Cuppa and a cake with Lucy Atkins – author of The Missing One – Canada booktrail

The table is set - there's only one person missing...
The table is set – there’s only one person missing…

Booktrail towers has been a hub of activity today – so much so that the cake for the cuppa and a cake feature was not baked in time. So, I popped out to buy a nice posh one (well it’s a very special guest today) and I barely have time to take it out of the packaging (and hide it so I can claim I’ve had a Mary Berry moment) before the doorbell rings and the special guest is here!

The Mary Berry kinda cake the booktrail could not hope to recreate
The Mary Berry kinda cake the booktrail could not hope to recreate

I am so excited to meet her. She wrote the fantastic novel based in Canada and introduced me to the fascinating topic of Orca whales  –

Hi Lucy! Welcome to Book Trail Towers. Please come in. Your cuppa and cake awaits...
Hi Lucy! Welcome to Book Trail Towers. Please come in. Your cuppa and cake awaits…

Hi Lucy, now then, allow me to cut us both  large slice each of this cake. I’ve been slaving over the oven for hours, so I hope it tastes good ( hehe). Do you have milk in your tea? Right then, I have a few questions for you about your novel The Missing One – and I’d love to know what inspired such a story and such a setting!

1.I have read that it was a magazine article about the first woman to study killer whales in the wild (Alexandra Morton) that first planted the seeds of The Missing One. How did this develop into the novel?

I read an article about Alexandra Morton and was very taken with her strength and courage. I had this image of a woman on a boat with her toddler surrounded by killer whales, and so I started writing a short story. That became a long story and – many incarnations later – it turned into The Missing One.

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2. You have lived near the coast of Seattle and Vancouver. What do you miss most and which parts of the region would you recommend we visit to get a real feel for The Missing One?

I lived in Seattle for almost four years and my second child was born there. I still miss the landscape a lot – I think partly that writing the novel was an act of longing for what I’d left behind. I loved the combination of mountains and ocean; even in the heart of the city you feel you are on the brink of escape. I never lived in Canada, and only visited that area, but I happened to go there almost always in winter. I think that’s where all the fog and rainstorms in The Missing One came from. It feels remote and cut off when that fog closes in. Any of the islands you can get to on a ferry from Vancouver would give you a flavour of the novel…

Orca pod - southern residents. Image courtesy of Wikepedia
Orca pod – southern residents. Image courtesy of Wikipedia

3. The relationship between mother and daughter is a strong bond as we see both in your human characters and the whales themselves.  Do you think this strengthens the overall theme of a mother daughter bond? 

When I began the novel I knew absolutely nothing about orcas. As my writing progressed, I realized that what I was really writing about was motherhood and as I learned about orca societies – the strong bonds between a female orca and her calf, their powerful matriarchal culture, it was like a gift. It was all so relevant to my human themes. I also learned how horrifically we treat killer whales – ripping one year old calves from their mothers to take them to Sea Parks to be kept in small concrete boxes and gawped at. The idea of a mother’s loss, of longing for your child, of separation, is central to the novel, and this loss is seen over and over in the way we treat killer whales (Anyone interested in finding out more about this should see the film Blackfish).

Broughton archipelago where the book takes much of its inspiration from. Image courtesy of Wikipedia
Broughton archipelago where the book takes much of its inspiration from. Image courtesy of Wikipedia

4 Which islands, areas in particular did you research for your book? I realise SpringTide Island is not real although Salt Spring Island is, and there is a whale sightseeing company called SpringTide Tours. Were your place names inspired by something in particular?

Yes, Spring Tide island is completely fictional. The journey Kali takes from Vancouver is also fictional. I didn’t feel right making it a real place – I just wanted to take the feeling I had about that area and make it come alive, without worrying about actual geography or whether or not you could go by boat this way or that way. It was much more liberating to make it up. I did spend one Thanksgiving on Salt Spring Island and that was definitely in my mind when I wrote about Spring Tide – the fog particularly, and the name too. Isabella (the name of Susannah’s house) is my daughter’s name and my grandmother’s name, and my great-great grandmother’s name, going all the way back in our Scottish family. I just had to use it.  Raven is named that because it’s a bit ominous…

5. Would you like to have been a whale scientist living on a floathouse? I would after having read your book. It was as if I was there!

