Saturday, October 2, 2010

Vicki Delany Revisted

Vicki Delany has been called one of Canada's most promising practitioners of crime fiction by Dick Adler of the Chicago Tribune. The former bank systems analyst and single mother of three daughters took early retirement to write, and has come up with some interesting subjects for her mystery series. Her latest is Negative Image, which will be released early next month by Poisoned Pen Press.

What's this new novel about?

When renowned photographer Rudolph Steiner is found murdered, Police Sergeant John Winters learns that his wife is the prime suspect. The former supermodel was the murder victim's lover 25 years earlier, and although his beautiful young wife and photographic assistant have accompanied him to Trafalgar, Steiner lures Eiza Winters to his hotel room just prior to his death. There are other suspects but the Trafalgar, British, Columbia, police are focusing on Eliza. Constable Molly Smith is involved in the investigation and is torn between her desire to solve the murder and her loyalty to Sergeant Winters.

Vicki, tell us about Constable Molly Smith, the protagonist of this mystery series. 

Molly is with the Trafalgar City Police. Trafalgar is a small town in the British Columbia Interior. Outside of the big cities most policing in B.C. is done by the Mounties, but there are a few exceptions. Trafalgar is a fictional town, but it is based on a real place and that real town has its own city police force. They rely on the RCMP [Royal Canadian Mounted Police] for a lot of things, such as major crime investigations and forensics.

Does Molly face discrimination because of her gender? If so, how does she handle it?

The real policewomen I spoke to in doing my research for the book, tell me that sexism is generally not a problem anymore, although there are some holdouts remaining in the police. In B.C. [British Columbia] over 20% of all police officers are women, so they can now essentially be women. Molly does have a problem with one of her colleagues, a constable whose ambitions exceed his ability. But she deals with it. In later books Molly will begin a romantic relationship with a fellow officer and it will not go well, as he will keep trying to protect her.

You moved from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, to South Africa for a while. Did the experience influence your writing in any way?

Good question. Not directly no, although I would love to set a book in South Africa one day. But I do, I think, have a sensitivity to sanctioned injustice resulting from my years there during the Apartheid era. A fact that doesn’t get much attention is that in the apartheid years women, white as well as black, had very few rights. I lost many of my legal and property rights when I married.

Do Canadian mysteries, like those in the British Isles, differ significantly from those in the U.S. as far as popular genres are concerned?

Yes and no. In this, as in so many other things, Canadians take the best of both the U.S and Britain (or straddle the fence if you prefer). There are authors such as Peter Robinson and Louise Penny who I think write in more of a British tradition–slower pace, more ‘cerebral’, less of the slam-bang action and more of the puzzle of the mystery, and others who like the faster-paced American stuff, e.g. Rick Mofina. I read a lot of British books, and I write for an American publisher. I hope I combine the best of both!

I'm intrigued by the title of one of your novels, Whiteout. Have you experienced deadly whiteouts?

I live in Ontario, so I’ve been in lots of whiteouts. I live in a farming area, full of flat open spaces–the other day I couldn’t see the fields on the other side of the road. The only weather related accident I’ve ever had was in Alaska. I was driving back from Bouchercon in 2007 and hit a patch of black ice in their first snowfall of the year, about 100 miles outside of Fairbanks, and went off the road. The car was bashed up, but not me. I sold a book to the cop who came to help me! I was lucky as about 50 feet before where I went off, that ditch was a cliff. I spent most of last year in Nelson, B.C. the inspiration for Trafalgar, working on the book and soaking up the atmosphere.

Your novel, In the Shadow of the Glacier, deals with American draft dodgers who retreat to British Columbia during the Vietnam War. Why did you feel the need to write the book? Is it a serious problem?

It’s not a serious problem in the context of how it’s presented in Glacier, although the incident in the book is based on true events. A statue was presented to the town of Nelson, B.C, to commemorate the Vietnam era draft dodgers, a great many of whom settled in the B.C. Interior. (The parents of my fictional Molly Smith were draft dodgers.) It was very controversial for a short time and got international press attention, but the town refused the statue and the issue ended there. I wondered what would have happened to that small, close-knit town if the controversy didn’t die down, and thus I had the plot of the book.

