TW: I always wanted to write a novel. Growing up I wrote a lot of fiction and entered many writing contests.
After graduating from Concordia, I didn’t feel like I had much time for creative writing. I was so focused on my career that I put my dream on the back burner.
It wasn’t until I had two kids that I decided I was going to write that novel. I needed a more creative outlet, something specifically for me. I started out writing thrillers in the style of Michael Crichton, then pivoted to classic murder mysteries like Agatha Christie’s, but with a contemporary twist.
In 2018, I signed a publishing deal with Penguin. Death in the Family took about a year and a half to write and another six months to edit. It was the first book that I sold.
Do you know who the murderer is before you start to write?
For Death in the Family, I did have an idea of who the murderer would be. I outlined the book in advance, which I had never done before. With this mystery there were so many moving parts that I knew I was going to be in trouble if I didn't plot it out.
Then about halfway through I ended up changing the killer, to make it more surprising and the twist more unexpected. I think it worked — most readers have said that they didn’t see the killer coming, which is exactly what you want to hear as a mystery writer.
The protagonist in both of your books is former NYPD detective Shana Merchant. Was it important for you to have a female detective?
Yes, because I hadn’t come across many fictional female detectives. I related to them better. I also wanted to be her — tough, but with a vulnerable side. In both books Shana has to overcome a lot of personal obstacles before she can solve the case.
How did Concordia help shape you and your career?
I loved my time at Concordia. I studied public relations, advertising, sound recording, film studies — every aspect of the field I could because at that point I didn’t exactly know what I wanted to do.
A teacher who really made a difference was Michael Leo Donovan. He taught my scriptwriting class. He had his students carry around a journal so we could take notes of everything we observed. I still use that same technique today, except now I just email myself notes and observations to incorporate into my manuscripts.
It was a very positive experience. My kids are 11 and 14, and I’ve been trying to plant the seed, the idea that they should go to school in Canada. I hope they go to Concordia. It’s a great university.