Recent graduate describes writing, publishing a novel
Allie Cullen '20 started her book 'Arrian's Lion' during her student days at Saint Michael's, which played key role in its development
Word reached the College recently about a new graduate, Allison “Allie” Cullen ’20, who has completed a novel – a project begun during her Saint Michael’s student days and now published through Barnes & Noble Press (publication date February 14, 2021). We asked her how she came to write her debut novel, titled Arrian’s Lion — and how her Saint Michael’s College education played a role. Her skill at writing and story-telling came through in the answer that Allie wrote back:
My name is Allison “Allie” Cullen, and I currently reside in North Attleborough, Massachusetts. When I am not writing, you can find me co-teaching at a local Montessori school or curled up watching Netflix at home. I am published under the name A.J. Cullen, which I chose to maintain a sort of pseudonym as a female writer.
I studied Secondary Education and American Studies at Saint Michael’s College from 2016-2020, completing additional minors in History and Religious Studies (both of which informed my writing and allowed me to expand the world I created in a realistic way). I also served as VP and President of Celtic Knights, the Irish Step Dancing Club on campus, in its final years (although, I hope it will be rebooted by interested students in the future!). I had the pleasure of working with Paula Henry in the Education Department as a work study student, and I deeply enjoyed my time as a student-teacher at Essex Middle School.
As for my book, the title is Arrian’s Lion, inspired by a quote from Machiavelli’s The Prince. A full description of the work can be found on my website, ajcullenpens.com. Best described as historical fiction that intertwines adventure and personal growth with murder mystery and complex relationships, Arrian’s Lion targets an older young adult/new adult audience and is perfect for high school and college readers. There are certainly gaps in the YA/NA collections available today, especially from a social and cultural perspective. My novel tackles challenging topics like social class, family dynamic, sexual identity, and gender norms in a way that attempts to bridge these gaps over generations of timeless problem-solving. As for other writing projects, I am currently working on a possible sequel to Arrian’s Lion, as well as a separate historical fiction novel.
Saint Michael’s played a major role in the newly published book’s composition, as much of the writing actually took place in Durick Library and my dorm rooms over the years. Several professors encouraged my work along the way, and my advisor even read the first completed draft for feedback (shout out to Joan Wry!).
When the project first started, I was not writing with the intention of publication, but with the support of the SMC community, the mountain of publication became something far more attainable. For that, I am entirely grateful.
Following is an excerpt about Allie’s new book from the publisher’s website: “Arrian’s Lion is the story of twenty-one-year-old Jay Holsley, the bastard son to Arrian’s king, who feels that no matter how hard he works to better his social circumstances, he has been doomed to suffer in this life from the moment sin gave it to him. He knows himself and what he desires to be, but he does not know how to survive as himself in a world of predators and prey. He hates mornings, the abandonment of logic, and how Arrian’s social elite use their status to tear others down, but what he craves is control of his life despite these things …”
More about Barnes & Noble Press from the publisher’s website: “… a free, fast, and easy-to-use self-publishing service that enables you to publish and sell print or ebooks directly to our millions of readers. … We’re here to help independent authors and content creators succeed by using the expertise and resources of Barnes & Noble.”
Read more about Allie’s book at this link to the publisher’s website:
Professor Joan Wry, Allie’s mentor and adviser in her writing project from the Saint Michael’s English faculty, had this to say about the newly published author: “Allie was an exceptional student at the College — a strong writer with a deep sense of history and cultural studies. Her first novel—even in rough draft form — absolutely amazed me. I was honored to be one of her readers, and I have no doubt that she will continue to write and publish prolifically. She really is an extraordinary young woman in so many ways. I think so highly of her.”