Fancy being stranded on an island with Susannah?
Fancy being stranded on an island with Susannah?

I am far too much of a comfort lover for that. I actually am totally unscientific and not particularly adventurous and I’d be far too wimpy to face the extremes of weather and discomfort that Elena, my whale expert, deals with.  But perhaps as a mother of three I do sometimes long for space and solitude – I expect that this was subconsciously coming out when I wrote about that tiny island. Having said this, I wouldn’t want to be trapped in any house, let alone a floating one in the middle of nowhere, with my character Susannah. Definitely not!

 6. You are on Raven Island with only four other writers living or dead for company over dinner. Who would you choose and why?

Charlotte would be a great dinner party guest!
Charlotte would be a great dinner party guest!

Charlotte Bronte, because she wrote my favourite novel, Jane Eyre, and I think she would be a great chatter; Ted Hughes because he’d talk beautifully about the wildlife (and was incredibly handsome), Chaucer, because he’d be a lot of fun and without any pomposity, and Jane Austen, just because I couldn’t possibly turn down the chance to meet her.

Well, talking of dinner, I’m still a bit hungry. Would you like another piece of my rose garland cake? Yes? Did I what sorry? Em, well no, I’ve got a confession to make – Mr Sainsbury did. He’s an old friend…

Thank you very much Lucy for stopping by. Your novel was really interesting on so many levels and I’m now reading a lot about orca whales and their treatment in captivity. The interweaving stories were very clever and thank you for taking me back to Vancouver and the surrounding islands! The book trail loved the journey combining reading and travelling is just the best!

I love it! It does get to the heart of the novel too – I think it’s an inspired way of reading. Thank you for having me on the Book Trail !

For more insights and information on The Missing One – http://www.lucyatkins.com/

And of course, if you want to travel to Canada and see the orcas jump out of the written page – http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Missing-One-Lucy-Atkins/dp/184866320X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1391454180&sr=8-1&keywords=the+missing+one 

A book trail and a whale trail in one – Canada

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Perfect for Family Literacy Day in Canada – not one for the children, but a book about families and the bond between mothers and children.

The setting – Vancouver, Vancouver Island and the Broughton Archipelago

Take the ferry from Vancouver and start your literary adventure
Take the ferry from Vancouver and start your literary adventure

The story of Kali, a woman whose mother has just died of cancer, is going through a difficult time. Having sorted through her things, she finds some postcards which were sent from the same woman on the same day each year. So, she tracks her down to a remote Canadian location. But why is this strange woman so fixated on Kali’s small son Finn.

What she finds out and what happens on her journey to the island is compelling stuff and you are drawn into her emotional and physical journey and the many obstacles she comes across. I often wanted to shout NO!! as she made one bad decision after the other or meets someone and seems naive about the motives of others. But the sympathy for what she gets herself into and why soon makes its appearance. And then some.

Her father has kept an important fact from her  in order to protect her, yet it ends up putting her in the gravest danger –

It is too late to make amends but it is not too late to understand.

As Kali will find out – sometimes that which we keep secret inorder to protect others is the very thing that can destroy us.

Where will Kali end up on her journey in to the Canadian archipelago?
Where will Kali end up on her journey in to the Canadian archipelago?

I won’t comment on the rest of the book – when Kali meets the mysterious and chilling complex character of Susannah. And what happens when Susannah meets Finn….every mother’s worst nightmare. Susannah holds the key to the entire mystery but immediately Kali feels threatened, a feeling which only gets worse and worse. The writing here was particularly chilling and I felt a shiver go down my spine on more than one occasion –

Oh Kali, she says. I always knew you’d come one day.

The setting  – the location of this novel is as central a part of the novel as the story of Kali and her quest to find out the truth. The writing takes you there so cleverly and is so evocative of the archipelago and the sea mist. You can almost taste the salt on your tongue as you read…..

Travel to Canada and see the amazing Orcas just off Victoria Island
Travel to Canada and see the amazing Orcas just off Victoria Island

The sun is brighter in this south facing room – I look through the enormous windows flexing to the horizon. For a moment I think about the life that teams under that surface.

There will be Alaskan tides and icy currents rushing off glaciers. That sea is certain death.

