Monday, February 24, 2014

Monday Interview with #1 Internationally Acclaimed Thriller Writer Linwood Barclay

It gives me great pleasure to welcome, award winning author Linwood Barclay to Jamie Tremain’s blog. I have long been a fan from his days as a humour columnist with the Toronto Star. I faithfully followed the exploits of his wife Neetha and their two children. He is also an Oakville neighbour. No, no, he doesn’t pick me up in his Porsche and take me for coffee to discuss all things literary, but it’s nice to have such good company in the neighbourhood. Sit back and enjoy reading about a master of the thriller genre.
Welcome and thanks for being here. Congratulations on winning the CBC’s bookie award for best Canadian Thriller A TAP ON THE WINDOW. What do these awards mean to you?
It’s always a treat to get some recognition for your work from readers and/or colleagues. You can be desperate to win an award, and miserable when you don’t get it, but aside from maybe the Booker or the Giller, I’m not convinced winning an award sells you one extra book. But they’re nice.    
 A TAP ON THE WINDOW is by far your best. The circumstances your protagonist gets himself involved in would be the worst nightmare for most folks. Do any of the events happening in your books have a true element? Have you ever found yourself in a similar situation of picking up a teenage hitch hiker?
No, nothing like that has happened to me. On occasion, a plot element in one of my books may be inspired by something that has actually happened in the news. But I give it enough of a twist that it probably won’t be recognizable.
What is a normal writing day for you?
When I am in the thick of writing a novel, which I am now, I tend to get to work by nine, and go until about two or three, or until I have at least 2,000 words, whichever comes first. But there’s a lot of getting up and wandering around and getting coffee and maybe going to the basement to play pool for ten minutes. I don’t like sitting at the computer for too long without a break.

Pam: Praise for Trust your Eyes
“Riveting, frequently scary, occasionally funny, and surprisingly, wonderfully tender. I could believe this happening to people living two streets over from me. Great entertainment from a suspense master.” -StephenKing
TRUST YOUR EYES came out in 2012 and had a technology theme. Without giving away any of the plot, its undertone of where we might be headed with technology is fascinating .i.e. the program  Is technology your thing, and if so what is your favourite device?

I like gadgets, but I’m not a real techie. I still need help to update my website, and I still have no idea what Instagram is, but I’ve embraced Facebook and Twitter (LOVE Twitter) and also use them as promotional tools. I like thinking about how these new social networks, and things like Google Street View, can be employed in modern crime fiction. As for my favorite device, I think it would be our MacAir, a super light laptop. Although my iPhone is surgically attached to my hand, for checking emails and playing Scrabble.
 Is there a topic you would never write about? If so, why?
A critical analysis of the novels of Jane Austen is probably beyond me. I did a stint at Trent University recently as writer-in-residence and was asked if I’d like to do something different, like academic writing. “That’s where you’re looking at the really big movie options,” I said. I think there are plenty of topics I’d avoid for lack of interest. But if something came up in a book I was writing that some might find unpleasant, I don’t know that I’d say, well, I can’t write about that. 
Do you have a work in progress? Can you give us a clue?
The book that will come out in August, No Safe House, is all done and put to bed. It’s a sequel to No Time for Goodbye, a big hit for me a few years ago. And right now I am writing the book that will come out in August, 2015, the first in a trilogy about my mythical Promise Falls.
You have a big following in the UK and other parts of the globe. Would you say, although your books are situated in the US, that the genre is universal?
Absolutely. Take the aforementioned No Time for Goodbye. That book has done probably a couple of million copies around the globe. It taps into the fear of being abandoned by your family, and that’s a pretty universal fear.
You were recently honoured by the Royal York Hotel. They named a cocktail after you. Linwood Barclay’s Negroni! Tequila, Campari and sweet vermouth, with a grapefruit twist. You were certainly in good company. Margaret Atwood, Robertson Davies to mention a few. Have you tried it yet or do you prefer a beer?
I’m more of a white wine guy, if anything. When I heard about the drink, my wife Neetha and I dropped by to try it. The manager of the Library Bar is a very nice, and well read, guy. He treated us to the drink and it may not be the best metaphor for one of my books because I wasn’t quite able to finish it. But it was a lot of fun. I’ve never been much of a drinker. My idea of living on the edge is a Mike’s Hard Lemonade. 

