Lou Allin lives in the Boreal forest of Ontario, Canada with a menagerie of pets including the two pictured at left. She has published half a dozen mysteries, as well as short stories and poetry. (You really need to check out the neat dog pics on her site. Freya, a beloved forever friend, is pictured at right.)
Tell us about the writing and communication classes you taught.
I'm retired now, thankfully, but I taught at a community college, so the emphasis was on the practical. Business writing, tech writing, and report writing to future law enforcement personnel. I invented scenarios where students took notes when I reported a crime such as a poodle snatching. Spellcheck wreaked havoc: "She tied up her dog and left for twenty minuets." Or "She said her former husband took the dog for breading purposes." As well, I taught a presentations class so that I could sit back and enjoy the show. In Canada, everyone wanted to demonstrate how to tape a hockey stick. Then there was the one on artificially inseminating a cow. Talk about gestures. Ouch. That course more than any other encouraged confidence. Students who had been in tears in the beginning wanted to talk forever once they had some practice. The fear of public speaking is greater than any other. Once it’s conquered, look out, World.
You live deep in the Boreal forest of Ontario, Canada. First, tell us a bit about your paradise and then tell us how living in paradise affects your writing.
Living in Northern Ontario on a pristine eight-mile-by-eight meteor-crater lake frozen from January to May inspired me to show my country to the world by writing about it. Behind our property were hundreds of miles of crown land with my own trails in every direction. Making a path by impressing your feet for twenty years is far more honourable than bulldozing a road. I had two canoes, a motorbike, cross country skis, and snowshoes. It was a paradise if you didn't mind doing your own plowing and facing -40F temperatures. Did I mention heating a three-story house with wood? But the forest and its treasures were my personal museum, from mushrooms to jellies to moose, bear, and beavers. Even falling over a log might mean that I found a rare chocolate tube slime in front of my nose. I miss it very much because there’s no wilderness on southern Vancouver Island even if the realtors do greet you with “Welcome to Paradise.”
You’ve written short stories, poetry, and mysteries. Which do you prefer writing, and why?
I moved up in a logical, expanding fashion, from poetry to stories to novels. I still write a story now and then. In fact I have a fifty-page novella coming out next year written for adults who are reluctant readers and need high interest with low skill levels. Being an author who writes unconscionably long sentences and sends readers to the dictionary, I had a new challenge. And I like to think that I retain my poetic sense in the prose in my novels.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer?
I had a serious back problem which left me able to walk miles, but not sit. After several months being off work with this torment, I decided that I would write, even if it were ten minutes a day. So I plotted while lying on my back all afternoon and spent the next morning tapping at the computer. Ten minutes became fifteen, thirty, until I had that book. This forced me to be very efficient. I had to know exactly where I was going. My record was ten pages in an hour. I still consider Murder, Eh? from that year my best-plotted book, but I’ve resorted to my lazy ways.
What is the title of your most recently published book? Briefly tell us what it’s about and let us know where we can buy it.
What are you working on now and when/where do you expect it to be available?
My hi-lo book will be out in 2010 and so will the second in my Vancouver Island series set where the rainforest meets the sea. The novella is called That Dog Won't Hunt, and the series book is called (I am Quite Sure) She Felt No Pain. The second title comes from a sinister poem by Browning about a psychopath: “Porphyria’s Lover.” My first series had the “murder” titles, as in Northern Winters are Murder, Blackflies are Murder, Bush Poodles are Murder. Straightforward, but I ran out of ideas for that design. My eight-year-old mini-poodle wants a Return of the Bush Poodle book, but I told her that we don’t live in the bush anymore.
Writers, especially new writers, are always looking for tips and helpful information. What is the single most important “tip” you can give to a new writer?
It's hard to choose one. What we Canadians call “bum glue” might be the first step. A page a day can yield MORE than a book in only a year. The trick is to keep at it because a lapse of a day can turn into a week, then a month.
Are you a member of any writer’s organizations? Why? Why not?
I am British Columbia-Yukon-International Vice President of the Crime Writers of Canada and also Membership Czarina. In the beginning, I joined for the camaraderie and connections. Now on the executive end I can promote Canadian crime writing and help new authors. Our mentorship program pairs published writers with aspiring authors. It’s a learning experience for both.
One of your current pooches, Nikon, appears in your new mystery series. Tell us why pets are important and what, specifically, they bring to a series character in a novel.
Muddy paws aside, I couldn't imagine a life without a dog or two or three. Pets let a person see the world through different eyes, encourage responsibility (for the young), and get you outside. One of my plotting problems is arranging elements so that my dog isn't abandoned or in distress when the main character disappears during the big chase at the end of the novel. It’s obvious when a dog is merely a part of the scenery and not a soul mate.
FUN QUESTION: German Shepherds and poodles? Why do they make a picture-perfect partnership?
What are the addresses of your website(s) and blog(s):
My website is http://www.louallin.com/.
Occasionally I blog as guest author.