Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Author Interview with Alison Lohans

 I'm very excited to welcome my friend Alison Lohans to my blog. Alison and I are both members of the Saskatchewan Romance Writers and have known each other for a few years now. She's a fabulous writer and an even better person. Welcome Alison!

Where did you get the idea for your new novel? 

I was driving one of my dogs to his regular grooming appointment, in somewhat heavy traffic on a street that’s always quite busy. A riveting What if….?!!! came from “nowhere”:  WHAT IF both heroine and hero are driving on this street, and she slams on her brakes to avoid hitting a stray dog? WHAT IF he rear-ends her? Not a usual scenario for a “first meet”! After I dropped my dog Sebastian off for his appointment, and then again as I returned to pick him up, the ideas kept percolating. And that was the start of Canine Cupid.

Was there anything unusual, any anecdote about this book you’d like to share?

The setting for their (very muddy) first kiss is at an off-leash dog park. In real life, I took my two dogs, Bailey and Sebastian, to the dog park one day. Sebastian - my Shih Tzu cross, and smaller than Bailey (after whom Pablo was modelled) – disappeared suddenly. Without my realizing, he’d followed some bigger dogs into the water on one border of the dog park. I got scared because there was no sign of Sebastian anywhere! Finally I found him, mired in mud on the embankment. I had to help my frightened little guy back up. I didn’t slip in myself (as Kara does in Canine Cupid) and there also wasn’t a hero nearby to help me get back up… 


Did you always want to be a writer?

Absolutely. I started making up stories in my head at age 5, as a means of entertaining myself when falling asleep. When I was 7, my parents decided I was old enough to use my dad’s typewriter for my stories (which I also illustrated, at that stage). 

My mother, Mildred Lohans, was a wonderful “encourager”. She had hopes of being a writer, herself, but as a semi-farm wife with five children, there really was no time to devote to her writing. When I was 4, she had me do crayon illustrations for one of her picture book ideas…which she actually submitted to a New York publisher. Some years later, she did a picture book manuscript of the life cycle of the California poppy, with her own lovely coloured pencil drawings. I feel sad when I came across saved rejection slips for her stories. She also wrote poetry, and had a few poems published. With this background, when I was 10 she encouraged me to submit my stories to children’s magazines; and when I was 14, she enrolled in a year-long creative writing class in the local community college, and made arrangements for me to be there as well. Later, a couple of my own middle-grade and YA novels hinged on Mother’s experiences. Picturing Alyssa is a time-slip novel that takes a present-day pre-teen into the Iowa Quaker farm-based childhood of my mother’s earlier years. This Land We Call Home came about thanks to my mother’s first teaching job, which was in the Poston, Arizona Japanese internment Camp 3. In both cases, my mother generously shared her experiences and saved materials as I was researching the two books (and it was an absolute thrill to be able to phone her from an awards ceremony when This Land We Call Home ended up being a winner!)

Do you work on more than one book at a time?

Yes! For me it’s a way of moving ahead more efficiently. With two books on the go, I’ll move as far along as I can on one, until I get stuck – and then do the same with another book.

When were you first published and how did that happen? Was it a long or short journey?

I was first published at age 12, in a children’s magazine – then published again at age 14. After this early start, there was a long hiatus. My first young adult novel was published when I was 34.

How did you get started writing romance?

In the early 1980s, my first YA novels were getting published and I was having some success with short fiction too. Because I love reading romances, I really yearned to try writing romance! I completed one and sent it off to Harlequin, and got a (typed) personalized rejection letter. I made a couple of other starts at romance novels, but couldn’t bring them to a satisfactory ending. Because my books for children and young adults started taking off, I decided that it would be unwise to spread myself too thin. So I pushed back that yearning, and continued with what was already working. Every now and then, I’d make another stab at a romance, but eventually lost the courage. However, after a tour of Egypt in 2013, I got the idea for yet another romance novel. While I was working on it, I was invited to take part in a writing retreat hosted in 2016 by the Saskatchewan Romance Writers (of which Jana Richards is a member). I was invited to join this dynamic and hard-working group (whose roster also includes Mary Balogh, Ryshia Kennie, Karyn Good, Annette Bower, Donna Bickle Gartshore, and a number of other talented and multi-published writers). I absolutely love this connection! I finished my "Egypt” novel in 2018, and soon afterwards began Canine Cupid, published this year by BWL Publishing. BWL has also accepted my Egypt-set novel for June 2022 release – the working title (likely to be changed) is “Strong as a Pharaoh”. 

