We are starting out last week of Bak to School, our chance to meet a new class of writer Louis Bertrand Shalako lives in Canada. He studied Radio, Television, and Journalism Arts at Lambton College. He enjoys cycling, swimming, and loves good books. He writes full time. His work appears in six languages. A writer since 1983, Louis knocked about at various jobs from the time he was 15 until he went back to school at the age of 25, which gives him a remarkable perspective into regular working folk’s lives. As for the college stint, which included a year of fine arts, virtually every course involved some form of human communication, whether it was writing for the news, advertising and marketing, local radio, or art history. According to Louis, he ‘just wanted someone to teach me how to write.’ Journalism skills serve him well considering the modern emphasis on social networking.
me a little bit about your latest book?
I’m just putting the final polish on ‘The Art of Murder,’ the second in
my Inspector Maintenon mystery series. I liked the noir feel of Georges
Simenon’s Maigret series, and one or two other French detective stories I have
read over the years. This series gives me the opportunity to exercise what I
call dense prose. Since the series is set in the ‘20s, it’s challenging enough
that I can’t just dash it off from the top of my head. I do the research and
learn about the era at the same time.
did you come up with the title?
During the research I stumbled across a source, a book entitled
‘Surrealism and the Art of Murder.’ Since the artistic influences, especially
painterly ones, are pretty strong in my work, it seemed I had my title. French
Impressionism and German Expressionism are greater influences than Surrealism,
but it is good title.
and why did you begin writing?
At some point in my mid twenties, I must have been fooling around with
writing, but once I realized that I had a really bad lower back, and that construction
and other unskilled professions would be essentially closed to me, I had to put
some thought into what I was going to do. Selling insurance or baking doughnuts
had no appeal. There was some youthful idealism involved. Most people end up
with jobs they can do well but never would have chosen out of romanticism. But
I had some notion that writers don’t work too hard, and I’ve always loved my
freedom. I was a young man who left school halfway through grade ten, and
working with a group of other people, most of whom were either fools or
perfectly content with their lot in life held no interest for someone like me.
you write in the same genre you like to read?
I read whatever was on the bookshelf in the family home when I was
growing up, and there were quite a few mysteries in there. Now I read a lot of
history, as well as non-fiction on the internet. My mystery series is
historical fiction, as for the sci-fi and horror, a knowledge of history, and
human nature is essential.
you have a specific writing style?
My writing style is first of all concise, and secondly, quite
psychological. I like to push people’s buttons, and more than anything, I like
to make them laugh. I want to make them feel something.
you have a writing schedule?
I have self-imposed deadlines but no schedule. I used to write until
noon and then quit, but lately it’s mostly in the evenings before eleven
o’clock. I’m getting older now and routine and those afternoon naps are
extremely helpful in coping with life’s daily challenges.
you plan your work or just go with it and start with the initial idea?
I need to know more or less where the story is going. I call it the ‘art
of the gag.’ I am never more uncomfortable writing than when I don’t really
know how it ends, and I’m just treading water.
there any downsides to being a writer?
If there is a downside, it’s that no one really understands what we
actually do, also, everyone thinks it’s easy to come up with a good book or
story. If we’re not bestsellers, we don’t get a lot of respect. We are
perceived as failures in life, which most of us are most certainly not. We are
pursuing a dream which means everything to us, and nothing to someone else.
do you come up with your characters?
That’s a very good question, but the story demands certain things to
work, and we simply invent characters that fit and do the job. Most characters
are a pastiche of people we know and people we have met through books and film.
the names of your characters important?
Yes and no. Some names carry connotations—like Butch for example. A cab
driver, or a tough cop, might be appropriate for Butch, but maybe not a doctor.
there was one thing you could have learnt about being a writer before you
started, what would it be?
Nothing. I knew everything about writing before I started. The
unlearning process is essential to development as a writer. But if I thought I
was going to be bad at it, why would I have ever started in the first place? We
need some optimism or idealism to carry us through the tougher days.
you could choose one writer to be your mentor, who would it be?
They are all mostly dead now.
do you perceive the world of self publishing?
I see it as a wonderful opportunity to blaze a trail, and to learn a lot
about the art of selling books. I owe nothing to mainstream publishing. What is
disaster for them is a chance for me to do what I was meant to do. And I’m
going to take it to the max, bearing in mind that I have the slenderest of
resources to work with.
Follow this link to find the author page for Louis B. Shalako
You can find Louis B Shalako on Barnes and Noble and here at iTunes