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On The Table Read, “The Best Book Reader Magazine in the UK“, author Allen Grove discusses his new book, Dadafarin, or The Pessimism, and the experiences that inspired him to write it.

JJ Barnes editor of The Table Read online creativity, arts and entertainment magazine

Written by JJ Barnes

I interviewed author Allen Grove about his life and career, what inspires him to write, and the creative process that went into his new book, Dadafarin.

Tell me a bit about who you are.

I was born in  the UK but from the age of ten grew up in southern Africa. After finishing school, I worked throughout southern, central and east Africa for ten years before moving back to the UK to further my career. I’ve been very lucky to have a job that has taken me to over 80 countries, including living in the Middle East for several years and shorter spells in India and the South Pacific. I have two children, and am happily married. I am also a keen semi-professional photographer and motorcyclist.

When did you first WANT to write a book?

I wanted to be a writer pretty much as soon as I discovered literature, at the age of 15. I owe my love of literature to an English teacher I had for ‘O’ Level English. To his disgust, I dropped English as a subject for my A Levels.

Allen Grove, author of Dadafarin, on The Table Read
Allen Grove

I then went into a very technical profession and the writing became sporadic, and for a decade was supplanted by photography as an artistic outlet.

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When did you take a step to start writing?

My first short story was written when I was 15. It was a tale about a white South African farmer in apartheid South Africa who, beset by drought, engages the services of a witch doctor.

I also used to write poetry in my youth, but unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) none of it survives. I had a regular humorous back page column in an American trade publication for a couple of years, and was a featured writer on a now defunct literary website, I also drew comics for a couple of years, one of which was published in an underground publication in the USA.

How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?

5 months

How long did it take you to complete your latest book from the first idea to release?

6 months, though I started researching it two months before I started writing it.

What made you want to write Dadafarin?

Like everyone else, I was horrified by the video showing the death of George Floyd on a street in Massachusetts in May 2020.  I was not at all surprised when America erupted in riots. However, the reaction to it here in the UK, a country with a completely different history of race relations, really surprised me. The BLM demonstrations and the attacks on monuments and statues during the first lockdown of 2020  seemed to me to be a form of mass hysteria.

At the time, I was working as a volunteer delivering PPE to hospitals and care homes. I was shocked that the media, who had been exhorting us to stay home and protect the NHS, suddenly thought that attending mass demonstrations was perfectly acceptable, and even the government were reluctant to criticise it.

I posted something about BLM on Facebook, and was immediately unfriended by several long-standing friends. I resolved to find out more about what was behind BLM and the identity politics craze, and soon afterwards decided I wanted to write a book about it.  

What were your biggest challenges with writing Dadafarin?

Strangely, there were very few challenges involved in writing Dadafarin. Although I had no concept of where the book would go when I started it, and no characters apart from Dadafarin himself and his mentor Dr Venngloss, I never had any problem inventing characters or situations on the fly. The fact that I was furloughed at the time and had no time pressure helped.

Writing was a pleasant escape from the realities of lockdown, and the book almost seemed to write itself. The hardest part was the research, though I also enjoyed that. All the events in the novel are based on real events and newspaper stories, and all the information on Zorostrianism and it’s place in modern Iran are accurate.  

Who or what inspired you when creating your Protagonist?

I had decided I wanted to write my novel from the perspective of someone from a different culture, a person encountering not just identity politics for the first time, but also Britain itself. With cross-channel immigration being in the news so much, a refugee arriving by dinghy from France seemed an obvious choice for the main character, and satire the most appropriate vehicle to tell the story.

By chance, I glanced at my bookshelf one day and my eye was caught by my copy of Voltaire’s satirical novella Candide. I first read Candide many years ago, and it remains a favourite. Voltaire’s satire, published in 1759, was based around the then contemporary craze of Leibnizian optimism, in an attempt to explain the obvious suffering in a world created by a supposedly benevolent God. 

I decided to reread Candide, and the pieces just fell into place after that. Candide’s naivete in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, even while his world falls to pieces around him, reminded me of what I was observing in the media and online. Candide’s mentor Dr Pangloss’ assertion that “all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds”  seemed very similar to the naivete I noticed in a lot of today’s identity politics. However, I decided to not follow Voltaire’s reliance on bizarre and often contradictory coincidences to make the story flow quickly.

Dadafarin by Allen Grove on The Table Read
Dadafarin by Allen Grove

Dadafarin’s name, which means “Born of Justice” and serendipitously could be abbreviated to Dada, came about after I had decided to make the main character a Zoroastrian. I had met a few Zoroastrians during my time in India. Dadafarin’s surname Engineer is a common Parsi surname, as is the surname of his tutor in Iran, Farside Contractor.

Who or what inspired you when creating your Antagonist?

There are two main antagonists in the novel. The first is Noureldine, a cynical Syrian cannabis dealer also seeking asylum who becomes firm friends with Dadafarin. The character of Noureldine is  based on two Arab  friends of mine, and in fact shares his name with one of them.

The other antagonist is Vee, a 17 year old  aspiring musician who gets expelled from his expensive school because he will not bow to the “progressive” agenda of the teachers. Vee came into being entirely by accident, and ended up being a key character in the novel. Vee is the first character Dadafarin meets who is openly hostile towards “wokism”.  Vee even has a theory (and a song) to back up his ideas.

What is the inciting incident of Dadafarin?

The inciting incident is when Dadafarin’s relationship with Carey moves from friendship to something more complicated. It is the first time that Dadafarin finds himself questioning the logic of the ideology of his mentor Dr Venngloss.

What is the main conflict of Dadafarin?

To reveal the main conflict of the story would be to present a spoiler. However, I have alluded to it in the answer to the previous question.

Did you plot Dadafarin in advance, or fly by the seat of your pants and write freely?

The story developed as I wrote. There was no planning of plot or characters beyond the prologue and the last sentence, and the characters of Dadafarin and Dr Venngloss. One of the main reasons I enjoyed writing the book so much was that I never knew what was going to happen next. 

Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did Dadafarin need?

I had very little support in editing. The vast majority of the editing was done by me, though I had some input from my wife and two friends. The book needed a fair bit of editing, mainly for punctuation and grammar.  My wife tells me I use too many commas.

What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a story?

Just go for it. You don’t know where it might go, and you’re creating something that never existed before.  

Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?

I am currently writing a dystopian novel set in the near future.

And, finally, are you proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?

I am very proud of Dadafarin. It turned out even better than I hoped.

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Twitter-                            @AllenGrove15

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