Welcome to my weekly Author Spotlight. I’ve asked a bunch of my author friends to answer a set of interview questions, and to share their latest work.
Today, Allen Renfro – Allen Renfro is a native of Tennessee and a graduate of Tusculum College. A published poet and artist in the zine culture of the 1990s he considers himself a “fringe” artist who unabashedly tackles controversial subjects.
Thanks so much, Allen, for joining me!
J. Scott Coatsworth: Do you have any strange writing habits or superstitions?
Allen Renfro: I’m not sure about strange but I definitely have rituals. I have to have my favorite Pandora station playing and a Diet Pepsi nearby. I seem to write more effectively in the morning hours versus night.
JSC: When did you know you wanted to write, and when did you discover that you were good at it?
AR: It may sound strange but it feels like I was born to write. I remember writing a fictional story in the sixth grade that was supposed to be just a page or so and my story wound up being like ten pages. I think it’s been in recent years that I’m confident enough to say I’m good at it. I think I’m like most writers. We take a lot of lumps and bruises along the way before we get to the point where we feel we’re good at it. I guess what I’m saying is for a long time it didn’t matter to me if I was good at it, just that I was enjoying creating adventures. Now I realize I’m good at it too.
JSC: If you could sit down with one other writer, living or dead, who would you choose, and what would you ask them?
AR: Anne Rice. Among the many questions I have, I would most like to know if she ever wanted to write outside the supernatural genre and if so what genre would it be. I remember the early years she did write some erotica but I have to wonder if she ever thought beyond the vampire chronicles and the Mayfair witches.
JSC: How would you describe your writing style/genre?
AR: Most of my writing is in the thriller/mystery genre but I don’t believe in writing in just one genre. I’ve written horror, young adult, romance. I like pushing myself. I don’t want to stay in my comfort zone. I’m planning on writing some science fiction in the near future as well. I love it all and want to experience it all.
JSC: If you had the opportunity to live one year of your life over again, which year would you choose, and why?
AR: This is going to sound very cynical, probably even bitter. 1993. If I knew then what I know now I could save myself a lot of heartache and anger by making a different decision than I made that year. The circumstances of that year led me to give up writing for a long period of time. I will always regret that.
JSC: What was your first published work? Tell me a little about it.
AR: The Raised is the first novel I had published and is book one of an ongoing paranormal/supernatural series. It’s my own vision of what the undead are, not zombies mind you, but something that brings a human back to life, more powerful, more beautiful and stronger than in their natural life. It’s really my exploration of Biblical text.
JSC: Were you a voracious reader as a child?
AR: I wouldn’t say voracious but I loved to read as a child and a teenager. I became obsessed with S.E. Hinton’s novel The Outsiders and I think I read it like ten times in one year. To this day I still try to read it once a year. That’s how much it affected me. I read books all the time so maybe voracious is correct in describing me then.
JSC: What’s your writing process?
AR: An idea comes to me and I sit down and begin writing. I never know where the characters will take the story but I let them do it. I think I spend as much time pacing while flushing out a story as I do in actually writing it.
JSC: Which of your own characters would you Kill? Fuck? Marry? And why?
AR: This would probably be the same character for all of these. Sheriff Mark Mason in my novel Rogue. He’s sexy, masculine, charming, southern, wears a uniform and is so frustrating when it comes to making a decision about his personal life that I want to strangle him.
JSC: What are you working on now, and when can we expect it?
AR: I’m working on a romantic comedy. I really wanted to write a story that’s funny and has a “happily ever after.” I just wanted to write something to help people escape, nothing too heavy, just a feel good story. I hope to have it out any day now!
And now for Allen’s new book: Feels Like Friday:
There’s nothing like the feeling of coming home on a Friday afternoon after a hard week of work. To Evan weekends are when life really begins, spending quiet Friday nights at home with Jacob; sleeping in on Saturday mornings; shopping in Market Square downtown; going to the movies after Sunday brunch with friends. It has defined his life with Jacob for twenty happy years.
Then, one Friday he comes home and his whole world is shattered.
Determined to help Evan through his sorrow his best friends, Curt and Donna, decide to keep him distracted by taking him to Curt’s favorite hangout. It seems the harder they try the more Evan resists, that is, until he meets Jase.
The hottest bartender in town, Jase, with his blond hair and blue-eyed good looks, is the center of attention and the object of every man’s desire. Never in a million years would Evan think that Jase could be attracted to someone like him: a nerdy, middle-aged accountant with high blood pressure. It takes Evan’s best friends to convince him that he is the kind of man Jase is looking for.
But just as the relationship between Evan and Jase blossoms, tragedy strikes and Evan is forced to make a decision that will change his life forever. Will he do what his heart tells him or what his guilt demands?
“Let’s not just stand here,” Donna says, “let’s go to Richard’s tent!”
We shuffle through the huge crowds of people trying not to lose each other as we migrate. I see a lot of people that Jacob and I know as a couple and I find it strange how many of them keep their distant, offer me a wave and a smile but don’t greet me with a hug or a hello, like I’m contagious or something. I push it from my mind. This day is about having fun and forgetting your problems and I have every intention of doing that.
