Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Write What You Know. And Good Places To Hide a Body: Q+A With RJ Harlick

Share |
Write What You Know. And Good Places To Hide a Body: Q+A With RJ Harlick

For this installment of 5 Questions, I met up with author R.J. Harlick to discuss her latest novel, A Green Place For Dying, and the use of setting and research in her work.

C.B.: Tell us about your latest release, A Green Place For Dying.

R.J.: I’m very excited about this latest Meg Harris mystery, the fifth in the series. Meg has returned home from Baffin Island (see Arctic Blue Death) only to learn that Fleur, the daughter of a friend has gone missing from the Migiskan Anishinabeg Reserve near her West Quebec wilderness home. The young woman has been missing for over a month. Needless to say the mother is sick with worry.

Unfortunately the police, believing she is a runaway, refuse to do anything other than a nominal search. So Meg agrees to help her friend and soon discovers that Fleur is not the only Native woman that has gone missing in the Ottawa/Gatineau area. Over the past 5 years 15 other Native woman have also disappeared, four of whom have been found dead. Before long, Meg finds herself descending into an underworld of evil that she would rather not know existed.

C.B.: Was this story informed by real-life events or news stories?

R.J.: My Meg Harris series has an underlying Native theme, with each book exploring a particular issue relating to Aboriginals living in Canada. When I set out to write A Green Place for Dying, the papers were filled with stories on the high rate of missing Native woman, over 580 at the latest count. Moreover, in 2008 two young women had disappeared from the Kitigan Zibi Reserve near Maniwaki, Quebec and nothing had been seen or heard from them since. I therefore felt it was not only a timely issue to explore, but also one that needed to be kept on the radar screen. Given the sensitivity of the topic and out of respect for the families of these missing women, I have endeavoured to keep my story wholly fictional and have not based it on any real case.

C.B.: I know you tend to visit the place you're going to write about, including the high north for Arctic Blue Death. What venues did you visit for this book?

You remember the old adage of writing what you know. Well, the West Quebec wilderness setting where Meg lives is one that I know and love well. When I started writing the first book, Death’s Golden Whisper, I decided that I wanted to bring this northern paradise alive to my readers, let them experience what I experience when I roam its endless forests and paddle its endless waterways. Plus it is a great place to hide a body.

After spending time in Canada’s Far North in Arctic Blue Death, I wanted to return Meg to her West Quebec home of Three Deer Point. But I also felt some of the action needed to take place in a city, so I chose Ottawa which is a two hour drive from Meg’s Three Deer Point and a city I also know very well. So for this book I didn’t really have to go anywhere, because I live in it. However, for my next Meg Harris mystery, Meg gets to travel again, so I get to travel too, this time to Vancouver and Haida Gwaii.

C.B. Do you own an e-reader?

R.J.: Rather than locking myself into any one provider of ebooks, I decided I wanted to keep my options open, so went with an iPad, that allows me not only to read ebooks from Kobo, Kindle and other suppliers via their apps, but also to do e-mail and a host of other activities. At first I was a bit reluctant to give up the touch and feel of the printed copy, but now after several months, I find myself wanting to read only ebooks. It is just so much easier, which also means it is easier to buy. I tell you, I am spending a lot more on books than I have done in the past.

C.B.: Give us three good book recommendations ...

R.J.: Such a difficult question, for there are so many good Canadian crime novels being published these days. I would recommend any of the award winning Inspector Green books by Barbara Fradkin, but in particular the one I found most powerful was the second one, Once Upon a Time. I am also a fan of Gail Bowen and would recommend any of her books from her Joanne Kilbourn series. And finally I have enjoyed Vicki Delany’s Smith and Winters series, but found the fifth book, Among the Departed, particularly satisfying.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

C.B. Forrest

C.B. Forrest is the author of the literary crime novels The Weight of Stones and Slow Recoil.

Go to C.B. Forrest’s Author Page