Rosemary McCracken - Author of Black Water

Rosemary McCracken and I have a lot in common. We both write crime novel and are with the same publisher, Imajin Books, and are both members of Crime Writers of Canada. More to the point, we both have a background in journalism. This, of course, put me on my mettle for this interview.  Can't let the side down and all that.

Rosemary was born and raised from Montreal. She worked on newspapers across Canada as a reporter, arts reviewer, editorial writer and editor before turning to freelance journalism and fiction writing.

Your primary character, Pat Tierney, is a financial planner and investment fraud is a component of Black Water. Tell us about that.

As a journalist, I’ve been writing about personal finance and the financial services industry for the past 20 years. I interview financial advisors and investment managers. I attend their conferences. I know the issues they face and the concerns they have. So when I was looking for a central character for a mystery series, Pat Tierney appeared full-blown in my mind.

She has the traits of the people I admire most in the industry. She cares about her clients. She’s a champion on small investors. She has sleepless nights markets are down.

Every Pat Tierney book will include a crime that involves money. I don’t want give too much away here, but Black Water explores the kind of fraud that bad apples in the investment industry such as Bernie Madoff have pulled off, bilking small investors of their savings. But the books also explore other kinds of crime—such as murder. Some people can never get enough money, and greed is a powerful incentive for all sorts of nefarious acts.

Family drama is a key component to your stories. In Safe Harbor, Pat finds out that her late husband had a son with another woman. In Black Water, she learns, rather abruptly, that her daughter is homosexual. What made you pick these issues and how important are they to the plots of your mysteries?

I’m a character-driven writer, so the family issues in my stories always spring from the characters themselves. When I began Safe Harbor, I’d already written a Pat Tierney book. (Titled Last Date, it was shortlisted for the inaugural Arthur Ellis Award for Best Unpublished Novel in 2007. It’s now sitting in a desk drawer, waiting to be rewritten into the fourth book in the series.) So I knew Pat pretty well, and I asked myself what would be the most challenging thing I could confront her with.

The answer was Michael, her late husband and the great love of her life, who still exerts an influence over her from beyond the grave. What, I thought, if she discovers that Michael had been unfaithful? And…what if Michael had a child with this other woman? That revelation, which rocks Pat’s world, comes in Chapter One of Safe Harbor. The mother of Michael’s son is subsequently murdered, and the police believe that little Tommy may be the killer’s next victim. Can Pat turn her back on this little boy?

At the end of Safe Harbor, Pat meets her daughter Tracy’s sweetheart. She’d been hearing about Jamie Collins for some time, and she’s shocked to find that Jamie is a woman. She had no inkling of her daughter’s sexual orientation. Why did I decide to make Jamie a lesbian? I didn’t. It’s part of her character. One day, I realized why Jamie isn’t hot for guys.

When Black Water opens about six weeks later, Pat’s relationship with Tracy is stretched to the limits. Pat has handled the Jamie thing badly. Shortly after introducing her to her mother, Tracy moved in with Jamie. And Pat threw herself into her work. She hoped Tracy would get over her infatuation. She made no effort to get to know Jamie.

Then Jamie goes missing, and Tracy asks Pat to help find her. Pat suddenly realizes that Jamie isn’t just a friend and that Tracy’s infatuation with her may not go away. For the time being, at least, Jamie is the special person in Tracy’s life. Her partner.

She also realizes that Tracy had been keeping things from her for a long time. She loves her children and she doesn’t want them to have secrets from her. Pat decides she has to get to know Jamie. And if she turns out to be the one for Tracy, she’ll stand by her daughter’s choice.

I have to ask, why use American spelling in a book set in Canada?

Imajin Books, my publisher, suggested that we use American spellings because the U.S. is our major market.

Ah... Should have figured that one out myself.

How close are you and Pat in tastes? For instance, Pat seems to like a good burger, fries and a milkshake. This is a meal that harkens back to her high school days. How about you? And are you like Pat in other ways?

Pat and I enjoy the occasional junk-food meal. But both of us realize that a steady diet of burgers and fries is not healthy. We both like drinking wine, probably too much so. But I favour red, while Pat drinks white.
We’re both middle-aged women, but beyond that our paths diverge. I’m not a financial planner, and I never could be one. I’d worry about the investments I’d put clients into. I’d have sleepless nights in down markets.
And unlike Pat, I have no children. I’d make a truly terrible mother. I haven’t a trace of the Mama Bear in me.

And I like writing, which is not one of Pat’s interests. I like creating imaginary worlds, while Pat is very much grounded in the real world. Funny, isn’t it that she’s a fictional character?

What’s next for Pat Tierney?

Black Water takes place in Ontario cottage country, and the third Pat Tierney book will be set there as well. The story will be set in the early summer, my favourite time of year in the countryside. I’m currently researching nudist camps for it; it can be a chilly business. But Pat will eventually return to Toronto, because that’s where her daughters are based and she likes to be close to family. The fourth book will be set in Toronto.

What’s next for Rosemary?

I like writing about Pat Tierney, and I’ll continue to do so. But I’d also like to write books that feature some of the other characters in the series. Such as Sister Celia de Franco, a Catholic nun, and Farah Alwin, the Tierneys’ housekeeper and a newcomer to Canada from Iraq.

I look forward to reading more about Pat and I'm especially curious about the nudist colony. Thanks for being on my blog and now, get back to writing!

Rosemary McCracken has worked on newspapers across Canada as a reporter, arts reviewer, editorial writer and editor. She is now a Toronto-based fiction writer and freelance journalist. Her first mystery novel, Safe Harbor, was shortlisted for Britain’s Crime Writers’ Association’s Debut Dagger in 2010 and published by Imajin Books in 2012. You can buy it here.

Black Water, the second book in the Pat Tierney series, has just been released at the special introductory price of .99! You can buy it here.

To win a $50 Amazon gift certificate, enter the contest here. Deadline is June 15.

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