Giant Birds Who Talk Philosophy Merge With Lost-and-Found Love in Allred’s New Novel

The publicity for Oregon author Stevan Allred’s “The Alehouse at the End of the World” states that “an epic comedy set in the 16th century, bawdy Shakespearean love triangles play out with shape-shifting avian demigods and a fertility goddess, drunken revelry, and biodynamic gardening.” There are also numerous references to pop culture.
Allred shares insights on his work at the next Chuckanut Radio Hour on Tuesday, March 12, at Whatcom Community College’s Heiner Theater, 237 W. Kellogg Road. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., with music by guitarist and singer Sarah Goodin; taping for later broadcast starts at 7 p.m. sharp. Tickets for the Chuckanut Radio Hour are $5 and are available at Village Books and Brown Paper Tickets. Each paid ticket includes a $5 voucher good toward the purchase of “The Alehouse at the End of the World.” The Radio Hour airs at 7 a.m. every Friday, 7 p.m. Saturdays, and 9 p.m. Sundays on KMRE 102.3FM.
I recently exchanged emails with Allred about his new book. For more about him, go to http://stevanallred.com/.
Margaret: How did you weave your personal stories of surviving loss, love, and conflict in “The Alehouse at the End of the World?”
Stevan: In the middle stretch of “Alehouse” there’s a kind of bedroom farce with interlocking love triangles. I have, at various moments of my life, been in all three positions–the spurned lover, the new lover, the one caught in between. As painful as those situations can be to live through, they are also the source of a great deal of comedy. I tried to be sympathetic to the plights of all of my characters.  They are all of them flawed, and I let them be who the story needed them to be, without judging their failings. Even the worst of them has moments of humanity. And they all made me laugh at one time or another. Juxtaposing the laughter and the sorrow of life together heightens both.
Margaret: Your characters mix politics, arrogance, spirituality, humor and vulgarity. As you write, how do you edit your writing? How do you let your characters speak to you?
Stevan: I wanted a particular sound to the prose, a kind of old-fashioned 19th- century feel to it. “Alehouse” is an adventure, a hero’s journey to the Isle of the Dead, and I think that old-fashioned sound is a lot of how the novel keeps its tongue so firmly in its cheek. I wanted it to be funny and a more than a little over the top. So I edited for that sound, and I paid attention to which character was best suited to tell any given part of the story.
It took me a while to find my way into this novel, but once I got the story going the characters got pretty active in my head. The story came alive inside me, and as I moved around during the day I jotted down lines and ideas, or I wrote stuff on my phone. It was kind of like braiding a rope while I was climbing it, but the more energy I put into the story, the more I let “Alehouse” wrap itself all around me, the more the story gave back to me.The best thing I could do, I learned as I went along, was just get out of my own way and let the story rip.
Margaret: Is there a way to discern or locate all your references to pop culture in this book?
Stevan: I had a lot of fun with that aspect of the novel. There are references to all kinds of things in it, from The Book of Mormon to “The Wizard of Oz” to “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” I love it when a reader gets them, and I don’t want to spoil anyone’s fun by drawing a roadmap to all of them. They are best discovered on the pages where they live.
Margaret: What have been some of the most intriguing questions you’ve been asked about your writing?
Stevan: There are so many aspects to this novel that I’ve had many great conversations about it. There’s the language, which borrows from Victorian crime and sex slang and occasionally invents words. There’s the rich gumbo of mythologies from the Bible to Bali to the blues. Several of the characters are six-foot-tall birds, and there’s a great beast bent on swallowing everything in his path, and some bug-eyed monsters straight out of pulp science fiction. There are three beautiful black and white illustrations by Reid Psaltis, and “Alehouse” has a very striking cover by Gig Little. There’s romance and love-making and lovers’ quarrels. And there is a villain for the ages, the kind of character we love to hate, who makes you want to boo and hiss every time he appears. It’s a great romp of a novel, full of adventure and surprises and it has a really fabulous ending.
Margaret: What’s new for you?
Stevan: I had the great good fortune to be the reader for the “The Alehouse at the End of the World” audiobook. I spent five and a half months recording and editing it, with the help of Dan Rhiger at Medicine Whistle Studio in Portland. I did 10 character voices, and it’s a lot of fun to listen to. It’s widely available as an audiobook on Blackstone.  

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