Call of jury duty

Reported for jury duty last week. An interesting experience, but one I won’t have to repeat for another three years.

Here’s how it went. Required to be at the downtown courthouse on University Avenue, Toronto, at 8:30 a.m.. This meant getting up about 6:30 a.m. –- an early start for the first day of my ‘retirement’. Everyone entering the courthouse is screened, airport style, and signs are posted inside advising that sharp objects and prohibited weapons are banned.

This is a large courthouse. Five floors of courtrooms. There’s a whole lot of criminal justice going on here.

About 500 potential jurors gather in a large, comfortable room complete with its own coffee shop, wifi, tables, study carrels, and jigsaw puzzles. We sit down and wait. Before long we realize it’s all about waiting.

The juror wranglers have an intricate system of keeping  track of everyone: colour-coded teams, attendance sheets, leave your summons here if you leave the room.

A video from the 1980s on the important rule of jurors in the legal system is shown and then a fellow gives us a presentation on what to expect and the rules we must follow. He does this every Monday to the new recruits.


We wait to be called and eventually about ninety of us on the green team are summoned to a courtroom for jury selection. We rise when the judge enters and he begins by explaining the importance of the juror in the trial system. After the defendant is arraigned on two counts of sexual assault and a not guilty plea entered, jury selection begins.

Numbers are drawn we line up in groups of about 30. We are divided into three groups and one group at a time is questioned by the lawyers for the defence and the Crown. I was in the last group, and by the time they got to us, the day was over and we were told to go home.

The next morning we waited in another courtroom for a couple of hours but finally word came that the trial was underway and our services would not be required. By then it was lunchtime.

We were called again in the afternoon to another sexual assault trial. As it was expected to take five days and I have a speaking engagement next week, I was excused.

Outside each courtroom lists are posted of the cases to be tried. The charges are eye watering: attempted murder, fraud, concealed weapons, disguise with intent, sexual assault. The names of the accused testify to the multicultural nature of this city. Court officials in their dark robes and white ties swish along the corridors. The judges’ robes, with red sash and crest, are rather splendid and add to the atmosphere of judicial theatre.

By Wednesday after lunch, when our numbers were considerably thinned out, those of us who remained were told there would be no more juries this week and we were free to go.

My short time in the courthouse inspired me to do things: go back next summer and sit in on a trial and read a courtroom thriller.

Any recommendations?

Top 10 things not to say to an author

10. I read 50 Shades of Grey. Is your book anything like that?

9. So, when are you going to give up your day job?

8. Are they going to make a movie out of your book?

7. I don’t buy books. They’re too expensive.

6. How long does it take to write one of your little stories?

5. You should set your story in my town/workplace/back yard

4. How big is your advance?

3. Will you name a character after me/my mother/my boy friend?

2. How can I get published?

1. I could do that if I had the time.

Talking to … Erika Chase

Today, we’re talking to Erika Chase, aka Linda Wiken, who is basking in the success of her recently published first novel, A Killer Read, An Ashton Corners Book Club Mystery, published by Berkley Prime Crime.

Erika Chase

Erika, where do you live and why do you choose to live there?

I live in Ottawa and I love it! It’s the perfect sized city – lots of green space, two rivers, wonderful variety of restaurants and shopping, even night life if I could stay awake that late! It’s also a very friendly city with lots of museums, art galleries, cultural events and choirs! I think I’ll stay!

Was there a moment that changed everything when you knew you were a writer?

Don’t laugh, but it was grade 8 English. True! I kept getting top marks on essays and short stories; my English teacher, Mr. Ross, was a real go-getter and encouraging, so I tried my hand at writing a novel. Didn’t finish it, thank goodness. But the main character was a young girl, about my age, living on a horse ranch. My fantasy at that time.

What is your most memorable experience in a library or bookstore?

My first customer at my very first signing just happened to be from White Rock, B.C. This started off a long conversation about that beautiful spot (I was born and raised not far from there) and when I said I’d be in White Rock in about three weeks, we said we’d keep an eye open for each other, have fish and chips on the beach by the boardwalk. Small world!

Describe a typical day in your life when you are working on a book, that is writing, re-writing, editing, proofing.