This for me is where the book really excels as I have done so much research on the subject of Orca whales and their natural habitat since reading this novel, anyone would think I am a scientist in training. I am in awe of these creatures and did not know how much suffering we put them through, how they rule the ocean, how they look after their young. In this way, Kali’s journey to protect her son is not unlike the orca we meet in a Seapark early on the book – and its distress in trying to protect its baby. Two mothers desperately putting their own child’s protection above their own. Strong instinct no matter who or what you are.

After chasing down the pod with planes and speedboats and seal bombs, the hunters dropped nets and herded the frightened animals against the Puget Sound Shoreline. The whales were panicking. You could clearly hear the parents calling out to their children: babies screeching back.

Broughton archipelago where the book takes much of its inspiration from. Image courtesy of Wikipedia
Broughton archipelago where the book takes much of its inspiration from. Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Kali finds out that her mum, Elena loved watching and helping to preserve killer whales, documenting their life and habits in order to help protect them in the wild. We learn a lot about her mother’s work at the same time she does and also the environment  – the remote, rocky, raw environment that Kali is now in – utterly fascinating and extremely insightful –

Orca pod - southern residents. Image courtesy of Wikepedia
Orca pod – southern residents. Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Each pod the extended family  – revolves around a matriach, and she can live to be eighty years old, maybe more. she makes al the decision about where they go and when. She gives all the orders -and they obey her. Maybe because of this tight structure, they have these really powerful family bonds: Loyalty, love,devotion, trust. They’re highly civilised – they celebrate and play, they socialise, they have traditions, they even grieve when a family member dies.’

Sea Spring Island as it is called in the novel could be any one of the islands dotted around the archipelago just off Vancouver Island where there are many whale watching tours available. The descriptions of the contrast between the calm remoteness and the underlying potential danger are chilling. Reminiscent of my own ferry journey over to Victoria on Vancouver island –

Luckily I did see some whales during my visit and even luckier still I did not meet a Susannah on my travels. I will always have these creatures in my heart. Now I can travel back to see them any time I want – with Lucy Atkins’ amazing and heartfelt novel – The Missing One. A story on many levels which will leave a trail of emotions in its wake.

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For more information on Lucy’s inspiration behind this novel, please visit her website

http://www.lucyatkins.com/ 

And for information on those beautiful Orcas and the famous Alexandra Morton who studied and listened to whales, writing a book entitled ‘Listening to Whales’  and whose work and experiences in the Broughton Archipelago BC and on a float house is very inspiring indeed

 http://www.raincoastresearch.org/orca.htm

Murderous Monks near Montreal

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A story of a remote and secretive monastery in Quebec – closed off from the world and tucked away. No-one goes in and no-one comes out. Until there is a murder. And the murderer is one of their own.

Set in the wilderness of Quebec at the fictional monastery Saint-Gilbert-Entre les-Loups – ‘Saint Gilbert among the wolves’? which is  said to be based on a real monastery near the writer’s  home in Quebec. And the Gilbertines – an order of monks who existed but who went extinct are thought to be the inspiration for the monks in the book.

So, a mixture of fact, fiction and a great deal of intrigue….

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Won’t you step inside?

You will  at first be amazed by what you see – for these monks are devoted to Gregorian chant. This ancient chants become known as the beautiful mystery as the monks believed they were singing the words of god in the calm and reassuring voice of God. We learn of the amazing Gregorian chants and how the first written music came about (with lines drawn above words to denote rises and falling sounds – and how these became neumes) and how these chants were fought over and became a war between the Church all over the world –

Volleys of plainsong were hurled between the Benedictine monastery of Solesmes and the Vatican. Each insisting that theirs was closer to the original and therefore, loser to the Device.

Choosing sides in the escalating battle that soon became more about power and influence and less about simple voices raised to the glory of God.

Two plainchants from the Mass Proper, written in adiastematic neumes, from St. Gallen, MS 359. Couresty of Wikipedia
Two plainchants from the Mass Proper, written in adiastematic neumes, from St. Gallen, MS 359. Couresty of Wikipedia

Inspector Armand Gamache and Jean-Guy Beauvoir are called into this cloistered community to find the murderer. These two officers have been the central figures in other novels and I did find myself at a slight disadvantage for some events which were mentioned in this novel but it doesn’t detract from the central story so this is still very much a standalone read.

