Sacred Metal Page > The Interview-Section > Allan Cole: Master of Fantasy

Allan Cole: Master of Fantasy

With the brilliant "Far Kingdoms"-Saga, Allan Cole founded his status as one of the leading Fantasy-authors. His newest novels, the first two books of the "Timura"-Trilogy are nearly as fantastic as the above mentioned saga, and so I tried out to contact the "master of the words". I found out his E-Mail adress (from and asked him to answer me some questions. Here they are...:

SACRED METAL-Page: First of all, would you please introduce yourself to the readers of this interview? When did you start writing, what are (or were?) your idols and so on...

Allan Cole: Well, the way my publicst introduces me is like this: "Allan Cole is a former award-winning journalist, Hollywood screenwriter and international best-selling author whose 18 novels have been published in a dozen languages. The son of a CIA operative, Allan has travelled widely since childhood and brings a rich background to his creative work.< All that is true, but I'd blush if I wrote it myself. One addition though: Because of my background I consider myself more of a European, than an American. I knew I wanted to be a writer at age five. Had my first short story published when I was a teenager. Won several poetry contests in my youth, but don't consider myself talented enough in that most demanding of the arts to call myself a poet. I have too many favorite writers to list them all. However, I did an essay on that subject for a magazine recently and posted it on my homepage - It's under the title of "Cole's Favorite Books." I read constantly, obsessively. The only kind of writing I don't like is of the tin ear variety.


SACRED METAL-Page: "Reading is a kind of escapism of lifes' problems" - do you agree with this term? What's your kind of escapism?

Allan Cole: I certainly do agree with it. I've been in some awful spots in some awful places and escaped for a brief time into the pages of a book.


SACRED METAL-Page: I've read on the inside-cover of the german "Wizard Of The Winds"-edition that you lived in about 27 countries. How many languages do you speak? What was your favorite country and why? Whick country don't you like?

Allan Cole: As I mentioned above, my father was in the CIA. His "job" took us everywhere - Europe, the Middle East, The Far East, etc. I also attended 32 schools in the process. I became addicted to travel during those years and never stopped. The only continent I haven't visited yet is Australia. (I went to Antarctica with a scientific expedition in 1988) At the moment I live in the U.S., but my wife and I plan to move to Amsterdam in the next year or so. (we have some good friends there.) My favorite country was Cyprus. I spent several very formative years there. And was heavily influenced by my Cypriot tutor, Jim Demedrakis. This was in the early 50's - when Cyprus was still a colony of the U.K. Jim was later killed by a terrorist bomb.


SACRED METAL-Page: Now I like to ask you something about your style of writing. I can't imagine how an author starts writing a Saga like "Timura" for example. Do you have the plot exactly in your brain before you begin writing or does it change from day to day, from week to week?

Allan Cole: I always plan a book out in advance. And write a very thorough outline. However, I believe very firmly that you can't become a slave to the plot. Characters rule! And if a character wants to do something different than you planned you should help in everyway you can. I also like lots of surprises and twists and tricks. So I'm always ready to pounce on a new idea, then roll the dice. Like, put in an earthquake just to "shake" all the characters up. Still, you need a good outline so you don't get lost when you take these adventurous forays.


SACRED METAL-Page: Tell me something about the co-work with Chris Bunch. How do you two came togteher? How can two authors write one novel?

Allan Cole: Chris and I met as seniors in high school. As a matter of fact, I'm married to his sister. Anyway, since we knew each other for so many years it was fairly easy to team up. The way it worked was this: We'd outline the book, as I mentioned above. Then we'd split up the chapters - not by numbers, but by theme and character. So, I'd follow one character or theme point, while he'd follow another. When we were done, we'd swap pages and rewrite the other guy's stuff. This gave us our first draft and made the whole feel seamless. As if it were written by one guy. Anyway, we usually did two more drafts, a final polish, then ship it to our editors. We don't work together any more. Both of us had other ideas we wanted to pursue that couldn't be done as a team. The only real surprise is that we wrote so many things together for so many years. There are only a few other serious literary partnerships that I know of that accomplished that.


