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JAN: Today I am sharing an interview with Alison Lohans. Besides being an accomplished author of more than 26 books, Alison is a lovely person I’ve had the privilege to meet a number of times. Alison, how long have you been writing and how did you come to it?

ALISON: I’ve been making up stories since early childhood. The first time, I recall, was at age 5, telling myself stories to entertain myself while lying in bed. I remember my first case of writer’s block at age 6 when I didn’t know how to spell “squirrel” for a story I was writing at school, and was too shy to ask the teacher.

My mother definitely was a strong encouraging person as she had hopes of writing for children herself, and found ways to open my way throughout, including a trip to the library when I was 10 to check out a copy of Writer’s Market, suggesting that I try submitting my short stories to children’s magazines. She also encouraged me to attend a community college creative writing class with her (I was 14 at the time, and had already published two short stories).

JAN: Wow, what an amazing mom to encourage you in such practical ways. What’s your preferred genre?

ALISON: For decades I’ve written for young people—a variety of works ranging from picture books, early reader chapter books, middle-grade novels, and books for younger and older teens. The age/genre within the spectrum of work for young people hinges upon the nature of the question that triggers a story—and since we are all complex beings, with multi-layered interests, thoughts and concerns, my work gravitates toward a specific age niche accordingly.

One genre I’ve always found a lot of fun to write is the chapter book for early readers, with its concrete, often humorous, stance—but the market is very limited these days. The picture book is the most challenging to write, as a complete story, with all its ingredients, needs to be fit into a package of under a thousand words, executed in tight, beautiful language. The YA novel provides an ideal avenue for digging into deep, complex issues. Since the 1980s I’ve also been interested in writing romance novels and, at last, have a novel in that genre approaching completion.

Picturing Alyssa by Alison Lohans

JAN: How and where do you write? Are you a plotter or a pantser?

ALISON: The “how” is kind of tricky to answer as I’ve slowed down considerably during the past few years, in part due to confusing changes in the marketplace. One publisher (of seven of my books) closed up shop; my agent was laid off because the agency was closed; and another publisher changed hands and orphaned all of their YA fantasy titles (that included two of my books, which had literally taken 30 years to develop, from riveting idea to published book). In many ways it’s like having to start all over again, with fewer open doors and very different submissions practices.

All of this said, I migrate between two laptops in different rooms (partly for postural reasons). These days I “get into it” most quickly during pre-arranged joint writing times—i.e., sitting down at the same table with other writer friends, our common objective being to work. I also enjoy writing retreats very much. While there’s a cost involved, I love the collegiality of being immersed in silent writing times, with others, away from home…and find these retreats enormously productive.

I’m a dyed-in-the-wool pantser. I “live” my books through my protagonists, both in the pre-writing stages and during the writing. I get stuck when I don’t know my characters well enough.

JAN: You’ve experienced a number of setbacks due mostly to marketplace changes, and I thank you for sharing them with us. It helps to know these things happen to others too. What do you like most / least about writing?

ALISON: Most: To “live” and puzzle out interesting life questions through my protagonist, and in the process, to hone my craft to create evocative, precise, efficient and beautiful language that invites the reader in with vivid, living images.

Least: It took a few decades to reach this point, but there’s that aspect of slamming oneself against the wall repeatedly, with works I utterly believe in that might receive one glowing rejection after another—OR—which fall in a black hole after they’re published. And the monetary aspect? It simply doesn’t do to think about that in terms of the massive amount of work and soul that go into a book—sometimes decades for various stages of the completion process. We need to have a really thick skin, and sometimes that gets incredibly disheartening.

JAN: Very true. What are your favorite / most effective social media?

ALISON: Facebook has always worked better for me than any other social medium. It’s great for getting word out about new releases, and sometimes has garnered a few sales in places where readers would have almost no access to my work. I use both my regular profile page, and my author page, to highlight my work. I have a website, but really am not sure how effective it is, other than for occasional queries from readers far away (primarily New Zealand) who are studying my New Zealand-published books for class assignments.   https://alisonlohans.wordpress.com/

JAN: How do you balance professional time with personal time?

ALISON: I used to write all the time, and gems from my personal time slipped into my creative time. These days my life is primarily personal time, with my writing always there on the side, to dip into. Having less intrinsic motivation than I once did, I find that social time with other writers always gives me a welcome “kick” back into my writing.

JAN: What are you currently reading? Do you prefer digital or print?

ALISON: I’m reading Little Sister by Barbara Gowdy, which I happened upon thanks to a review in the paper. Its quirky premise and unpredictable humour quickly drew me in.

