Sidney’s very own international mystery author Janet Brons has been nominated as a finalist for the 2015 Arthur Ellis Best First Crime Novel award for her debut, A Quiet Kill, and she couldn’t be more surprised.
“I was absolutely astonished and thrilled,” she says. “I didn’t think I stood a chance.”
Brons may have had her doubts, but her publisher -— Victoria’s Touchwood Editions — immediately saw the story’s potential, and signed her on to turn A Quiet Kill into a series after seeing the first book.
A Quiet Kill throws together Detective Chief Inspector Stephen Hay of Scotland Yard and RCMP Inspector Liz Forsyth when the head of the Canadian High Commission’s trade section is found brutally murdered in the Official Residence in London, England.
The suspects are many, and after a second murder, Hay and Forsyth must wade through the murky waters of the diplomatic community, and navigate the melee of international conspiracy, militant nationalism and murder.
Though light on gore, the mysteries are still rife with shock value, harkening to the classic British mysteries both on television and in novels that Brons has loved for years. And thanks to her many years of experience working in the Canadian foreign service and as a foreign affairs consultant, the setting Brons has built fully immerses the reader in a believable world as Forsyth and Hay work their way through the murder investigation.
Brons tries to balance her expertise with the action in the story so as not to bog down her readers with the details.
“What I try to do is keep the story moving,” she says. “I try to convey a lot of information in a few words. There are ways of crafting a story, that if you hit the important bits, the reader can figure out the rest himself.”
Brons is also the first to admit she’s not a very methodical writer, eschewing strict outlines and bulletin boards full of post-its for a more flexible process. The general plot is fixed in her mind, and she always starts out knowing ‘whodunit,’ but she likes to let her characters “muddle through” to find the answers themselves.
“I find it’s more enjoyable, and I think it’s the only way I can write, to write the characters and let them take the story where it will go,” she says.
Being nominated for the 2015 Arthur Ellis Award for Best First Crime Novel certainly goes a long way in validating that process, and Brons’s own comfort with calling herself a writer – something she still has trouble with.
“When people ask me what I do, I would sometimes refer to myself as an accidental author,” she says with a laugh. “I think the reason perhaps that people involved in writing, or any creative endeavour, have that doubt, is because you’re out there. You’ve put so much of yourself into your work, and it’s out there for anyone to say anything about.”
Asked how things could change, or if they would change if A Quiet Kill brought home the prize, and Brons has to think.
“I hope that more people would read the book,” she starts, then pauses again. “I will certainly gain more confidence as a writer. Though that has already happened with the nomination. It’s a very big honour.”
Whether she wins or not, having the Arthur Ellis nomination in her back pocket is something Brons can use if the insidious cloud of doubt and writer’s block ever gets too thick, especially as she embarks on her third novel.
The second instalment in the Forsyth and Hay series, Not A Clue, is scheduled to be released October 13 this year.
The sequel follows the investigative pair as they track killers that are continents apart, and try to navigate the pull they still feel toward each other.
The Arthur Ellis Awards are announced May 28.
For more information, visit http://members.shaw.ca/janetbrons or touchwoodeditions.com.