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Northeast Portland Neighborhoods

Author Lori Lake remembers her Northeast Portland roots

Writer Lori Lake relaxes at Fleur de Lis Bakery in the Hollywood district. (Judy Nelson)

Writer Lori Lake relaxes at Fleur de Lis Bakery in the Hollywood district. (Judy Nelson)

One of Lori L. Lake’s books is set in the Laurelhurst Neighborhood

By Kathy Eaton

Prolific author Lori L. Lake, originally from Northeast Portland, advises writers to write a good book: “You wouldn’t construct a shoe with holes in it or a heel that’s not properly affixed.”

Lake, who’s published 13 books in a dozen years, said, “I grew up with a jumbled bunch of people.” The oldest of five girls, she also came to have two stepbrothers and two foster sisters. One of her grandmothers lived in the Irvington Neighborhood, the other on Northeast 20th Avenue and Prescott Street. As a child, Lake once saw writer Beverly Cleary at the old Hollywood Library (now the site of Fleur de Lis), located at Northeast 40th Avenue and Hancock Street.

Growing up, Lake’s visited every used-book store and most of the old movie houses in Portland. She left college after two years to work at a bank where Lake quickly realized she was easily bored. She met her partner, Diane, working at the bank and after graduating with a degree in literature and political science from Lewis and Clark College in 1983, they moved to Minneapolis where Lake worked in a county welfare department job. She stayed for 26 years until 2009 when Lake returned to Portland to write and join her extended family, bringing her collection of 4,000 books.

Writing regime
A fan of science fiction, conspiracy and apocalyptic fiction, Lake’s work includes gay suspense thrillers and historical fiction. She doesn’t always understand why she’s drawn to particular subjects but says she’s often writing about herself. One book, Like Lovers Do, is a “slightly slutty romance” set in a Laurelhurst apartment building. Lake likes developing a character; when one is stuck in her head, before she knows it, she’s writing a book. “My male characters are dastardly or really funny,” she said.

Lake wrote Jump the Gun, the fourth book in The Gun Series, in about six weeks while recovering from a back injury, resting on a recliner. It became her favorite place to write when she discovered she could simultaneously watch television and her favorite National Football League teams (Seattle, Minneapolis and Green Bay). Jump the Gun features Dez Reilly, a patrol sergeant with the Saint Paul Police. Lake’s currently working on the fifth book in the series.

Lake is drawn to characters who’ve been wronged and are trying to help uncover truth and solve a conundrum and, as a result, become “crusaders for justice.” In high school, Lake learned her occupational preferences included teacher and police officer. Since she began writing, Lake has attended three citizen’s academies to learn more about police work, joining policemen on ride-alongs and conducting suspect interviews. Lake was pleased to draw praise from one cop who after reading one of Lake’s books, wrote that her book accurately followed police procedure.

“Mistress of minutia”
Snow Moon Rising, Lake’s least pop fiction book, tells about a band of gypsies during World War II. “It’s a novel of desperation and honor, hope and fear, at a time when the world was split into a million pieces,” Lake said.

After dreaming about an old lady living in Poland, Lake read 40 books about WWII, 12 books about gypsies and devised a genealogy chart of eight gypsy families. The story is set in Poland during November, which means “snow moon.” In 2007, lesbian writer Ann Bannon presented Lake the Golden Crown Literary Award for best general/dramatic fiction for Snow Moon Rising.

Lake says she apprenticed as a writer for 15 years and now regards herself as journeyman but not yet a master. Lake chose not to hire an agent. “If you’re a small press writer, why give an agent 15-20 percent of your earnings?” she asked. Lake, whose audience consists of primarily women and fellow writers, also enjoys a following of lesbian readers or moms with lesbian daughters.

Favorite Writers
In October 2012, literary pioneer Lee Lynch selected Lake for a conversation published in The Advocate. Lynch began writing lesbian literature in the 1960s and earned a mid-career writing award at age 65.  Both Lake and Lynch began their careers writing mainstream stories but Lake ended up with about 100 rejections and Lynch initially tried writing about cats, “who are the next best things to lesbians.” Both Lake and Lynch are fans of mystery writer Ellen Hart, author of 30 crime novels, and admire Ann Bannon, now 81, who wrote the first books about “lesbian characters who didn’t die or go crazy,” Lake said.

Passion for music
When she’s not writing, Lake pursues her other passion: music. “I have the jukebox from hell,” she said, describing the music that constantly streams through her head. Lake met her current partner, Luca, while singing in the Portland Lesbian Choir. That was 25 years ago. They reconnected when Lake returned to Portland in 2009 and they now live about six blocks from each other. “Luca is a Renaissance woman―poet, singer and steeped in the arts,” said Lake.

Alternate career: House painting
Lake revealed that if she weren’t a writer, she’d seek employment as an interior house painter. “In college, I worked on a paint crew and loved prepping walls and painting, in addition to demolition work and roofing. When the job is done, a newly painted room is as perfect as it can be,” said Lake, who acknowledged her need to complete tasks.

The aspect of writing that Lake most enjoys is being done. “Sometimes life gets in the way of writing words down on the page,” she said. Even if a book takes a long time to write (in one case, more than seven years), she feels compelled to finish and publish it. Ann Lemott’s Bird by Bird, is a favorite how-to book about writing because it gives writers hope, according to Lake. A member of the Oregon Writers Colony, in July 2014, Lake will keynote the Golden Crown Literary Society meeting at Jantzen Beach.

For more information about Lori L. Lake, including a list of her published books, visit lorillake.com.

One Comment

  1. Elaine Lynch
    Dec 12, 2013 @ 23:30:43

    Great article – and terrific picture of the author – thanks!


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