by Connie Ward
What made you decide to become a fiction writer?
I decided to write Trigger because one day I had an image of my head of the two main characters, Dr. Kate Morrison and Sergeant Andy Wyles, and I knew there was tension between the two women and wanted to know why. I kept writing because I wanted to know what happened next. Sometimes I asked question to find out what the characters disagreed about or what conflict they were facing, and sometimes I had questions about the characters’ pasts and what made them who they are today. The best part of reading fiction for me has always been the ability to immerse myself in another world. Writing about Kate and Andy allowed me to do that in a way that was even more intense.
What type of stories do you write? And why?
I write thriller/intrigue stories that are very character-driven. I love the tension of thrillers; I love how intrigue answers some questions but then asks more. More than anything, I write stories about people, ordinary people in extraordinary moments of time, and what their reactions to extreme events reveal about themselves. Combining the tension of a thriller with the tension of a developing romance was exciting. Trigger (and its sequel, Pathogen, due out Fall 2016) both also have a medical slant. In Trigger, Kate is working as an ER doctor in downtown Vancouver when she comes across a patient who has been surgically turned into an explosive. As Kate tries to figure out how to save her patient, the reader sees the developing police investigation from her point of view. Kate knows medicine, she knows about helping her patients, but being involved in a police investigation, especially something as extreme as humans being turned into explosives, is completely outside her frame of reference. I want the reader to follow that journey with her as she keeps coming up against situations outside her control and her comfort level. I want the reader to sense both her strength and her uncertainty, her doubt and her conviction. And I want them to see how Kate falling for Andy plays into all of those pieces.
What do your family/friends think about your writing?
It took me a long time to tell anyone other than my wife that I was writing. My wife never doubted that I could be a published author, and her quiet, constant faith in me has kept me going through some intense moments of self-doubt.
I remember telling my sister for the first time that I had completed Trigger. It was summer, and we were standing in line with our kids waiting for their turn on the merry-go-round. I stuttered and blushed my way through my confession, and my sister squealed and hugged me. I’ve become better at sharing with people about my writing (blushing remains, however), and a large part of that is due to my family and friends being so excited and proud of me.
One of my favorite pieces of feedback about my writing so far is from my good friend Karen, who wrote to me about Kate and Andy, saying, “I miss them already.” That really sticks with me because I know that feeling as a reader, wishing the story wasn’t over and that I could hang out with the characters a little longer. It still amazes me that I accomplished that as a writer.
Where do you get your ideas?
That’s a tough question. I do know that my ideas all start out as questions. I might be listening to CBC Radio in the car (I commute for work so I drive a lot), and I’ll hear a story and wonder what I would do in that scenario, or what my characters would think of a current event. That usually sends my thoughts spinning, and I know I’ve hit on a good idea when I can’t stop thinking about it. The idea or concept might start small, but then I just want to know more. I keep a notebook with me most of the time, and I’ve been known to scratch out nearly illegible thoughts and ideas while stopped at a traffic light.
How do you write; do you plan everything out or just write?
I start with a sense of the main characters and the main conflict they come across in the story. I have a general idea of how the story plays out before I start writing, but I definitely don’t have everything mapped out and planned. More than once I have had to stop writing and create very messy timelines to try to figure out where the story is now, where it came from, and where it’s going. There’s not a lot of finesse there, and I’m interested to see how I might use this strategy a little more proactively in the future! In general I’m a pretty logical and detailed person, but writing seems to be one of those things that I do at a gut level.
What makes Trigger special to you?
Obviously Trigger is special to me because it’s my first book. It’s the first time I have been able to call myself an author. It’s the first time I’ve worked with an editor, and I’m grateful to Jerry L. Wheeler for working with me on this story. It’s the first time I’ve invited people to share in something I’ve created and sent my characters out into the world to see how they do. It’s the first time I’m looking at the world of lesbian fiction not only as a reader but also as a published author, and that’s an amazing feeling.
How much of yourself and the people you know are in your characters?
There are elements I can identify with for both of my main characters, but they truly are not a reflection of myself or anyone I know. There may be characteristics, word phrasings, humor, expressions of emotion, habits, or actions that are recognizable to me, but I hope more than anything that my characters stand on their own. In some instances, I can note where my characters are completely opposite from me. Kate, for example, who grew up in Vancouver, reveals that she feels comfort with the mountains around her. I, on the other hand, who grew up in relatively flat Ontario, feel a vague sense of claustrophobia when surrounded by mountains.
Which gay/lesbian authors inspired you the most? Do you have a favorite of this author(s)?
Fun question! I’m a big fan of Patricia Cornwell and Val McDermid. They both emphasize characters while also creating complex, intricate stories and delicious levels of tension. Radclyffe was the first lesbian fiction author I read, and I constantly re-read her work because I can’t help falling in love with her characters and their stories. J.M. Redmann’s Micky Knight series is also a favorite. Her stories are powerfully written, and she makes the reader want to shake Micky and protect her at the same time. I’ll also give a shout out to fellow Canadian lesbian fiction authors Liz Bugg and Tracey Richardson. Liz Bugg’s Calli Barnow mystery series has wonderful writing and is very entertaining, and Tracey Richardson creates characters who I connect with in the first ten pages, without fail.
When you’re not writing what do you do for fun?
Reading always tops the list of things I do for fun, preferably early in the morning, when the house is quiet and I have a cup (or six) of tea and a blanket and my favorite spot on the couch. I love to bake, mostly because I have a huge sweet tooth and I really like following instructions. My wife and daughter and I love to travel, so we’re always coming up with plans for where we’d like to go next. I also enjoy worrying about things over which I have absolutely no control. Well, I don’t know if that’s something I do for fun, but I certainly spend a lot of time doing it.