February, the Month of Love and Romance.
Two years ago this month, Jamie Tremain added author interviews to the blog. Our first victim was Alison Bruce. We learned of a busy life juggling her writing, editing, and her work as a graphic artist and a demanding role as the administrator of the Arthur Ellis Awards. Oh, she also manages to make it to the corner for her stint as a crossing guard, even inthis sub-zero weather. Add two teenagers to the pot and you get the drift. Oops, I nearly forgot her job as Publication Manager for CWC. Crime Writers of Canada http://crimewriterscanada.com/
Welcome back Alison.
It goes without saying, you are one busy lady. Your books have featured westerns, civil war angst, romance, and modern day cops. Now you’re taking on the spy game. Is there one setting for a story you prefer over others?
I enjoy starting with a safe and familiar setting then upsetting it somehow. Home is safe or should be. Finding a dead body in your living room would definitely upset that.
Hitchcock was a master of making the familiar frightening. For instance, to this day I can’t see birds perched on a wire without thinking about Hitchcock’s The Birds.
There is a very important young man in your life who participates in Sea Cadets - another man in uniform! Any connection to your latest book?
That’s a harder question to answer than you might think. In some ways, I encouraged both my children to join cadets partly because of my fascination with the military and especially because it had worked out so well for my cousins’ sons. (My second cousin, Clayton Van Welter, went from Sea Cadet to the Merchant Marine and is now Captain of one of the world’s largest luxury cruisers.)
Because my son joined Sea Cadets, I decided to have my heroine’s children join cadets.
You use humour in your writing and blogs. How important is humour to you?
Humour is essential. Some days, I think it’s the only thing that keeps me from taking a long walk off a short pier. Or, as Mel Brooks put it: “Humor is just another defence against the universe.”
What is the best medicine? Laughter.
What is the best way to criticize the powers that be? Comedy. (Just ask a court jester or a modern equivalent, the political cartoonist.)
How do you keep up the spirits of your terminally ill sister and aging father? How do you make the embarrassing things you have to do for them less awkward? Make ‘em laugh. I figure if I can find the humour in those situations, Pru Hartley can find the humour in having her life invaded by spies and spy-catchers.
Do you have a preference? Writing in a woman's voice/point of view or a man's?
Given my track record, I’d have to say my preference is for a woman’s point of view. My first person narrators are generally a woman. In third person, I don’t mind writing in a male voice. I know how men act and speak. However, it feels a bit presumptuous to describe how they think or feel, not being a man myself. I feel the same way about writing about characters of different cultures. I can research history and customs, but I wouldn’t presume to know what it feels like to be an Amerindian, Muslim, Buddhist or Chinese woman, let alone a man.
Do you outline and plot your story, or write by the seat of your pants?
I usually start out seat of the pants. That’s how I get acquainted with my characters and setting. It breaks the ice. Then I start plotting. This is where my business writing comes in handy.
I see my characters as stakeholders in the story. Each of them has goals they wish to achieve. Some of those goals are in line with those of the hero some aren’t. Some of the goals are crucial to the character, some aren’t. Each one will try to get what they want – everything they want if possible.
I know the beginning and the end of the story (most of the time) so I know who is going to achieve what goals and what consequences are necessary. I can see what conflict is naturally occurring and look for places to enhance it.
Then I go back to the seat of the pants writing. I know what route I’m taking, but I’m not sure what detours or shortcuts I might use.
Romantic Suspense. Are you a romantic?
Depends on who you ask. My ex might have a different answer than my readers.
Romance is secondary to me… like spice is secondary to a dish. The meat (or meat equivalent) and vegetables are the most important part of the dish, but spices bring out the flavour of the ingredients as well as adding their own. That’s what romance – and humour for that matter – do in my books. They enhance the suspense, mystery or historical dish. How I had them is what sets my stories apart from other authors, and vice versa.
It's a snow day - you've nowhere to go, publishing deadlines have been met, housework is all caught up (yes, this is all hypothetical) - which means you can finally curl up with a coffee and start to read that one book you've been wanting to delve into - what is it?
One book? You’ve got to be crazy!
Often I have a book waiting for me to have time to enjoy it, or at I’ve been meaning to read. I also have a couple of books I’d love to delve into except, they aren’t available at the library and they cost over a hundred dollars to buy. If you add that budget is no issue to this hypothetical question, I’d be curling up with Practical Homicide Investigation: Tactics, Procedures, and Forensic Techniques.
Since we last spoke we've seen many changes in the publishing world. More online/self-publishing makes it harder to source an agent and be published the traditional way.
What is your take on this and how has this affected how you go about having your books published?
I have a great deal of respect for the people who go about self-publishing in a professional manner. By this, I mean that they take on the tasks the publisher usually takes care of like hiring a good editor, producing a professional looking cover, and making sure the book is laid out properly for print and eBook. Not everyone who self-publishes does that.
I’ve been a publisher (briefly, back before eBooks). I’d rather have a traditional publisher. In fact, I really rather have a publisher who did all the advertising, set up promotions and made sure my books were displayed prominently in bookstores. Those days are past unless you’re Linwood Barclay, Louise Penny, or a handful of other Canadian crime writers. I’m not sure even they get away without spending time on self-promotion.
Jamie: You collaborated with Kat Flannery in your novel Hazardous Unions. Did you enjoy that experience and will you try it again?
I really enjoyed working with Kat. I would collaborate again. Melodie Campbell, author of The Goddaughter series and Lands End Trilogy, and I often talk about it.
Do you find your books sell better when you combine your offering with other authors?
I don’t know. One of the downsides to being with a traditional publisher is that you don’t always know what’s working until the next quarter. You don’t get sales figures directly from Amazon. Deadly Dozen has done well. Sweet & Sensual I’ll find out about later.
These aren’t my only anthologies, however. I have pieces in Canadian Voices Volumes 1 and 2 and a western historical romance short in Rawhide ‘n’ Roses.
The possibilities are endless with men in uniforms, especially with a great character such as Pru. Will she feature in all the books and when will the next one be available?
Pru won’t be featured, but she may make an appearance in future books. She knows the men in uniform who may be finding their own women in need… or maybe the women they need.
Alison Bruce has had many careers and writing has always been one of them. Copywriter, editor and graphic designer since 1992, Alison has also been a comic book store manager, small press publisher, webmaster and arithmetically challenged bookkeeper. She is the author of mystery, romantic suspense and historical western novels
“...a plot worthy of a seasoned crime writer” Don Graves, Canadian Mystery Review
“This is a fun read and Bruce is a talented storyteller” Melodie Campbell, author of The Goddaughter series
"Alison Bruce is back again with another delightful read" Rosemary McCracken, author of the Pat Tierny mysteries
Suddenly Pru's problems become a tad more complicated and a lot more dangerous. When a federal agent named David Merrick shows up and whisks her and her kids into protective custody, Pru has so many questions running through her brain she doesn't know where to begin.
How is she going to keep her kids safe? What was the dead spy looking for in her house? Why are they after her now? Oh and there's one more question . . . just a pesky, minor thing. Why does Merrick have to be so damn sexy and protective?
· Lachesis Publishing Inc http://lachesispublishing.com/?product=a-bodyguard-to-remember-by-alison-bruce
· Chapters/Indigo Online
We hope you've enjoyed Alison's interview. Check back next month to read about Elizabeth Duncans latest book in the Penny Brannigan series.
lastest in the Penny brannigan series.