Saturday, November 18, 2017

RJ Harlick: The special people I’ve met along the way

Our guest blogger this weekend is my long-time friend and fabulous Ottawa writer, Robin Harlick. Called “the queen of Canadian wilderness fiction,” RJ Harlick writes the popular Meg Harris mystery series set in the wilds of West Quebec. Like her heroine Meg Harris, RJ loves nothing better than to roam the forests surrounding her own wilderness cabin or paddle the endless lakes and rivers. But unlike Meg, she doesn’t find a body at every twist and turn, although she certainly likes to put them in Meg’s way. While most of the action takes place close to her Three Deer Point Victorian cottage, occasionally Meg travels to other Canadian wildernesses. In the latest and eighth book,  Purple Palette for Murder, Meg travels to Canada’s Far North in a desperate attempt to prove her husband innocent of murder.

Before I begin I’d like to offer many thanks to Barbara Fradkin for giving me this opportunity to tell you a bit about myself as a writer and about my latest Meg Harris mystery, Purple Palette for Murder

When I started on this writing journey with my protagonist, Meg Harris, I didn’t give much thought on where this journey would lead us. My sole focus was on completing the monumental task of bringing Meg to life through finishing the first book, Death’s Golden Whisper and finding a publisher to release her to the reading public. I never really thought about the world I would be entering, that of a published crime writer. But eight books later I’ve learned that writing crime fiction is about more than writing and publishing books. It is about the friendships made along the way.

I have learned that the crime fiction community is a very social and friendly one. Several of the writers with whom I started out are still very good friends. I’ve met others along the way, either from my local community or at various mystery conferences. We travel together, meet up at conferences or other events, share war stories, be they about writing or publishers or anything else that sparks our interest and we gossip. Boy, how we love to gossip. We support each other in many ways, including guest blog invitations, like this one, or inviting each other to share events, such as store signings, launches or library readings. We will even critique each other’s manuscripts before they are sent off to our respective publishers and go on writing retreats together. I treasure their friendship.

I suppose at the outset I had assumed that my writing would likely spark friendships with other writers, but I hadn’t expected that friendships would develop with readers of my books. I was delighted when I received the first emails from readers I didn’t know. I could barely believe that someone other than family or friends actually liked my books.  I even received a real live hand written letter, a rarity in this technological age, complete with a photo of a lake setting the reader thought mirrored Meg’s Three Deer Point. I always made a point of thanking them, still do, and would often hear from them again.

As the journey with Meg continues, so have the emails, some leading to more frequent correspondence. I exchange travel and pet photos with one reader, who with the publication of each new book sends me money for a signed copy. I have also found that Facebook is another great way to develop friendships with readers. Not only do I get to chat with them, but I also get a glimpse into their lives the same way they learn about mine. I mustn’t forget readers met at conferences, who’ve also become friends. I look forward to reconnecting with them at each conference. One reader brings me shopping bags from her home town, which I proudly sport when I do my grocery shopping. Others drive many miles to attend my book launches and other events. I was thrilled to receive this photo from a fan recently to celebrate the launch of my latest book. Her books look rather well read, don’t you think. I love chatting with my fans and value their friendship highly. 

What I hadn’t bargained on was the impact Meg would have on my readers, particularly her relationship with Eric, her one and only love. Recovering from an abusive former marriage, Meg has difficulties confronting the demons in her life and strives to overcome them. Alcohol was her remedy, but Eric, the one steady rock in her life, has managed to ween her off it, for the moment.  One traumatic event too many could tip her over the edge and back into her drunken oblivion.

Many readers have told me how much they admire Meg’s dogged determination to get on with her life. Some have even related their admiration for Eric and his relationship with Meg. I sometimes suspect that for some, aspects in Meg’s life relate a little too closely to their own. Meg and Eric offer them hope. Besides Eric is easy to fall in love with. I will admit I have a warm place in my heart for him too. As a result, I now feel a certain responsibility for Meg and Eric and the other recurring characters in the series, something I didn’t feel when I created them.

For all you readers out there, I would like to offer a special thank you for inviting Meg into your own life.

Before I go, I want to tell you about Purple Palette for Murder, the eighth and latest Meg Harris mystery. Meg has refused to leave the sanctuary of her Quebec wilderness property called Three Deer Point, while she attempts to deal with the traumatic events that happened in A Cold White Fear, the previous book. Eric has flown to Yellowknife in Canada’s Far North for some business meetings. She is rescuing an abandoned fawn when she receives a phone call from a lawyer, saying Eric has been arrested for murder. Setting her fears aside, she flies to that northern town to do what she can to prove his innocence.

Purple Palette for Murder gives you an opportunity to experience the northern wilderness without having to leave your armchair.  It also gives you a glimpse of the impact residential schools have had on the extended families of indigenous people in Canada. And of course, there is lots of murder and mayhem. I recently wrote a prequel to Purple Palette for Murder for another blog, Dru’s Book Musings. You might be interested in reading it here.

To learn more about RJ Harlick, check out  and twitter @RJHarlick.


Marianne Wheelaghan said...

Meg Harris sounds a fascinating character, as does your setting. Good luck with Purple Palette for Murder!

Sybil Johnson said...

Your books sound very interesting! Good luck with your latest!