Friday, February 7, 2014
SCMOOZING WITH BARBARA FRADKIN
1. Who has influenced you the most in your writing career?
The Russians and the deadly dames of the Ladies Killing Circle! As a young adult I was fascinated by the character development, the darkness, and the human drama of the Russian legends like Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy and Solzhenitsyn. My very first writing credit was a short story in the first Ladies Killing Circle anthology in 1995. The friendship and support of that wonderful group introduced me to a whole new world which has kept me in its thrall ever since.
2. What are you working on now?
I have just finished the revisions of the tenth Inspector Green novel, entitled None So Blind, which is due out in October 2014. Green is back in Ottawa for that one, wrestling with an old case gone wrong.
3. In what ways is your main protagonist like you? If at all?
Well, he’s a man, which is a little different. He has minimal esthetic appreciation of sunsets, nature, fine food or wine. I have a pricklier relationship with him than some authors have with their protagonists; I would not want to be like him or be married to him, for example. But I enjoy his company because deep down, we share the same values. He is a fundamentally a mensch trying to do the right thing. He acts as a voice for the marginalized and the victimized in society, he distrusts power and authority, he chafes against the rules and restrictions of his job, he dislikes paperwork, committee meetings, and other administrativia, and he loves nothing better than to be down in the trenches. Where I, as a psychologist, loved to be too.
4. Are you character driven or plot driven?
I’ve always seen these as two halves of a circle. A book is not complete without both and each should inform the other. The story often flows from the questions ‘How would this character react?’ and ‘What would they do next?’ If you have to shoehorn a reluctant character into a plot twist that doesn’t suit him, the story will not be believable. But you also have to have sufficiently complex and compelling characters, and throw them enough challenges, to create a dramatic and exciting story. Otherwise no one will keep reading.
5. Are you a pantser or a plotter?
I lean towards pantser. My imagination works best when I am immersed in a story. When I have tried to outline, I come up with better ideas during the actual writing and end up tossing aside the outline. I like the sense of adventure and the discovery of the unexpected. I hope it makes the story less predictable; if I don’t know whodunit until the end, how can the reader guess? However, I do spend a lot of time thinking and speculating before I start writing, so that I have a sense of what I want to say in the story and what it’s about (although I do change my mind!) and I have a feel for the major characters.
5. What do you hope readers will most take away from your writing?
I’ve asked myself that question often over the years. My stories about the struggles of ordinary people and the blurring of right and wrong, so I think a compassion for others, and a sense of ‘there but for the grace of God go I’.
6. Where do you see yourself as a writer in 10 years?
Ten years is a long time, and I like surprises, so who knows? Hopefully still writing the kinds of stories I want to tell, at a pace that allows me time for other life pleasures like friendship, family, travelling, and my cottage. I also hope I have time for a few non-crime projects, including a creative non-fiction account of my father’s amazing life.
7. What is one thing your readers would be most surprised to know about you?
A woman has to have some secrets! Particularly things to do with the 60s, my McGill university days, and student protests. But those early misadventures gave fuel to the passion for social justice and equity that still guides today.
8. What do you like to read for pleasure?
Everything! Okay, I have no patience for wooden writing, or shallow, clichéd, boring stories. I love wonderful, moving, dramatic stories about complex people. That’s why I love crime fiction. And I love the Canadians. The quality and diversity is amazing.
9. Give us a summary of your latest book in a Tweet.
When his daughter goes missing in the northern wilderness, Inspector Green battles dangers from man and nature alike to search for her.
The latest, The Whisper of Legends, was released by Dundurn Press in April 2013 to numerous excellent reviews, and the tenth in the series, entitled None So Blind, is due out in October 2014. Like Inspector Green, Barbara makes her home in Ottawa.