What book for you has been the easiest to write? The hardest? The most fun?

So far, the easiest (and most fun) book to write has been a children’s picture book, The 1-Dogpower Garden Team, just released in September 2021. It’s based on a true “game” I used to play with my Aussie shepherd, Bailey, to get him to dig in places I needed to be dug up (i.e., weedy patches) as opposed to random digging-for-the-fun-of-it. The hardest to write have been my two mature YA novels, Don’t Think Twice, and Timefall. Also in the “hardest” category is one of my works in progress, “Murder at Glencoe”, which is even more complex, with three overlapping narratives, in three different chronological settings. This may (or may not?) turn out to be a romance, featuring characters in their fifties.

Tell us a bit about you. Where do you live, and how long have you been writing?

After growing up in Central California and then earning my undergraduate degree (in Music Education) in Southern California, my late husband and I emigrated to Canada in 1971. I was so revolted by the many moral injustices of the Vietnam War that I couldn’t, in good conscience, continue living in the US – and my husband, looking to get into a PhD program, was accepted at the University of Victoria, in British Columbia. His best job offer came from the University of Regina, here in the Canadian Prairie of Saskatchewan, and I’ve really enjoyed living here since first arriving 45 years ago. We have a very strong arts community, with many opportunities to participate in all sorts of fields. I quickly joined the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild – and, with my music training, taught beginning band in elementary schools until starting our family three years later. (While I’ve been writing since childhood, during my junior high years I realized it would be good to prepare for another job as well, ideally doing something that I also loved.) While I’m no longer teaching music, I enjoy playing four different instruments (cornet, recorder, cello, and piano) in amateur community groups – which provides a really nice balance to all the time spent at the computer!

How do you think your life experiences have prepared you for writing?

As a child, my writing provided a type of escapism – just as reading a good book does. We spent hours reading, drawing pictures, playing outside, and in my case, writing stories. However, my teen life, and then adult life, posed a number of important issues which potentially served as good launching points for fiction – whether questions of conscience, or the lengthy illness and eventual death of my husband (during which time he was paralyzed for his last nine months, so I learned about wheelchairs as well.) Cancer, the grieving process, and wheelchairs – they all found places in some of my early young adult novels published in the 1980s and early 90s. Dealing with these painful issues in a fictional context provided raw, authentic material, and helped with my own healing as well. My first child was adopted, with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome – which has been a very tough ride all along; my second partner took his life, another huge trauma. These experiences of our human frailties definitely show us different aspects of life, and they can provide potent material for fiction.

On the brighter side, I’ve had the privilege of being able to travel to interesting places. My younger son did his Postdoctoral studies (in biochemistry) at Oxford, UK, so naturally I was delighted to travel to England a number of times over that five-year span! My next-to-be-published romance novel, “Strong as a Pharaoh” (working title) came about after having been on a fascinating tour of Egypt. One of my middle-grade novels got going thanks to a cruise that took in Greece and Turkey, as well as a couple of other Aegean ports. Another middle-grade novel was sparked by an author tour of Saskatchewan’s far north (where I placed a child in a wheelchair in a challenging environment, made even more difficult because she was terrified of dogs, which roamed free in the northern communities I visited). One of my present works-in-progress got started thanks to a tour of Scotland, where I first learned about the Glencoe Massacre. I find that when we are suddenly out of our “daily-ness” of our home lives, we come to see, and understand, the world differently.  Music often finds its way into my books as well – as is the case in Canine Cupid, where the hero, Peter, is a professional cellist. And the hero of my next novel is a choral conductor…

A genie grants you one wish. What is it?

A multi-talented and enthusiastic assistant! S/he would have brilliant computer skills (for website formatting & maintenance, and many other types of formatting, etc.); brilliant PR and marketing skills; excellent record-keeping skills; and also a gentle de-clutterer.


Do you have any pets? Are you cat person or a dog person? Or are you into totally different pets, like goldfish? What do you like best about your pet?

I’m both a dog person and a cat person, though I haven’t had any cats for about 20 years. Canine Cupid features both of my dogs as characters! – although Bailey, a very smart and adventurous Australian cross who inspired the stray in this book, unfortunately passed away in June 2020, a victim of undiagnosed cancer. Sebastian (who inspired Beckett, Kara’s dog) is loving, loyal and undemanding, and has been with me for 11 years. I also have one zebra finch (my finch population has dwindled over the past couple of years).