In terms of preferred reading mode, print always wins. I don’t read digital unless I have to.

JAN: What are some of your favorite things?

ALISON: My favourite non-writing activities include my love of music, which has always been a twin passion throughout my life. At the moment I play cello, cornet and recorder in quite a few local amateur groups, and also sing in choirs. These music activities plunge me into the midst of creating something beautiful with other great people who share the same love of music. That rewarding social realm nurtures me in ways that solitary writing cannot. On occasion, I’m able to work music into my fiction and I love the synergy when that happens.

Another favourite activity is international travel, which is an incredible privilege that’s opened up during the past 15+ years. I really love seeing other parts of the world, catching glimpses of how people live there, with their different mind-sets. More and more, travel has been nurturing my fiction. Some books and short stories couldn’t have even been conceived, if not for the travel. My nearly-completed novel, an experiment in the romance genre, is set on a tour of Egypt much like the one I took five years ago. And my first visit to Scotland yielded a riveting idea that still needs to find its right shape and approach.

JAN: Ooh, sounds intriguing. How is your faith reflected in your writing?

ALISON: Aspects of my faith sometimes work themselves into my YA novels, through characters’ inherent beliefs. Additionally, in my two orphaned YA novels being re-released this coming December as a single novel, Timefall, the spirituality of the primitive society a thousand years in our future reflects some of my deeply-held beliefs.

JAN: Do you have some advice for beginning writers?

ALISON: I used to have lots of handy advice for beginners, but with so many changes in the commercial marketplace, advice is harder to come by. However, five things still jump out:

(1) READ exhaustivelyin the genres that pique your interest! Read not only for enjoyment, but also to study how these writers have handled their craft.

(2) Give yourself permission to write that sloppy copy, rather than trying to get it right the first time around. By staying loose we are more open to additional nuances that might not have immediately occurred to us. Likewise, by expecting perfection the first time, we also cramp ourselves into a space where the story may not be able to breathe.

(3) REVISE! It’s through coming back again and again that we find the rhythms and images that work best together. Try reading your work aloud—the way words fall off the tongue can be a better editor than simply using our eyes.

(4) Write about things you truly feel passionate about. That energy will creep into your work and make it come alive in ways that can’t happen if you give yourself an assignment to write about something that you think would fit well in the marketplace.

(5) Keep the flame alive by finding  joy in what you’re doing—that sense of discovery that can happen not only when characters confront a dilemma, but also the self-discovery that can happen when you’re writing. It’s all about growth, and sometimes when working through characters’ challenges in this craft, we end up slightly changed as people, through having written a book.

JAN: Excellent thoughts, Alison. Thanks again for sharing with us today; you’ve informed and inspired me. I wish you joy as you travel, make and share music, and write.

For more information about Alison, check out her website, her Facebook page and the Amazon book list page. You can also connect with her on LinkedIn and Goodreads. Alison is also a member of CANSCAIP: The Canadian Society of Children’s Authors, Illustrators and Performers.

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May 2018 New Releases

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.

Children’s:

Feebs to the Rescue by Kathy J. Perry — Feebs the kitten is new to the farm. She’s a long way from the farmhouse and doesn’t know her way home in the dark. Her new friend, Ollie the dog, needs help. Can she find the courage to lead a night rescue? (Children’s from Chickadee Words, LLC)

Nibbler and Captain Make Peace by Kathy J. Perry — Nibbler the beaver works hard to keep his lodge and dam perfectly patched. A river otter knocks a hole in his great work. Now he’s so angry, he could almost spit nails. Can he learn how to handle his anger? (Children’s from Chickadee Words, LLC)

Rascal’s Trip by Kathy J. Perry — Rascal the raccoon is sorry he ignored the warning signs He’s surprised by a whirlwind and he’s taken for the ride of his life. Now it’s up to the Bandana Buddies to help him learn the importance of thinking ahead. Can he stay out of trouble long enough to get back home? (Children’s from Chickadee Words, LLC)

Contemporary Romance:

Solo Tu: Only You by Narelle Atkins — Can two high-school teachers, a girl from Tuscany and a boy from Australia, risk everything for love? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

The Theory of Happily Ever After by Kristin Billerbeck — According to Dr. Maggie Maguire, happiness is serious–serious science, that is. But science can’t always account for life’s anomalies, like why her fiancé dumped her for a silk-scarf acrobat and how the breakup sent Maggie spiraling into an extended ice cream-fueled chick flick binge. Concerned that she might never pull herself out of this nosedive, Maggie’s friends book her as a speaker on a “New Year, New You” cruise in the Gulf of Mexico. Maggie wonders if she’s qualified to teach others about happiness when she can’t muster up any for herself. But when a handsome stranger on board insists that smart women can’t ever be happy, Maggie sets out to prove him wrong. Along the way she may discover that happiness has far less to do with the head than with the heart. (Contemporary Romance, Revell – A Division of Baker Publishing Group)

