Wednesday, May 11, 2022

CWC Unpublished Award of Excellence Interview: Renee Lehnen



Congratulations to all the finalists!

 (see her video interview here )


Today we welcome first-time finalist  


2022 Crime Writers of Canada Award of Excellence

 for Best Unpublished Crime Novel:   

Renee Lehnen

with her novel manuscript, Elmington


We interviewed Renee before the winners were announced, and after she won we asked for a winner's statement, which is below, and followed by her original interview.

Renee writes:     On the afternoon of May 26th, I received the news via the Crime Writers of Canada (CWC) YouTube presentation that I had won an award in the category of “Best Unpublished Manuscript” for my novel, Elmington. As I was due for my afternoon shift at Spruce Lodge Home for the Aged, I only had time to text the news to my husband, daughter, and son before I set off for work on my bicycle. All evening, my heart was bursting with joy and gratitude to the CWC, contest organizers and judges, and ECW Press, the award’s sponsor. Since Thursday, I’ve had time to celebrate with my family and friends and I have a small hoard of empty wine bottles and a dull headache to show for it.

     Writing Elmington was my Everest. Although crafting the story was its own reward, winning the award feels like standing on a mountain peak with a sunrise for company. And I’m intensely curious about the work of the other writers who were shortlisted. I hope I’ll have the good fortune to read their stories in print.

     I write to try to make sense of a confusing world, to translate my frustrations into humour, and to save money on psychotherapy, but most of all, I write to be read. If any agents and publishers have found themselves in the grayest rut in Dullsville and long to take a risk on a new novelist, please contact me. A simple text will do – 226-880-1064. I promise to do my utmost to avoid ending your career!


Original Interview Below

Me: Tell us something about yourself. What is your life like when you’re not writing?

Renee I’m a registered nurse and I work in a long-term care home. My husband is also a nurse. When we’re not working, we like to be outdoors – hiking, canoeing, snowshoeing, etc.


Me:   What previous writing experience do you have? What got you started writing crime?

Renee Most of my writing has been academically oriented. For many years, I wrote to make sense of the world – not in a therapeutic journal but in essays in which I laid out my thoughts and ideas on things I struggled to understand. I still do this.

When my kids were teenagers, I found I had enough time to take a creative writing course at my local community college. Since then, I’ve written poetry, short stories, and three unpublished novels.


Me:  Is this your first entry into the Awards of Excellence? Where did you hear about this contest for unpublished crime novels, and what decided you to enter?

Renee I entered the unpublished manuscript contest four or five years ago. I submitted a who-done-it set in a nursing home. Soon after I submitted it, the terrible news broke that a mentally ill RN had murdered several nursing home residents in Ontario. The novel became unpublishable. As it was my first attempt at novel writing, it wasn’t very well written anyway. I may rewrite it someday.

In fall 2021 I entered the CWC unpublished category again with my second novel, “Elmington”, in the hope that placing well might help me connect with publishers.


Me:  Tell us a little bit about your shortlisted manuscript. Is it cozy, traditional, gritty, amateur or professional investigator, serial killer?

Renee “Elmington”, a satirical novel set in a fictional suburb of Toronto, is centred on the lives of two characters, a philosophy professor and her terminally ill father who’s a retired librarian. I hope the story is thought-provoking and funny. Readers are the best judges of that. The story explores whether murder can be justified on moral grounds even though it’s a crime according to the laws of our land. Underlying the plot is the everyday conflict of personal freedom versus institutional convenience and oppression.


Me:  Do you like your hero(es) or your villain(s) better?

Renee I like all the characters except one minor character, a doctor. I think I’ve piled everything I dislike about modern medical systems onto this one poor soul and she’s quite detestable. Though the other characters are flawed, they’re doing their best to be good people.

Me:   What is one thing you wish you’d known when you started writing this novel, that you would warn other beginning crime novelists about?

Renee If your friends and family claim they want to read your manuscript, don’t believe them!


I'm almost afraid to ask about that last statement but there's bound to be a story there! Best of luck with your finalist manuscript, and with your future writing career!

#CWC #CrimeWritersCanada #CrimeFiction #satire #mystery #morality #philosophy #murder

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