Nathaniel Allen

  • Nathaniel Allen, Academic TransferNathaniel-Allen-web

    Nathaniel Allen has always had an interest in writing, but when a life-changing accident curtailed his promising football career, his artistic interests moved front and center. His short story, “Desperate Lovers,” was published in Illuminations, Vol. 18. In this interview, Nathaniel talks with us about the effects of his past and what his future holds.

    Illuminations: Hi, Nathaniel! In your Illuminations Volume 18 biography, you stated that you were recruited to play football at UNL in 2011 and redshirted your freshman year. A devastating car accident put the end to your football career with Nebraska. Did this traumatic experience fuel your writing and creativity in any way?

    Nathaniel: My crash definitely shaped my writing style and lifestyle in general. Being unable to continue my lifelong dream of playing football for UNL, I began reading even more than before, being in both the hospital and rehabilitation for a total of 14 months.

    I: Your accident resulted in a traumatic brain injury and extensive physical and mental rehabilitation. How are you doing now?

    N: I personally feel that I am PHYSICALLY fine, but having "TBI" on your medical records automatically disqualifies me from ANY contact sport endeavors. This isn't a huge deal, unless you are me and specialize almost exclusively in those.

    I: Ah–that’s tough. You say that your story, “Desperate Lovers,” is a reflection of your family’s Nordic roots. Tell us about that and why you wanted to pay tribute to your ancestors’ culture?

    N: My great grandmother Astrid immigrated to the United States from Norway when she was younger, leaving me 1/8th Norse. I loved to read and research things even at a young age due to my mother’s encouragement and her reading to me every night. I also am proud of my heritage and want to promote honest historical statements—for example, Viking helmets did NOT have horns.

    I: I hear you! “Desperate Lovers” is a romantic story; what drew you to writing a “love conquers all” type of story?

    N: As I am told that I am "intimidating" by some, dating has always been a bit rough for me. Being a good athlete in high school meant lots of attention, but namely negative attention from parents. I have had deep, semi-threatening conversations with different girls’ fathers. I know what having to earn a parent’s trust feels like, and I tried to channel this into my story.

    I: I can definitely see that! What other types of writing have you done?

    N: I have ALWAYS loved literature, both reading and writing it. In high school and college, both of my favorite classes happened to be history and English. Composition classes had me write essays, fiction, and nonfiction stories. Unlike most people, I love public speaking, so I have intentionally taken that as a class before, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Poetry in the traditional sense has baffled me at times, but "spoken word" poetry fascinates me. You can thank musician/poet/speaker Henry Rollins for getting me started there.

    I: Do you enjoy other artistic pursuits along with writing?

    N: I have always enjoyed music, likely due to my mother's piano playing abilities or my dad's enormous music collection of tapes and CDs that range from Queen to Alabama to Metallica. This has led to me taking guitar and piano lessons along with being a member of choir all four years in high school. My favorite singing I have done was the opening of "Love Shack" by the B-52s in our schools rendition of the musical, "Back to the 80s."

    I: Wish I could have seen that! How do you see yourself as a writer, in particular, in ten years?

    N: I hope to have a novel published and be teaching English to either high school or college students.

    I: Excellent! How excited were you to see your work in Illuminations?

    N: I was both shocked and honored to be told I was to be in Illuminations. I didn't think my style of writing was very marketable or that I had a future in writing, but after hearing this, my thoughts have changed entirely.

    I: What advice would you offer others–particularly athletes–who’d like to write?

    N: My main advice is to just START. The stories I write are very refined AFTER I have written the whole thing, or at least think I have. Get all your ideas on paper then go back and think what will work best. Also, NOTHING is too silly or weird to write about. Some of the most outrageous stories end up being best sellers. As stereotypical as it sounds, BELIEVE in yourself! Editing is important, but so is confidence in your work. The story I gave to you was probably an 8th or 9th draft, which I am still expanding and refining to this day; hopefully, one day I can expand it to a full novel.

    I: I hope so! And finally, the silly question of the day: What’s the oldest thing in your refrigerator?

    N: Hmm.... Probably cream cheese, which is most likely inedible at this point in time.

    I: OK – no bagels at your place. Thanks, Nathaniel!

    From "Desperate Lovers" by Nathaniel Allen:

    The next night, when I assumed both Katalariina and her father would be in a deep sleep, I hiked the last couple of miles to the village I had thought I would never enter again. It was pitch black outside, but this was generally the time I had sneaked over to visit Kata in the past. The tension was high as I slid as quietly as possible into their home. Horrified, I noticed Katalariina’s father crouched next to my entrance point. He wielded a dagger and stared directly at me.

    “Well, hello there!” he snidely growled while brandishing the long dagger in his soft, weak, wealthy man’s hand. When it was pulled from its sheath, the dagger made a shrill noise that awoke Katalariina from her slumber.

    “Father, no!” her shrill voice exclaimed.

    I instinctively rolled out of the way to avoid striking distance of the disgruntled, homicidal father; I was ready to strike at him if necessary to defend my precious lover.

    “I love this man! His name is Rolf. He works in the armory in the market—or at least he did until you and your high and mighty friends ran him away. If you cannot accept whom I choose to spend my life with, Rolf and I will leave this village forever.”