Private Investigator, amateur sleuths, police procedural and hard nose detectives along with forensic anthropologists are just a few of the genres that make up the crime/mystery fiction we all love.
Today I want to introduce you to Anthony Bidulka the Saskatchewan author of eight books in the PI Russell Quant series and now a new thriller/suspense series featuring disaster recovery agent Adam Saint.
Welcome Anthony to Jamie Tremain’s Blog. Congratulations on your new book, “When the Saints Go Marching In” featuring Adam Saint as a Disaster Recovery Agent.
Thanks, Pam. And thanks for inviting me to your blog!
Why the switch to a new series? Can you give a short summary of the new book and what a disaster recovery agent does?
Every so often it’s nice to change things up, stretch your artistic wings and see where they take you. As you know, Pam, before becoming a full time writer I have had careers in teaching, bar-tending, selling shoes and accounting. So I guess making changes comes naturally to me. It’s exciting and damn scary at the same time.
Another aspect of this is that with writing a series the question is always in the back of the author’s head (or should be): when is the right time to end it? The correct answer may be never, or it might be three books ago! I haven’t decided whether the Russell Quant series is done, but the character is certainly on hiatus while I work on developing and establishing Adam Saint.
Speaking of which, you asked what a disaster recovery agent does. Adam Saint is an agent with the Canadian Disaster Recovery Agency (CDRA). Whenever there is a disaster of any kind—man-made or natural—anywhere in the world and Canadians are involved, the CDRA sends in an agent to look after the needs of the Canadians. This could mean anything from recovering bodies and getting them back home to loved ones to liaising with local authorities to ensure the safety of people in disaster situations.
Your readers have travelled the world with Russell Quant and now vicariously with Adam Saint. You, yourself travel a good part of the year but I get the feeling that home and family is where the heart is? Do you miss home when you are on the road and travelling, and when you are home for a while do you itch to get away again?
You have it exactly right. And I wouldn’t want to have it any other way. I think the sign of a great home life is yearning to get back to it even when you’re riding an elephant in India or smoking sheesha in Saudi Arabia. At the same time, having wanderlust is simply me being fascinated with the world, different cultures, different foods and drink. Sometimes it’s nothing more than the scents of a market place or how the wind blows that makes a place memorable for me. My mother goes on about how she thinks I’ve been pretty much everywhere there is to go. Whereas I worry I’m going to run out of time to get everyplace I want to go.
With travel I like to try new places and go back to old familiar haunts I enjoy adventurous trips like my upcoming trek down the Amazon next month and finding a nice beach to do nothing but eat, drink and be merry in the sun. I also travel for work, going to conferences, doing book tours, attending literary events. Then of course I’m equally interested in spending time in my own city and my own house and my own back yard, all of which I dearly love. Sometimes there is absolutely nothing better than going for a walk with the dogs in the back yard.
Is travelling essential for your research or an excuse to be on the road?
Travel is essential to my writing. I think when you read either of my series it becomes apparent that travel is a big part of what I write about. Not so much in a travelogue kind of way, but rather as an added spice, an atmospheric kind of thing. With Russell Quant the travel aspect was more about me being interested in investigating that contrast between having a Canadian prairie private eye who lives in Saskatoon but who happens to end up having adventures in exotic locations around the world. What I hoped to communicate was that although there may be great differences between where you (a reader) live and places like Hawaii, the Middle East, France, there are a great many similarities as well, and neither place is necessarily better or more interesting than the other.
With the Saint books, travel plays a different role. Unlike with Quant, travelling the world is a fundamental part of what Adam Saint does. Quant is a reluctant traveller, whereas Saint is a man-of-the-world adventurer.
And with all the travelling, when do you schedule your writing? Do you have a specific routine you follow?