An ursuline Monastery in Quebec courtesy of Wikipedia
An ursuline Monastery in Quebec courtesy of Wikipedia

Quebec and its monastery comes alive with the rich use of language, and the slow careful unveiling of the mystery  through the author’s capable hands. She weaves us through a wild and inhospitable stone corridors, hidden caverns and secret gardens.

The hall was lined with doors on either side, each into a cell. No light shone under the cracks . And no sound escaped either.

That’s what the abbey of Saint-Gilbert -Entre-Les Loups felt like. A place of distortion and even deprivation. Of great silence and  greater darkness.Where whispers became shouts. Where monks murdered and the natural world was locked out as if at fault.

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Nothing and no-one at the monastery is what they seem – for this secret, forgotten and hidden community has some dark dark and haunting secrets

where power, tradition and solitude are challenged, and what lies beneath the cool calm surface is often that which we should fear the most.

After Vigils at five in the morning, the monks had had breakfast and prepared for the day. There was another service at seven thirty, Lauds. It ended at eight fifteen. Then their workday began.

Louise Penny’s words described the monastic life in such detail you could feel the chill of the stone walls on your skin, hear the glorious chants echoing from its walls and smell the burning candles dotted around the cloister.

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The characters of Gamache and Beauvoir are two that I need and am looking forward to exploring more – they of course feature in other of Louise Pennys books which she sets in the fictional Quebec village of Three Pines – and this is a place I need to go to soon.

He lay there, listening. Imagining the monks in their tiny cells, all around him. Like bees in a honey comb.

In their own chilling words –

We all know that the murderer is amongst us right now. He’s shared our table, eaten the bread. Listened to the prayers and even joined in. I want to speak to him for a moment.’

Spend a few moments in silence revelling in this Quebec set book about a most mysterious and until now, forgotten  mystery. All set and enhanced by a cold and remote Quebec landscape.

Then open the cover and walk in..

Book Advent – day 23 – Booktrail top ten

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This year we have read some fantastic books and been to some fantastic places so here is our top ten in no particular order to inspire you to travel – via your armchair this Christmas season –

Bamburgh, Northumberland
Bamburgh, Northumberland
A journey through Cuba
A train journey through Cuba
Paris, France
The mysterious backstreets of Paris, France

 

To the dark streets of Edinburgh, Scotland
To the dark streets of Edinburgh, Scotland
The Garden of Evening Mists
The Garden of Evening Mists in Malaysia

 

experience the personal story of a small girl in Africa
experience the personal story of a small girl in Africa
Experience the cemetery of forgotten books in Barcelona
Step inside the cemetery of forgotten books in Barcelona –  in Shadow of the Wind
Explore the mystery of Keswick and it surroundings in Island of Bones
Explore the mystery of Keswick and its surroundings in Island of Bones

 

The amusing goings on in a small village in India
The amusing goings on in a small village in Pakistan. Get a cultural insight and make great friends

 

Protect yourself from the Canadian chill in Ottawa with a cracking crime thriller
Protect yourself from the Canadian chill in Ottawa with a cracking crime thriller

So, there you have it, our top ten books this year. We’d love to hear yours and we do actually have loads more except we couldnt fit them all in. How do you pick only ten? Well based on location and atmosphere, these ten really did pack some punch. And well because I had to include this one –

Cry yourself to sleep on an island beside a lighthouse in Australia with A light Between Oceans...
Cry yourself to sleep on an island beside a lighthouse in Australia with A light Between Oceans…

Well, I guess that makes it 11 – well we best stop there otherwise we’d be here all night adding all our favs. Tomorrow we chose one that has both surprised and amazed us in equal measure. An imaginary location but one which we would love to go back to very very soon…….

 

 

Book Advent – Day 22

Book Advnet date 22 comes with a book that is a mixed bag and a bit of a surprise – full of bling and a journey through Canada and America in the 1930s all the way to Hollywood

9781459708495Mary Mabel McTavish is trying to make her mark in the big wide world

She is suicidal and down on her luck but something happens and she finds out that she somehow can resurrect the dead.