The only thing typical about my days is the act of writing. I’ve found it’s best to get all the email, Internet and blog matters dealt with right away so I won’t get ambushed later on. It’s also a good way to wake up the writing brain.

In a previous working life, I used to wake up really early and write before my son got up for school. Then I started walking during that time period and writing at night. Now, I find I write best early afternoon…and then just keep on going until I want to stop. Or have to.

Describe your writing process. How do you get from concept to finished manuscript?

I started writing a synopsis when I began writing this book series. It was a requirement from the publisher. Before that point, I’d just write by the seat of my pants.

But I prefer this method. It gives me a clear direction and, although I often take a different route, I eventually get to the destination I’d originally planned. I find it’s a good way to get past any roadblocks, commonly called writer’s block, and I feel I already know what to expect when I start writing. It’s the surprises that keep cropping up, that keep the process fresh.

Do you listen to music while you work? If so, what type/artist/songs?

While I’m writing the Southern cosies, I like to listen to music that transports me there. The soundtrack from The Big Easy is a favourite; songs like Sweet Home Alabama will also do. I can listen to the same music over and over – it becomes background and doesn’t grow stale. For my other writing, it’s always classical music, usually baroque and instrumental. Soothes the wandering thought processes.

Share a memorable experience you had with a reader.

A Facebook friend started posting messages before my book came out as to how much she was looking forward to reading it; then that she had purchased it; then that she had read it and loved it. In addition, she’s eagerly awaiting the second book, Read & Buried, which is due in Nov., 2012. Yay, friends!

What’s the nicest thing a critic or reader has said about your work?

“I absolutely adore cozy mysteries and when it is a well written tale, I melt like marshmallows on a Scottsdale, Arizona dashboard. Kudos to Erika Chase who had succeeded in turning me into a sticky mess with every page turned. A Killer Read is another top-notch reading experience from Berkley Prime Crime. Good catch, Berkley, for scooping up this talented lass.” From

Which mystery author, living or dead, has influenced your writing the most?

For the cosies, it’s Carolyn Hart. I was hooked on her Murder on Demand series when it first came out in the mid-1980s and stayed with it for many years. I loved the setting of a mystery bookstore and the wonderful town she’d created. The mysteries were always very well-plotted, too.

Do you think writers are born or made?

It’s a combination of the two. That interest has to be there but then it takes a lot of coddling, cajoling, and just plain hard work to be a writer.

What is the most rewarding part of being an author?

The feeling of accomplishment! I love the process of writing and re-writing a book. But when you send it in to the editor, a completed masterpiece, it’s the best feeling ever.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Don’t give up. Keep sending your material out – to editors, to agents, to contests! Cultivate a critiquing group or a small number of people to read your writing and more importantly, who you trust will give you honest feedback. Always try to refine your writing skills. And most of all, hang out in bars at mystery conferences or at least be friends with someone who has a dynamite agent.

Make your pitch! Describe what happens in your latest book in two sentences.

At the first meeting of the Ashton Corners Mystery Readers and Cheese Straws Society, a stranger does a gate crash and is later found dead. It’s up to Lizzie Turner and the book club members to find the killer.

What challenges did you face writing this book?

Where to start! No, that wasn’t a challenge. I just mean, there were so many. This was a ‘work for hire’ – the editor at Berkley Prime Crime already had the idea and it was up to me to write the story, or three of them actually. Therefore, I had to embrace the characters – and their names – that she’d chosen. That was the most difficult part, trying to make them mine. Especially since they had names. I love choosing names and often build a character from that name. This was a new process for me.  Other challenges – having a thirty-year-old heroine. Okay, I’d been there at one point, so not insurmountable. Also, she was a reading specialist about which I knew nothing. Fortunately, it helps to have relatives. Setting it in a Southern U.S. town was also interesting.

What sets this book apart from your previous work?

Considering that previous novels I’ve written were never published, that’s what sets this one apart. I can definitely see their failings at this stage of my writing. As mentioned, the synopsis kept me on track so this one is actually coherent and structured.

My other published works are short stories. A totally different writing process.  Obviously, the length is the main difference, therefore with short stories, every word has to count.

