Two weeks ago Kristina Stanley, a fellow finalist for the Crime Writers of Canada’s Unhanged Arthur award, added me to the writers who are participating in a fun blog hop. In this version of the hop, we answer four questions about our writing. So here goes:

What am I working on?

Two things: First, I’m working on queries to agents and publishers for The Snow Job, my novel that was shortlisted for the Unhanged Arthur.

Second, I’m working on a stand-alone novel set in the Alberta foothills. The protagonist is Olivia Mercier, a thirty-something journalist who subscribes to Calamity Jane’s directive that “if a girl wants to be a legend, she should go ahead and be one.” When Olivia discovers that she is the primary suspect in her best friend’s murder, she realizes she may well become memorable, but for all the wrong reasons.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Well, there are so many different types of crime fiction that to talk about how my work differs is impossible. Instead, I’ll mention what I’m trying to accomplish.

The novels that stick with me the most are those where I find myself wondering what the characters are doing, long after I’ve finished reading the book. Those are the stories that I aim to create. Although I work hard at making the plot hang together and at crafting a tight mystery, I focus more on character. The relationship between the protagonist and the supporting characters intrigues me. If my readers feel that they are living the story, and want to hang out with my characters, what more could I ask?

Why do I write what I do?

I love crime fiction, especially where there is a fair sprinkling of humour. Courtroom dramas, thrillers, suspense, hard boiled, soft boiled—so long as children and animals aren’t harmed, I will devour them. I’ve read so much in the genre that writing it is somewhat easier for me than other types of fiction.

How does my writing process work?

Often I find the germ of a story in a news item, preferably something bizarre that starts me wondering what made the people do what they did, or makes me ask “what if?”

I brainstorm the idea and finally sit at the computer and tell myself the story from the protagonist’s point of view. Main story, backstory, meanderings, asides – the whole mess of it. Then I tell myself the story again from the villain’s point of view, and from the viewpoints of other major supporting characters. These pages become my storyboard. Last, I do a time line so that I can keep track of where characters are at any given point in the story. If I don’t do all this, I find that I get to the middle of the novel and am floundering. Not a great feeling.

Once that’s done, I start the manuscript. I worry about the first line, even though I know it’s likely to change several times during the writing of the manuscript, because for me it sets the tone for the book. So it’s crucial to get it as near to right as I can. Which, as you’ve guessed, often leads to a very blank page….

Thanks for stopping by on the hop. In two weeks, you’ll hear from two of my colleagues, Claire Gebben (who is a fellow alumna of Northwest Institute of Literary Arts’ MFA program) and Loraine Fowlow (who I had the pleasure of meeting this year at Left Coast Crime’s conference in Monterey).

Claire Gebben has published stories and essays in The Speculative Edge, Northwest Primetime, Shark Reef, The Fine Line, and elsewhere. She earned an MFA in Creative Writing in 2011, and her novel The Last of the Blacksmiths (Coffeetown Press, 2014) is available from bookstores and online. You can read my review of Claire’s novel here. Find out more about Claire at  http://clairegebben.com

Loraine Fowlow — as a professor of architecture with a structural engineering background, Loraine’s fictional interest lies in the criminal use of collapsing buildings. Her novel UNDERCUT is the first in the IMPACT series of architectural mysteries, which focus on deadly structural failures. Her publications include non-fiction books, book chapters, journal and conference papers. Find out more about Loraine at www.lorainefowlow.com