Interviewing Me, Myself and I?

It seems like the ultimate self-centered thing to do,  doesn’t it?  Interview yourself.   But that’s what I’m doing today.  Why?  I do a lot of blog interviews and, occasionally for whatever reason, they don’t get posted.  I have a policy on principle that, after X number of weeks, I’ll post the interview myself.  While I don’t blame anyone for getting sick or falling behind or just succumbing to the myraid of things life throws our way, doing a blog interview takes a tremendous amount of work. So why let it go to waste? This particular interview was done for author, David Cole, who I met at  Bloody Words when we shared a panel together.  Being a wonderful writer himself, David has a legitmate reason for letting the interviews slide in favor of finishing a book.  Looking forward to reading your next, David!

In the meantime, here’s our interview:

 Q: In what ways do you think your upbringing has influenced the kind of writer you’ve become? When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer, and how did you break this distressing news to your family?

Growing up, we spent weekends on my grandparent’s farm where the adults spoke Finnish (which my parents didn’t teach the children).  I slipped into the role of ‘observer’ and made up stories regarding what was unfolding using my imagination.  Coupled with that was a fascination with vanishings I developed early on.  A psychologist might say it was because we moved when I was 4-years-old, and the carefree world I’d known disappeared: the backyards I’d explored, the friends I’d loved, my favorite sister who had married and left.  From a child’s point of view, they seemed to vanish into thin air.  The new world in the new house in the middle of winter appeared deathly quiet and lonely.  I was a sensitive, dramatic and imaginative child.  It was at this time that I discovered books.   I learned to read very early and the first story to set my imagination on fire was C.S. Lewis The Narnia Series.  As soon as the kids stepped into the wardrobe and left that dusty attic for the land of Narnia I was hooked.  I immediately invented a story about elves in the garden who disappeared during the day to a mysterious land that I could not see, but could catch hints of if I looked closely.  Disappearances entered my fiction early on in short stories and, of course, the novel LET THE SHADOWS FALL BEHIND YOU. For the protagonist, Brannagh, Nikki’s disappearance from the bird count up north has a sinister dark side.  She doesn’t know if he voluntarily left or if there’s been foul play, as was the case in her mother’s murder many years ago.

How did my parents take the news that I wanted to write?  I think they viewed my creativity as a queer pass time (at best), an affliction (at worst) and, being from the old school, were distressed that I refused to study to be something traditional and stable like a nurse or teacher.

Q: If you were to appear on “Oprah,” what would you want the caption to say after your name: mystery writer? Author? novelist?

You know when I appear on Oprah she can darn well call me whatever the heck she wants because I’m going to be too excited to care!  But if Oprah asks?  I would say “Canadian author of intelligent psychological suspense.”  That handle would place me right up there with the writers I admire the most.

Q: Your house is on fire, and you can save only two books: one by yourself, one by another author. Which do you choose?

I would chose LET THE SHADOWS FALL BEHIND YOU and the second choice would be a tie between Patricia Highsmith’s Strangers on a Train and Joy Fielding’s The Other Woman.   Both showed me that you could write about a woman’s life and the things that mattered most to her, mirrored against an act of foul play, and create all the degrees of psychological suspense and tension that thrill a reader.    

Q: What does the word “evil” mean to you?  True evil scares the crap out of me.  True evil infuriates me.  True evil is darkness so black it’s blinding; darkness so infinite, it wrings the soul dry.  The only antidote is the shining hope and pure intention for good that springs from love in action (if that isn’t the definition of a protagonist in crime fiction, I don’t know what is).

Q: You wash up on a desert island. Which three items would you wish to find awaiting you? (No boats and outboard motors allowed.)

A box of blue long-lasting pens, a box of thick coil notepads and an all-inclusive antique hardcover dictionary with thesaurus.  The reason the latter needs to be ‘antique’ is because the older dictionaries were a world unto their own pre-Google, mini encyclopedias and treasure troves with maps, measurements, biographies, history, anthropology, geography, grammar and all manner of obscure facts fascinating to uncover. 

