Nancy Kelly Allen

 Where did you get ideas for books, such as the daredevil, Annie Edison Taylor?


One morning as I was walking on my dreadmill, er treadmill, I watched a news segment on daredevils of Niagara Falls. 

My husband and I had visited the Falls so I was naturally curious. Another idea had been rattling around my brain for quite some time: a story about an unlikely hero. I researched the various stunt performers, and Annie stood out because she was the most unbelievable daredevil of all. The two ideas converged, or maybe collided, and the idea of writing about a sixty-three-year-old woman who was the first person to ride a barrel over Niagara Falls cracked wide open. Now, so do the pages of my book, Barreling Over Niagara Falls.

I get ideas from lots of places:

My two canine muses, Jazi and Roxi, lie around all day dreaming up stories for me to write. Yes, I take credit for their stories and smack my name on the manuscripts.

The promise of a sweet, delicious cookie if I dream up ideas of my own works wonders. (I take bribes, even from myself, and the payoff is usually more than one cookie. Yum! Plus, a story idea or three.)

A news story I read

Conversations I overhear (Some people call this snooping. I call it inspiration.)

Some ideas just pop into my head, even without the promise of a cookie. (I write them down immediately, because they tend to pop right back out.)

Where did you find all those the facts you have in your books?

I’m a retired librarian, so research and I go together like peanut butter and jelly. Books, magazine articles, newspaper stories, news segments, Internet, and encyclopedias—all provided fodder for my information silo. When I do research for a book, I try to find at least two sources for any fact. By the end of the process, I have a resource stack a foot tall, even for a short book.

What do you do when you are not writing books?

I don’t do anything as exciting as riding barrels over Niagara Falls. The only way I’d perform that
stunt is to be hogtied, stuffed into to a barrel, and pushed.

I love to read, especially books that make me laugh or cry, sometimes at the same time, or keep me on the edge of my seat. Playing with my canine writing assistants smacks a smile on my face, too. I enjoy bopping my head and tapping my toes to music. Sometimes, I sing along if no one is within a quarter of a mile of my vocal squawking.

What were some of your favorite books as a child?

Reading NANCY DREW was like eating chocolate. I devoured each book. PETER RABBIT, PETER PAN, and THE SECRET GARDEN caught and held my attention. Other favorites were fairy tales, especially the princesses—Cinderella, Snow White, and Rapunzel. Those early books influenced my adult reading choices, since my tastes haven’t changed much. I read adult mysteries and hang on to each word. Every week, I visit my local library and leave with an armful of books, both adult and children.

What is your favorite time to write?

I’m an early bird so I usually write in the morning. I sit at the computer, write a little, and revise a lot. My work looks something like this:

Write—Revise—Revise—Revise—Revise—Write—Revise—Revise—Revise—Revise

What is your number one writing tip?

Have fun with words. Play with them. Switch them around. Play and switch, switch and play until they say what you want them to say in a way that you want them to say it. The fancy word for this is “voice.” Plain or fancy, words are fun to play with.