However, the issue is back, as U.S. army deserters have come to Canada in protest against going to Iraq. There are not many, a few hundred, compared to the tens of thousands who came in the 60s and 70s. And this issue is different as these are deserters, not draft dodgers, and it is a lot more difficult to move between countries these days than it was, in terms of getting jobs and settling down. The Canadian government is refusing them refugee status and they are under threat to be sent back. Many Canadians want them to stay. Once again the B.C. Interior is the place they are coming to. The real-life Chief of Police of Nelson came out quite strongly, saying his officers would arrest these people if told do to so, but he didn’t agree with it. So we will see what happens. I have considered using that as a plot for a book, but I’m afraid that with President Obama vowing to withdraw from Iraq, it might become a moot point before the book is published.

How do you feel about the current publishing downturn? Do you foresee major changes in Canada's publishing industry?

I read recently that purchase of books is UP about 4% in Canada. It has long been said that books are recession proof, but indications are that it won’t be this time, so I am worried. My major publisher is Poisoned Pen Press, in Arizona, so I have much to worry about regarding the U.S. publishing industry! My Klondike Series (beginning with Gold Digger, May 2009) is published by Canada’s Rendezvous Crime, and I have heard that Canadian publishers are cutting back on their lists of new releases. But what can anyone do, other than to keep writing the best books they can and keep promoting them? I, for one, am not about to cut down on my reading.

Do you have advice for fledgling writers?

Read! If you want to write, you have to read. And read a lot. You need to know what’s out there, and what’s being written now. I believe that reading is the best way of sharpening your own skills–when reading any writer naturally falls into the rhythm of saying ‘what makes this work’ or ‘why is this scene just not right.”

What’s your writing schedule like?

I am in the highly fortunate position of not having a day job. I took early retirement in 2007. But I was working full time as a systems analyst for a bank when I began my writing career, and I am the single mother of three daughters to boot. It isn’t easy, but you have to find the time when you can. My advice to anyone who simply doesn’t have the time, is to wait. Make notes on what you want to do, keep it in your mind, read the sort of books you want to write in the snatches of time you do have, and wait. Your time will come.

11 comments:

Sheila Dalton said...

Hi, Vicki
I was wondering at what time in your life you felt most distracted from writing? Were there "dry times" when you didn't want to write at all?

Vicki Delany said...

Dry times. Love that phrase. I guess I've had plenty of dry times. Busy with work, kids, life. There was a time I wrote for about 2 hours on a Sunday afternoon. All the time I had to spare. I tell new writers - keep reading, write when you can, your time will come. That's about finding time. But when I simply didn't want to write? Hasn't happened. Yet.

Shirley Bailey said...

Thank you Jean for featuring Vicki's interview. I love her books and can't wait for Negative Image to be available.

Jean Henry Mead said...

You're very welcome, Shirley. I'm pleased to feature Vicki's interview and was fortunate to read an advance copy of Negative Image, which I enjoyed. I'm sure you will too.

Morgan Mandel said...

I'm making do now and looking forward to when I can write full time, but it probably won't happen for a few years.

I've seen some tough female police officers, so it probably would depend on the individual personality as to whether or not prejudice can be overcome.

Morgan Mandel
http://makeminemystery.blogspot.com

Vicki Delany said...

Morgan, I've met some pretty tough women cops too. They don't take nothing from nobody. I suspect the job is somewhat self-selecting. If you can't defend yourself why would anyone want to be a police officer (or pass the training)?

jenny milchman said...

Nice to meet you here, Vicki! I love Canadian crime fiction--my favorite recent discovery was Nadine Doolittle. I look forward to checking out your work.

Vicki Delany said...

I am running a contest to win an ARC of Negative Image. Details on my web page, www.vickidelany.com.

Bill Kirton said...

It's great how you tease out the writer's personalities as well as their thoughts on the writing business, Jean. Nice, honest interview, Vicki.

Other Lisa said...

As usual, a fine interview on Mysterious Writers!

Thanks for introducing me to a new author. I'm a big fan of British mysteries as well as American mysteries, so this sounds like a series I would enjoy.

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