The “or” questions


Cup of coffee or glass of wine?        Cup of espresso

Twitter or Facebook?   Facebook

Library or bookstore?   Bookstore

Print or ebook?      Print

Setting or character?     Character

Book or movie?    Book


If you could choose anywhere in the world to write your next book, where would it be and why?

Sicily. I toured there a couple of summers ago with my choir and absolutely fell in love with the countryside, the ocean shores, and the people and culture. I even fantasized about owning a small villa (only in my dreams!) there.

What can you tell us about your next book?

The Ashton Corners Book Club gang is back and there’s a dead author on Lizzie Turner’s living room floor in READ & BURIED, due November, 2012 from Berkley Prime Crime.

If you’d like to meet Erika Chase, she’ll be in conversation with two other notable Canadian crime writers, Vicki Delany and Lynwood Barclay at 9 a.m., Saturday, June 2, at Bloody Words, a mystery conference for writers and readers, Toronto. And be sure to visit the Erika Chase website.

About Erika Chase 

Erika writes the Ashton Corners Book Club mysteries for Penguin/Berkley Prime Crime.  In a parallel life Erika Chase is also known as Linda Wiken. A former mystery bookstore owner (Prime Crime Books in Ottawa, ON, Canada), Linda is also a short story writer. She is a member of those dangerous dames, The Ladies’ Killing Circle.

Her short stories have appeared in the seven Ladies’ Killing Circle anthologies (three of which she co-edited), and in the magazines Mysterious Intent and Over My Dead Body. She has been short-listed for an Arthur Ellis Award, Best Short Story, from Crime Writers of Canada.

Before life in the world of mystery, she worked as an advertising copywriter, radio producer, journalist and community education worker.  Besides writing and reading mysteries, her other passion is choral singing and she is a member of two choirs.

Dolly on the upswing



Happy to report that Dolly is doing so much better! Not quite three weeks after her surgery she’s almost fully recovered and is her wonderful old self.

She got up and showed me she was ready to go.













She hesitates going down the stairs but she did that before the surgery, too.













It felt so good to be out walking with her again.

The joy of small things 2 – Dog walking

Every dog owner knows there are times when you just don’t feel like doing the walk. It’s dark, it’s cold. I’m too tired. There’s the endless repetition of winter clothes and boots on and off, on and off to trudge through wet, heavy snow, hoping the dog will do her numbers and you can both go home where it’s warm and dry.

Almost two years ago, our darling dog Dolly was diagnosed with a spindle cell tumour. It was removed, she recovered and we enjoyed 18 months or so of cancer-free life. She was bright and lively and life was good. She’s an outdoor kind of dog and she loves her rambles.

And then, a few weeks ago, I felt a lump on her belly. After several vet appointments, including a visit to an oncologist, and tests, we were told the same type of cancer had returned, but in a different place. However, the tumour was deemed operable and on Monday, April 16, 2012, she had the surgery.

The first few days post op went well, and then something went terribly wrong. She couldn’t get up. She couldn’t get downstairs to go out. She was confined to her bed.Image

It was terrible to see this usually active dog unable to stand up on her own. She could walk just a few steps and those steps were taken on trembling legs. She would collapse and need a helping hand under her bottom to get up again.

As she lay on her bed, I sat beside her, holding her and talking to her. My heart broke for her. I hated to see her like that, so not the dog she used to be. I regretted the surgery.

And what I missed most, what I would have given anything for, was to be outside with her once again, walking. Although I would have gratefully settled for walking along the street with her, in any weather, I longed for a proper ramble.

We ramble in Sir Sam Smith Park in Etobicoke by the shore of Lake Ontario where there’s beautiful scenery for me and amazing smells for her. She trots along at a pretty pace, taking it all in, looking around from time to time to make sure I’m keeping up. We used to ramble for about 60 minutes but now that we’re older, we’ve cut back to about 40. Maybe we don’t walk as fast or as far as we used to, but the sun shines on us, the air is crisp and clean and our ramble is a wonderful, welcome interlude from the demands of the day.

Dolly’s on the mend now. And we’re both looking forward to the day when once again we’re on the move. It can’t come soon enough for either of us.

Talking to … Vicki Delany

We’re talking to Vicki Delany, one of Canada’s most varied and prolific crime writers, whose newest book, Gold Mountain, is published today.

