During the summer I read and reviewed the 15th Joanne Kilbourn mystery by Gail Bowen. I have had a chance to do a Q & A with Gail on writing and the series. As always she is forthright and interesting. I thank Gail for her candour and look forward to the next mystery to be published next spring.
1.) When you started the series did you have a plan for
how many books would be written?
#16 in the Joanne Kilbourn Shreve series will be published on March 1,
2016 and I’m well into writing #17. When
I started the series, I had three children at home; I was teaching full-time at
the university; I was very involved in politics and I was teaching Sunday
The opening of Deadly Appearances grew out of an old fashioned political picnic
when Roy Romanow had just become leader of the party. The picnic Joanne is
attending is exactly the picnic I was attending. I remember looking at the
truck flatbed we were using as a stage.
A carafe of water for the new leader was sitting on the edge of the
flatbed and I remember being so proud that we lived in a country where a
leader’s carafe of water could be left unattended with a few hundred people
swarming about. Then I thought, “What if
someone slipped poison into the water.”
That was the beginning, and I had no plan to go beyond that one
book. Then the idea for Murder at the
Mendel crept into my mind; after that, The Wandering Soul Murders began to take
shape. The ideas have kept coming and
I’ve kept writing.
2.) Anthony Bidulka has told me that his Russell Quant
series is on indefinite hiatus. He said his passion for writing was taking him
to new projects such as his Adam Saint series. You have continued to write excellent
books featuring Joanne. What has been able to keep you inspired to write more
Joanne Kilbourn mysteries?
First, I should say that I wish Tony would
revisit to the Russell Quant series. I loved those books.
I made the decision to have Joanne age in the course of the books and
that’s been a great boon. Her life
changes; new people come into her life; the nature of her work changes; her
children grow up; she has relationships and her priorities change. All of these changes have given me rich
material from which to draw.
The continuing cast of permanent characters
has also been a gift and a source of inspiration. Readers care about Joanne’s children and the
friends who have become constants in her life: Howard Dowhanuik, Jill Oziowy,
Margot Hunter, Brock Poitras, Delia Wainberg, Blake Falconer, Chris Altieri,
Kevin Hynd to name a few. Each of these characters has a story and those
stories give me firm ground from which to explore issues that concern me.
Finally, Alistair MacLeod once said, “Writers
write about what worries them.” And there seems to be no shortage of issues
that worry me.
3.) I must admit I regret Zack leaving the courtroom for
city development and now municipal politics. Might we have Angus stepping
forward into legal cases with Zack providing some mentorship?
In book 17 Zack’s life changes radically.
I can’t say much more than that, but in The Winners Circle, the firm of Falconer Shreve, Altieri, Wainberg
and Hynd is once again front and centre.
4.) As with some of the characters residing in North
Central Regina I have clients with multiple challenging issues in their lives.
While they retain me to address their legal issues I find myself occasionally
providing advice that is more properly related to their personal problems. I
justify it on the basis that were they to better address personal matters they
would have fewer legal problems. At the same time I realize I have been blessed
in my life not to have all their challenges. I was impressed that Joanne
recognizes the difficulty of helping from a position of privilege. What did you
draw on to make Joanne a practical activist?
Truly, I drew upon my own experience. In my
adult life I’ve moved from starry-eyed idealism to a much more pragmatic
approach to how we can create a community in which everyone has a chance to
create a good life. Like you, I am acutely aware of the fact that I have been
blessed, but to paraphrase J.S. Woodsworth, I believe we have to work for a
world where these blessings are shared with others.
5.) I can barely believe that I have just realized that I
have never asked you in our past exchanges why both of Joanne’s husbands have
been lawyers. There are lots of occupations. It cannot be accidental that each
of her husbands is a lawyer and that one of her sons is a lawyer. I would be
very interested in knowing why lawyers are so prominent in Joanne’s life.
It happens that I know a number of lawyers
and I know a disproportionate number of judges. They don’t always talk shop
when they’re around me, but the topic of the law does come up, and their very
different attitudes towards the law intrigue me. A judge friend says the law is simply
plumbing, and lawyers are plumbers. Other
lawyers see the law as a beautiful and complex intellectual construct. One thing
they all agree on is that there’s a lot of drudgery in the day to day work, but
there are also some immensely satisfying moments, especially in trial law.
Bowen, Gail – 2011 Questions and Answers with Gail; 2011 Suggestions for Gail on losing court cases; The author's website is http://www.gailbowen.com/ - (2011) Deadly Appearances; (2013) Murder at the Mendel; The Wandering Soul Murders (Not reviewed); A Colder Kind of Death (Not reviewed); A Killing Spring (Not reviewed); Verdict in Blood (Not reviewed); (2000) - Burying Ariel (Second best fiction of 2000); (2002) - The Glass Coffin; (2004) - The Last Good Day; (2007) – The Endless Knot (Second Best Fiction of 2007); (2008) - The Brutal Heart; (2010) - The Nesting Dolls; (2012) - "B" is for Gail Bowen; (2012) - Kaleidoscope and Q & A on Kaleidoscope; (2013) - The Gifted and Q & A and Comparing with How the Light Gets In; (2015) - 12 Rose Street; Hardcover
Oh, this is all really interesting, Bill! I found the story of how Deadly Appearances was inspired to be fascinating. I agree, too, that the cast of regular, enduring characters adds richness to the series. I look forward to the new book very much, and now my curiosity is piqued over what's next for Zack. Thanks for sharing this. Oh, and I'd love to see more of Russell Quant, too...ReplyDelete
Margot: Thanks for the comment. I found it equally interesting that the inspiration came from a real life event that I can easily visualize.Delete
How lovely to hear from Gail Bowen, Bill, thanks for featuring her. She is one of my favourite modern crime authors, and I feel I know Regina well after following Joanne and her family for so long. I hope she keeps on writing the books forever.ReplyDelete
Moira: Thanks for the comment. I am glad you have enjoyed your literary trips to Saskatchewan. You are always welcome to make a physical trip!Delete
Great interview, Bill, and good to hear that Bowen is continuing writing the series.ReplyDelete
TracyK: Thanks for the comment. I hope Gail will continue to write Joanne Kilbourn mysteries long into the future.Delete
Bill, thank you for this interview with Gail Bowen. I liked her quote, "The ideas have kept coming and I’ve kept writing." A lot of people get ideas and have imagination but very few can translate those into effective writing including works of fiction as popular and engaging as the Joanne Kilbourn Shreve series.ReplyDelete
Prashant: Thanks for the comment. I agree. Personally I have ideas but they will not become actual works of fiction.Delete