“Damn, does anybody have any sunscreen,” Brad whines from behind me. I wrestle the last bottle I have from my pocket.
“Here,” I hand it to him but he doesn’t take it.
“I need some on my back,” he says, his face a grimace like he’s in pain.
“With your pink skin you should have an umbrella,” Curt teases as the Richard’s Bar tent comes into view.
The rest of the group heads over to the tent and I squeeze lotion on Brad’s back and massage it in. I wait for him to start with his teasing. But he sips his drink and remains silent.
I slide my hands over his shoulders and rub the lotion against the back of his neck. “There, I think I got you covered.”
“Thanks,” he says and steps over to the tent.
Yeah, my inside voice says, something’s wrong with him. I slide the half empty tube of sunscreen back into my pocket and join the group. I look at them all, in t-shirts and shorts, so unlike the lives that we live Monday through Friday with business suits and ties. Funny how I instinctively know this is the real us.
They’re all dancing to the music coming from the Richard’s Bar tent. My biggest excitement other than seeing Jase is seeing the bottles of water sitting on a table in the shade of the tent and the white piece of paper taped to the table with the word FREE.
I twist open the lid of a plastic bottle and chug down the water in what seems like one gulp and then open a second bottle and do the same.
“Thirsty?” Curt calls out behind me, laughing.
I turn around with the plastic bottle pressed against my lips, guilty. I am thirsty.
“Where’s Brad?” I ask, noticing immediately that he’s not with the group.
Curt points into a crowd of men apparently pretending to be in a prison shower room. Someone is using a garden hose to spray water over them as they dance and cheer, the grass beneath them turning slippery. “He’s in there.”
“Get ready,” Donna laughs, “I expect mud wrestling to start any second now.”
“Isn’t that the mayor dancing with them?” Dean says, squinting to get a better look.
“Holy shit she is!” Curt laughs.
And the next thing we see is Austin ripping off his t-shirt and joining the mix. He’s head and shoulders above the other guys looking like the centerpiece of a Thanksgiving dinner.
Tina leans in close to me. “I’m beginning to think my future husband is homosexual.”
Curt hears her and laughs. “Oh stop it, Tina. He’s just caught up in the moment.”
“And what’s the next moment gonna be, Curt?” Tina laughs. “Austin on his back grabbing his ankles? Jesus, Evan, what did you do to him last night?”
It’s like he senses we’re talking about him as Austin turns around and waves at us while being surrounded by a countless number of shirtless guys and all of them dancing to the music and relishing the cool water flowing over them. The bright sun reflects on the drops of water in their hair, glistening like diamonds.
“Oh what the hell,” Rick says and all of a sudden he pulls his t-shirt off, revealing himself to be a hairy bear for all the world to see. His t-shirt lands perfectly on Donna’s head.
“It’s true,” she says, pulling Rick’s shirt off her face, taking her sunglasses with it. “Give ’em a couple of beers and they’re all gay.”
It’s like Rick is absorbed into the herd of man flesh, I can no longer see the hair on his back or on his head, just his hands above the crowd waving.
“Why aren’t you in there?” Jase asks from behind me, sitting on the table next to the rows of bottled water, his legs swinging back and forth, still wearing only the tight rainbow shorts that fit like a bathing suit.
I don’t have an answer and before I can argue Jase has me by the hand dragging me into the crowd of hot guys, pulling my shirt off again and we’re dancing, laughing and having fun.
Then the next thing I know I’m lying on the ground, feeling like I need one of those “I’ve fallen and can’t get up” buttons. The grass is really wet and really slippery.
“You okay?” Jase laughs reaching down to pull me up.
Before I can take his hand he falls flat on his ass. “Damn, this grass is slick.”
I feel Donna behind me, a guy’s dancing butt right in my face. “My God! Are you two all right?”
She tries to pull me up by grabbing under my arms but then she lets me go and falls face first into the guy’s ass, her sunglasses flying off her face. She’s down on her knees beside me looking at me like it’s my fault the grass is slick.
The guy turns around and looks down at her. “Honey you’re barking up the wrong tree.”
“I wasn’t barking, bitch,” she laughs and tries to push herself up only to fall on her back.
“My God you idiots,” Curt shouts, rushing toward us to help.
He should’ve known better as with his momentum and the wet grass he falls and skids past us undercutting guys like they’re bowling pins. At least six people down including Austin, Brad, Rick and Mayor Rodgers on top of Curt who now has a beard made out of grass.
Dean stands over us looking down. “Do I need to call 9-1-1?”
“Hell no,” Curt laughs, “I’m on the bottom!”
Allen Renfro is a native of Tennessee and a graduate of Tusculum College. A published poet and artist in the zine culture of the 1990s he considers himself a “fringe” artist who unabashedly tackles controversial subjects. An admitted history buff, horror movie watcher and reader of fiction, he is the author of nine novels.