His wonderfully dark tale “Back to the Woods” is one story featured in "It Calls From the Forest: Volume 1", and we agree with the early reviewers. It is a great story.
G. Allen Wilbanks is a retired police officer living in Northern California. For twenty-five years he wrote collision and crime reports during the day to pay the bills and, during his time-off, he wrote short fiction to stay sane.
From an early age, he was drawn to dark fantasy and horror stories in movies, books, and every other form of media he could find. His childhood was relatively normal, so it is unknown just what emotional trauma led to his love of all things macabre.
He is a member of the Horror Writers Association (HWA) and his work has appeared in over 100 print and electronic publications all over the world. In the past two years, his short stories have featured in several internationally best-selling anthologies, including Worlds, Blaze, and Eerie Christmas. He is the author of two short story collections of his own (Not for Bedtime Stories, and 13 Rooms), and the novel, When Darkness Comes. In addition to his fiction writing, he writes a weekly humor blog entitled, Deep Dark Thoughts, where he ponders life and why it apparently seems to hate him.
Have you always written, or was there a catalyst that prompted you to begin this journey?
I’ve always loved to read and in just about every book I’ve ever picked up there are parts that I think to myself “I would have done that differently.” I think that was the catalyst that made me start writing my own stories. I wanted to see what I could do when I had full control over the characters. I have been writing for about as far back as I can remember. I used to write short stories when I was in high school, but I never let anyone read them. I think that was a good decision as most of them were pretty bad. In college, I even took a creative writing course. I got a B minus in the class. That may have been part of the reason it took me another ten years to get up the courage to submit my first story for publication.
What is your favourite genre to read?
My reading is best described as “eclectic.” I read a little bit of everything. My favorite genre though will always be dark fantasy. I love the idea of magic existing in the world, along with all the creatures that go along with it, but I have never enjoyed the happy fairytale endings. Real life is messy and complicated, and I like the stories I read to reflect that. I like stories with characters that aren’t just good or bad; they make mistakes and do terrible things that they later regret, just like real people. I have always had a fascination with horror novels and movies as well. The darker the better. Dean Koontz and Stephen King were two of my favorite authors growing up (and still are.) My own writing often reflects that love of darkness, but I try to still keep the characters I write as realistic as possible. Despite all this, I have to admit that I do enjoy the occasional adventure or action novel as well. The story isn’t believable or realistic at all, but it is still a fun read. I have recently been reading the Jack Reacher series of novels by Lee Child and am absolutely loving them.
Do you remember the first piece of writing shared publicly? What were people’s reactions, but more importantly how did you react getting it out there?
The first story I ever had published was a piece called, “The Love Bear.” It appeared in Volume 2, Issue #5 of an online magazine called, Dark Moon Rising. The story was published in September, 2000. I was ecstatic when the story came out, and I made sure to tell all my friends and family about it. They were supportive, but I don’t think they really understood why it was such a big deal to me. Being able to go online and find something with my name on it was such an amazing thing for me, I immediately wanted to do it again. Then again. I enjoy writing and I always have. I will continue to do it even if I never publish another story, but I admit there is definitely something exciting about seeing your name appear in print.
What is your workspace like? What kind of atmosphere do you need to write?
My desk is completely covered at all times by binders, notebooks, and post-it notes. Anyone that sees my den probably wonders how in the world I can ever stay focused on anything long enough to complete a short story, much less a novel. This kind of organized chaos works for me, however. When I’m writing, my mind often wanders into new story ideas or to plot twists in other stories I have temporarily set aside. I jot down the ideas on one of my notebooks, set it aside, then keep going on the original piece I was working on. This way, I don’t forget the idea I had and I ‘ve saved it for later. As I am doing this interview, I have already stopped a few times to write notes to myself on a new novel outline I have been thinking about. My mind naturally jumps around, and I have learned that the best way to deal with my short attention span is to just roll with it. Even though my own brain is constantly interrupting me, I don’t like outside interruptions when I’m writing. I don’t even like listening to music when I’m at my desk. It has to be as close to silent around me as I can make it. My family has learned that if my den door is closed, they should just leave me alone. I don’t respond well to visitors.
Without giving too much away, tell us about the short story you have featured in “It calls to the Forest”. What inspired you?
My story, “Back to the Woods,” started in my head with just a picture. Most of my short stories start out this way, as just an image or an impression but no real story yet. For this tale, I had an image of a prisoner in an orange jump suit, hands cuffed to a chain around his waist, and stumbling through the manzanita brush in a forest. I had no idea why he was there at first, but I knew that he was afraid and did not want to be there. The rest of the story just started to click into place as I tried to imagine how he had reached that particular moment in his life. So, why was he handcuffed in the forest? Why was he afraid? I guess you’ll have to read the story to find out. Interested in learning more about Gary and our other authors? Want free books, get behind the scene information and vote on upcoming themes on our Patreon Page.
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