Exclusive Wholly Cinema interview with mystery author Wendy Roberts
Blog post by Ross Munro for Wholly Cinema.
Photos by Maria Munro.
One of the benefits of social media (besides viewing numerous photos of people’s meals) is the prospect of connecting with a person from your past all these years later (hmm- sounds like a synopsis for a cool indie film…).
Well, that’s what happened recently when I reconnected with my former Winnipeg high school grad Wendy Roberts (J.H. Bruns Collegiate, Winnipeg- Class of 1981 aka “The Can’t Miss Generation”). It’s quite the trippy experience actually meeting up with a person when the last time you saw them they were marching across a musty high school gymnasium stage in a cap and gown being handed a diploma as a fresh-faced teenager about to be loosed into the adult world with boundless optimism and bravado (“Retail Sales here I come!”).
Flash forward to the present and it’s a great honour to be interviewing Wendy and discussing her career as a mystery writer hot on the heels of her latest thriller “A Grave Calling” (“Bodies of Evidence #1” series) which follows the fascinatingly complex protagonist Julie Hall as she uses her unique ability to locate missing bodies through the use of divining rods while a killer roams the rainy, sinister terrain of the Pacific Northwest (might be a good time to postpone my upcoming road trip to Seattle…).
Wholly Cinema: How did you get started on the road to being a published mystery writer?
Wendy Roberts: I’ve always had a bit of a creative bent and could tell a story. I used to tell stories to my children- but only for myself. Somebody then suggested that I go to this big writer’s conference- as writing was a hobby of mine- so I went and met other writers who asked me if I was going to submit or publish any novels. Initially I said I wasn’t going to do that until an agent said to me that writing without trying to submit is like chewing without swallowing- you’re not getting the full effect of the writing if you don’t at least try to get it published. So I did and got thoroughly rejected many times. Now I have my eighth book published- “A Grave Calling”- which is part of a two book deal with the second one being handed in to my editor on Monday and due to come out in January. So it’s a constant process.
WC: Who is your publisher?
WR: The series I’m writing now (“Bodies of Evidence”) and two of my other books are published by Carina Press which is a division of Harlequin.
WC: Why did you get into the mystery genre?
WR: I think I’ve always had that sort of a ‘mind’- when I’ve gone to writing workshops I’ve always said that part of writing is playing the game of ‘what if’ when you’re trying to generate a story idea. I would bring in various news articles and say “what if” something nefarious happened to the people in them. I’m always curious and probably see things darker than most people- when I had my first book about to come out back in 2005 people said, ‘oh, you must be doing a children’s book’ just because I had four kids. I said, ‘my kids will never be allowed to read this book!’ (laughing).
WC: How did you come up with the protagonist Julie Hall and her use of divining rods to find bodies?
WR: Many years ago I was looking on Ebay for something entirely different and I saw somebody selling divining rods but they weren’t selling them to find water but for grave dowsing. So I bought them and they came with a little pamphlet on how to find graves which I thought was bizarre but I knew there was a story there so I stuck them in my desk. I didn’t think about it for five more years until I realized that I now found the story and knew I wanted to write about that. I think sometimes ideas take a while to percolate in your brain. Do I believe in using diving rods (dowsing) as a way to find the dead? Not particularly but I believe it makes for a good tale.
WC: Have you given any thought to pitching “A Grave Calling” to TV or movies?
WR: I have an agent that works with me. We’ve been approached two or three times about my last series (“Ghost Dusters”) but didn’t get a deal done. It may happen someday soon but, as you know in both writing and film, there’s a lot of steps that have to be followed to make anything happen. Could it be possible? Sure. I’m not a screenwriter and envy anyone who has that ability but would be open to doing it for sure.
WC: Who are some of your favorite mystery writers?
WR: Allison Brennan is a huge mystery and thriller writer that I really admire. Before I actually met her, she gave me a really nice quote for my second book and I was just in so much awe that she even read my book as well as giving me so much encouragement. This last year I was at a Thriller conference and was able to have dinner with her which was one of my professional highlights.
WC: So, as you mentioned, you’re currently working on the sequel to your mystery novel “A Grave Calling”.
WR: It’s called “A Grave Search” and the first draft is done. I’m now working on the second draft but I still haven’t written the end. When I write mysteries, I don’t know who’s ‘dunnit’ till I’m three quarters of the way done writing. For me, one of the best things is to be surprised myself.
WC: Do you have any advice to writers?
WR: If you are writing, making films or anything in the artistic world- you have to have faith in your own process and your own craft. If you trust in those two things you’re more likely to end up with unique work that’s true to you- otherwise you become vanilla and seem like everything else that’s already out there. Another piece of advice is to surround yourself with other writers as much as you can- go to local writers conferences, sign up with organizations- as well as make sure you write every day because when I go long periods without being able to write it changes who I am as a person and I have to fight to get back to that way.
WC: What’s the reaction been so far to “A Grave Calling”?
WR: Knock on wood- I’ve been very blessed to get excellent reviews. I had one negative review which I did get a good chuckle out of because the reviewer said that the story was great but they didn’t like the sex or the swearing. You can’t be everyone’s cup of tea because if you try you destroy yourself in the process.
WC: Along with your upcoming sequel to “A Grave Calling”, what does the future hold for you?
WR: I never like to say no to anything. I think my work has evolved- I had a lot of humor in my early stories but I feel I’ve gotten darker. I don’t even like to say I’m in a specific genre even though I am because the genre name is mainly about marketing. In all my books, I don’t start off with the plot idea- to me it’s all about the person I create and what their journey is.
Barnes and Noble: http://bit.ly/AGraveCalling_WendyRoberts_BN
Viva La Cinema!