This miracle takes her on quite a journey through 1930s Canada and America where she meets and sometimes interacts with characters from history such as J. Edgar Hoover and the Rockettes as she moves through the years.Finally when she reaches Hollywood, she meets people who all want  a piece of the miracle. And the world of Hollywood is quite the charmer at times. Religious zealots all want to share in the miracle and accompany Mary on her journey.

This is a booktrail through time and across two countries into the world of Hollywood and all the trappings of what can be found there. From behind the facade, there are dark shadows, social criticism and dark dark thoughts. Which makes for quite a journey.

Ths book was a shock in that it was a lot of fun and a bit naughty. It was hilarious, close to the edge, weird and a catch you off guard kind of read and the journey throughout the history of Canada and America was a particularly nice theme to the whole story.

I guess the best description I can give to this book is like a sideshow in a circus where you open the curtains and take a peak and don’t know whether to laugh, cry or cry out in shock. Some of the early chapters were difficult to read since there were lots of characters introduced that I had trouble identifying in my mind but like in a circus, you may never get to know everyone but you know that they help to build up the scene and make it what it is.

Roll up roll up for the Resurrection of Mary Mabel McTavish.

Book Advent – day 13

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This next book takes me all the way from Japan across the water to a cold cold place and a colder environment. Where is White Fang  is set in the Yukon territory of Canada during the Gold Rush.

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White Fang is half dog and half wolf who soon learns that there is only two choices in life –  kill, or be killed, eat, or be eaten. He has one master after another and learns to be vicious in order to survive. One master who buys him wants him for a fighting dog so he can earn money.

 

Yukon is not an easy territory for any man to survive in but for a dog, well, it’s another story. The unique point of view of White Fang creates  a book that depicts a world and setting not found anywhere else.

 

White Fang is himself a true product of the Wild and is both forced into submission and cruelly mistreated by his ‘superior’ human masters. Reading about such subjects from the animal’s point of view is something I have never read before and it is a story about morality and redemption that will linger with you long after you have finished the last page.

 

Run through the snow of Yukon with White Fang and see the desolate surroundings and the threat of violence all around. It might look like a snowy setting but the snow is a clean blanket covering much suffering beneath. Its cold, dark and soulless but from such stark isolation can something really positive result…

Brenda Chapman – tea and cake in Canada

Hi Brenda! Come in - I have lemon drizzle for you
Hi Brenda! Author of Cold Mourning set in Ottawa

A little while ago I reviewed the amazing Cold Mourning by Brenda Chapman who sets her police procedural against the snowy backdrop of her home city of Ottawa. Well, she was gracious enough to accept some tea and cake with me recently and we had a right old chat! we reminisced a little about Ottawa, poutine in Quebec City and all that snow. And of course I asked her about Cold Mourning – my first post and review can be found here – https://thebooktrail.wordpress.com/2013/10/23/cold-mourning-in-ottawa/ 

Canadian crime fiction at its finest
Canadian crime fiction at its finest

If you haven’t come across any Canadian crime fiction before, then take a look at Brenda Chapman – you will not be disappointed.

Waiting for Brenda, tea ready, just waiting for the freshly baked cake to cool down before serving.
Waiting for Brenda, tea ready, just waiting for the freshly baked cake to cool down before serving.

Hi Brenda, come on in

Can I take your coat? The cake’s just out the oven, would you like a slice? It’s lemon drizzle. An old favourite of mine

Here, let me take that owl off that chair. He gets everywhere bless him. He’s in the pics and thinks he’s the star of the show!  I can’t wait to get chatting. I’ve got tons of questions. Are you sitting comfortably hehe?

I want to talk about your new book which is not out until March 2014 but which I want to give a heads up about! Cold Mourning….

 1. You’ve written a series of mysteries but this is the first in the Stonechild and Rouleau   series. What made you want to write this book?

Like many mystery readers, I am a fan of the police procedural series. Not only do I enjoy a suspenseful plot, but I also want to follow the development of characters and their relationships. My first adult murder mystery, In Winter’s Grip (Dundurn 2010) was a standalone, but I knew that this was a warm up to creating a series where I could take the characters and readers on a longer journey. In Kala Stonechild and Jacques Rouleau, I’ve created two complex, flawed cops who are intelligent and interesting enough to make me want to keep writing about them.