Yes. I love to be home most specifically in the summer months. Hmmmm…wonder why? To be fair, I love seasons. So I do love winter, spring and fall too. But with winter it’s just nice to get away now and then. That being said, I usually know that I can count on being home for three to four months in a row come summertime. So that is when I do the majority of the heavy lifting in terms of writing, draft one type of stuff. The balance of the year, when my time may be a little more disjointed in terms of uninterrupted time at my desk, will be spent in editing, research, planning and marketing pursuits.
You were one of the first authors I met at the Bloody Words conference in Ottawa /2009. Liz and I were welcomed into what feels like a great family who really enjoy each other’s success. How important is going to conferences and attending launches and readings at libraries- book clubs etc?
I believe it is very important. Whenever people ask me what advice I give new writers, getting involved in the community of writers is always one of the first things I say. That community can be local, provincial, national and international. I have sat on boards and committees and attended ‘writerly’ events at each of those levels and every one of those experiences gave me so much in return. Not only do you learn things about what it means to be a writer, but just to be surrounded by like people is a very powerful thing.
I’m sure you have a work in progress. Can you give us a peek into what that is?
Indeed. I’m grateful and thrilled to say that ‘When The Saints Go Marching In’ was a successful first foray into the world of Adam Saint. So I am currently nearing the end of editing draft two of what will be the second book in the series. We’ve just settled on a working title: “The Women of Skawa Island”.
I’m very excited about this book. Some say the second book in a series is the most important, when you can really judge the strength of a series. The author is by now very familiar with the returning characters and has had time to really figure out the prevailing atmosphere and rhythm of the writing and where he or she wants to go with the long term story line. I think that was true with the Quant series (book two, Flight of Aquavit, won a Lambda Literary Award), and I do feel a real confidence going into this book. So much of a first book is about setting the stage, groundwork in terms of character and sense of place, getting your voice right.
Who inspires you with their writing and do you have a favourite author?
There are too many names on that list to write here. But I will say this, when choosing what to read when I am in the midst of doing my own writing, I always “read above me”. Books by writers who I feel are so much better than I am. They inspire me. They make me better.
Who was your model for Adam Saint?
Interesting. I guess the fact that I have no answer kind of is the answer. There was no model. There is no such thing as a disaster recovery agent in the real world. I created him from scratch based on a couple of years of tossing the idea around in my head. Since ‘When The Saints Go Marching In” was released, invariably at reading events someone will say to me something like: “I didn’t even know the CDRA existed”. I love that, because it means two things. One, the world I created for Adam Saint is believable, and two, the CDRA makes sense.
If life had turned out differently and you weren’t a best-selling author, where do you think you’d be today?
Oh wow, another interesting question. I don’t think I’ve been asked this before. Hmmm. Well, as I mentioned earlier, immediately prior to becoming a writer I had a decade long career as a Chartered Accountant, specializing mostly in corporate audit. But you know, even if I hadn’t been successful with writing, I don’t think I’d have gone back to that career. I was done with that. I was good at that job, but not in love with it. I suppose I would have either started from scratch again, maybe gone back to school and trained for something new or perhaps tried my hand at something fun like running a greenhouse or restaurant.
When did you begin to feel that you had found success as an author? After the first book – or later?
As far as the traditional sense of success, along the lines of what I said earlier, things really started to happen with book number two. “Flight of Aquavit” won the Lammy. The award really helped bring attention to the series, particularly in the American market. Even just being nominated for an award is a really good thing. That is another piece of advice I give new writers: make sure your publisher/publicist is submitting your work for whatever awards it might be eligible for.
In a non-traditional sense, I feel I had success as a writer the very first day when I got up in the morning and all I had to do was write. That was astounding, blindingly-exciting, thrilling success in so many ways. I have built my career as a writer by identifying goals—some big, some small, oftentimes many at the same time—and when I accomplished one, I always remember to celebrate it. Then I move on to the next. Success is important. It’s human nature to want to succeed. Being a writer can be a tough, challenging life that may include public and private rejection and failure. So I believe it is imperative, in order to survive and thrive, to build in plenty of opportunities to succeed. Recognize it. Celebrate it. Repeat.
