Author Feature: Michelle Wan, Vicki Delany, Ronald Tierney and Gail Anderson-Dargatz

Author Feature: Michelle Wan, Vicki Delany, Ronald Tierney and Gail Anderson-Dargatz

In this special Thriller Thursday feature, Rapid Reads authors Michelle Wan, Vicki Delany, Ron Tierney and Gail Anderson-Dargatz talk about their new fast-paced mysteries, some of the important themes in their novels, and the oh-so-glamorous life of a writer.

Michelle Wan:

Michelle WanWhat are your techniques for getting into the mind of your target audience?

I do a lot of people watching, focusing especially on my people who are like my protagonist(s). I watch their body language, their mannerisms, listen to their speech. I engage them in conversation and ask them about themselves and the things that concern them. Among young adults, getting a job and finding their path in life rank high, although they don’t always word it like that.

Is there a story behind the creation of your story?

I wanted to write about a guy who faces life with a few strikes against him (hyperactivity, a reading disability, no family, no roots) but whose basic decency and integrity still comes shining through.

What are the perks or challenges to being a writer?

Getting up at 5 am, sluffing around to let the dog out, then getting down to work. I swore at first I wouldn’t work in my pyjamas, but that sometimes goes by the board.

I.O.U. Dead by Michelle WanWhat do you hope readers can take away from your book?

The thing that matters most to me is integrity and kindness. It’s the golden thread that holds society together. I’d like my readers to experience this through my characters.

Do you have any unique hobbies or pastimes?

I love wild orchids. I photograph them and chart their growing areas. I’m also an avid hiker.

When you hit writer’s block, how do you push through it?

I get up and walk the dog, mow the lawn, shovel snow, take a walk–anything that gets me moving.

Anything else you’d like readers of the Orca blog to know about you or your book?

I’d like my readers to know that reading is fun and engaging, that there are whole worlds out there to be discovered between the covers of a book, physically or electronically.

Vicki DelanyVicki Delany:

Tell us about the setting for your Rapid Reads mysteries.

The Sgt. Ray Robertson books are set in foreign countries that most tourists don’t visit, so I was lucky to be able to go to South Sudan and Haiti. While there, I met with RCMP officers to talk to them about their jobs and about policing and living in underdeveloped, fragile states

What inspired you to write the Ray Robertson series?

I wrote the first Sgt. Ray Robertson book, Juba Good, when I was visiting my daughter, a Canadian diplomat, in South Sudan, and met an RCMP officer working with the UN there. I was inspired to write about the country and the people. The security situation in South Sudan has seriously deteriorated since, so I didn’t think I could write fairly about it. I was lucky enough to pay a visit to Haiti, and again I was introduced to some of the RCMP working there, helping the people of Haiti develop a modern, effective police service.

What’s the least glamorous part about being a writer? And the most glamorous?

I love the commute: downstairs in my pajamas! The least glamorous: probably still being in my pajamas at four pm.

Haitian Graves by Vicki DelanyWhat themes in your book do you most wish to highlight?

With the entire Sgt Ray Robertson series, I am hoping to point out that a lot of the problems in underdeveloped, fragile states, are due to exploitation by “Western” people, corporations, and governments. All the issues Ray gets involved in can be traced back to exploitation of vulnerable people.

How do you deal with writer’s block?

When I first started writing, I was told that plumbers never get plumbers block. So I don’t get writers block. I write because it’s what I do. Even if it’s not my best work, it can always be fixed later.

Anything else you’d like readers of the Orca blog to know about you or your book?

I hope they’ll enjoy traveling to special, unique places with Ray Robertson, and come away with some understanding of the people who live there and their struggles.

Ronald Tierney:

Ronald TierneyWhere does The Blue Dragon take place?

The first book takes place in San Francisco’s Chinatown. I’m not an expert, but I have spent a lot of time there.

Are there any important themes or issues in the book you hope readers take note of?

A murder mystery should be about the murder. However in The Blue Dragon, there is a theme of belonging, especially having to do with native born Chinese and American born Chinese, family and fitting in.

Is there anything glamorous about the life of a writer?

Nothing glamorous. Unlike many other other arts, writing is usually done by one person, alone. That works well for me.

The Blue Dragon by Ronald TierneyWhen you hit writer’s block, how do you push through it?

I make sure I plant the problem in my brain and let my subconscious figure it out.

What’s your favorite season?

In San Francisco, there are no conventional seasons. Summer is often cold and foggy, which I like. April and September usually have blue skies and warm breezes, which I also like.

Do you have any hobbies?

I love fine photography and I have an active blog. I can be reached through my website

Anything else you’d like readers of the Orca blog to know about you or your book?

The Blue Dragon is part of a series. The next will be The Black Tortoise. Each is part of a Chinese myth. In some ways these are contemporary versions of old fashioned mysteries.

Gail Anderson-Dargatz:

Gail Anderson-DargatzHow do you get into the mind of your target audience?

Writing books for adult literacy learners is very different from the literary writing I’m best known for. Dealing with adult issues while keeping the reading level from the grade two to grade six range is a huge challenge, one that I really enjoy. What I enjoy most, though, is doing events with these books. Many of the readers tell me that mine was the first novel they’ve read, and they want to read more. I can’t tell you how satisfying that is. For more on writing for this group, visit my webpage on the topic.

What’s the least glamorous part about being a writer? And the most glamorous?

Hah! Well, there’s not much glamour to the writing life. Most of my days are spent dressed in yoga pants either writing at my laptop, or thinking about writing as I do housework. I have had occasion to put on a ballgown at an award ceremony or two, but I’d much rather be at home, working and hanging with my kids.

What’s your favorite season and why?

Fall is my favorite season. I live in the Shuswap-Thompson region of BC. The colours are beautiful that time of year and the salmon return, to spawn. It’s an awe-inspiring event.

Playing with Fire Gail Anderson-DargatzIs there an important issue or theme in your book that you are passionate about?

What I’m most passionate about is literacy. If readers who are struggling in this area find my novels engaging and read on, and improve their literacy skills, then I’m happy.

Do you have any unique hobbies or pastimes?

I’m lucky that the thing I love to do most is also my job. Writing started out as a hobby and became a way of life for me.

How do you handle writer’s block?

We all go through periods when writing is tough. Usually this happens when we have been away from a project for a while, or are simply stressed or tired. Sometimes we need a break or we need time, usually about three weeks, to get back into the groove of writing. Very often, however, what we really need is inspiration. Writers need to get out into the world. I research and interview or, when I can afford it, take my manuscript on a trip. I find travel and interview in particular give me that fresh perspective on a project.

Anything else you’d like readers of the Orca blog to know about you or your book?

I love to write, but I love to teach writing just as much. I mentor writers from around the world through my online teaching forum. Of course, the writers I work with often teach me as much as I teach them. For more information, visit


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