What was the hardest scene to write in your new book, Deadpoint?
The hardest scene to write was the one in which an accident happens on a narrow ledge partway up a multi-pitch climb on a mountain. I had to make sure that everything I describe could actually happen the way I described. For example, I had to recruit a friend to be unconscious while partway up the wall at the local climbing gym so I could see which way a floppy body would hang in mid-air in a climbing harness. I experimented with rolling over a limp person on a mock ledge and also worked through the logistics of raising, lowering, moving and rescuing an unconscious person all while in a precarious position. This was a case where I was quite glad I was NOT writing from personal experience. I’ve climbed a fair bit, but so far (knock on wood) have never been in a situation like the one described in the book.
What comes first for you, the plot or the characters?
They arrive together. I began this book while observing a rock climbing course near Mount Yamnuska in Alberta. I wrote down snippets of dialogue, descriptions of climbing equipment and what some of the new-to-outdoor-rock-climbing participants were learning to do. As I was observing, the three main characters arrived – I scribbled notes about them right alongside my observations – and right along with those first thoughts about characters, I was imagining what they would be doing. Some of the lines in the book come directly from that very first session of watching the climbing class.
What part of a book is your favourite to write?
The beginning. At that point, nothing has had a chance to go wrong. Of course, by the time I get to the end of the book I usually need to go back and change the beginning. But that doesn’t stop me from being very excited and gung-ho whenever I launch into a new project.
What are 5 words that best describe your writing process?
Disorganized. Spontaneous. Disciplined. Messy. Boring.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever googled for book research?
I have googled so many weird things in the name of book research! For Deadpoint I had a wonderful time looking at images of spider tattoos (so much fun, in fact, I considered getting one myself). I watched videos of people buildering (climbing buildings) and read about clearing vomit from an unconscious person’s throat. I never know where my research is going to lead me!
What’s the most interesting / unusual job you’ve had (besides writing)?
Animal control officer (better known as the community dog catcher). Hog and chicken farmer. I think working with animals generally means an interesting workday.
How do you select character names?
Naming my characters is a very random process. Sometimes I use the names of people I meet in my travels. Sometimes friends and family. Sometimes I pick names out of magazines or catalogues and sometimes they are very deliberately invented to reflect some aspect of the character’s personality. And, sometimes, they just pop into my head for absolutely no good reason at all.
What do you do to combat writers block?
I think about my unpaid hydro bill. As a full time writer I don’t have the luxury of suffering from writer’s block. Every morning I get up, go to my desk and write. Some days, that’s a painful place to be sitting – and not just because I’m getting creaky and my hips are bad. Seriously, some days it seems like I have completely forgotten how to put one word beside the next. Then I think about the hydro bill. I panic a bit and spew whatever comes to mind (often, if the hydro bill is really late the spewing is a bit rude). Inevitably, though, something comes out. It isn’t necessarily any good, but I don’t worry about that. If there are words on the page, any kind of messy, sloppy, spew-your-guts-awful words written down I know I can edit, revise, rewrite, and rework later.
Deadpoint is now available.