1. What were you in your life before you became a writer? Did this influence your writing?
I was a professional archaeologist for 35 years, the last 23 of which I was Curator of Aboriginal History at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum, Regina. I worked primarily in the boreal forest of northern Saskatchewan with several Cree families and communities. There, I excavated everything from a 5000 year-old quarry to a 150 year-old village; sorry, no pyramids or temples or golden treasure to titillate. The best part was working with some wonderful and generous people who became good friends.
I don’t know to what extent writing professional, academic papers has influenced my present writing style. I much preferred writing for avocational publications – the academic approach was far too formal and impersonal for my liking. My career certainly influenced my approach to writing – an emphasis on primary sources (when they exist), extensive research (my husband constantly asks, when will I ever finish), and a love of story-telling (my husband, again, says I know how to make a short story long).
2 Are you genre specific or general? Why? I don't mean genres like romance, mystery, fantasy etc. There are many subgenres of the above.
I have published only one book so far which, officially, is classified as historical fiction. I prefer to call it semi-fictionalized family history. I am playing the field right now – a bit of poetry, a bit of fiction, a bit of memoir, a bit of biography – some of which I have posted on my blog but have not published in print or e-book format.
3. Did your reading choices have anything to do with your choice of a genre or genres?
I never thought about that before but I think they did. As a child, I loved anything with action or that was historical/factual. I couldn't stand so-called "girls' books" such as “Little Women” and “Anne of Green Gables” – they were boring. My preferences as an adult are still the same: fiction (Salmon Rushdie, V.S.Naipaul, Rohinton Mistry, Mordecai Richler, etc), detective novels (Ian Rankin and Peter Robinson are my favourites), historical fiction and lots of non-fiction. No romance, though. Heaving bosoms and fluttering hearts are not my cup of tea.
Two books, in particular, inspired my approach to writing my grandparents’ history: “These is My Words” and “A Place of Her Own.” Both give a woman’s perspective on being homesteaders in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
4. What's your latest release?
It’s called “Our Bull’s Loose in Town!” Tales from the Homestead, the story of my paternal grandparents, Abe and Addie Hanna, who homesteaded in southwestern Saskatchewan beginning in 1908. Grandpa Hanna kept diaries from 1910 to 1939 (he died in 1940) but they record only what he was doing. Rarely does he mention what Grandma Hanna was doing. I wanted to hear her voice, to hear what she thought of her life and times. I imagined her telling someone a series of stories while sitting at the kitchen table, sharing a pot of tea. The people, places and events are all real – I knew many of those people when I grew up there – but the details and conversations are all imagined.
5. What are you working on now?
I am trying to write the story of my maternal grandparents – Caleb and Mary Higham, who immigrated to Canada (separately) from England – but it is proving to be more of a challenge. I do not have the wealth of primary information as with Abe and Addie Hanna, although two uncles are still alive and have been very helpful. The main problem is that it seems I am writing the same story all over again because Caleb and Mary lived through the same events as Abe and Addie – the Great War, suffrage, prohibition, Spanish flu, the Dirty Thirties, World War II. I have yet to find a way to make Caleb and Mary’s story different.
I have a few other story ideas that I play with from time to time but they are a long way from finished. One is a parody of small town life with all the gossip, cliques and back-biting that go on there. A second is very dark: two police officers in a small city try to stop a serial killer who preys on pre-pubescent girls. The third is historical fiction. It takes place in Saskatchewan during the very nasty provincial election of 1929 when the Ku Klux Klan took advantage of prominent anti-Catholic, anti-French and anti-immigrant sentiments to become a influential factor in the election campaign.
6. Where can we find you?