About Jay Allan
The official bio
Jay Allan is a USA Today bestselling author of roughly 30 science fiction and fantasy books, including the bestselling Crimson Worlds series and the Far Stars trilogy published by HarperCollins Voyager.
A lifetime northeasterner, Jay currently lives in New York City, where he writes from his apartment…and continues to fill small notebooks with ideas for future books.
He has been a voracious reader of science fiction and fantasy for many years, a writer of the same far more recently. His tastes are varied and eclectic, but most often he will be found reading military and dystopian science fiction, space opera, alternate history, and epic fantasy. He is also an avid historian, and is as likely to be reading non-fiction as a novel.
Jay writes a lot of science fiction with military themes, but also other SF and some fantasy as well. His works tend to feature complex characters and lots of backstory and action, always with an emphasis on world-building and extensive detail.
Among other things, Jay writes the bestselling Crimson Worlds series and the Far Stars series published by Harper Collins Voyager.
Jay was an investor and real estate developer for many years before becoming a full-time author. When not writing, he enjoys traveling, running, hiking, and reading. Jay loves hearing from readers and always answers emails.
Join Jay’s mailing list at at the bottom of this page for updates on new releases, and follow him on Twitter @jayallanwrites for a slightly more frequent look at works in progress and thoughts on the genre in general. Or you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More about Jay
From his own mouth
Okay, so you’ve read the official bio. Fine, right…but perhaps not the spotlight on my soul you may have wanted? Yeah, I know. But, I tend toward the extremely private in most situations, and besides, I needed something that makes me look at least somewhat serious and respectable to the media (assuming any of them ever come here, that is). So just between you and me, this is my unofficial bio, which is hopefully a little more insightful (and a lot longer).
First, before I proceed, I must be honest. I saw this whole official/unofficial bio thing on another author’s web site, and while I’m not going to divulge anything more about this, here’s my thanks to said writer for a great idea and more evidence to support the maxim that anything good is worth copying.
Now, here we go. The unofficial Jay Allan bio.
I’ve been reading science fiction and fantasy my whole life, which is a long time…before men walked on the moon (yes, you read that correctly…though I was only five then, so most of the really deep reading came later). For most of that time I was a consumer of SFF and not a producer. I paid the bills as a real estate developer and investor, which, for those of you who haven’t done it, is a nonstop pain and a no holds barred stress-fest most of the time. And one that forces you to get up far too early, to boot. So I got a little burnt out, retired early…and then I got bored, and figured, why don’t I write some science fiction and fantasy (being that I’ve read so much of it over the years)?
So I did, and do you know what happened? I discovered, to my utter shock and amazement, that if I wrote the books, there were actually people out there who would buy them. And read them. Lots of people. Thousands. And thousands. And not only buy them, but also send me nice emails and write me great reviews. I was dumbstruck. So, I wrote some more books, and the same thing happened…and that’s where I still am, in some ongoing literary version of lather, rinse, repeat. And I have no plans to stop any time soon. At least not if those awesome readers I’ve got out there continue to be as voracious as they have been (that’s probably you if you’re still reading, and if it is, let me just stop here and say, “Thanks!”).
So, yes, in many ways, Jay Allan the author is the product of all of you, and the fact that you’ve pressed on this far into my bio only supports that assertion (you guys are the best!). And rest assured, when you all send me emails with suggestions about what you liked and didn’t, or you post reviews, I read them…and I take all of it into account when I sit down to write the next book (even the bad reviews).
Before I get too far off on a tangent about writing process and the like, though, I should probably round out the biography part of this, even at the risk of repeating information disclosed in the “official bio.”
I live in New York City (which does not stop me from turning it into a dystopian nightmare in a couple of my novels) surrounded by my books and computers, which I use a lot…and also by things like my running shoes, which I use far less often than I should.
I like to travel, and I have been a good number of places, but nowhere near as many as I want to visit. I plan to increase the frequency of my explorations in the coming years. Still, I have said that before on a number of occasions, so we’ll just have to see what happens. My blog is a good place to check in on my travels.
I’m a bit of a computer geek as well, and have been for a very long time. I remember playing Lunar Lander on a teletype in my high school (half of you, at least, have no idea what I’m talking about). I also had an Apple II when I was a teenager (it was right around the ten thousandth produced, and they went on to sell about six million of them, so think about that for a second…the leading edge of geekdom).
I own more black shirts than I probably should, a fact that might not be surprising to those who’ve read my books. But since I live in Manhattan, I doubt anyone notices. I’ll usually have jeans on with my black shirt (shorts in the summer), and either sneakers or boots (I have several pair of books, mostly—surprise!—black, but a nice pair of brown ones too). I relish the lack of a dress code in my new profession, and the suits and ties from my old one sit forlorn in my closet waiting for the occasional event or social obligation that requires me to drag one out and dust it off. Fortunately, things like science fiction conventions don’t fall into that category.
