Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Beautiful is here!

Barbara here, and in a mood to celebrate! Yesterday the author copies of my new book arrived and I held one in my hands for the first time. The thrill never grows old!

Now the season of signing, reading, blogging and flogging officially begins, and to that end I am holding a contest between now and next Wednesday, Nov. 3. All entrants who get through this blog and correctly answer the skill testing question at the end will be entered into a draw to receive one of five free Review Copies. To stir your interest, here are a few hints about the book, including the answer to the question.

Beautiful Lie the Dead is the eighth book in my gritty, psychological detective series featuring the exasperating, quixotic Ottawa Police Inspector Michael Green. The story opens with a frantic phone call to the missing persons unit of the Ottawa police in the dead of night. It’s two weeks before the wedding, a blizzard is howling outside, and a young doctor has not heard from his fiancée in over twenty-four hours. Thus begins a story about old secrets and the deadly power of love.

I don’t outline ahead of time. I begin the story and follow it where my imagination and the characters take me. I usually have an opening scene – in this case a bus ride through the colourful inner streets of Ottawa – and an idea of the theme I want to address, plus a handful of possible characters. That’s all. Then I let Inspector Green loose on the case, and see where he goes. It’s unnerving and challenging, but it keeps me intrigued and looking forward to the continual adventures that my imagination springs on me. The joy (and the terror) of writing is in the surprises.

But long-running series have challenges of their own, especially series that revolve around police investigations. I don’t want to write the same book over again, nor revisit the same interview rooms and scene-of-crime discussions. I’d get bored, and I fear readers will too! One of my tricks is to move some of the investigation out of Ottawa, so that the geography and culture is unfamiliar to Green and fresh for me and the reader. So far I have not sent him to Europe (Tuscany and Greece being high on my wish list), but I have made frequent excursions into the countryside of Ontario and Quebec. In Beautiful Lie the Dead, I send him to Montreal to re-investigate an old death. Besides being my hometown, Montreal is a unique, clamouring metropolis that doesn’t get enough attention in Canadian literature. Almost a third of the book takes place there, in the grubby storefronts of boulevard St-Laurent, the rarefied heights of upper Westmount, and the eerie, windswept slopes of Mount Royal Cemetery. I hope readers will enjoy the trip as much as Green and I did.

Unlike real life where police officers are carrying out their job, a fictional detective needs an emotional undercurrent to ratchet up the tension and empathy. Some authors handle this by increasing the stakes for the detective through such time-honoured devices as threats to close friends or family, suspension from the force, frames or set-ups and unearthing old enemies. But by seeking emotional power, the writer risks slipping into melodrama.

Inspector Green is a happily married man with an elderly father, two children, a dog and a modest house. His home life is his sanctuary, and although I often create family subplots that tie into the main theme, I don’t want to place his family in harm’s way. His team of detectives is another story, however. Over eight books, I’ve grown fond of stoic, practical Sergeant Sullivan, brash Constable Peters and love-struck Constable Gibbs. I’ve given them their own personal sagas, and often they provide the emotional stakes for Green. So much so that some readers commented about the last book, “You were awfully hard on your poor characters!”

In Beautiful Lie the Dead, I set my sights on Green’s old boss and mentor, Superintendent Adam Jules, who becomes very secretive and elusive when the young woman disappears. Is he somehow involved? Is he covering up for someone? Could the man Green has looked up to all his life have a dark side? Perhaps even a criminal one?

The answer, of course, lies in the book, available in fine independent bookstores and online, through Chapters, Amazon, Barnes and Nobles and other stores worldwide.

Or you have a chance to win a free Review Copy by answering the following question. Email your answer to:

What exotic Canadian city does Green visit in pursuit of a bungled cold case?

Good luck and enjoy!


Hannah Dennison said...

Barbara - I have yet to enjoy your series but I can assure you that now I am tantalized by your blog (and love the blogging and flogging by the way) - so I will be ordering the first in your series. RIGHT NOW. I have to start with the first book .... so THIS time I won't be able to enter your competition -- but definitely next. A great idea. I love Montreal - BTW -- one of my favorite cities.

Kari Wainwright said...

Montreal seems to be the answer. I only visited there for about three days, but found it to be a fascinating and beautiful city.

I'd love to meet your detective and see more of Canada through his eyes.

gkw9000 [at]

Moushka said...

Haven't been to Montréal since the '67 Expo, but would love to go back. I lived in Lachine as a tiny girl. I remember hating not being able to understand so many of the people around me. From that experience came my determination to learn French (which I did). Your books sound interesting, I will put them on my list and head to the library.