Alaska writer turns former job into flaming passion

There's nothing better to warm up with on a chilly Alaska night than a romance novel with not only lust, but fire.

But with Lolo Paige's books, don't expect covers with buxom women having their bodices ripped by over-muscled men with flowing hair. "I write clean, not dirty, not graphic," said Lois Paige Simenson, age 68. Her pen name, Lolo Paige, is taken from her childhood nickname.

Her books are the kind of innocent romance the Hallmark Channel looks for, but the channel no longer takes submissions, saying anyone with more than 20 books on the market in a year is either using a ghostwriter or artificial intelligence.

She's writing fast and furious these days, with five self-published books and another coming up.

It was something of a circuitous route to writing fiction for her, starting out as a technical and legal writer for the U.S. Forest Service in Montana, then a firefighter in Alaska with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. But these experiences have given her a solid foundation to draw on for her novels.

It was former Anchorage reporter David Holthouse who suggested she use fire images in her titles: "Alaska Flame," Alaska Spark," and "Alaska Inferno."

"In 2017, I got serious, but the first book took three years because I didn't know what I was doing," she said.

Still, that one won an Anchorage Press award for best historical piece.

For her stories, she had to wrestle with the fact that a fire crew has 20 firefighters in it and that's way too many characters for a book.

"Six or seven, maybe eight max, and carry forward a known character into the next book," she said. "I poll readers to find out what they want to see in the next book, which I guess is called 'writing to market.'"

What's also helped keep her going is her admirable dedication to setting aside the morning for writing and going to writers' conventions to meet people and get advice.

"I was the oldest one at one conference," she said, noting that millennial-age writers prefer to write in first person. "I'm a baby boomer ... I stick with the third-person past tense."

Her tenacity carries over to the business side of writing.

"I pitched to all publishers and agents - not interested," she said. "I've relaxed about that."

Wolfpack Publishing, based in Las Vegas, offered to republish her books, rename them, redesign the covers, script for TV, and produce audiobooks. They would also take eighty percent of her royalties.

"I would have had no say," she said, and declined the offer.

"I pitched my audiobooks to a publisher in the UK and they took it right away and paid me right away," she said. And best of all, they're a global distributor.

"Had I sold my rights to Wolfpack, I wouldn't have been able to do that," she said. "So I've kept most of my royalties and do whatever I want with my books."

Not one to ignore any possibilities, she's enrolled in a screenwriting class.

She's discovered that Alaska enchants readers.

"I didn't realize how exotic Alaska is to an East Coaster," she said.

The drive to keep up with technology has been a particular drain on her time, she said. But she feels the technology she now knows is enough, and it's time to sit down and write.

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