MEET THE AUTHOR:
"The knowledge that bad things happen to good people--and far too often--is something I have always known, both literally and figuratively. But the realization that painful, frightening, even terrifying events and losses have a ripple effect through one's whole life . . . well, I didn't truly know and understand that until I wrote GUN SHY."
Unlike her police officer characters (Desiree "Dez" Reilly and Jaylynn Savage), Lori L. Lake has lived what seems, on the surface, a quiet, uneventful life. A middle class civil servant for the last two decades, she has been with her partner for nearly 20 years. So it wasn't her adulthood that was eventful; it was her childhood. Due to her mother's serious, chronic illness, she lived in three distinct households, including two foster families, and spent significant time cut off from her four younger sisters. Through her teen years and into adulthood, she was able to stay a step ahead of the pain of the old memories, but it wasn't until the age of 39 that some of the ripple effect of the past finally caught up with her. To deal with issues of loss and grief, Lake began working on a story she initially called "The Cop Novel" about a hard-nosed beat cop whose work partner is shot and killed on duty, a death for which the character, Dez Reilly, feels responsible. Influenced by the "Uber" genre of Xena fan fiction on the Web, she included a cast of lively secondary characters, including Jaylynn Savage, Luella Williams, and Jaylynn's roommates, Sara and Tim.
When Lake finished the story--which turned out to be well in excess of 160,000 words--she wasn't sure what to do with it. She contacted MaryD, the Webmaster for The Bard's Corner, who reviewed the novel and who, in June, 1999, posted the first of the 11 original parts at her website. By the time the first three parts had been posted, Lake was receiving 30 to 50 emails a day asking for the rest of the story, begging for further information, and giving her praise and constructive criticism. She received emails from people in the U.S. and Canada and from all over the world, as far away as Korea, Australia, England, Greece, Norway, New Zealand, and Spain. Just before the fourth part was posted, a feminist press contacted her and offered her a contract to publish GUN SHY.
A graduate of Lewis & Clark College who also has a master's degree from Hamline University in St. Paul, Lake has been a supervisor in a government office for a number of years. She has also worked for two small presses in the Twin Cities as an editor and proofreader. She has spent the last fifteen years an "apprentice to the craft of writing," as she puts it. She's read over 100 books about the craft of writing and has edited several published novels.
When asked who her favorite novelists are, Lake says: "My popular fiction tastes include good sci-fi and mysteries, especially Ray Bradbury, Nancy Kress, Orson Scott Card, Elizabeth Moon, Linda Barnes, Karen Kijewsi, Patricia Cornwell, and Sue Grafton. Stephen King also happens to be one of my favorites. Nobody cooks up both intriguing plots and compelling characters in quite the same way as he does. For the more literary choices, I would go with Alice Walker, Barbara Kingsolver, Anne Tyler, Ellen Gilchrist, May Sarton, and the incomparable Marie Sheppard Williams. Also, I have a soft spot for the short stories of Flannery O'Conner. She is the one who taught me that:
If you start with a real personality, a real character,
then something is bound to happen; and you don't have to know what before
you begin. In fact, it may be better if you don't know what before you
begin. You ought to be able to discover something from your stories. If
you don't, probably nobody else will.
Before the interview was over, I asked Lori one last question: What exactly was it about GUN SHY that helped you to get over issues from your past?
She said, "Well, what actually happened to Dez Reilly is far from anything that ever occurred to me--except for the emotional reality of being cut off from people I loved and needed. But writing about her struggle was a real catharsis. It made me understand that my youth was still having an affect on me as an adult, and if I examined it and wasn't afraid of it, I could heal from the past and move on. As I followed my character's actions and feelings through all that happened to her, I came to realize that pain and loneliness, as well as love and support, are part of the human condition. We can each share our feelings with others and receive comfort-or we can keep it all bottled up inside until we explode--or maybe implode is more accurate? I think I'll take comfort any day! In addition, I came to understand what Flannery O'Connor meant when she said that anyone who survived their childhood had enough material to write on for the rest of their lives . . . and that's a fact that I have now discovered is true for my own writing."
Asked what's next, now that GUN SHY is to be published? Lake reports that she is half done with a sequel, tentatively titled UNDER THE GUN. In addition, she is working periodically on a post-apocalyptic novel called ISOLATION that is set in Minnesota a couple of decades in the future. And for fans of Lake's general writing style, she has another novel with all new characters, RICOCHET IN TIME, which is likely to be published in 2001.
Filed: October 2000