Louis Bertrand Shalako, Author of ‘Redemption: an Inspector Gilles Maintenon mystery’

Welcome, Louis. What is your book, ‘Redemption: an Inspector Gilles Maintenon mystery’ about?

It is about a lonely, middle-aged widower, struggling to find a reason not so much to live, as to enjoy life again.

How long had the idea of your book been developing before you began to write the story?

A short story based upon the same character got some one-star reviews by people who didn’t know what Dadaist elements were, and had no idea that a short story couldn’t possibly deal with a subject in as great a detail as a full novel. I guess I accepted the implied challenge, and I knew I couldn’t just walk away.

What inspired you to write this particular story?

Growing up, there were a lot of British detective mysteries and quite of few of the Brett Halliday/Mike Shane type books around the place. My grandparents also had some bookshelves which I raided as often as I visited. Detective fiction was a big influence in my thinking. I wanted to be like Archie Goodwin, Nero Wolfe’s legman.

How much of yourself is hidden in the characters in the book?

I don’t think we can write a book without some autobiographical influence. All we can write about is what we have experienced, or seen and heard about. To dream or visualize something that has no reference to our past would be a spectacular achievement. It would be a story that had no influences, no inspiration, no imitative element at all. And writing is in my opinion an imitative endeavour. Why do we write? Because we love what we have read. And so we want to do that, and to be like that.

Who is your most unusual/most likeable character?

The Inspector Gilles Maintenon character was certainly interesting, because there is some French blood in the family tree, and because it gave me another look at the religion of my childhood, even if only in the most superficial way.

How long did it take you to write your book?

It took about seven months, with some long breaks due to moving and sheer disruption. I also tend to write less in the summer months, when I prefer to enjoy the outdoors as much as possible.

Did you do any research for the book? If so, how did you do it? (searching Internet, magazines, other books, etc.)

Yes, the research for the book was fairly extensive. Mystery readers are sticklers for detail, and in any kind of book you need to get place names spelled right, and ranks and titles correct. This is especially important as a couple of the characters in the book are historical figures. They’re incidental, but important enough not to just make up any old name. If the information is available, why not use it? Also the physical environment—caves, wildlife, local mythology, are integral to the story.

Do you have specific techniques you use to develop the plot and stay on track?

At about twenty thousand words, I started to falter a bit. What I do then is to let it sit for a while, and when I can, write as little as two hundred words a day. But at some point I wrote seven hundred words, and I began to feel better about it. But the middle of this one was tough for some reason, possibly due to lack of motivation on my part.

How (or when) do you decide that you are finished writing a story?

When I can find vast stretches with no errors, no grammar problems, no spelling mistakes, it’s finished. When I can think of nothing to add, or nothing to object to, no problems with the logical flow, and when I am convinced there is nothing more I can do to make it a better story, then it’s done. The funny thing is, there will always be doubts, and there will always be some insecurity. That’s just what it means to be a writer.

What challenges did you face as you wrote this book?

I moved three times during the writing of the book, as well as cleaning out my father’s house and selling it. There were lots of disruptions and quite a bit of lost sleep.

What was the most difficult part about writing the book?

I wanted to examine themes of grief, loss and remorse, and the sort of unexpected consequences of our simplest decisions. At the same time, I wanted to get away from preaching, or lecturing, I wanted to examine issues with some sensitivity. It all has to make sense and be entertaining. The bare description sounds daunting enough, especially if the reader isn’t really into dark fiction.

Do you think writing this book changed your life? How so?

No. Not really! The problem is that I can’t think of anything better to do with my life.

What has changed for you personally since you wrote your first book?

The first efforts were pretty amateur, but of course we don’t see that until we learn a lot more about the art and craft of writing. But as a community, this is the right place for me. I didn’t have that before.

How has your background influenced your writing?

It’s impossible to escape our upbringing. Unconscious attitudes can be pretty hard to shake. To recognize and overcome them is to grow.

Do you have a favorite snack food or favorite beverage that you enjoy while you write?

A couple of beers helps.

Where can we find out more about your book?

The book is available from Amazon, iTunes, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Sony, and a number of other online retailers. Here it is on iTunes:


3 Responses to “Louis Bertrand Shalako, Author of ‘Redemption: an Inspector Gilles Maintenon mystery’”

  1. Sally Odgers Says:

    This is one of the more interesting author interviews I’ve read. The questions were specific rather than general, and the answers thoughtful, rather than glib. Now I must find out what Dadaist elements are… have heard the term, but not really checked it.

  2. Book Bits #107 – ‘Salvage the Bones’ review, a poem a day, Ben Kingsley in ‘Hugo,’ O’Keeffe and Stieglitz | Malcolm's Book Bits and Notions Says:

    […] Louis Bertrand Shalako, Author of ‘Redemption: an Inspector Gilles Maintenon mystery’ with Pat Bertram – “I don’t think we can […]

  3. How Do You Decide that You are Finished Writing a Story? | Angie's Diary Says:

    […] From an interview with Louis Bertrand Shalako, Author of ‘Redemption: an Inspector Gilles Maintenon mystery’ […]

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