TOO CLOSE TO HOME won the Arthur Ellis award for Best Novel in 2009. Give us your thoughts on conferences, book tours and all the social networking authors are expected to do.
They’re fun, and they’re exhausting. As publishers’ promotional budgets have shrunk, there’s been more pressure on authors to tweet, and post things on Facebook, to engage with readers directly. That can be effective, and the direct contact social media allows is rewarding, but it all takes time away from the writing, too. As the audience for my books has grown, there’s been greater pressure from my editors to make them even better, so I do much more rewriting than I did in the past. So I do the more important conferences, and the book tours, but beyond that I am pulling back on appearances. I have a book to write.  
Do you have a favourite author and what are you reading now?
My favourite author is Ross Macdonald, whose novels I devoured when I was young, and whom I was fortunate enough to meet and correspond with. These days, I have a great many favourites. Right now I am reading Joe Hill’s NOS4A2, and next on the pile is Wayne Johnston’s A World Elsewhere. His recent novel, The Son of a Certain Woman, was terrific.
Pam: Your life and your books are well documented. Was the switch from journalist to author an easy transition for you?
The hard part was giving up the Toronto Star dental plan. It was not a major adjustment. I wrote five novels while still doing three columns a week, so when I went to books full-time, the workload lightened. Briefly. I find now I am busier doing one book a year, and no columns, than I was eight years ago doing a book and 120 columns annually. The thing is, I was writing novels in my teens and early twenties (none of which, thank God, were published) so I’m just going back to what I was trying to do in the first place.
Liz:  In your early days as a writer were you ever given advice you didn’t follow and now regret, or vice versa?
Ross Macdonald told me my writing was “too spare,” too quick. I needed to slow it down, work in my more detail. It’s why, when I go back and rewrite, my books get longer, because I’ve skimmed over the surface a bit too much. I think I’m always in a hurry, even when I don’t need to be.
When you’re done for the day and scaring the living daylights out of us I believe you play with  trains. Tell us about this occupation? It looks more than a mere hobby.
I’ve loved model trains since my father made me a layout when I was around five years old. My layouts are slightly more ambitious now. It’s a great balance to what I do for a living. You create these entire worlds in your head, and then can unwind by heading to the basement and creating one with your hands. I go in fits and spurts working on the railway. It’s more a winter hobby, when you don’t feel like going outside. For a really good look at the layout, and why I build it, go here:
This is my standard question. Have you ever considered collaborative writing?
My experiences with it have not always been rewarding. I like to work alone. But if the right thing – and the right partner – came along, I would consider it.
Writing certainly appears to be in your blood - could you see yourself making a living following other pursuits?
Well, I have done other things. I’ve been a newspaper columnist and a reporter (still writing) and for 12 years I was an editor at the Star. And years ago, I ran a trailer park and cottage resort in the Kawarthas, which was fun at the time, but would not want to do again. I think, if this writing thing goes south, I’d like to cut grass all day with a lawn tractor. It’s one of the few jobs where you can instantly see what you have accomplished.
Thanks Linwood for letting us peek into your daily life as an author. I’m sure I would like a Linwood NEGRONI , so Liz and I will push to get our book published. When the Royal York come a-calling, with a Jamie Tremain whatever, be sure to try it out. Oh, maybe we would need more than one book published !!.

