assistant editor at Narrative Magazine, and one of the primary reasons I reject stories is that author’s take too long to get the story off the ground. For example, I’ll read a story where the author warms up for about six or seven pages before the story really starts to pop. All of this warming up material should have been eliminated or condensed or moved in subsequent drafts so the story takes off on page 1. I sent the first chapter of my book to my publisher. The editor-in-chief read the first two pages of my manuscript and requested to see the entire book because he liked how fast my book gets off the ground.
Allen Long will be awarding a $25 Amazon/BN to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.