Today’s author interview is with Janet Kellough, author of Sowing Poison. Janet tells us about her latest book and her forthcoming one, as well as the best advice that she’s received as a writer.
Caitlyn: Tell us about your book
Janet: Sowing Poison again features Thaddeus Lewis, the saddlebag preacher who tracked down a serial killer in On the Head of a Pin. It’s 1844. Lewis has left the preaching circuits and settled down in the village of Wellington, on the north shore of Lake Ontario, but is soon drawn into another mystery – a man has gone missing in the woods, and no one can find the body. Spiritualism, the Temperance Movement, the Orange Lodge – some of the great social influences of 19th century Canada - have a bearing on how the plot unwinds.
Caitlyn: How did you come up with the title?
Janet: One of the characters muses about how his life might have been different, had his father not been so intent on sowing poison within the family. The phrase really seemed to sum up what was happening with the characters on a personal level, and also in the larger political and social sense. The concept of Canada as a united province was brand new in 1844. People were trying to define what sort of place they wanted it to be. Many of the issues that we grapple with today have their roots in that time, in the same way that our experiences as children impact who we become as adults. On both counts you need to be careful about what you plant.
Caitlyn: What inspired you to write your 1st book?
Janet: I grew up in Prince Edward County, Ontario engulfed by family and folklore. When I was 11 or 12 I devoured those wonderful, romantic, swashbuckling books by Thomas Costain – The Black Rose, Below the Salt, The Moneyman, etc. It was my first introduction to how exciting history can be in the hands of storytellers. I decided then and there that one of the things I wanted to do when I grew up was to take the history that was all around me and make it exciting and entertaining. As a performer, I put a lot of it on stage, but some of the stories needed to be books. The story always tells you what it wants to be. The trick is to listen.
Caitlyn: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received as a writer?
Janet: Believe it or not, from Billy Crystal in Throw Momma From the Train. His character teaches an adult creative writing class and his motto is, “Remember – a writer writes – always.” That’s about it in a nutshell. You have to lure the story out of your brain and make it into something that makes sense to everybody else. Even when you don’t feel like it.
Caitlyn: What is your new project?
Janet: I’m currently working on the third book in the Thaddeus Lewis series. It takes place in 1847, at the height of the potato famine in Ireland. Canada was overwhelmed with Irish immigrants. Most of them were destitute and many of them were stricken with typhus. It occurred to me that if you wanted to murder someone and get away with it, the perfect time to do it would be when people are dying all around you. The working title is 47 Sorrows.
Janet Kellough is a professional storyteller and has written and appeared in numerous stage productions that feature a fusion of spoken word and music. Her two previous books in the Thaddeus Lewis series are On the Head of a Pin and Sowing Poison. She lives in Prince Edward County, Ontario.
The Markerting Coordinator at Dundurn, lover of books, tea and dancing in the rain.