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 2.How important is your snowy Ottawa setting to the plot?

For me, two of the most important aspects of the reading experience are to feel empathy for characters and to feel a strong sense of place. I studied poetry in university and have always been moved by the evocative use of language—words that bring me into the setting along with the characters and feel what they are feeling. One of my goals in writing this book was to describe Ottawa in winter well enough to have the setting feel like another character and for readers to experience something of what I feel when, for example, I step outside into a freezing winter evening or lie in bed at night, listening to the wind howl around the house.

3. How do you like Ottawa. I lived there for a short while and thought it amazingly friendly. Very pretty too with the feel of a small town. Where would Stonechild and Rouleau take me to in Ottawa?

I grew up in a small, isolated mill town of 2000 people on the north shore of Lake Superior, but moved to Ottawa after university. Ottawa is nearing a million people now, but still manages to maintain the small town, community feel with the countryside just a short drive away. With Ottawa as the setting for Cold Mourning, this allows me to draw on both my small town and city experiences.

Stonechild and Rouleau would take you on an insider’s tour of the city: the mansions of Rockcliffe and the colourful Byward Market. We’d follow Elgin Street to the Canal through the Glebe into Chinatown, Little Italy, Hintonburg, and my own neighbourhood, Westboro. We could take a trip across the Ottawa River into Quebec for a drive to the Gatineau Hills—spectacular in autumn when the leaves turn colour.

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 4.How important was your Native American character Kala Stonechild. What you did try to show via her working relationship with Rouleau from the Ottawa police?

Kala Stonechild became the central character as I wrote Cold Mourning. I’d intended for her and Rouleau to have an equal share of the spotlight, but her storyline rose to the fore. Perhaps this is because Stonechild has such an interesting, disturbing past and she’s a newcomer to the police department. In addition, she’s out in the field investigating while Rouleau spends more time coordinating work back in the office. The fact that she is Native American, or Aboriginal as we say in Canada, is key to her character—her past is slowly be revealed throughout the series. The relationships that she develops with Rouleau and others on the force have room for a lot of intrigue, misunderstanding and conflict.

5. You create a lot of tension and twists and turns along the way. Did this novel take a lot of plotting?

I’m actually not a big plotter aside from broad strokes; for example, I decide on a crime, victim and perpetrator. I have an idea of the characters but they take shape as I write, sometimes with new ones appearing out of nowhere. Once the story gets going, I spend a good deal of time reworking scenes and thinking about the next chapter. This means that I sometimes have to rewrite sections later on to make everything fit.

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6.What kind of research did you do?

The type and depth of research that I undertake depends on the project. In addition to writing, I work as a senior communications advisor for the federal government and so track stories about my files in the media. I’ve worked on Aboriginal files for the past four years, and while I cannot use anything I learned specific to these files, I can use the general knowledge I’ve gained through reading news articles and information available to the public. Kala Stonechild is the result.

To keep the storyline authentic, I had a retired Ottawa police officer read the Cold Mourning manuscript to give me feedback on the crimes and clues. He gave me insight into the police working environment that I would not have had otherwise.

I also use Google maps extensively, but know Ottawa intimately since I’ve lived here over thirty years. Still, there is nothing like first-hand experience when it comes to writing about a location; I made two field trips to locations on the Rideau River to find the perfect location to kill off a character. My brave husband came along on the isolated walks through the woods, although I had to promise not to reenact any of the scenes.

 7.Here in the UK, Canadian crime fiction can be somewhat overshadowed by that from American or Scandinavia. What makes Canadian fiction unique?

Great question. Every country has its own geography, history, customs and way of viewing the rest of the world. Canadians are no different in this regard, and our stories are no less fascinating.

Canadians are known for being polite and cooperative, but we are so much more than these traits. We come from explorer stock and have been shaped by a vast, rugged landscape with long winters and immense, untamed stretches of wilderness. The multi-faceted geography is evident the lives we lead. It has made us survivors and innovators; and while we’ve worked to control our environment, deep down we know that it is our environment that has the final say. A person living in Newfoundland has a much different reality than someone living in the Prairies, the Arctic or Montreal. We Canadian writers bring this wealth of multicultural experience, geography and flavour to our stories along with a haunting, intangible quality that is uniquely Canadian, and is shaped I think, by our closeness to the land. We also share a droll, dry sense of humour and an ability to see the absurdity in life.