About Linwood
Linwood Barclay was born in the United States, but just as he was turning four, his parents moved to Canada, settling in a Toronto suburb. Linwood’s father, Everett, a commercial artist whose illustrations of automobiles appeared in Life, Look and The Saturday Evening Post, had accepted an advertising position north of the border.
As the major car accounts switched more to photography for their magazine advertising instead of illustrations, Linwood’s parents bought a cottage resort and trailer park in the Kawartha Lakes region of Ontario. But when Linwood was 16, his father died, and he essentially took over running the family business (an experience he wrote about in his memoir, Last Resort).
At the age of 22, Linwood left the resort and got his first newspaper job, at the Peterborough Examiner.
In 1981, he joined the Toronto Star, Canada’s largest circulation newspaper. For twelve years he held a variety of editing positions, then became the paper’s humour columnist in 1993. A few thousand columns later, he retired from the paper in 2008 to write books full-time.
After writing four comic thrillers featuring the character Zack Walker, Linwood turned to darker, standalone novels, starting with No Time for Goodbye, which became an international hit. The novel has been translated into nearly forty languages, was the single bestselling novel in the UK in 2008. Since then, all of Linwood’s novels have appeared on bestseller lists, and two of them – Trust Your Eyes and Never Look Away – are in development for film and TV.
Linwood studied English Literature at Trent University. He was fortunate to have some very fine mentors; in particular, the celebrated Canadian author Margaret Laurence, whom Linwood first met while she was serving as writer-in-residence at Trent, and Kenneth Millar, who, under the name Ross Macdonald, wrote the acclaimed series of mystery novels featuring the private eye Lew Archer.
It was at Trent where he met his wife Neetha. They have been married more than thirty years, and have two children, Spencer and Paige.
International Thriller Writers
For readers in Canada, here are several ways you can find my books.

Next month I’m off to Nelson, British Columbia to have a word with author Deryn Collier. Her debut novel Confined Space was a winner. Check back here March 31st to find out what her main guy Bern Fortin confronts in her new book Open Secret that launches April 8th 2014.
Photo by Laura Wilby

Talk soon,
Pam and Liz

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Ground Hog Day....

….is tomorrow.   Does it really matter?  To those of us who are winter-weary, I say we’ll be lucky if all we do get is another 6 weeks of winter! The litany of suffering from this winter season is as endless as the days of snow we’re enduring.  Perhaps we’ve just become accustomed to much milder and drier seasons over the past decade or so.  In fact these past two months are typical of childhood remembrances.  Snowbanks at the end of driveways that were fort-worthy.  Day after day of bulky coats, snow pants and boots.  To this day, the smell of wet wool conjours up boots drying over heating vents and sodden mittens laid out on top of the hot water heater.  Oh and dare I say it, but in those days winter was fun.

As I type the snow continues to fall and squirrels are hunkered in branches of trees outside my window.  At least the grip of bone chilling cold has lessened.  For small things we can be most thankful!

                See how well the grey squirrel blends in on a sunless wintry day

But one thing this hibernation-worthy weather is good for is writing!  Pam and I have been enjoying developing new characters for our latest story.  I recently found a template online to help with character building and we’re using it to good measure.  Really helps us get to know our characters and what makes them tick.  Funnily enough we’ve even found that characters originally created as likeable have become thoroughly distasteful – and we’re excited about that.

Google docs is such a wonderful tool for us and has helped simplify our collaboration because we can work in real time and chat as we go along.  The next best thing to a face to face session.  And that’s scheduled for next Saturday – weather permitting of course.

We’ve booked our hotel room and sent off the registration for Bloody Words 2014 and are excited to be going once again.  Surely by the beginning of June our weather will be more appealing?  

I hope you’ve been enjoying the interviews Pam posts – is there an author you’d like to hear from – or a question you have?  Let us know and we’ll do our best to accommodate you.

On a side note, today I saw a post on FaceBook which I’d like to share.  Truer words were never spoken, and while its probably an old adage, with today’s internet exposure, these words take on a new meaning.  Once spoken, words can never be reclaimed and who hasn’t suffered the sting of a cruel word, intentional or otherwise?   But once in print, the damage can be even more far reaching and lasting.  So……
Before You Speak – THINK
T – is it   True
H – is it  Helpful
I –  is it  Inspiring
N – is it  Necessary
K – is it   Kind

Here’s to warmer week and hey, spring is now only 48 days away!

Cheers!  (and good luck tomorrow Mr. Ground hog)


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