Hometown Reunion by Lisa Carter — Widowed former Green Beret Jaxon Pruitt comes home to face his toughest battle: reconnecting with his toddler son. He also makes an unwitting enemy of childhood friend Darcy Parks when he takes over the kayak shop Darcy hoped to buy! For little Brody’s sake, she’ll stay until summer’s end. But could a growing connection turn their temporary truce into an unexpected forever? (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Room on the Porch Swing by Amy Clipston — When her best friend Savilla dies, Laura steps in to help Allen raise his infant daughter. She soon finds herself coping with the jealousy of her boyfriend Rudy, and her own growing attraction to Allen. Have Laura and Allen been brought together to console and support one another…or is there an even deeper purpose they must fulfill? (Contemporary Romance from HarperCollins Christian Publishing)

Cowboys of Summer by Mary Connealy, Tina Radcliffe, Lorna Seilstad, Sherri Shackelford, Cheryl St. John, and Missy Tippens — Six of Christian fiction’s most beloved authors join forces to bring you a collection of humorous, romantic and heartfelt novellas set against the sultry heat of summer. (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

Bella Notte by Heather Gray — As a photographer who works primarily with fashion, Piero Carter is used to having his pick of beautiful women who want to be seen by his side. Felicity von Wolff is a makeup artist whose job takes her around the world. That’s all the adventure she craves. She has little use for Piero the Playboy. But when Felicity peeks over the wall she’s built to protect herself, she discovers there’s more to the people around her than she ever realized. What will it take for Piero and Felicity to stop hiding from life and open their eyes to the rich beauty God has in store for them? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

Honeysuckle Dreams by Denise Hunter — Regardless of what any blood test says, Brady Collins will go to any lengths to keep his son. Even pretend his friend Hope is his fiancée. Local radio celebrity Hope Daniels has finally been offered her dream job. But if the truth comes out about her arrangement with Brady, she may miss the chance of a lifetime and stand in the way of a dear friend’s dreams. As Brady and Hope make sacrifices to help each other in their times of need, they risk uncovering a truth neither of them expects to find. (Contemporary Romance from HarperCollins Christian Publishing)

Finding Love on Bainbridge Island Washington by Annette M. Irby — A “broken” therapist with PTSD finds a fresh start at her family’s beach cabin, but when her parents hire her ex-boyfriend to finalize repairs on the place, they’re forced back into close proximity. He’s falling for her again. But can anything heal the past? (Contemporary Romance from Mountain Brook Ink)

And Cowboy Makes Three by Deb Kastner — Coming home with a baby and no wedding ring was just what everyone in Cowboy Country expected from bad girl Angelica Carmichael. But she’ll brave their scorn to fulfill Granny Frances’s dying wishes, even if it means ranching with Rowdy Masterson…her jilted ex-groom. Rowdy’s still bitter but this new, softer Angelica—paired with a precious baby—might be too lovable to resist! (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Falling for You by Becky Wade — A thoughtful rule-follower by nature, Willow threw caution to the wind four years ago when she entrusted her heart to Corbin — then suffered the consequences when their relationship fell apart. Now that a decades-old mystery has brought them together again, they’ll have to confront their past and the feelings they still harbor for one another. (Contemporary Romance from Bethany House [Baker])

General Contemporary/Women’s Fiction:

Long Way Home by Brenda S. Anderson — Stuck on a six-day road trip with the man who once bullied her, can Lauren Bauman learn that love keeps no record of wrongs? (General Contemporary, Independently Published {ACFW QIP Author})

The Hidden Side by Heidi Chiavaroli — The Hidden Side is about a family that is torn apart by the unspeakable actions of one of its members and how a woman from the past helps them to heal. (General Contemporary from Tyndale House)

Things I Never Told You by Beth K. Vogt — It’s been ten years since Payton Thatcher’s twin sister died in an accident, leaving the entire family to cope in whatever ways they could. No longer half of a pair, Payton reinvents herself as a partner in a successful party-planning business and is doing just fine—until her middle sister Jillian’s engagement pulls the family back together to plan the festivities. As old wounds are reopened and the family faces the possibility of another tragedy, the Thatchers must decide if they will pull together or be driven further apart. (Contemporary Women’s Fiction from Tyndale House)

