Vicki Delany is a Canadian author with two mystery series to her credit, as well as three other novels of mystery/suspense. Born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, she spent a year travelling across North America and another eleven years living in South Africa. She now calls “bucolic, rural Prince Edward County, Ontario” home and seldom wears a watch. She has been known to write to the accompaniment of a cup of tea and Bruce Springsteen (on tape, not in person).
Before retiring, your professional life included computer programming. What started your writing career?
I have three children and one year I decided to write them all a personal story for Christmas. I thought I did a pretty good job, so signed up for creative writing classes with the aim of writing for children. That idea died mighty fast, but I found that I did have a knack for it, and so I continued!
How long have you been writing? You write in several genres, tell us about the pros and cons.
I’ve been writing, on and off, for more than 15 years. Most of those years I was working full-time, so it’s only been the last two years that I can say I’m a full-time writer. I write standalone psychological suspense, a traditional police procedural mystery series, and a humourous historical series. A mixed bag, as you say. I think the strength of standalones is that you can deal with the characters' problems in great depth. A standalone should see the main character struggling with, and possibly defeating, whatever demons she has to deal with as well as the crisis that forms the crux of the plot. I think standalones can be more realistic – how many times in one’s life does one have that great adventure? Whereas in a series, the main character has to come back again in the next book. In a series, you can draw out the resolution to the character’s personal problems very slowly, and also have her dealing with other people’s problems, and helping other people resolve their own issues. I find that series books are faster to write, after the first one, because you don’t have to spend as much time working out the details of the setting or the regular characters’ backgrounds. My books are all quite different in tone and style--the standalones are fairly serious, the Constable Molly Smith books are sort of medium-boiled, and the Klondike books are funny and mad-cap. I find that I like writing in all those different ways, and if I put it all in a book, or even in a series, I’d have a real mess.
You have received much praise for the settings in your books. Tell us why setting is important to you and how to create praiseworthy settings.
Thank you for saying so. The most important thing about setting, I believe, is detail. Not only what does the place look like, but what are the people like (I mean the people who don’t even have a word to say in the book), what does it smell like, what’s the weather like, and how does that weather affect personalities, what local issues are the people dealing with? It is possible, but difficult, to write about a place you’ve never been. Historical writers, of course, have to write all the time about someplace they’ve never been, but they can still go to the physical place, and see what the light is like at night, the colour of the trees. Sometimes you simply can’t go there--a friend of mine is writing a book set in Iraq in the 1990s, and she is certainly not going to go to Iraq to see how the light moves across the sky. But she is able to talk to people who’ve been there, read books, look at photographs, etc. In the absence of going there, you just have to do a lot of leg work. I set my books in places I love, so I guess that makes it easier to create a sense of place.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer?
I left this question to answer last, because I really can’t think of anything. It was hard when I was working full-time and had kids at home to find the time to write, but most of us have been through that. I think that sometimes it can be an advantage to have to move into a writing career slowly, you really find out if it’s what you want to do and that time you do spend writing becomes something you don’t want to waste. So, other than that, I really haven’t had many challenges.
What is the title of your most recently published book? Briefly tell us what it’s about and let us know where we can buy it.
Winter of Secrets will be released on November 1st by Poisoned Pen Press. It is the third in the Constable Molly Smith series set in a small town in the Interior of British Columbia. Writing this book was a complete departure from my usual writing method. I had an idea for the first scene and it went from there with no idea of where I was going. I sort of felt like the police themselves, sifting through the clues and trying to make sense of it all. It begins on Christmas Eve when the storm of the decade has settled on Trafalgar. Molly Smith is on duty, and spends the night running from one mishap to another. Then, at the stroke of midnight, she and Constable Evans get a 911 call: a car has gone into the frozen river. The bodies of two young men are pulled out, apparently having died of exposure in the river. But the autopsy reveals something else. There is lots of skiing in the book—Smith is a top-notch skier and the powder is falling fast. The book will be available at the independent mystery bookstores, and all the online outlets such as Amazon and B&N. The big chains might not have it in stock but they will always order on request. The second book in the series, Valley of the Lost, will be released in paperback at the same time, and like all my paperbacks, should be on the shelves at Chapters stores in Canada.
What are you working on now and when/where do you expect it to be available?
I’ve finished the second in the Klondike series, titled Gold Fever, and it will be out in Spring 2010. The fourth Molly Smith book, tentatively titled Negative Image, is in the final stages right now. I expect it will be out in late 2010 or early 2011.
Writers, especially new writers, are always looking for tips and helpful information. What is the single most important “tip” you can give to a new writer?
Your first book is the only chance you will have to have a first book. The first (published) book is not a stepping stone; it’s an elevator. In most cases it will let you off where you are going to remain. So don’t rush it.
You are a member of several writer’s organizations. What tips can you give new authors concerning their decisions about joining a writer’s group?
If you regard yourself as a serious writer, then you need to belong to professional organizations. Accountants join accountant groups don’t they? Networking is important. I regret not joining Sisters in Crime or Crime Writers of Canada before I was published. I’ve found that mystery writers are so encouraging of others, and so helpful in terms of giving tips, but no one can help you if they don’t know you.
Do you have any upcoming book signings or appearances? If so, give us all the details.
The last three months of the year are busy for me! I attended Boucheron in Indianapolis. Then it was off to Canada’s east coast with R.J. Harlick, another Canadian mystery writer on a book tour. In November and December I’ll be doing signings around Southern Ontario. I did a big tour to the Western U.S. in March and as much as I’d like to go again, just can’t swing it this time. Links to my schedule are on my web page, and I have a page at Booktour.com (http://www.booktour.com/author/vicki_delany) .
Here’s your opportunity to tell us anything else you care to share.
Just that it’s been a great pleasure talking to you.
What are the addresses of your website(s) and blog(s):
My web page is http://www.vickidelany.com/. I am part of a group blog of mystery writers at Type M for Murder (http://typem4murder.blogspot.com/) and I write a personal blog about the writing life, as I see it, at Klondike and Trafalgar (http://klondikeandtrafalgar.blogspot.com/).