The Public Libraries of Saginaw has chosen Doug Allyn’s “The Burning of Rachel Hayes” as the 2014 One Book, One Community selection. The One Book, One Community program encourages the community to read the same book and come together to discuss it in a variety of settings. Copies will be available for check-out at any branch of the Saginaw library system.
Doug Allyn will visit Saginaw on Saturday, April 12 to lead a Writer’s Workshop at 1 p.m. at the Hoyt Library, and then at 3:30 p.m. he will be appearing at the Saginaw Club for an author presentation.
For those unfamiliar with his work, Doug Allyn is the author of eight novels and more than one hundred short stories. His short stories have garnered both critical and commercial acclaim and have been awarded numerous prizes, including the Robert L. Fish for best first story, the Edgar Allan Poe Award twice, and the Ellery Queen Derringer Award six times.
Allyn is a talented crime writer whose characters have a way of sticking in readers’ psyches. As a Michigan author Allyn places his stories mostly in Michigan. His latest work, “The Burning of Rachel Hayes”, is one of Allyn’s most ambitious efforts to date and tells the tale of Dr. David Westbrook, who after a stint in jail that cost him his wife and career, decides to take his battered Jeep, a one-eyed cat, and his troubled past to northern Michigan to start over.
He plans to open a small country clinic where he can heal injured animals - and maybe himself; but it turns out that he chooses the wrong county. When the remains of a Michigan farmwoman, dead since 1871 are recovered from an old well, strange accidents start happening.
I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing Allyn a couple times over the expanse of his career. Formerly a working musician who turned to art to writing mystery & suspense back in the ‘80s, recently I caught up with Doug briefly to discuss his new book and upcoming appearance in Saginaw.
Review: I see this latest work 'The Burning of Rachel Hayes' is your 8th novel, which is admirable. Can you tell me how you feel this work progresses and distinguishes itself from other work you've produced throughout the arc of your career?
Allyn: I broke into print as a short story writer and have continued that work in parallel with novels throughout my career. My first five novels were in two series. The next three, including The Burning of Rachel Hayes have been stand-alone novels, intended to deal with one subject, one situation.
Review: How long did it take you to complete this latest work and what was the most challenging component involved with rendering it?
Allyn: Actually, I've had two more novels published in Europe since I wrote Rachel. If I have an average, it would be something like 18 months to two years. Rachel took a bit longer because it's a complex story with multiple viewpoints. The tough part, when you care strongly about the issues in a story, is keeping your personal opinions out of it. Sermons are for Sundays. Just tell the story fairly, let it stand or fall on its own, and trust the readers to make up their own minds.
Review: What are some of the themes that you are trying to explore with this work that you feel it important contemporary readers are aware of?
Allyn: Rachel incorporates elements of a ghost story, but to me, the scariest thing about it is the reality. The great fires of the last century were a direct result of our poor husbandry of the land. We nearly destroyed this magnificent place, burned the very ground beneath our feet. Have we learned anything since then? Emerald ash borers have decimated our forests, Asian carp are infesting our rivers, (and soon the lakes, I fear) while we continue despite the political promises to pile up mountains of Canadian trash in the very heart of our nation's fresh water system. I wonder what Rachel's ghost would make of it all?
Review: How do you feel the Internet has affected the writing trade and are you still selling more printed novels than e-books?
Allyn: Ebooks are transforming the publishing industry the same way they the net upended the music business a decade ago. I'm still a traditional writer, in that I work with agents, and most of my work appears in hardcover or magazines, but we're truly in the midst of a cultural revolution, and ten years from now, the landscape is going to look very different. I'm looking forward to it. On the web, it's always 1776.
Review: Have you ever considered shopping any of your works around as screenplays, or optioning them off to Hollywood, similar to Stephen King or Elmore Leonard?
Allyn: Over the past twenty years, I (or rather my agents) have optioned nearly a dozen novels and short stories for movies and television, most recently a six story deal with a French production company. So far none have made it to the screen, only 1 option in 15 actually makes the cut. I cash the checks, hope for the best, so far that's worked pretty well for me.
Review: What's the best advice you ever received about writing?
Allyn: My younger brother, who's also a successful writer, began before I did. His best advice? Remember that it's work. Treat it that way, Set a time for it, (for me that's 6 am, every day), make a place for it, and show up focused and ready to rock. On the good days, it’s a ton of fun. On bad days...remember that it's work. Do your best.
Review: Where is this new book available - in stores, online?
Allyn: Rachel Hayes is most easily available from my favorite spot, the Public Library, and it's free. The first printing sold out, and I'm not sure what's available now. I presume on the web, because pretty much everything is.
Review: Feel free to add any additional thoughts about any topic that I may not have touched upon.
Allyn: I really love this business, and oddly enough growing up in and around the music business - my mom & aunt were big band singers, my grandmother was a gospel singer - I was on the road doing weekend shows when I was six, That was almost perfect preparation for the business side of writing. Dealing with agents, contracts, publishers, etc. That's the part that gives most new writers trouble and it’s really not that complicated. I'm doing a writers workshop/roundtable at the Hoyt Library on April 12, with online author Madison Johns, where we'll discuss the business and the art of writing. It'll be more like a conversation than a lecture and I’m looking forward to it.
Those interested in attending the Workshop should call 755-9832 to register. The Author Presentation from 3:30 – 5:00 PM at The Saginaw Club is a free event, including a question and answer session and book signing. Light refreshments will be provided before the program beginning at 3:00 PM.