Where Hope Begins by Catherine West — Savannah Barrington has always found solace at her parents’ lake house in the Berkshires, and it’s the place that she runs to when her husband of over twenty years leaves her. Though her world is shaken, and the future uncertain, she finds hope through an old woman’s wisdom, a little girl’s laughter, and a man who’s willing to risk his own heart to prove to Savannah that she is worthy of love.
But soon, Savannah is given a challenge that she can’t run away from. Forgiving the unforgiveable. Amidst the ancient gardens and musty bookstores of the small town she’s sought refuge in, she must reconcile with the grief that haunts her, the God pursuing her, and the wounds of the past that might be healed after all. (General Contemporary from HarperCollins Christian Publishing)

General Historical:

Faithful by Carol Ashby — When a foolish choice lands one man in a fight for his life, unlikely friendships are born, love blossoms, and broken relationships are restored as his best friend’s faith and courage guide the quest to rescue him. (General Historical from Cerrillo Press)

Historical Romance:

All for Love by Mary Connealy, Kristi Ann Hunter, and Jen Turano — Three of Christian historical fiction’s beloved authors come together in this romantic and humorous collection of novellas featuring prequels to their latest series. Mary Connealy’s “The Boden Birthright” journeys to the Old West, where ranch hand Chance Boden’s determination to be his own boss is challenged by his employer’s pretty daughter. Kristi Ann Hunter’s “A Lady of Esteem” follows a Regency-era young lady whose chance at love and reputation in society are threatened by a nasty rumor. Jen Turano’s “At Your Request” tells of a young woman who is humbled at her newly lowered status in society when she is reunited with the very man whose proposal she rejected. (Historical Romance from Bethany House [Baker])

The Perfect Bride by Debbie Lynne Costello — Avice Touchet has always dreamed of marrying for love and that love would be her best friend, Philip Greslet. She’s waited five years for him to see her as the woman she’s become but when a visiting lord arrives with secrets that could put her father in prison, Avice must consider a sacrificial marriage. Philip Greslet has worked his whole life for one thing—to be a castellan—and now it is finally in his grasp. But when Avice rebuffs his new lord’s attentions, Philip must convince his best friend to marry the lord against his heart’s inclination to have her as his own. (Historical Romance from Forget Me Not Romances)

Backcountry Brides Collection by Angela Couch, Debra E. Marvin, Shannon McNear, Gabrielle Meyer, Carrie Fancett Pagels, Jennifer Hudson Taylor, and Pegg Thomas — Travel into Colonial America where eight women seek love, but they each know a future husband requires the necessary skills to survive in the backcountry. Living in areas exposed to nature’s ferocity, prone to Indian attack, and cut off from regular supplies, can hearts overcome the dangers to find lasting love? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

Rebecca’s Song by Dawn Kinzer — A small-town teacher who lost hope of having her own family, and a big-city railroad detective driven to capture his sister’s killer, must do what’s best for three young orphans who need them both. (Historical Romance, Independently Published)

Love’s Silver Lining by Julie Lessman — A soft-hearted suffragist incurs the wrath of a bull-headed bachelor when she reforms his favorite girl at the Ponderosa Saloon. (Historical Romance (Western), Independently Published)

Redeeming Light by Annette O’Hare — While Sarah weathers the deadly storm inside the lighthouse, her prayers are for Frederick, caught in the midst of the tempest. (Historical Romance from White Rose Publishing [Pelican])

To Claim Her Heart by Jodie Wolfe — Elmer Smith didn’t need a man when she competed in the Cherokee Strip Land Run and she sure as shootin’ doesn’t need one to keep her land either. (Historical Romance from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)

Romantic Suspense:

No Safe Place by H. L. Wegley — A young man returning from the far country trying to regain his honor, and a young woman with a heart broken by her parents’ rejection because of her newfound faith, each have what the other needs, but will the assassin who put them on his hit list allow them enough time to discover what they have in each other? (Romantic Suspense from Trinity Press International)

Speculative:

No Less Days by Amanda G. Stevens — As far as David Galloway knows, he can’t die. He wonders where he fits in the world, in God’s plan for the past and the future. He believes himself to be the only person on earth who hasn’t aged in over a century. He’s wrong about that. (Speculative from Barbour Publishing)

Young Adult:

Porch Swing Girl by Taylor Bennett — Left at her grandma’s house in Hawaii after a family tragedy, sixteen-year-old Olive Galloway is desperate to fly home to Boston and stop her father before he does anything drastic. (Young Adult from Mountain Brook Ink)

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