My guest today is Lori Knutson the author of five novels spread across different genres. The first book, Sacred Simplicities, is a compilation of newspaper articles she wrote for the Grande Prairie Daily Herald Tribune. These stories in this devotional are autobiographical like the ones in the sequel to Sacred Simplicities called More Simplicities. Her young adult novels are ghost-type stories with coming-of-age echoes set on Prince Edward Island. Her latest young adult novel, Where There’s a Will, is the sequel to The Ghost of Northumberland Strait. Denby Jullsen, Hughenden is a fictional work set in 1930s Alberta. It’s full of murder, lust and intrigue, a literary murder mystery.
When did you first decide to write and what got you started?
I think I started writing because I wanted to impress my dad. That was a long time ago. Now I just enjoy creating. (Update: Dad remains unimpressed.)
Do you plot your stories or do you write and see where it takes you?
I used to write and see where the story would take me. Looking back, that was the hard way to do it. Now I lay as much groundwork as I can. I make a detailed outline, I draw floorplans of the buildings in my stories, and I research as much as I can before I write. Harder work at the beginning makes for easier writing down the road, in my experience.
Do you have any inspirations for you writing? Other authors / people / events?
Local history inspires a lot of my writing. I like writing about local murders. Fortunately for me (not the victims!) there have been quite a number around where I live in this otherwise peaceful corner of Alberta, Canada.
What is the best part about writing, and the worst?
Feeling isolated is the worst part of writing, and I don’t even mind being alone! Also, my friends and family don’t think I’m “doing” anything when I’m writing. They’re not being insensitive; they just don’t know what the writing process entails. You can’t really know unless you do it. Fair enough.
The best part of writing is how the process lets me access parts of my mind I didn’t know existed. Suddenly, these new ideas and new characters appear out of nowhere. That part is always fascinating!
Do you prefer writing fiction or non-fiction? Why?
I prefer writing non-fiction (like my blog) because it’s easier for me. I was a weekly newspaper columnist for years, so writing non-fiction comes with less effort. Fiction is hard work, but I love the product.
Which of the books that you have written so far is your favourite?
Denby Jullsen, Hughenden is my favourite so far. It’s based on true events, and it’s fast-paced with colourful characters and true-to-life scenarios. It’s when I wrote Denby that I got to be a good writer. My first book won an award and yet I understand that Denby, my adult novel, is my best writing.
What are you currently working on? How long before release?
I’m writing a novel and I’m half way through the first draft. It’s another novel based on a murder (as Denby Jullsen, Hughenden is) and it takes place in this area of east-central Alberta, Canada. It’s about a man who was framed for a mass murder in 1935. Really.
It’s not a journalistic piece, but I need to tell this man’s story as I imagine it unfolded. This will likely be the last novel I write.
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Avoid disappointment. Write because you want to write and not because you want to be a successful writer.
What do you feel are the greatest challenges facing any writer at the present time?
The greatest challenge is the rapidly-changing publishing industry. It’s hard to know how to best get books on the market. When I started trying to get published 25 or more years ago, there was a set way to do it: Write for magazines, write your own book-length manuscript, query agents and/or publishers.
Internet technology has changed the world, and along with it, the publishing industry. The indie and e-book markets are flooded with books of varying quality. Everyone’s a blogger and the independent book market is a crowded one! Becoming traditionally published isn’t a strong guarantee of a book’s or an author’s success.
You recently wrote a blog on social media, for people who didn’t see the post what are your thoughts?
Most recently I wrote about the detrimental effect social media use has on my creativity and my productivity. Here’s an excerpt:
These platforms offer me shiny treats that leave me hungry, and still I eat them up.
So what’s my biggest problem with how I use social media? As a writer and an editor, and as a regular meditator, I resent how social media has fragmented my concentration, another effect that Dr. Newport pointed out to me.
I’m certain that I’d be more productive and more focused without the distraction of social media. How do I know? I know because prior to my increased use of social media I was more productive and more focused. I cherish my mind and my thought processes. I hate to think that I’m allowing them to be harmed for a taste of virtual sweetness.
What do you enjoy doing when you are not writing? Do you have any hobbies?
I love traveling to Mexico’s west coast with my husband. That’s probably my favourite thing. I also enjoy walking, meditating, birdwatching, and doing a little gardening, too. Until recently, I was a full-time elementary school teacher, and I still do some substitute teaching.
Any fun facts about you that you would like to share?
I quit teaching in December of 2016 and for the year that followed I studied editing through Simon Fraser University’s online certificate program. I graduated in May, 2018. I have helped a few clients record their family stories. Helping people to get those old stories into print is one of my passions. I’m no genealogist, but I love dragging those reluctant skeletons out of the closet and making them talk!