SACRED METAL-Page: How would you describe the content of the "Far Kingdoms"-Saga to somebody who doesn't even read one single line of this work?

Allan Cole: The Far Kingdoms Saga is the story of two truth seekers - Amalric Antero and his warrior sister, Rali. It is set in a time and place where all gods are false and evil is on the verge of swallowing up the world. An aside: the saga is a parable of today, even though it is set in the ancient past.


SACRED METAL-Page: What's your favorite character in The Far Kingdoms? If you have the opportunity to change something in the books what would that be?

Allan Cole: My favorite character is Rali. In fact, she's probably my favorite character of all the books I've written. As for changing a book, no writer is ever completely happy with his words. However, to change them later would almost certainly destroy the good he did manage to wrest from blank paper. A person looks at the world differently as he/she ages. Unfortunately, many people turn their backs on the person they once were. This is why so many idealists turn into bankers who would dispossess their own grandmothers from their homes if there's a profit in it.


SACRED METAL-Page: I don't know anything about the "Sten"-Saga. What are these novels all about?

Allan Cole: The Sten Chronicles is a series of eight books set three thousand years in the future. It follows the adventures and career of a young delinq (delinquent - or, hooligan) - born on a factory planet - from the day he is orphaned to his ultimate victory many years later over a totalitarian emperor, who has discovered the secret of eternal life.


SACRED METAL-Page: The "Timura"-Saga is your newest project. How many novels will you write under the banner of Timura? Do you know how the Saga will end?

Allan Cole: The Timura Saga is the story of Safar Timura, a potter's son who rises to become the Chief Wazier of the king, his boyhood friend - and of his ultimate betrayal. (all my books have betrayal at their heart. Probably because of my childhood in the CIA). There are three books planned in the series: Wizard Of The Winds (titled When The Gods Slept in the UK), Wolves Of The Gods and The Gods Awaken. The first two have been published. I'm writing the third now. The story is set against a world-wide magical/physical disaster. I've enjoyed these books so much that there probably will be more than those initial three. As for how it will end - of course, I know. But that doesn't mean I won't change my mind later on. >grin< An aside: the character of Safar Timura is loosely based on Omar Khayyam, the ancient Persian poet and astronomer. Except for passionate students of algebra, Omar is mostly known to us today for his poetry - collected in The Rubaiyat Of Omar Khayyam. Omar was the son of a tentmaker who rose to become the Chief Astrologer for the Sultan, his boyhood friend. So you can see the connection. This series, BTW, is strongly influenced by my years in Cyprus. The imaginary world I have created is a cross between Greek and the Middle East. As if Alexander's army had recently gone through and both cultures exist side by side.


SACRED METAL-Page: On the innersleeve you mentioned a dedication to all your friends in Germany? What kind of feelings arises when you're thinking about Germany? How many people do you know here?

Allan Cole: I had many good friends in Germany before my books were published there. And now I have so many more that my e-mail vaults are overflowing. I first visited Germany twice when I was a boy. And I went there again with my wife two years ago. Obviously I've met and befriended quite a few Germans who I encountered in other countries during my travels. When I think of Germans the first person who comes to mind is a man whose name I don't know. I was eight years old and had wandered away from my family. (I always did this!!!) Anyway, I became lost on the streets of Frankfurt. I bumped into this huge guy (remember, I was only eight) who realized I was lost, even though he didn't speak a word of English, nor I German. So he takes me into his apartment and I meet his wife and kids. They feed me, fuss over me, etc. Man, I was right at home in no time. While I played with his kids, the guy hunts up a friend who is a taxi driver. And then the two of them drive me up and down the streets for a couple of hours until I finally recognized my hotel. When I was rejoined with my parents, my father tried to give them some money as a reward, but they both refused. (although they did let my dad buy them a beer at the hotel bar.) Anway, that's what I always think of when I think of Germans and Germany. That guy and his family and the taxi driver. And in my later years when I ran into other Germans I was never disappointed, or had that image tarnished, or spoiled. Great people! Fabulous people! Sure, I know you have some "rotten apples," just like we do here in the States. But I think you have far fewer than we do! >grin<


SACRED METAL-Page: Maybe you know that this interview will appear on a Heavy-Metal-Page. What kind of music do you enjoy? Do you know that the Metal-genre has some great lyricists? I mean, bands like Manowar, Virgin Steele or Blind Guardian. Do you know something about them?

