Friday, April 4, 2014
INTERVIEW WITH LOU ALLIN
1. Who has influenced you the most in your writing career?
Tough question. Influences decades ago when we are young and naive aren’t the same as today. In the beginning, and we’re talking Fifties, I devoured every Agatha Christie book. During the last twenty years, I was devoted to Nevada Barr. An odd mix! On the other hand, I learn something to do (or not to do) from nearly every book I read. Renni Browne has given me the best tips in Self-Editing for Fiction Writers.
2. What are you working on now?
I’m trying to get my fourth Holly Martin book into shape. The running theme of her lost mother informs the series, and the reveal’s not far away. Clues have to be anticipated in advance, but summed up in every book. It’s been a new procedure for me, but we all need to try something different.
3. In what ways is your main protagonist like you? If at all?
My last protagonist and star of my first book, Belle Palmer, was just like me, same house, same lake, same dog, same food, same appearance, had I decided to sell real estate and not teach. By the fifth book, she was entering her late forties and I didn’t want to keep challenging her physical abilities with marathon chases near the conclusion. So when I moved to Vancouver Island, I started another series with a 32 year old lead corporal. Nice to lose sixteen plus years over night. I don’t feel as close to her so far, but we’ve only spent a year together (in plot) and I think she’s jealous of Belle. We all were in our thirties once, so I need to give us both time.
4. Are you character driven or plot driven?
Which came first, the place or the person or the plot? Since I left thirty years in Ohio to spend thirty years in the Sudbury wilderness, I’d say people are driven by where they live, by landscape. What happens in Athens, Ohio, at a university might not occur in Timmins, Ontario at a mine. Plot and character butt heads but learn to co-exist. In my 20K Rapid Read books, plot slides in before character. In my series, it’s “What will happen to Holly now?”
5. Are you a pantser or a plotter?
Probably a little bit of both. There has to be a master plan, subplot, minor characters, the crime, rationale, and solving. But I plunge right in after that. Plotting extensively saves time later, but some people, like ME, lack the discipline and are too excited to forego getting the scene on the screen. Once when I heard Anne Perry read a “first draft,” it sounded like a final version, but she said that she plotted so extensively that every detail appeared, though not in strict sentence form. Now that’s discipline.
6. What do you hope readers will most take away from your writing?
For aspiring authors, if you write what you want, and someone wants what you write, you have the perfect combination. That rarely happens, nor do most people get rich. For readers, I want them to experience the landscape as well as the mind of my characters. There is no higher compliment than “I was right there” or “I wanted to go to Northern Ontario, she made it sound so beautiful.”
7. Where do you see yourself as a writer in 10 years?
I’d like to finish this police procedural series, sell my historical, and make that a series. I think I belong pre-WW2, just not sure how far back.
8. What is one thing your readers would be most surprised to know about you?
I wish I had gone into law enforcement at the time (1963), but it was not an option. By now I’d have branched into the K9 Corps, retired, and written a tell-all book. And think of all those wonderful shepherd pups.
9. What do you like to read for pleasure?
Usually I order library e-books for my iPad. The last three books I read were Cover of Snow by Jenny Milchman, The Widows of Braxton County by Jess McConkey, and The Cutting Season by Attica Locke. For bestsellers like Sue Grafton’s series, The Goldfinch or Gone Girl, I get on the long list for the library hardcovers. I read for two purposes: pleasure and comparison. I like to “escape,” but also from a construction standpoint, to see how someone handled a situation. I gravitate to thrillers or suspense, but skip the romance, being a “the next morning” person.
10. Give us a summary of your latest book in a Tweet
Corporal Holly chases a delinquent dumper whose great aunt died suspiciously, muttering about Queenly Treasure.
Lou Allin is the author of the Belle Palmer mysteries set in Northern Ontario, and the RCMP Corporal Holly Martin series on Vancouver Island. Lou also has written That Dog Won’t Hunt in Orca’s Raven Reads editions for adults with literacy issues and in 2013 won Canada’s Arthur Ellis Best Novella Award for Contingency Plan. She lives across from Washington State on the Juan de Fuca Strait with her border collies and mini-poodle. Her website is www.louallin.com and she may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.