Alison Lohans releases Timefall and Don't Think Twice
to Canadian author and fellow TWUC Write-In writer, Alison Lohans!
I'm so thrilled I've been able to meet Alison virtually and excited to get to know more about her.
I’ve been writing all my life. From age 9, I knew I wanted to become a writer. Always an avid reader, I loved exploring ideas and places through books. Writing my own stories, addressing unanswered questions and other topics of interest, opened this door far wider. By age 12 I’d already received so many rejections that I knew I’d better train for a more secure job! What else did I love? Music, and playing in groups! Therefore, I’d be a band teacher and write! After graduating from high school in Reedley, California where I was born and raised, I went on to earn my B.A. in music at California State University, Los Angeles. Soon after graduating, I immigrated to Canada with my late husband, Michael. It was the Vietnam War era – and, raised a pacifist, I felt a strong need to leave the US. While my husband completed his Ph.D. at the University of Victoria, I worked as a pharmacy assistant and, at the same time, completed my Postgraduate Diploma in Elementary Education.
When a job offer at the University of Regina brought us to Saskatchewan, I worked three years as an elementary school band teacher – a job I deeply loved, but let it go when we started a family. From then on, I was a full-time mom-and-writer; my first young adult novel came out in 1983 with Scholastic Canada. Life has a habit of throwing curve balls. My husband passed away of cancer; I re-partnered and my second son came along. Always, I had the luxury of being able to write – and now was able to address some of life’s traumas (cancer, bereavement) in my young adult novels, also writing early chapter books for kids aged 7-9. Mystery of the Lunchbox Criminal (Scholastic Canada, 1990) was written in instalments that literally went to school in my older son’s lunchbox, for the class to read. Along the way I earned my M.Ed. degree at the University of Regina, which was useful in a rather indirect way, teaching music to senior citizens and, more significantly, teaching writing (first by correspondence, and later in person). It also came in handy for writing workshops; for manuscript evaluations; and for when I served as Writer-in-Residence at Regina Public Library, in 2002-03.
At the moment, my name is on 26 books for kids and teens, as well as more short stories, nonfiction pieces, and poems than I’ve been able to keep track of. Some of these have won awards, which always makes a person feel great! Part of this writing business that I love is talking to school kids. Since my first book was released in 1983, I’ve given more than a thousand readings in schools and libraries, and have had the privilege of touring several other parts of Canada thanks to Canadian Children’s Book Week, and other organizations. For three consecutive years I had the great honour of sharing my work with kids in far-northern Saskatchewan, most of them in First Nations reserve schools. Editing is something else I’ve been doing, about five books’ worth. And I have to put in a plug for the wonderful connections available through my several writers’ groups.
I’m happily living in Regina, Saskatchewan with my dog Sebastian and two finches. Here, there are countless opportunities for community involvement in the arts. Pre-COVID lockdown, in addition to all my writing activities, I was playing three different instruments (also singing) in something like nine different community groups, and still doing a bit of music teaching. International travel has been high on my list of favourite things to do, as it opens my world and heart, and often feeds into my writing. Lockdown of course has brought enormous changes, but the myriad online opportunities are keeping me busy as ever – and it’s good for the writing!
What is your latest release?
My latest release is a re-issue of my YA speculative fiction novel Timefall (autumn, 2020) through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing program. It’s a post-apocalyptic time travel novel featuring two principal characters: Katie, a teen mom in present-day Regina; and Iannik, who has flawed Sight, and is the last in the line of Seers a thousand years in the future. Katie’s baby Tyler is, in fact, “the T’laaure”, the long-prophesied infant who is needed to ensure survival in the future. Psychic phenomena play a central role throughout.
The creation of this novel spread out across 36 years, off and on, from its origins in 1984 as a random image that just wouldn’t let me go. It found print in a couple of previous incarnations, but in both cases, the initial publishers eventually closed up shop: first, as Collapse of the Veil and Crossings (Bundoran Press, 2010; 2012), and then again in a much-revised version as Timefall (Five Rivers Publishing, 2018), which was a finalist for the 2019 Prix Aurora Award. This latest edition is further edited, and combines aspects of the two previous incarnations.
What are you working on now?
Several projects are presently on the go:
- The 1-Dogpower Garden Team, a picture book illustrated by my cousin Gretchen Ehrsam, is in process for 2021 release with Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing.
- Germy Johnson’s Stolen Skateboard, a resurrection of a long-out-of-print early chapter book (Skateboard Kids, Roussan Publishers, 1999) will be coming out sometime in 2021 through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing.
- Caught in the Crossfire, a short fully-illustrated historical fiction book intended for classroom use with middle years students, is awaiting publication with Pearson Education Australia, as part of their next upcoming MainSails Literacy Series. The intended publication date was 2019, but the entire series was postponed.
- Murder at Glencoe, an adult time-slip novel featuring Scotland’s 1692 Glencoe Massacre, has been in progress for the past several years.