Allan Cole: Sure, I like heavy metal. My son - age 25 is a longtime fan - and he got me interested. And one of the things that impressed me was the lyrical writing. Being an author - I always check out the lyrics!! I also like Reggae, Ska, and good old Rock N' Roll.


SACRED METAL-Page: Do you have the full control about your novels? For example, can you choose a cover-artwork?

Allan Cole: I have some control. I can say "yes," and "no," but I don't always have the choice of the artist. Covers in the U.S. are done by the marketing department, who are the rulers of the roost in most industries, are they not?


SACRED METAL-Page: I've heard that someone has written a CD based on "Wizard Of The Winds". Can you give a short description of his work, what kind of music did he play?

Allan Cole: There's a fabulous album of music out that was composed by Bjorn Lynne, a wonderful European underground musician. He contacted me about two years ago and asked if he could do an album based on the book. I had a fabulous time working with Bjorn on the CD. My role was mainly sitting back and hearing the tunes develop (via the internet) and having a great time. Although I did write a small intro to each song, which was recorded by a rising voice artist star named Cris Blyth. All the critics have loved the CD. If anyone is interested they can hear samples of the songs on Bjorn's homepage: Currently, Bjorn is working on a musical sequel based on Wolves Of The Gods.


SACRED METAL-Page: Do you have a family? What do they think about your work?

Allan Cole: I have three kids. Four brothers. And a huge Irish/American family of aunts, uncles, and cousins. (my parents died some years ago). They all say they like my books. I'm pretty sure they are telling the truth. >grin<


SACRED METAL-Page: What are your hobbies besides writing? What does Allan Cole do in his free-time?

Allan Cole: When my spare time equals days or weeks travel. That's what I love to do the most - after writing and reading, of course. In my spare hours I like to swim in the Ocean. Hike in the wilderness. Drive my four-wheel pickup over bad terrain. Listen to music. And I purely love film.


SACRED METAL-Page: Tell me your all-time-favorite five novels! What's your favorite self-written book?

Allan Cole:
1. Trustee From A Toolroom, by Nevil Shute.
2. Canary Row, by John Steinbeck.
3. The Last Of The Wine, by Mary Renault.
4. I, Claudius, by Robert Graves.
5. The Odyssey, by Homer.

My favorite self-published book is Mark Twain's The White Ship. It's about travel.


SACRED METAL-Page: What are your next plans? What kind of novels could be await from you? Maybe a new Saga?

Allan Cole: I'm thinking of writing a novel about my experiences as a CIA brat. Set in Cyrprus. Tentative title: Far Away Places: Memoirs Of A CIA Brat.


SACRED METAL-Page: Now up to my favorite interview game. Please give short comments to the following:

Allan Cole:
- J.R.R. Tolkien:
- Stephen King: bad writing...
- Wolfgang Hohlbein: Fantasy - particularly the Garth Saga
- Germany: rescued me
- MTV:
- Friendship:
- Sword & Sorcer
y: Janos Greycloak.
- Computers:
- Death:
- Life: always
- Internet:


SACRED METAL-Page: Any famous last words from you to the readers in Germany and allover the world?

Allan Cole: Remember: Everone is different, but everyone is also the same...

I hope you enjoyed reading this interview as much as I did! And now, ran to your local book- dealer, grab a edition of a Cole-Book (start with The Far Kingdoms) and dive into his great Fantasy-world!

(c) 1998 Michael Kohsiek