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 8. You attend your ideal book fair and meet your 4 favourite authors or those who have inspired you. Who would they be?

When I was growing up in that small northern town, my favourite author was Enid Blyton—the Famous Five, the Secret Seven—her mystery stories shaped my love for working out clues and solving a good puzzle.

Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird is the novel that taught me about creating empathetic characters against the backdrop of a well crafted story. This was a book I read over and over when I was in high school.

Current day, I would love to while away an evening in the pub with Michael Connelly, Denise Mina, John Harvey and Liza Marklund, all writers whom I respect and admire for their great story-telling and believable, flawed characters.

Thanks Brenda for answering all those questions I’ve thrown at you! Very kind of you. I do like a good natter about a good book. I hope you’ve enjoyed the cake and tea. There’s more in the pot. Care for another slice of cake too?

Think we’ll leave it there for now but not before I share two things with you – Brenda’s website and the link to a future Canadian classic

 http://brendachapman.ca/ 

http://brendachapman.ca/books/cold-mourning/ 

 

Cold Mourning in Ottawa

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Cold Mourning is the first book in a new series by author Brenda Chapman – a well known and well respected mystery writer

Set in Ottawa, Canada, the plot is as chilling as the cold, snowy setting

Native American Kala Stonechild moves to Ottawa for her job and for something else as well. She lands herself a job in a special unit of the Ottawa Police Department headed up by detective Jacques Rouleau.

Both Stonechild and Rouleau have a past and this is one of the novels strengths -we get to know them on a much deeper level and start to care for them early on in the story.

They have a case to investigate and so must work together – business man Tom Underwood has gone missing and Rouleau’s team is charged with finding what has happened.

When the case later turns to a murder investigation, family, friends, and business colleagues are all under suspicion. Everyone could have had a motive and the twists and turns through out the book made it hard to guess which makes the end a nice treat. There might be so many motives but no real evidence. Each character is flawed, and the subplots and background set up a perfect backdrop to this first in  a series of novels.

You see, Tom is not your ordinary business man – he has a very disfunctional family and questionable friends. Not to mention the character of the man himself –

 Tom Underwood looked across the room at his wife and wondered how it would feel to place his hands around her slender neck and throttle the life out of her

Meanwhile, Kala has her own mystery to solve – she needs to find her cousin, with whom she once shared a horrific nightmare of brutality and murder.

A cold winter in Ottawa
A cold winter in Ottawa

A multilayered novel with a unique premise made all the more chilling by the frosty cold environment of an Ottawa winter

The snow there was soft and deep, but years in the bush made her sure-footed and quicker than most in the shadowy darkness

If you haven’t read any Canadian fiction, you would not go wrong starting with Brenda Chapman – an Ottawa gem

Scared to death

 

 

 

thetroop

OMG!!!

 

I don’t often read horror fiction as, well, I like to read a lot at night and often find horror too much before I go to sleep.

Having said that I love Stephen King and even tried to read one of his books for A level English only to be told ‘ I had to stick to the syllabus’

Well Stephen King has even reviewed this book to say that it scared the hell out of him. That should have warned me right there. Scaring Stephen King. Probably not for the booktrailer then.

 

However it is set on an island not far from Prince Edward Island and the premise of a group of boy scouts, stranded on a deserted island at first fascinated me.

But then they’re set upon by a stranger infected with a terrible disease.

 

How will these boys respond to their situation?

What lengths they’re willing to go to escape it?

And what they do when they’re now alone on the island with no adults to keep them in line?

long

Lord of the Flies meets Thinner by Stephen King himself

It took me a while to finish only because I don’t have the stomach for what the book is about – but for any horror fans, I can appreciate how brilliant this book really is. The story, the concept, the setting and the study of the human psyche.

The writer is extremely skilled at wrapping his arm around your neck and dragging you into the depraved world as authority breaks down and instinct takes over. As the infection spreads, so too does the borders of decency and behaviour.

It made me not want to go to any islands off the coast of Canada or anywhere else ever again though and certainly not if a bunch of boy scouts are there!

 

And definitely don’t read it on your own in the dark.