What do you like best about your hero in Canine Cupid? 

Peter McMahon is a man of great integrity, and empathy. 

What do you like best about your heroine in Canine Cupid? 

Kara Ames perseveres in her determination to give her best, despite the many unfair disadvantages inflicted on her by her conman ex-husband.

How do you choose the names and physical characteristics of your characters? Do you base them on real people?

This is a complicated process for me. A lot of it is intuitive, in the alchemy of a fictional world-in-progress. Sometimes the characters “tell me their names”, but in other cases it becomes a matter of trial-and-error. If a character doesn’t have the absolute right name, she or he often won’t come to life on the page. And then there’ve been occasional instances when I inadvertently give a character the name of someone I know. If this character is a negative force in the story, I always change her name – which I did, in the case of Peter McMahon’s domineering mother, whom I re-named at the last minute, pre-publication! 

It’s hard to explain how I work out characters’ physical appearances; it’s usually something that I just “know”. I always try to avoid basing my characters on real people – although when I was first getting my bearings as a writer in the 1980s, I sometimes combined traits of real people to create characters. This said, Kara’s conman ex-husband was constructed as a grossly exaggerated composite of a few less-than-honest people I’ve known over the decades – sometimes with cash disappearing (in the case of a “sketchy” contractor); loans never repaid; and annoying phone calls from collection agencies regarding people who gave my name and number as a reference without consulting me first. 

One curious real-life incident occurred during a Sunday lunch at a restaurant: two young men came in, who looked exactly like the two brothers in my novel Don’t Think Twice – except the wrong brother was wearing the glasses. It was a really uncanny experience!

Tell us a little about your current work in progress.

I have two current works in progress.

One of them is “Free to Come Home” (working title), a “forbidden love” novel set in 1945, when interned Japanese Americans were finally free to return home after having spent three years in what, essentially, were prison camps in the desert. This is an unofficial sequel to This Land We Call Home (published in 2007 by Pearson Education New Zealand).  Characters Ken and Paula have always lived on neighbouring farms, and have been very close since early childhood. Now, they are in their older teens. Ken, returning from Poston Camp 3 in Arizona, faces a sometimes-hostile, racist environment. Meanwhile, his father has always told him to stay away from the “Hakujin” (Caucasian) girls. Paula has hopes of going to college to become a teacher, and thus break free of her farm existence. Their relationship has to work out, because these two will eventually become the parents of the hero of my next romance novel, to be released in June 2022!

My other work in progress is “Murder at Glencoe” which features the 1692 Glencoe Massacre in the Scottish Highlands – an atrocity instigated by the British throne, on the advice of those who wanted to “make an example of” the unruly Highland clans, particularly the Catholic clans. This time-slip novel has been on the go for quite a while due to its complexity. The story line consists of three narrative voices, each in a different time. Present-day Elspeth suffers horrific nightmare flashbacks from repressed trauma – which her 15-year-old self experiences during a time slip while on a bus tour of Scotland. The third narrative voice is Will, an elderly Scotsman of 1692, who also happens to be a direct ancestor of a man of the same name who appears in the life of present-day Elspeth.

If I was a first time reader of your books, which one would you recommend I start with and why?

I would recommend either Don’t Think Twice (2nd edition, Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing, 2009) and/or Timefall (2nd edition, Kindle Direct Publishing, 2020). Both feature strong characters trying to find their way in uncertain world. Adult readers speak very highly of these two books.

Don’t Think Twice has two parallel narratives – from the perspective of an older teen girl dealing with questions of conscience and finding love for the first time; and, additionally, from the perspective of the same character as a middle-aged mother who is frantically trying to reach out to her runaway teenaged daughter, by writing down the story of her own teen rebellion and coming-of-age. The first edition was a finalist for the 1998 Saskatchewan Book of the Year Award, and also for the Canadian Library Association Young Adult Book of the Year Award.

Timefall likewise has two parallel narratives – from the perspective of a 15-year-old teen mom who has no inkling that her baby is the long-prophesied “saviour” of a primitive dying community 1000 years in the future; and also from the perspective of an older teen Seer (with flawed Sight) whose task is to summon “the T’laaure” from the doomed, distant past. Katie’s world is on the cusp of climate apocalypse; Iannik’s world is doomed due to male infertility, and the people all fear his unruly psychic powers. Psychic phenomena, time travel, and complex human interactions play crucial roles in this book. The first edition was a finalist for the 2019 Prix Aurora Award, Young Adult category.