Q: Before this showed up in your e-mail, what were you working on? I don’t want a general description of the book you’re on. Tell us about the very page you were writing. What was happening? What does it mean?

I was writing about a 15-year-old girl who is loosening the shirt cuffs and collar on a neighbor who fainted by Black creek, as her grandfather, a doctor, joins the county constable to inspect a drowned girl found in the bottom of a dory.  The novel is set in 1935.  The girl doesn’t know that the woman who appears to have fainted was really struck down by the murderer, and that the man she discovered earlier hiding in her grandfather’s barn is involved.  This is the first draft of a novel I’m calling STANDING IN THE WHALE’S JAW.


Q: Okay, you wake up regular time, you have a full work day in front of you. Just you and the pages. On a scale of one to ten, how happy are you about this? Would you rather be doing something else?


Yikes.  I daydream about having a full work day to write (I have a day job), but the truth is, getting myself to sit down in front of the computer is about as effortless as removing dirt from dropped bubble gum.  I’d rather do anything else.  Luckily, after all these years, I do know that about myself and set a schedule and system for accountability that keeps me on track.

Q: How does your training as a reporter help or hinder your fiction writing?

There’s a reason why old journalists never die, but often turn to a second career in fiction writing.  Journalism provides the skills needed to persevere in a tough business:  Research, editing, craft and productivity.  The latter is the most important.  When you work as a journalist, you have to feed ‘the beast’ on a regular basis. You soon learn that even when the idea well has run dry, if you just sit down at the keyboard and start typing, before too long a story will come.   You just can’t afford to sit around waiting for lightening inspiration to strike.   Most journalists love words and language.  I was born to live my life on the page.  Going from journalism to fiction, I simply made the transition from telling other people’s stories to telling my own.   


Your work has been adapted for radio and also for the theatre. What was that like?


CBC producer Bill Lane and Heather Black worked with me at the Banff Center of the Arts on the adaptation of the short story LEARNING TO SPIN for the Summer Drama Festival.   This is a mystery about a woman who walks along the river in winter, and every day she passes a queer old man who she gradually becomes convinced is involved in foul play.  We work-shopped my first draft of the play with writers and actors in Banff, which was great fun.  I had the chance to meet some of the people behind the ‘voices’ I’d heard on radio for years.   I especially loved one young actor, barely out of his teens, who managed to make the old man in the story sound creepier than Anthony Perkins in Psycho.


Afterwards, Bill asked me to help the technician select the sound effects.   I bet you didn’t know that the best way to get the sound of feet crunching on snow is by squeezing a box of cornstarch?  Even the top technology can’t accomplish a thing without creative imagination. 


Q: When you decided to write fiction, why did you choose crime fiction?

Actually it chose me.  The first short story I wrote and had published involved a little old lady burying a body in the back yard.  My children have never looked at me the same way since.

Q: What would you like to see more of, and less of, in crime writing these days?

I love the break from the traditional North American genre that is allowing deeper characterizations and layers in crime writing.  I think the British tradition began this way with Sherlock Holmes, but, of course, that doesn’t mean that writers, like Elizabeth George, don’t get mixed reviews when attempting to try something new.  In Canada, we have lovely books that cross genres like Gile Blunt’s detective series and Andrew Pyper’s LOST GIRLS.  It’s always a risk, but I get excited seeing the unusual, any writer in crime fiction who is brave enough to venture off the beaten path and surprise me. 

Q: As a writer, what have you not done yet that you’d like a chance to do?

I’d love to try writing a screen play.  COMING SOON to a theater near you!

Q: What are you working on now?

I just finished a suspense novel BLACK SECRET THAW that I wrote for a workshop I attended with New York Agent, Donald Maass (WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL).  It’s much more of a traditional suspense novel than my first.  I dissected Harlan Coben and Nicci French, 2 of my favorite suspense writers, to learn that style of plotting and make it my own.  I learned a lot.  I’m one of those writers who likes to be continually challenged.

Thank you so much for inviting me to be your guest and meeting all your readers.  Let me know what you think of Let the Shadows Fall Behind You.  You can read an excerpt at 

Happy Sleuthing!


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