Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Making of A Mystery

Our libraries offer a program called University for the Masses. Professors from one of the local universities offer university classes free to anyone at the local library. The courses are noncredit, no homework and you attend as as many or as few of the classes as you want.

The one I'm attending is "The Making of a Mystery" taught by Dr. Patricia Gouthro from Mount St. Vincent University and so far it's very informative. I even braved the snow storm yesterday so I wouldn't miss it. The drive home was a little harrowing but I took it slow and steady and arrived safely home. Dr Gouthro has a special interest, and has received research grants, into crime fiction set or published in Canada. Next week a local published mystery author Anne Emery, winner of the 2007 Arthur Ellis award for best first novel will be the guest speaker. And next month local author Brad Kelln, forensic psychologist and RCMP hostage negotiator will present a class.

The professor is also doing a session on Location and the issues involved in where we set our novels. Must they be set in Canada? And is that problematic when we want to sell internationally?

Do you set your books in places you know well? Real settings or fictionalized settings? Have you ever set a novel in a place you've never been?


Rachael Johns said...

Ooh are you gonna write a mystery? I'd love to do this course!

Anne MacFarlane said...

Rachael, I have two romantic suspense novels that need a lot of work. When I received positive feedback from editors and requests for fulls on my short contemporaries, I decided to focus on them. Somewhere along the line my mystery/suspense stories fell by the wayside. But, I'd love to write a mystery series with an ongoing romantic relationship. Aah, to write faster so I could do it all...

Michelle Helliwell said...

Wow Anne, that sounds like a fantastic opportunity - I might have to look into it. I love learning.

Because I have the travel budget of an ant, my books (the two thus far) have been set in some places I've never been - Boston, and the UK. Of course, when it's an historical, you are never actually in the place you've set the novel, so research is always in order. It's amazing what you can do with travel guides and the internet.

I have a hard time with the setting question. I think it's such a Canadian thing to analyze this too. I doubt your average American or British writer gives this a second thought, whether their novels are set at home or abroad. It might be the perspective that's important. Am I a Canadian looking at Boston through my eyes, or a character from Boston in Boston? I think that might be the bigger question.

Anne MacFarlane said...

Michelle, I'm hoping this course will give me some insight into the challenges of either choice for my mystery: American or Canadian setting.

My romance novels have been set in Toronto, Connecticut, Las Vegas and New York but they don't have as strong a sense of place as I would need for a mystery series. The police procedural research in an unfamiliar setting is daunting.

Kate Walker said...

Hi Anne

Sorry but this is the only way NI know to contact you - I asked my publisher to send you a copy of the 12 Point Guide To Writing Romance but some of the copies he has sent out have never arrived.

Could you ple3ase let me know - kate AT - or through Marilyn Shoemaker whether your prize copy has in fact arrived or if you haven't received it yet.

Thanks so much

Kate Walker

Anne MacFarlane said...

Thanks Kate, I did receive it and can't wait to read it. I sent you an email this am.