by Lorie Lewis Ham &
This week KRL interviews Canadian mystery author Vicki Delaney about her writing and her mystery series. Terell Byrd reviews one of the books in her series, Negative Image, and there’s a chance at the end of this article to enter to win a copy of Negative Image.
Lorie: Who is your current publisher?
Vicki: Poisoned Pen Press and Dundurn Press
Lorie: When did your latest book come out?
Vicki: May 2011
Lorie: Can you tell us a little about your latest book?
Vicki:Among the Departed. A police procedural mystery. Fifth in the Constable Molly Smith series.
Fifteen years ago a young girl by the name of Moonlight Smith went to her best friend Nicky Nowak’s house for a sleepover. Moonlight joined the family for breakfast the following morning and was then picked up by her mother. Shortly after, Mr. Nowak went for a walk. He was never seen again.
Autumn has arrived on the mountains above Trafalgar, B.C., and the promise of winter is in the air. Constable Molly Smith is cuddled by the fireplace with Adam Tocek of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) when Tocek and his dog Norman are called to a wilderness camping ground to join the search for a little boy who snuck away from his family looking for bears.
The child is found, dirty, terrified, weeping, but unharmed.Then the inquisitive Norman digs up something else: human bones.
As the investigation into the life and disappearance of Brian Nowak grows, old secrets are brought to light and new ones struggle to remain hidden.
Lorie: Can you tell us a little about Negative Image, how you came up with the idea and any research?
Vicki:Research answer first: I have done a lot of work on getting the policing right for these books. I’ve made friends in various police departments, been on ride-alongs and walk-alongs and to in-service training.
When Sergeant John Winters’ wife’s former fiancé is found murdered, suspicion falls on Eliza. And Winters is forced to make a choice between his wife and his job. Negative Image is essentially a story about trust and betrayal. What would you do if you believe the person you trust most in the work has betrayed you? And what would you do if you discover the person you trust most in the world believes you capable of betrayal?
Lorie: How long have you been writing?
Vicki:About fifteen years.
Lorie: When did your first novel come out? What was it called? Can you tell us a little about it?
Vicki:Scare the Light Away was published by Poisoned Pen Press in 2005. It’s a standalone novel of psychological suspense. About old secrets and new betrayals.
Lorie: Have you always written mysteries? If not what else have you written?
Vicki: I’ve always written crime books although not always mysteries. Scare the Light Away and Burden of Memory are gothic suspense. I also write the Klondike Gold Rush series for Dundurn Press (Gold Digger, Gold Fever, and the forthcoming Gold Mountain) and those are intended to be light-hearted.
Lorie: What brought you to choose the setting and characters in your latest book/series? Can you tell us a little about the setting and main character for your most recent book/series?
Vicki:The Constable Molly Smith series is set in the mountains in the Interior of British Columbia. The town of Trafalgar is based on the town where my daughter lives and where I spend a lot of time. It’s a great place with a wonderful mixture of people: everything from the comfortably retired to neo-hippies. Molly Smith is a brand new police officer. She’s young, green, a bit naïve and very, very eager. She’s the child of hippies, and her mother, Lucky, is a political and social activist, a bit of a rabble-rouser, which causes a considerable amount of embarrassment for both of them. I deliberately made Molly Smith young and new (she’s a probationary constable when the series begins) as I wanted to explore the world of young women today and the barriers that they still face.
Lorie: Is there a lot of difference between police work in Canada and the US that you are aware of?
Vicki:The nuances are quite different. For example there are very few small-town police forces in Canada. My Trafalgar is unique in that regard (as is the town it’s based on). Most of Canada outside the major cities is policed by the Provincial Police, OPP in Ontario, or the Surete du Quebec in Quebec, the RCMP in the rest of the country. Canadian police are better paid and better trained than a lot of American forces (so I am told). There is no such thing as a part-time police officer, and I don’t know of any situations where an officer needs to take a part-time job to make ends meet.
One of the big differences when writing fiction is that Canadian police are (in most cases) forbidden from carrying their guns when not working. Thus no shootouts in the grocery store or the park. At the end of In the Shadow of the Glacier, the first book in the series, Molly Smith is off duty when she had the final confrontation with the bad guy. All she has to defend herself is her cell phone, her stiletto heels, and her considerable wits.
Lorie: Do you write to entertain or is there something more you want the readers to take away from your work?
Vicki:I write strictly to entertain. If the reader learns something new, then that’s good too. I hope I am creating a realistic portrayal of life in Canada for my American audience.
Lorie: Do you have a schedule for your writing or just write whenever you can?
Vicki:I only write in the morning, and only when I’m at home. Then it’s seven days a week. If I’m travelling, I never write. I need to do something about that as I’m travelling more and more. However I do use evenings and trips to write articles and do interviews such as this one.
Lorie: Do you outline? If not, do you have some other interesting way that you keep track of what’s going on, or what needs to happen in your book when you are writing it?
