Interview with Janet Kellough, author of 47 Sorrows

Interview with Janet Kellough, author of 47 Sorrows thumbnail

Interview with Janet Kellough, author of 47 Sorrows

Posted on February 3 by Janet Kellough
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This week at Dundurn we're talking about our Backlist Gems. Today we have an interview with Janet Kellough about her most recent mystery 47 Sorrows.

Caitlyn:Tell us about your book.

Janet: 47 Sorrows takes place in 1847, the most devastating year of the Irish Potato Famine, but it deals with what happened on this side of the ocean. All of the port cities here were swamped with emigrants who were poor, ill-fed and suffering from typhus. I chose to concentrate on the situation in Kingston, Ontario because any emigrant travelling further up the lake had to stop there to change ships. Huge numbers were quarantined in Kingston - more than the total population of the city - and the death toll was distressingly high. I've re-introduced Thaddeus Lewis's youngest son Luke, who volunteers in the fever sheds and uncovers what he thinks is a murder. He enlists his father's help to sort out the mystery, which has its roots in Ireland, but which eventually leads Thaddeus and Luke to Toronto's criminal underworld.

Caitlyn: How did you come up with the idea for this work?

Janet: Thaddeus Lewis's story marches in lockstep with events from Canadian history - particularly the period between the Mackenzie Rebellion and Confederation. It's an era that the average Canadian really doesn't know much about - and yet the events of that time really influenced the kind of country we've become. I always try to find a strong storyline that emerges naturally from the history to show how the current events of the time impacted the average person. I try to appeal to readers who might otherwise be uninterested in Canadian history and get them as jazzed about it as I am - it's interesting, it's exciting and most of all, it's incredibly unique.

Caitlyn: Describe the most memorable response you've received from a reader.

Janet: In On the Head of a Pin, I briefly describe The Blue Church near Prescott. It's where Barbara Heck, one of the founders of American Methodism is buried. I had a reader tell me that she had just reached that point in the book when she and her family had to drive to Prescott to see a relative. She saw the sign on the 401 for The Blue Church, which she'd never noticed before, and she said she nearly drove off the road.  Later she was told by her relative that kids go to the Blue Church on Hallowe'en to knock on Barbara Heck's tombstone - they claim that you can hear her moving around inside!

Caitlyn: What are you reading right now?

Janet: A Universe from Nothing: Why There is Something Rather Than Nothing by Lawrence Krauss. It's an attempt to explain the workings of the universe to a lay audience. I think I understand it. Sort of. I chose to read it because I've always been fascinated by the fact that, at the quantum level, the old clockwork notion of the universe gets thrown out - everything is random and chaotic. I just wish that I had enough of a grasp on mathematics to truly understand it. Unfortunately, I can barely count, but the concept appeals to my sense of the ridiculous.

Caitlyn: What is your new project?

Janet: I'm currently working on the fourth Thaddeus Lewis mystery. It advances the story of the Lewis family another few years, into the beginnings of Canada's industrialization. I've found some lovely historical odds and ends that are folding nicely into the plot. Luke Lewis returns, as does Morgan Spicer, from the first Lewis mystery. I think the new book is called The Burying Ground.

Janet Kellough

Posted by Dundurn Guest on October 30, 2014
Janet Kellough photo

Janet Kellough

Janet Kellough is a professional storyteller who has written and appeared in numerous stage productions featuring a fusion of spoken word and music. Her five books in the Thaddeus Lewis series are On the Head of a Pin, Sowing Poison, 47 Sorrows, The Burying Ground, and Wishful Seeing. She lives in Prince Edward County, Ontario.