Where do you live and why do you choose to live there?

I live in Prince Edward County, Ontario.  I moved here four years ago because I wanted to get out of the busy and crowded Greater Toronto Area and have a place in the country.

Was there a moment that changed everything when you knew you were a writer?

Nope. More a gradual thing, I’d say.

What is your most memorable experience in a library or bookstore?

My very first book signing was at a store in London alongside my good friend the writer and musician Rick Blechta.  Scare the Light Away is a standalone suspense novel in which a woman reads her mother’s lost diary of being a war bride, and thus uncovers the secret of her past. An elderly lady came up to our table and I began my sales pitch.  Her face began to crumble. Tears began to flow.  “I don’t… think I’d… care for that,” she sobbed. “My husband died a year ago.  I’m reading his journals.  I thought I knew him…. But I didn’t.” Whereupon she burst into tears and fled.

Not funny at the time, I can tell you. It’s a wonder I ever did another book signing.

About your writing life

Describe a typical day in your life when you are working on a book, that is writing, re-writing, editing, proofing.

If I’m home, I’m working on a book.  Every day.

An average day for me is pretty easy to describe.  I write every morning for three to four hours, seven days a week, that includes anything related to producing a book such as editing or proofing. In the afternoon, I do whatever non-book writing is required, such as this interview.  I’m lucky enough to have been able to take early retirement from my job as a systems analyst in a major bank and now writing is my full-time job. But it wasn’t always like this. My first book took over four years to write on Sunday afternoons between the job and three children.

I write in several very different styles and I find that I have to stick strictly to whatever style of book I’m doing until it’s finished. No jumping between books or I’d get confused if it’s supposed to be funny or heart-breaking!

I’ll also mention that I read. A lot. I don’t have a TV and I rarely go to movies.

 Describe your writing process. How do you get from concept to finished manuscript?

I pretty much write from page one to page XX, and then go back and fill in anything that’s missing or needs clarification, tidy up the dialogue add more description or emotion, then another pass to make sure it all ties together and the writing is crisp.  After that I’ll put it in a drawer for four to six weeks, and work on it again. I find that the break allows me to approach it with a fresh eye.

In most cases I have a rough outline, some idea of what I want to say, what I want to happen in the characters’ lives or what the crime is about.  I wrote Winter of Secrets by having a scene for chapter one in mind and just starting. I figured out what was going on only as I wrote it. But I do find it much easier to have some direction.

Do you listen to music while you work? If so, what type/artist/songs?

No music. No radio.  Otherwise I couldn’t concentrate.

Share a memorable experience you had with a reader.

I was in Hawaii, at a resort, walking by the pool and there was a woman stretched out on a lounge chair reading In the Shadow of the Glacier. That felt pretty special.

What’s the nicest thing a critic or reader has said about your work?

Publisher’s Weekly gave Winter of Secrets a starred review saying it was “artistry as sturdy and restrained as a Shaker chair.” I loved the idea that what I do, what we do, is art.

Which mystery author, living or dead, has influenced your writing the most?

A difficult question to answer in that there are so many. I read a lot; I’m from a reading family.  Over the years I’ve read countless authors, and I’m sure all of them have had some impact on me.  However, if I was to pick someone, I’d say that I love the traditional British police procedurals the most. Susan Hill, Deborah Crombie, Peter Robinson are powerful influences on my writing today.  I read mysteries (or crime novels as I prefer to say) most of all.  The variety is so great, that’s one of the best things about crime writing.

It was probably Sara Paretsky when she began the V.I. Warshaski series, who introduced me to reading mystery novels. Until then I thought crime writing was about a bunch of tough, misogynist guys and it had no appeal to me.  I’ve never been one for the classics of crime.  People are always talking about Agatha Christie or Rex Stout or John D. MacDonald, I can’t say those people influenced me at all.

Do you think writers are born or made?

Writers are born; authors are made.  You have to have some degree of talent to be able to write a good story and do it well.  I am totally tone deaf; I’m well aware that I have no musical talent whatsoever, which is probably why I’ve never tried to be a singer.  Having said that, to write a book and then have it published, with all the work and rework and rejection and dedication that involves, you have to be pretty determined to do it.

What is the most rewarding part of being an author?