- Free to Come Home, also in progress for a few years, is a YA historical novel, sequel to This Land We Call Home (Pearson Education New Zealand, 2007 / then Australia) which won the 2008 Saskatchewan Book Award for YA literature. Free to Come Home tackles the difficult plight of Japanese American citizens upon their release from the World War II internment camps. I will need to find a new publisher for this novel.
- I’m also working on miscellaneous short stories, and have two completed romance novels for which I’m seeking a publisher. Further, it’s likely that there will be a sequel to The 1-Dogpower Garden Team, now still in its earliest phases. Additionally, my plan is to do KDP re-releases of the other books in my “Germy Johnson” series: Germy Johnson’s Secret Plan; Germy Johnson’s Piano War; and Germy Johnson’s Lunchbox Mystery.
Was there a person who encouraged you to write?
From my earliest childhood, my mother, Mildred Lohans, encouraged me with my writing. She had hopes of publishing picture books – and when I was 4 years old, actually had me illustrate one of her manuscripts! When I was 10, my mother took me to the library and checked out Writers Market, encouraging me to submit my stories to children’s magazines – so I acquired quite a few rejections before my first acceptance at the age of 12. Mother never published a book, but did publish some poems over the years. Later on, several teachers encouraged me to move ahead with my writing. I’m absolutely delighted that one of them, Mary Lou Nevins, found me on Facebook and friended me! Now in her 80s, she still celebrates every success I post!
What would you say are your strengths as an author?
I like to think I have a good eye for detail, and that I get deeply inside my characters, making it easy for readers to connect. I also know how to pare things down, with strong word choices, for a vivid and tight narrative.
How often do you write, and do you write using a strict routine?
I make a point of intending to write every day, and to push things forward a bit each time – but don’t always succeed. Mid-evening is usually firm writing time, in addition to other writing slots that get worked into my day. I really enjoy structured writing opportunities! This might mean intensive work at writing retreats, where fellow writers are also slogging away in their rooms. Or it might mean Zoom writing sprints with other writers – which I’m enjoying a lot right now, courtesy of The Writers’ Union of Canada. Additionally, one of my writing groups has a strong online component thanks to Facebook: every now and then we have monthly writing challenges, where we check in every day and report our progress (as well as our dilemmas and frustrations). For these, I like to set a daily minimum word count for new writing. Setting realistic goals is important in that I’m most likely to follow through. Recently, that has included finding market deadlines and writing new short stories to submit to the ones I select.
Five years from now, where do you see yourself as a writer?
At this point I’m transitioning away from writing primarily for young people, and am most interested in writing fiction exploring the psyches of middle-aged and aging women. I’m interested in doing a lot more short fiction, some of it leaning into fantasy and speculative fiction (a genre in which I’m finding a gap regarding protagonists who are older women). This said, I presently have three middle-grade and/or YA novels-in-progress (two of them stalled in chapter 5). I owe it to myself, and to these stories/characters, to complete these books. IF I’m able to find (or create) markets for my completed romance novels, there are more ideas I’d like to explore in that genre. Additionally, I can foresee continuing to craft a few picture book stories and possibly a few early chapter books for ages 7-9. Finally, I’m determined to take more control over my own work. Given the many marketing uncertainties during the past decade or so, I plan to do more risk-taking in terms of self-publishing. As a colleague said recently, “I’m getting older – and I’m not willing to sit around forever waiting for the market to decide if it wants my books.”
What if you're a teen mother,
and your baby is needed a thousand years in the future?
What if you're last in a long line of Seers, and survival depends on your flawed Sight?
Two worlds are poised on the
brink of collapse:
Katie has few friends and lives with her baby, her mother, and her bratty younger brother. Then she falls into another world….
Iannik is last in a long line of Seers. When his mentor passes away, who's left to help him? Everyone fears his unruly powers….
Can Iannik summon the infant T’laaure from the doomed, distant past to save Aaurenan?
Is Katie’s baby the one who holds all the answers?
Finalist, 2019 Prix Aurora Award, Young Adult Novel
DON’T THINK TWICE
1967: Shy Jan Carlson doesn't
fit in, in Sierra Vista, a conservative Central California farming town. The
Vietnam War rages. Friends’ brothers get drafted. The daily pledge of
allegiance becomes a test of conscience, as progressive leaders are felled by
assassins’ bullets. When a family with two brothers about Jan’s age moves in
next door, everything begins to change.
1997: A middle-aged Jan is living in Canada, desperately trying to reach out to her runaway teenage daughter. Consumed by anxiety and fear for her daughter's safety, Jan writes down the account of her own teenage rebellion as she falls in love with brothers Tim and Rob, a tumultuous time when irrevocable choices are made. Love, betrayal, politics, death, and difficult choices all come to play in this complex novel.
Finalist: 1998 Saskatchewan Book of the Year Award
Finalist: Canadian Library Association Young Adult Book Award
Canadian Children’s Book Centre “Our Choice” starred listing
Resource Links “Best of the Year” notable list.
BUY: (paperback, autographed)