Gregory Allen's, Chicken Boy is the people's choice winner for this year. And that's a huge accomplishment. With over 400 entries this time around, the competition was pretty steep. I was certainly happy I didn't have to deal with that!
Since I've declared 2012: The Year of the Writer, and MeeGenius authors need to stick together, I decided to interview Gregory. (more authors forthcoming, so hang on to your britches!) Let's hear it for unusual superheroes and their creators!
The Restless Writer (RW): As the MeeGenius Author Contest winner for 2010, I find that people still don't take ebooks as seriously as print books. For this reason, I grappled with submitting my story for the contest in the first place, but I'm so glad I did. What made you decide to try digital for your story?
Gregory Allen (GA): As an author of adult books - I have embraced the digital era. I believe in giving readers choices so most of my books have always been offered in both eBook and print. (And I'll admit, I do sell more eBook when it comes to adult fiction.) But for the children's book, I honestly hadn't thought about the fact that it would be digital only. A YA author friend of mine told me about the contest knowing I had written a children's book so I figured why not submit to them. Once I truly started looking at their site, I thought they offered a really cool platform to help children in reading and making it 'fun' at the same time.
RW: How did the idea for 'Chicken Boy' first come to you?
GA: Every Wed night, I go to dinner with my godson and his older sister and mom. As a child with autism, we must keep his routine the same so he knows what he'll be doing at night's end. (Eating his chicken fingers, french fries, ketchup and red velvet cake on Wednesday night.) His sister and I started coming up with ideas one night when I said we should write a story about him and make him a superhero. The more we talked, the more I jotted down notes on a napkin. My godson has certain 'ticks' and one was a noise he'd make that sounded like "bahcaaaaaah" so we decided that was his superhero battle cry. I went home that night and wrote the entire first draft of the story. I wasn't even sure at the time if I'd be doing anything with it, but I knew I had to write it while the inspiration was there.
RW: What has been the most surprising aspect of entering this contest?
GA: For me, it was how the entire thing shifted once voting started and I realized it was no longer about "Greg winning a contest." My story (even without illustrations in round 1) was touching so many people in the autism community and I was getting emails and reading posts on the MeeGenius wall that completely blew me away. I realized I was this very (very) small voice in the autism community and saw the importance of getting this book out there. Over 2,000 people voted for it in round 1 and I was absolutely overwhelmed by the response.
RW: Your website says you wrote your first musical at 14. As a huge fan of musical theater, I must ask, what is your favorite musical?
GA: Now that's a hard one. As I write in so many genres - I also love musicals of many kinds. For old time musical: The Sound of Music. For more modern: Next to Normal.
RW: Your website also says you toured as a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. Which turtle were you and what did you get to do?
GA: That was a blast. It was the height of their 'fame' in 1989/90. I'd get to play Michaelangelo and at times - the evil Shredder. (You get bored on the road and want to switch it up.) We played every theme park, zoo, mall, & tractor pull across the US, Canada and even Guam. If someone wanted this 30 minute show - we were there doing it three times a day.
RW: You also write adult novels. Can you tell us a bit about them?
GA: I say I like to tell stories of adversity & diversity. So my books go from one about my older half brother who passed away at 34 years old, to literary fiction that deals with religion & sexuality to my latest coming out on April 15, PATCHWORK OF ME. A contemporary novel about a woman who grew up in the foster care system and decides to investigate her past so she can get on with her future.
RW: Do you plan to write more children's books?
GA: I may actually go back and look at some of the musicals I wrote back when I was a teenager and rework some of those into children's books. I'm also very aware that the autism spectrum is very wide and each child is different, but I'd like to continue the voice of Chicken Boy and perhaps do something else with him in the future.
RW: What are you doing, typically, when you're not writing?
GA: My day job is managing an arts center on a college campus. But to relax: I love to travel. I've done a couple of two week cruises in the Baltic & Mediterranean Sea..beautiful!
RW: What are your top 5 favorite books?
GA: This list really shows my odd taste: Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving. Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs. Bid Time Return by Richard Matheson. She's Come Undone by Wally Lamb. And for kid's book: The Little Bear Series by Else Holmelund Minarik & The Boxcar Children Series by Gertrude Chandler Warner.
Thanks so much, Greg!