Saturday, November 14, 2009
Tim's Question for Vicki Delany
Do you feel a particular accountability writing about a small town in such a specific region, where residents are going to check your facts, keep you honest, or perhaps even take offense?
Tim, that’s why I created a fictional town: so I could make stuff up. But everyone who lives in Nelson knows I’m writing about Nelson. And generally, they love it.
I decided to fictionalize the town for three reasons. First, So no one can correct me if I put the craft shop on Main Street at the corner of Elm rather than Birch, because sometimes I don’t want to bother looking it up.
Second, because sometimes you just need to move places around and put them where it suits the story to be. For example in next year’s book, Negative Image, some of the action takes place at a luxury hotel. It is important for the plot that the room service waiter arrives at the room of the deceased, bringing a bottle of Moët et Chandon. But there isn’t a hotel in Nelson grand enough to have room service. Being not Nelson, but Trafalgar, I put one in.
Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, in a small town people know the police chief, they know the mayor, as people not as a job description. In my books the Chief Constable (i.e., the chief of police) is secretly in love with the mother of one of his officers. I wouldn’t want anyone thinking I know something about him that I don’t.
I killed off the mayor and was giving a talk to the Nelson Rotary Club when I mentioned that the mayor was, ahem, dead, but it was in a fictional town. A woman sitting close to the podium said, “Thank God for that.” I looked at her nametag – mayor’s wife.
As for taking offence, I went out to the Slocan Valley, a remote place known for its population of Vietnam-era draft dodgers and grow ops, to drop in on a small bookstore. I put on a big smile and handed the owner my material. She looked at it, sniffed and said, “Oh, yes, I’ve heard of this. I don’t know that it would be suitable for our store.” I pondered what on earth that might mean, until someone suggested that perhaps they don’t like books where the cops are the good guys.
The Nelson police, on the other hand, are rather fond of my books.
Even though the town is fictional, it is placed in a real location. The Kootenay area of B.C. Real towns are mentioned; the characters go to the hospital in Trail, to the airport in Castlegar, even to the Wal Mart in Nelson. My son-in-law plays in a very popular tribute band called BC/DC, and I have had Molly go to a concert. I work hard at keeping the landscape real, the climate, the type of people who live and visit there, their attitudes. After all, I set the books there because I love it, so there isn’t much I would change.
Although I did take the liberty of improving one little fact. In reality the Nelson waterfront is bordered by the town dump, some abandoned warehouses, the aforementioned Wal Mart. In Trafalgar I moved the main street to the riverside so people sitting out on restaurant patios could look over the water.
Vicki Delany’s newest novel, Winter of Secrets, received a starred review from Publishers Weekly, which said, “she uses…artistry as sturdy and restrained as a Shaker chair.” Vicki writes everything from standalone novels of suspense (Burden of Memory) to the Constable Molly Smith series, a traditional village/police procedural series set in the B.C. Interior (In the Shadow of the Glacier, Winter of Secrets), to a light-hearted historical series (Gold Digger) set in the raucous heyday of the Klondike Gold Rush. Vicki lives in rural Prince Edward County, Ontario, where she rarely wears a watch. Visit Vicki at www.vickidelany.com. She blogs with five other mystery writers at http://typem4murder.blogspot.com and about the writing life, as she lives it, at http://klondikeandtrafalgar.blogspot.com