Vicki:I outline very very roughly. After that it just flows. I keep a time line so I can keep the days and times straight, but that’s about it. I guess I remember what’s happened. If I have an idea of something that needs to happen, I’ll jot it down. But nothing formal.
Lorie: Did you find it difficult to get published in the beginning?
Vicki:It was a long slow process, yes.
Lorie: What kind of promotion do you find most effective?
Vicki:Face-to-face time. I like to talk to book clubs, library groups etc. I am writing this in Ithaca, New York, having been the guest of their mystery lovers’ book club last night.
Lorie: Future writing goals?
Vicki:Just keep on what I’m doing. I love having the freedom to write in a mixture of different sub-genres.
Lorie: What kind of research do you do?
Vicki:For the Klondike Gold Rush books and for my gothic suspense novels I have to do historical research. Most of what I need I find in books, but sometimes I have to go into the field. Yesterday, for example, I visited the George Eastman Museum of Photography in Rochester, NY, to learn about photography circa 1890s. It was a great visit. For the police books, I have police friends and have spent time watching them work.
Lorie: What do you read?
Vicki:Almost exclusively crime novels. I like the British-style police procedurals best. Like Deborah Crombie, Susan Hill, Peter Robinson, Giles Blunt.
Vicki:I have three adult daughters. Proud as punch of them.
Lorie: Any advice for aspiring or beginning writers?
Vicki:Read! And read more! It’s important to read all sorts of fiction, but particularly the sort of books you want to write. If you aren’t reading, how do you know what people want to read? You also need to read as a way of learning the craft. What works, what doesn’t?
Lorie: How do you feel about the growing popularity of e-books?
Vicki:As a reader, I love the ease of accessibility and being able to take 20 books on vacation in my purse. As a writer I love the fact that I can talk to someone (or write something on a blog) and a reader can find my book immediately. However, I still believe very much in the importance of publishers. If you’ve ever read a slush pile, you’ll know that a large part of what writers consider publishable simply isn’t. I also think that beginning writers are doing themselves no favor if they go to electronic print as soon as they get a rejection or two. You need to learn this craft like any other, and you learn best from your mistakes and from creative criticism.
Lorie: Do you read e-books yourself?
Vicki:I have two electronic readers and love them.
Lorie: Website? Twitter? Facebook?
Negative Image A Constable Molly Smith Novel by Vicki Delany
Review by Terell Byrd
I have never been to Canada, but I remember the small town of Trafalgar, British Columbia. I have never met anyone in law enforcement there, but I know Constable Molly Smith, Sergeant John Winters and Detective Ray Lopez. I still feel the adolescent hostility towards Meredith Morgenstern, the girl from high school that has sworn eternal enmity against me, even though neither of us recalls what started the feud. I love coworker Barb Kowalski who has cookies in her desk drawer and considers a fresh hot drink (in this case tea) to be the panacea for all ills. Such is the power of the writing of Vicki Delany. Her characters and settings are clear, understated and instantly familiar.
This is the fourth installment in the series. There are incidents in other books that are referred to in passing. The feeling of the introduction of the past into this story is not one of being left out but, rather, the sensation of having been gone from your home town for a while and catching up with your old friends and family. In this story, Rudolph Steiner, an internationally famous photographer is found murdered in his hotel room. Why would someone like Steiner come to Trafalgar, a small town in the middle of nowhere? It is true that Trafalgar is becoming well known for skiing and snow sports in winter, but it is off the beaten path and not attractive in the early spring when everything is covered with muddy slush.
In life when you start looking for connections between residents in a town and strangers to the community you find them. In Negative Image the connections to locals and guests multiply quickly. Rudolph Steiner was once engaged to Sergeant Winters’ wife Eliza. Rudolph had a very young wife with some unsavory family. Rudolph also had arguments with several people shortly before he died.
In addition to the murder, Constable Molly Smith is helping Sergeant Winters try to solve a series of burglaries. Smith has her own personal problems. She is being stalked and left an increasingly violent string of messages. Her Mountie boyfriend gets in a fight with her coworkers and Smith has a life changing family crisis.
The story is called a traditional village mystery. It certainly has a combination of cozy warmth and police procedural drama. There are no eccentric crazies in this small town like some cozies, and it can be best described as a realistic view of police work in a small town anywhere. A lot of reasoning with people and talking them out of things rather than lots of gunfire and car chases. There are the good, the bad and the ambitious (at any cost) people you find in all professions and all communities. A rewarding book filled with a place you will love and friends you will long remember.
To enter to win a copy of Negative Image, simply email KRL at email@example.com with the subject line “Negative”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen November 12, 2011. U.S. and Canadian residents only.
If you love mysteries, why not check out Left Coast Crime:
Mystery Conference in Sacramento, March 29-April 1, 2012.Registration through 12/31/2011 is only $210 (it goes up to $225 after that). Registration information can be found at the conventionwebsite, or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.