This is my standard question. Have you ever thought about collaborating on a novel as Liz and I do?
I very much admire what you and Liz do together. I’m sure in many ways what you do is exceedingly more challenging and difficult than what I do. I’m sure there are pros and cons to both. But no, I have not considered collaborating on a novel. I never say never, so who knows? But I am quite in love with the process I have, with the sometimes solitary world of being a writer. I write at home. Alone. Quiet. No radio or TV or music playing. I rarely answer the phone if I’m in serious writing mode. I tend to be distracted even when I’m with people during that all important draft one phase. And I love every bit of it. If it ain’t broke, why fix it? Then again, as I talked about at the beginning of this interview, I do like change…so maybe…hey…you and Liz need company on your next book? J
Your website is a joy to read and very interesting. You show your twitter feed on the home page so being connected on social media appears to be important to you? www.anthonybidulka.com/
Yes. Together with my webmaster, we work hard to make my website a good place to visit, user-friendly, informative, some fun stuff to look at, so I appreciate your comment about it being a joy to read.
Initially I resisted social media. I had my website. That was enough. But eventually the writing seemed to be on the wall. It was becoming very clear social media was here to stay, and it was powerful. It was my editor who suggested I give Facebook a try. At first I saw social media as solely being “social” and I didn’t have the time for or need any more social outlets. But I am always interested in marketing ideas. So I agreed to a trial run. I would put the same strong effort into Facebook as I had the website (no use in doing anything halfway).
Within a very short period of time I had my proof. On book tour I found that at nearly every event there were people in attendance who were there because they heard about it via Facebook. That was enough for me. Eventually I added Twitter and Goodreads to my marketing toolbox. Some time ago I wrote an article on marketing. In it I talk about how the proliferation of social media and a writer’s involvement in it can cause it to become a serious time sucker. Before you know it half your morning is gone, and all you’ve done is attended to social media. Not good. For me, I think the answer is to choose a handful of social media outlets and excel at them. Instead of doing a million thing badly, do a few exceptionally well.
Thanks Anthony for sharing your life and your books with us. Hope to see you at Bloody Words next June.
Thanks for this. I really enjoyed it. And DRAT! I will have to miss Bloody Words in 2014. Yes, you know it. Travelling. Ireland this time. Never been. But I will admit I am very sad to be missing Bloody Words and seeing you and so many other great crime writer and reader friends. High hopes for 2015!
Pam: Sorry you will not be coming to Toronto next year. I think Scotland should be in your plans as I think wearing a kilt would be just your style. Not sure if they have a Bidulka tartan though!
Anthony Bidulka has enjoyed time well-spent and misspent in the worlds of academia,
accounting, footwear, food services and farming. In 1999 Anthony Bidulka, BA, BEd, BComm,
CA left a decade long career as a Chartered Accountant to pursue writing.
Bidulka’s Russell Quant mystery series has been nominated for Crime Writers of Canada Arthur
Ellis Awards, Saskatchewan Book Awards, a ReLit award, Lambda Literary Awards, with Flight
of Aquavit awarded the Lambda Literary Award for Best Men’s Mystery, making Bidulka the
first Canadian to win in that category.
In 2012, Bidulka began a second series, following the adventures of man of action Adam Saint, a
tough-as-nails, luxury loving, Disaster Recovery Agent.
Like his protagonists, Anthony lives a big life in a small city on the Canadian prairie. He also
loves to travel—meeting people, sampling food and wine, walking sun-drenched streets, making
good use of swim-up bars, and being awed by the world.
He lives in Saskatoon where he is at work on his next novel.
We hope you enjoyed this interview with Anthony Bidulka. Check back on 18th of November as Ottawa author C.B. Forrest has agreed to shake up a few skeletons in his closet.