The best part of being a mystery author in Canada is the people I’ve met and the friends I’ve made.  I never started out thinking I wanted to be a writer so I could make new friends, but that turned out to be the best part of all.  The Canadian mystery community is by and large very close and very supportive. It’s just great.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

In all of your life you will have ONE first book. Make it count.

About your new book

 Gold Mountain is the third in the Klondike Gold Rush series from Dundurn (following Gold Digger and Gold Fever).   The books are set in Dawson City in 1898 at the height of the Klondike Gold Rush. They’re intended to be on the lighter side, a bit of a mad cap romp through the muddy streets of Dawson.

This book goes back to the summer of 1897 when Fiona MacGillivray fled Toronto with only a valise full of stolen jewellery and her 11 year old son, Angus.  They arrived in Vancouver in time to hear the news – Gold Discovered in the Klondike!  Fiona immediately set off for Skagway, Alaska, intending to open a theatre.  After one encounter with the infamous gangster Soapy Smith and his henchman Paul Sheridan, Fiona wisely decides to pursue her ambitions on the other side of the border, and she and Angus climb the Chilkoot trail for Dawson City, Yukon.

A year later Sheridan arrives in Dawson with a map showing the way to Gold Mountain, a valley as warm as California. Sheridan wants Fiona come with him. Fiona wants no part of his mad plans. But she may not have a choice.

Make your pitch! Describe what happens in your latest book in two sentences.

Gold Mountain, where the hills of solid gold keep the Yukon valley as warm as California.  Fiona MacGillivray has no interest in Paul Sheridan’s mad scheme to find the valley, but when the one-time henchman of Soapy Smith and her erstwhile suitor arrives in Dawson, she might not have a choice.

What challenges did you face writing this book?

I almost gave this book up not long after beginning it.  In Gold Mountain, Fiona et al head off into the wilderness north of Dawson City. I’ve been to Dawson, but not north of there and certainly not on foot.  I was struggling with trying to write a book set in a place I’d never been, particularly as the wilderness is a very specific setting and really can’t be captured by generic descriptions of trees etc.

Then it occurred to me – they’re after a valley as warm as California. How realistic does it have to be?  From then on, I was okay.

What sets this book apart from your previous work?

Regarding the Klondike books, this book fits the tone and the style, but it is not a mystery and there is no murder. It’s a crime novel, not a ‘murder mystery’.  It’s more of an adventure caper.

I also write the Constable Molly Smith series, small town police procedurals that are contemporary and  deal with serious issues, and novels of standalone suspense that are sort of modern gothic. The Klondike books are much, much lighter.

The or questions

Cup of coffee or glass of wine? Wine

Twitter or Facebook? Facebook

Library or bookstore? Bookstore

Print or ebook? E-book

Setting or character? Setting

Book or movie? Book

What’s next?

My next book will be out in September from Poisoned Pen Press. It’s a modern Gothic set in Prince Edward County where I live titled More than Sorrow. I’m writing the sixth Smith and Winters book right now, tentatively called Tracks in the Snow. The fourth Gold Rush book, called Gold Web, is finished and will be out in 2013.

If you could choose anywhere in the world to write your next book, where would it be and why?

I’m pretty lucky in that I think I’ll chose right here. Where I am. I spent three weeks in Juba, South Sudan in November and got lots of writing done – there was nothing else to do.  In January I was in Turks and Caicos where I did no writing although I intended to. Something about sitting in the room vs. being at the beach.

What can you tell us about your next book?

More than Sorrow will be out in September from Poisoned Pen Press. It’s a standalone suspense novel, a modern Gothic. It’s set in Prince Edward County, Ontario and has a backstory of the Loyalist settlers.  Here’s the blurb:

A Loyalist refugee, a disfigured Afghan woman. They lived two hundred years apart, but they have one thing in common: Hannah Manning, once an internationally-renowned journalist and war correspondent, victim of an IED explosion.   In this modern Gothic novel of heart-wrenching suspense, past and present merge into a terrifying threat to the only thing Hannah still holds dear – her ten-year-old niece, Lily.

