Saturday, April 09, 2016

Brenda Chapman on keeping it all straight!

Please welcome this weekend's guest blogger, my good friend and fellow Ottawa mystery author, Brenda Chapman. A prolific author equally at home with young adult, stand-alone adult thrillers, and two mystery series, Brenda is best known as the author of the Stonechild and Rouleau police procedurals published by Dundurn. Cold Mourning, first in the series was shortlisted for an Arthur Ellis award in 2015 for best  novel.Tumbled Graves, third in the series, was released in February 2016. Brenda also writes the Anna Sweet novellas for Grass Roots Press. 

Learn more about Brenda at 

Thank you to Barbara Fradkin for inviting me to share a blog post with you today. I thought I’d take this opportunity to raise an affliction common to many authors…

A dutiful parent does not forget the names of their children, or the moment their child took their first step, graduated high school or backed the family car into a tree. Books are often compared to an author’s children, but remembering the plot, the characters and even the specifics of a crime can tax any writer’s memory cells. Case in point: An author (whose name escapes me) recounted the time he appeared on a radio program and forgot the plot of his newly released book. The interviewer asked questions but the author drew blanks. Some might see this as an unbelievable memory lapse, since who better to know the content of a book than its originator…especially a book hot on the shelves?

Tumbled Graves is the third in my Stonechild and Rouleau police procedural series. I have several main characters who are getting into all kinds of scrapes and suffering through unexpected turmoil — trying to lead happy lives while solving crimes. Half the time, I can’t remember who did what in which book. I have to look up the characters’ names, search their physical descriptions and reread passages to find out where they left off.

Yet something readers might not understand is that by the time a book reaches the shelves, often close to two years have passed since the writer submitted the final manuscript to the publisher. In my case, when Tumbled Graves was released at the end of February, I had already submitted the manuscript to Dundurn for book four and gotten a start on book five. To make life even more complicated, I completed an Anna Sweet novella for a separate mystery series with Grass Roots Press in between books four and five, and a few weeks ago, I set aside my latest Stonechild writing project to work on the edits. Not to mention my full-time communications job….

Taking a cue from the author who forgot the plot of his book, I’ve learned to skim through my notes about a book before an event. I run the names of characters and the crime through my mind before an interview. I make notes on scraps of paper. I head off brain freezes through careful preparation — much like studying for an exam at school.Of course, this cannot save me from out-of-the-blue questions from readers I meet in my travels, so I ask in advance for understanding as I stare back blankly while fumbling for a response. I really did write the book you are asking about. Those really are my children. It’s just that I’ve given birth to fourteen at last count with a couple more in gestation. It goes without saying that I love them all equally…once I can recall the details of their birth.


Carvinglady said...

I am amazed that you are able to remember one from the other even with reminders and 'studying' beforehand.

Unknown said...

It can be tough!