Monday, March 31, 2014

March Monday Interview with British Columbia author Deryn Collier.

Photo by Laura Wilby
This month I’ve moved from Ontario to the mountains of Nelson, British Columbia to chat with Deryn Collier.
Liz and I had the good fortune to meet Deryn at the Bloody Words conference the year she launched her debut novel Confined Space.

 In 2010 Confined Space was shortlisted for an Arthur Ellis Award for best unpublished first crime novel by Crime Writers of Canada. In 2013 it was shortlisted for an Arthur Ellis Award again – this time in the Best First Novel category.  

The Toronto Star “ intelligently conceived, suspenseful, and elegantly written story”

Today we welcome to Jamie Tremain’s blog Deryn Collier
Liz and I have been fans since the first go and are eagerly awaiting her latest mystery novel featuring coroner and wanna be gardener Bern Fortin.  The publication date for Open Secrets is April 8th, 2014.

Deryn Collier wonderfully captures the alternating tranquility and turbulence of small-town life. OPEN SECRET is a riveting page-turner from a talented new voice.
Kathy Reichs

"Open Secret boasts a nifty plot and, in Coroner Fortin, a fascinating protagonist who will likely be around for a long time. Deryn Collier is a talent to watch." -
Giles Blunt

Wonderful reviews. I love this cover. Is it party time? How are you celebrating the launch next month of OPEN SECRET

I love the cover too!
I just came back from two incredible events with Craig Davidson (aka Nick Cutter) and Andrew Pyper in Calgary and Vancouver, organized by our publisher Simon & Schuster Canada. So celebrations for OPEN SECRET started early!
There are also two launches planned in BC – one in Nelson on April 11, and one in Creston (a.k.a. Kootenay Landing) on April 16th.

Your bio indicates you have tried different careers before settling down to writing. A stint in a brewery, work in a log yard and a federal bureaucrat to name a few. How much have those jobs influenced your writing?

They say that a kid today will have seven different careers in his or her lifetime. I like to think I was ahead of the curve on this one! And yes, all of my jobs make cameo appearances in my books in various ways. The most obvious was my brewery job – much of CONFINED SPACE took place inside a brewery. When I worked for the federal government I spent two years reading military documents (all day, every day), which gives me the confidence to write from Bern’s point of view as a retired soldier.
One place I’ve never worked though is a marijuana grow op. The grow op scenes in OPEN SECRET all come from research and my imagination.

Confined Space captured me right from the start and I liked the character of Bern Fortin. I’m glad he’s back in your new book - Open Secret.   When originally creating Bern Fortin, did you draw inspiration from someone you know, or know of?   How much time did you devote to developing his character before crafting the story, or did you learn about him as you wrote?

There’s an essence to Bern that hasn’t changed since the very first scene I wrote in his point of view, back in the early drafts of CONFINED SPACE. But he definitely evolved over many drafts to become the man he is now. (I’d say character, but many of my readers insist that he is a real man.) And he’s still evolving.
I’m sorry to say I’ve never met anyone like him. I really did make him up.

You and your family moved from Montreal to the mountains of British Columbia. Culture shock? Did it take you long to adapt to what I imagine was a very different way of life?

I moved to the mountains of BC to join my husband here, after we met at McGill. He was born and raised in BC, and our children were born here, so the culture shock is mine alone. And yes, I still feel it after all these years. I do think it’s what drives me to write about this part of the world. It’s different in every way from the places I grew up: east to west, urban to rural, liberal to conservative. I’m always aware of the differences in my day to day and I explore them in my writing.

On your website, you said goodbye to blogging in September of last year - are you still happy with this decision?   You mentioned that you started the blog as a means to build an internet presence - to build your brand.  When did you feel that you had succeeded in building a presence?

When I first started out, blogging was a way to get me name out there as a writer. A place where future readers could connect with me and learn about the books I hoped they could read some day. It definitely worked for that. But at a certain point I believe my books need to do the talking. Now I connect with readers and other writers through Facebook and Twitter. If I’ve got something on my mind, I save it for the story and let my characters sort it out. That allows me to focus on my writing and I’m very happy with that decision.

With travelling, promotion, social media and all the others distractions how do you find time to write? Not to mention all the demands of young children.

I’ve become very good at saying no. In fact, one of my very last blog posts was called ‘How to Say No’. 
In my five years of blogging, it’s been the most popular post by far.
Even now with two books published, I have to be fiercely protective of my writing time, otherwise it just gets swallowed up. I hardly ever answer the phone. I disconnect the internet when I’m writing. I’m very selective about volunteer work. I can go weeks without socializing. I know all of this drives some people in my life crazy.
A friend of mine has this great expression: “I’m not here to collect gold stars.” As girls we are taught from a young age to please others first. I’ve had to unlearn this, and it has not been easy. But if I worried about making other people happy all the time, I would never write a word.

We’ve been the fortunate recipients of your timely and welcome advice for our writing.  Do you have any words of wisdom to share with fledgling authors?


Three things:
  •       Do it now. It never gets easier to find the time.
  •       Give yourself permission to write badly. We all know how to type, but typing is not the same as writing. You need to practice, explore and make plenty of mistakes.
  •       If you are going to improve, you need to listen to and learn from feedback, even when it is hard to hear.
Your writing is suspenseful and so insightful of the human psyche. Was psychology a favourite subject in University or do you just use common sense like the rest of us?

Thanks for that compliment! I have read some psychology, but not a lot. There is one book that has always stuck with me - Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. I’ve always been fascinated by the idea that people have the ability to choose their thoughts; that even in the most adverse conditions, our minds are free. It’s an essential idea that I explore from the experiences of different characters in my books.

Liz and I enjoy the collaborative style of writing. Is this something you’ve considered?

I don’t think I could share Bern with another writer. Just the idea of him letting someone else inside his head really isn’t sitting well with me. But I have a friend who writes collaboratively and she spends half the year in Baja, so I’m thinking there is something to this idea! Maybe someday, if I worked on a different project or series.

Thanks Deryn for your insights. Liz and I look forward to many more adventures with Bern Fortin. All the best with the launch of ‘OPEN SECRETS’.

 Photo:Natalie Santano

Deryn Collier is the author of Confined Space, which was shortlisted for the Arthur Ellis Award for best first crime novel. Originally from Montreal, she is a graduate of McGill University. After a short career as a federal bureaucrat she ran away to the mountains of British Columbia where she has been ever since. She has worked in a log yard, a brewery, as a doctor recruiter and a communications consultant.
Deryn lives in Nelson, BC with her family and welcomes visitors to her website 

Next month - Lorie Lee Steiner     
Lori lee is a freelance writer, photographer and fanatic about old houses. Check back on April 28th to read about this many faceted woman.

Talk soon,
Pam and Liz

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