 About Vicki Delany

Her popular Constable Molly Smith series (including In the Shadow of the Glacier and Among the Departed) from Poisoned Pen Press have been optioned for TV by Brightlight Pictures.  She writes standalone novels of modern gothic suspense such as Burden of Memory and More than Sorrow (September 2012), as well as a light-hearted historical series, (Gold Digger, Gold Mountain), set in the raucous heyday of the Klondike Gold Rush, published by Dundurn.

She is also the author of a novel for reluctant readers, A Winter Kill, part of the Rapid Reads series.  

Having taken early retirement from her job as a systems analyst in the high-pressure financial world, Vicki is settling down to the rural life in bucolic, Prince Edward County, Ontario where she rarely wears a watch.

Visit Vicki at ,, and twitter: @vickidelany. She blogs about the writing life at One Woman Crime Wave (

Talking to … R.J. Harlick

Once a month or so, as the authors in my circle publish new books, I’ll interview them. We begin with R.J. Harlick, whose fifth novel, A Green Place for Dying, is published this week. This Canadian mystery is also a significant novel in its own right as it deals with the sensitive and important issue of missing aboriginal women. Pour yourself a cup of tea, pull up a chair and let’s chat with Robin.

R. J. Harlick

About R.J. Harlick

Where do you live and why do you choose to live there?

First of all, thank you, Elizabeth, for inviting me to do an interview. I always enjoy reaching out to new readers.

I am most fortunate to live in two places. Although I grew up in Toronto, I was very grateful to my husband for finding work in Ottawa, a much smaller and easier city to live in. And with its close proximity to cottage country we ended up building a log cabin in the wilds of West Quebec, less than an hour’s drive from our Ottawa home.  Now I bide my time between the two homes and enjoy them equally.

Was there a moment that changed everything when you knew you were a writer?

Even after five books, I hesitate to call myself a writer because I still can’t believe that I am actually doing it. But there was a defining moment when I decided to write a novel. I had just passed a significant birthday and was asking myself what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.  Writing fiction had lurked in the back of my mind since I was a child, but I’d never actually acted on it. Looking for a change in my life, I decided the time was right and set out to write my first mystery which became Death’s Golden Whisper, the first book in the Meg Harris series.

What is your most memorable experience in a library or bookstore?

I was on tour for my second book, Red Ice for a Shroud, and doing a book signing in the St. Catharines’ Chapters, when a woman rushed in waving a review of my book in the Globe and Mail that unbeknownst to me had been published that morning. She couldn’t wait to buy a copy and was overjoyed that I was actually in the store, so I could sign her copy.

About your writing life

Describe a typical day in your life when you are working on a book, that is writing, re-writing, editing, proofing.

I treat writing as a job, so after breakfast and walking the boys, my two standard poodles, I retreat to my office where I do whatever needs to be done with my writing. This can cover anything from the various stages of the writing process, to organizing events and doing the various online promotional activities I involve myself in, such as Facebook and blogs. When I am starting out with a new book and writing the story for the first time, after two or three hours I run out of steam whereas I can go for many hours when I am in the editing and proofing stages.

Describe your writing process. How do you get from concept to finished manuscript?

I’m afraid I am one of those writers who fly by the seat of their pants. Although I have tried to outline, invariably my characters and the story take off in directions that I hadn’t planned. Now I start with an underlying theme, such as missing aboriginal women, which is the theme of my latest book, a location, which in my latest is Vancouver and Haida Gwaii, a few key characters and a starting scene. I generally have an idea of where I am going and how I want it to end, but rarely do I know whodunit until I am almost there. I am also a writer who doesn’t read the previously written chapters until I reach the very end of the first draft. But I prepare a point form outline of what occurred in each chapter as I go along. This way I can keep track of the action and make notes of where I will need to make changes during the re-write.

Do you listen to music while you work? If so, what type/artist/songs?

No, as much as I love music, I would find it too distracting.

Please share a memorable experience you had with a reader.

I’m always thrilled whenever an e-mail arrives from a fan wishing to tell me how much they enjoyed my books. But I suppose the fan letter that stands out most is an actual letter that a fan took the time to pen and send via real mail. She wanted to tell me how much the reading of my books had brought back her own memories of treasured vacations spent in a cottage wilderness very much like Meg’s Three Deer Point. She even included some photos of the lake.

What’s the nicest thing a critic or reader has said about your work?