Tell us about your current release.

Canine Cupid is my 27th published book, and my first romance novel.

Kara’s vengeful con-man ex-husband has left her with a mountain of fraudulent debt – and now he’s begun stalking her, too! What is a hardworking elementary school teacher to do, simply to stay afloat, let alone trust someone new? Is Kara even safe?

Peter is still grieving the deaths of his beloved wife and daughter. Even so, his self-pitying widowed mother keeps escalating her unreasonable demands – and his stand partner in the symphony comes on to him, although he’s tried hard to make it clear that he’s not interested, in anyone.

When Kara slams on the brakes to avoid hitting a stray dog and Peter rear-ends her, an unexpected and unwelcome attraction begins to flare…

Released July 1, 2021 by BWL Publishing; available in ebook and print formats.

Parts of Canine Cupid were great fun to write, particularly in terms of using my own dogs as characters! On the other hand, a lot of heart went into developing the characters of Kara and Peter, both of whom have tragic pasts, major wounds to heal, and ongoing stresses as they attempt to live normal, productive lives. I’m gratified to hear responses from a number of readers who’ve said the characters are authentic, and seem like real people they’ve met:

“Your hero and heroine come across as very real people and very ordinary in many ways—ordinary in a good sense. It is very easy to identify with them, to understand what they are going through, to root for them, to hope they will make the right decisions and to want to shake them when they don’t—yet all the time understanding, knowing that their reactions are those of real people.” 

Mary Balogh, NY Times bestselling author of Regency romances 

“I felt like I was immersed in the lives of two people I’ve actually met—people who juggle a relationship with the demands of their careers, the ghosts of past relationships, the good or bad advice of well-meaning friends or colleagues, and the pressures of supporting and caring for a parent. This is romance with a healthy and refreshing dose of realism.”

Maureen Ulrich, author of the Jessie Mac Hockey Series – Power Plays; Face Off, and more.

“From the moment we meet (Kara and Peter), we like them. In this emotion-packed story, these characters are people we want to root for. You can tell a lot about people by the way they treat animals, and these two are definitely good people who deserve a happy ending. Both have faced terrible pain, and we want them to find happiness together. We can truly identify with what they’ve experienced in the past and what they’re still going through. When they fall in love, it feels like the most natural thing in the world, as if they were made for each other.” 

Jana Richards, author of more than 25 romance novels.

Kara is an elementary school teacher. While I trained as a classroom teacher, my own teaching experience consisted of teaching beginner band. Many of my students were the same age as Kara’s pupils – and of course as a mother, I also became very familiar with how children of that age behave! Peter, meanwhile, is a professional cellist. My own experiences with the cello (apart from a long-ago university class) began when my younger son enrolled as a cello student at the local Conservatory. I  quickly fell in love with the instrument, and started taking cello lessons too, at the age of 47. I’ve been playing for about 25 years now in various amateur groups, and it was great fun to work in the cello aspects of Canine Cupid! I’ve actually studied the Elgar Concerto (which features prominently here) and performed two of the movements in Conservatory recitals. Likewise, it was fun creating the symphony scenes – though the orchestras I’ve played in are never up to the calibre of our local symphony; meanwhile, I know some of our local symphony musicians very well, and of course have been to many concerts).

The city of “Manitou Plains” is comfortably based on the city Buy Regina, Saskatchewan, where I’ve now lived for more than half my life. However, I took the liberty of inserting certain businesses in places where they aren’t. As I work on a novel, I often use the setting as a type of “silent character”. In the case of Canine Cupid, as suspense really builds in the latter part of the novel, it was really helpful to have a setting that I’m extremely familiar with, rather than having to puzzle out an imaginary place to the extent that it seems real.

In Canine Cupid, as in all of my novels, the greatest satisfaction comes of working with characters who come to life – their psyches, their dreams and goals, their fears, and the complex interplay of all of these as they work out their ways of being in the world(s) they inhabit. Hoping you’ll take a look at Canine Cupid, and enjoy my new romance novel!

Some buy links for Canine Cupid:

For ebooks:   https://books2read.com/Canine-Cupid-Alison-Lohans

Note – Smashwords has the ebook on special for $1.50 US, for most of November 2021:    https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1088124

For print copies of Canine Cupid


Alison Lohans

How can readers reach you or find you online?

My website:











1 comment:

  1. Thanks for visiting Alison. So glad to have you on my blog!