So, I know what you are thinking, after all the boilerplate about where I live, what I wear, blah, blah…there is one searing thought burning through your minds. What do you like to read (after all, how can an author’s bio not address this)?
Well, I read a lot, though perhaps less than I did before I started spending so much time writing (there’s an odd affliction that seems to come with writing—you tend to read something and then stop abruptly, tearing it apart, wondering how you would have done it differently).
I have a wide variety of tastes, and I can only give a brief glance at them in anything resembling a reasonable number of words (and we already passed reasonable a ways back). Obviously, the aforementioned science fiction and fantasy is high on my list, but I also read lots of history and some science books as well, mostly physics and space related. And other stuff too. But I’m picky, and I’ll admit sometimes I’m hard on books. It is often difficult for one to really grab me. When it does, I’ll tear through it like a chainsaw.
Some of the stuff I read is a bit “off the highway and down a dirt road,” so to speak. As I write this, I just finished a book about the last fifty years of the Hapsburg dynasty (who doesn’t want to know more about late nineteenth century power struggles between the Germans, Hungarians, and Slavs?). And, coincidentally, I didn’t once see anyone else with that one on the subway (though maybe they were just reading it on kindles and iPads).
Veering back from obscure history to fantasy and science fiction (so much more on point here), I again have a wide scope of tastes. Military SF is a favorite, of course, as is pure space opera. I like a lot of the SF classics (think Foundation or Starship Troopers, as well as slightly newer (though certainly not new) classics like The Forever War, and also some things that exist somewhere between science fiction and cyber-thrillers (and I like straight cyber-thrillers too…I really enjoyed early Clancy stuff). I also enjoy alternate history, but as I’m a bit of an amateur historian, I tend to demand some serious plausibility in my revised timelines. And I’m fond of historical fiction too, though that’s a broad category, and my tastes don’t extend from coast to coast within it. Think stuff like The Killer Angels for me. Or Bernard Cornwell’s brand of book.
Also, there’s a lot of older stuff I really like. A lot of it is terribly dated by today’s standards, and I understand why people might not be able to get into these books. But I think that’s too bad, because some of that stuff (the Lensman books, for example) is really good in its own way, and also some of the bedrock of the early days of the genre. And if you can find a copy of the Best of Edmond Hamilton, you’ll have to appreciate the pure unfiltered imagination on display, even if you find you can’t quite bridge the time and style gap.
Okay, now that we’ve gotten past the basic genres, what makes me tick as far as enjoying (or writing) stories? Well, first, I’m an unapologetic, unashamed, hardcore world-building junkie. I’ll read a story, and I very well may enjoy it. But if there isn’t a richly developed “world” behind it, I’m probably going to lose interest unless it’s a truly killer story. If you write historical fiction, you’ve already got a world—the real one. But in fantasy and science fiction (not to mention alternate history), you’ve got nothing…or at least nothing the author doesn’t create himself. So, first and foremost, I see it as the SFF writer’s duty to share that new and fantastic universe with the reader, in order to create something full and complete. Writers are often warned against drifting into the dreaded “info-dump,” and I think as a result, they too often err on the side of not letting us see enough of their vision.
What about scientific accuracy (at least in SF)? My education is in engineering, so I’m comfortable with the science that makes up half the name of our beloved genre. I generally try to keep my books pretty close to plausibility. I think most SF authors use a Mulligan or two, some version of faster than light travel being the most common, probably. I mean, you can do a perfectly interesting story confined to the solar system, but sooner or later, you’re going to want to bust out and see the galaxy. Would Star Trek be the institution it’s become if it had been, “its five year mission, to sail out to Pluto and back?” Or Star Wars if it had been a “long time ago in a single solar system far, far away?” So, I’ll just say that I try to stay pretty close to accurate, but I’m not going to wreck the story over it. I will also add that I have not one, not two, but THREE physicists among my readers, who all email me to discuss scientific aspects of my books. So, I guess there’s not much room for BS. If I stray too far, I WILL get busted.
I like my fantasy with its own level of accountability too. It’s not the same as SF, of course, but I enjoy books with plausibly structured kingdoms and situations. Fantasy I enjoy is likely to have magic as an awesomely powerful but very rare phenomenon, not something found on every street corner. I like well thought out consistency in the systems established (wizardry, dragons, monsters, etc.) as well, and I hate using magic to fill plot holes as much as I despise impromptu bursts of fake pseudo-science tech bailing out a lost SF storyline.
I tend to dislike fiction (books, movies, TV) that utterly ignores realism, or even common sense. I rebel against the notion that the galaxy is filled with intelligent races which differ from humans only in where they have bumps or ridges on their faces (nose, forehead, etc.), at least if there is no reason given for this (e.g. an ancient race that seeded its DNA across the galaxy). Seriously, folks (you know who you are), can we at least make a passing effort at being reasonable?