A difficult choice, since I have received many good reviews for my books, but I suppose the words that tend to stand out for me were those mentioned by Mike Gillespie in the Ottawa Citizen when he called me “one of the brightest new voices in the mystery business” And needless to say I am thrilled with the first review of my latest book, which came from Publishers Weekly, “Meg Harris….gets an education in evil in Harlick’s absorbing fifth mystery.”

Which mystery author, living or dead, has influenced your writing the most?

I’m not sure that anyone writer has actually influenced my writing, although I do strive to try to write as well as some of my favourite mystery authors, such as P.D. James, Elizabeth George, Peter Robinson, Ian Rankin, Michael Connelly and the like.

Do you think writers are born or made?

I think it takes a bit of both. I don’t think you can be a writer without some natural talent, however unless you work really hard to exercise that talent, you will never become a writer.

What is the most rewarding part of being an author?

Both creating the story and completing it.  I get tremendous satisfaction from creating my own story world and penning the final words gives me a terrific sense of achievement.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Don’t give up. At times finishing the novel and then getting it published will feel like an insurmountable goal, but keep at it for eventually you will achieve both. But don’t forget the necessary re-writing to help make that happen. With each re-write your writing not only improves, but you also get to know both your characters and story much better.

About your new book

Make your pitch! Describe what happens in your latest book in two sentences.

In A Green Place for Dying, Meg Harris returns home from the Arctic to discover that the daughter of a friend of hers has been missing for over two months. Vowing to help, Meg finds herself uncovering an underside of life she would rather not know exists.

A Green Place for Dying is published Feb. 17

What challenges did you face writing this book?

Missing aboriginal women is a sensitive topic, and with two young women currently missing from an Algonquin reserve in West Quebec it was doubly sensitive in the writing of this book. Since my story involves a missing Algonquin woman, I didn’t want it to mirror the situation with these two women.

What sets this book apart from your previous work?

As with most series, apart from the central mystery theme of each book, there is an ongoing back story related to Meg that evolves further with each book. In A Green Place for Dying, Meg’s demons come back to haunt her and she is forced to own up to a secret she has been hiding since a child.  This was alluded to in previous books and was at the core of her breakup with Eric, her friend, her lover. Now if she wants to win back Eric, she must reveal the ugly truth.

The “or” questions

Cup of coffee or glass of wine? Ah, a glass of wine….

Twitter or Facebook? – Facebook. I think if I tried Twitter I would never stop tweeting, after all I’m a robin…J

Library or bookstore? – Bookstore. I love to roam through the aisles, sampling this and that

Print or ebook? – a very tough question – I love the comfy, cozy feeling a book gives me and the feeling of satisfaction I get when flipping the last page on a good read. But I tell you, I sure love the convenience of ebooks…..

Setting or character? I love both and am most dissatisfied when a book doesn’t provide me with both

Book or movie? I would much prefer to read a good book

What’s next for R.J. Harlick?

If you could choose anywhere in the world to write your next book, where would it be and why?

The sixth Meg Harris mystery has already begun and I have situated it in a part of Canada that I had always wanted to visit, the Queen Charlotte Islands or Haida Gwaii, as the islands are called today.  As a child, my father often spoke of these mystical islands on the edge of Canada. During his university days at UBC, he spent a summer working in one of the logging camps and had talked of returning to them, but never did. So last June as part of my research, my husband and I spent a fabulous week getting to know the islands and its people, the Haida. You can get a sneak preview of their magic from my photos on my blog

What can you tell us about your next book?

I’m still fleshing out the story of a Silver Totem of Shame, so it will no doubt change before it’s finally frozen in published form, but basically it will have a Haida thread. Totem poles will play a key role, particularly their use in the telling of stories. I do know that it starts off with the killing of a young Haida carver in a carving shed on Granville Island in Vancouver. His vicious murder takes Meg to Haida Gwaii, where she gradually unravels a tangle of shame and clan rivalries that reach back to the 1880s. I want to bring the magic of these islands alive for my readers.

That was wonderful, Robin. Thanks so much.  I can’t wait to read A Green Place for Dying.

Visit R.J. Harlick at

A Green Place for Dying is published Feb. 17, 2012.