I can only take so much of first contact aliens hopping out of their ships and striking up instantaneous conversations in flawless English (usually complete with a full understanding of every colloquialism and idiom imaginable). I’ve seen a few episodes of science fiction television shows where it wouldn’t have surprised me if the aliens stepped off their ships wearing “I heart New York” jerseys and eating hot dogs. I don’t mind concessions to storytelling, but can we at least look like we’re trying? A nail biting few seconds while the ship’s AI analyzes and translates the aliens’ communication system, perhaps? A passing unfamiliarity with human customs or mannerisms? When someone with a couple splotches on his forehead jumps off a ship looking like he’s half a step from wearing an, “I’m with stupid” T-shirt and goes and grabs a beer with the hero, I cry foul. I’m just waiting for one of them to stick his head through the hatch and yell, “Dyno-mite!” (70s pop culture reference…Google it if you must, but spare me the questioning emails—they will just remind me how old I am).
There is other stuff that grates on me too. When the recreational holographic toy takes over the ship or traps key crew members for the fourth or fifth time, I can’t help but wonder, wasn’t the third time, say, enough to pull the plug on the thing? I know if I had a racquetball court that caused that kind of trouble on my ship, I’d turn the damned thing into an extra cargo hold pronto.
I’m not trying to be the futuristic equivalent of some grouchy old guy waving his arms and shouting, “Get off my lawn, you kids!” But let’s make an effort, at least. I’m begging. Just because it’s science fiction or fantasy, we shouldn’t be off the hook when it doesn’t make any sense at all.
Okay, I guess I should wrap this up (you know it’s a writer when something like a bio gets this long) with a little bit more about my writing.
I write quickly. Sometimes very quickly. If I can keep myself focused and paying attention (not an inconsequential ‘if’), I can write a lot of words a day. I’m not commenting on anyone else’s way of doing things (telling another author to write faster is a good way to pick a fight). But I find the faster I can finish a book, the tighter and better the story is. For me, more time just makes things looser and less focused. And this matches what my reviews say. Almost without exception, my highest rated books are the ones I wrote the fastest.
What about my stories? Okay, first, if you enjoy extreme utopian views of the future (or in your fantasy)…if you crave low cost happy endings with birds singing and the sun shining, you wandered into the wrong place. Please accept this as a disclaimer if you choose to stay. You may find upsetting things on this site and in my books. Indeed, you might find yourself fleeing from your computer questioning all you thought you believed. Okay, maybe it’s not that bad, but my stories are gritty, and victory is rarely cheap in them. If you’re wondering if I’m the kind of author who is willing to kill beloved characters, wonder no more.
For one thing, I’m just not someone who is enormously optimistic about the future of mankind…and I’m enough of a student of history to have a pretty good idea that utopianism, if not an outright impossibility, is a really tough target for humanity. People seem to have a natural talent for screwing things up, and I’m not sure why we should expect that to change. I’m much more inclined to see the dark roads ahead, and this shows in my writing. I’m not saying the good guys never win, far from it. But they will pay for the victory (though they could lose too, so take nothing for granted). Which, I hope, makes that win seem real…and worth something. And to me, that makes a book stronger. So, fair warning…if I’m writing and I see a chance to rip your hearts out killing someone, I won’t do it every time. But I do feel the temptation, and I will do it some of the time.
Also, a lot of my books are military science fiction, and frankly, I don’t want to write about war and warriors without showing the inherent cost, even of a morally sound victory. War is hell, whether you’re right or wrong…or, as is more often the case, somewhere in between. I have a lot of veterans and active duty military personnel among my readership, and I have enormous respect for these people. You don’t have to look farther than the news to see the price they often pay for doing their duty, and I’m not about to portray what they do as something easy and cost-free…even five hundred years from now.
In keeping with what I said I enjoy as a reader, world building is a huge part of my process. If you read my books, especially if you stick with a whole series, you will learn a lot about the fictional world/universe in which it is set, and hopefully become all the more immersed in the ongoing story. I’m not going to dump it on you like an encyclopedia, that’s just bad writing, but it’s going to be there by the end. I have reviews for the last book in a series noting that background plotlines from the first book came together at the end. I take those comments as high praise.
I also borrow a lot from history. If something in my book reminds you of the French revolution or the reign of Phocas in the Byzantine Empire or Caesar staring thoughtfully at the sun glinting off the Rubicon, there’s probably a reason. Historical themes keep repeating themselves, and I think it’s a great place to look for ideas and inspiration for new stories. As people seem determined not to learn from the past, the likelihood that those same themes will repeat in a hundred years, or a thousand, looks like a safe bet.
So, that’s got to be enough about me (and “enough” is a polite way of saying waaaay too much). If you’re still here, my compliments on your fortitude. And if, through some miracle, you find you still have questions about me, please feel free to communicate. As my official bio (remember that thing?) so proudly states, I answer all reader emails. Or at least I try (if you don’t get a response within a couple days, email again…your message probably just slipped past me).