My Visit to Academia

Last week, I spent a fascinating afternoon and evening at the University of Calgary, speaking to students in the English department. Instructor Margaret Hadley included Deadly Fall in the course syllabus for her two Detective Fiction courses this term.  What a thrill it was to see my novel listed with stories by Edgar Allan Poe, Arthur Conan Doyle,  Agatha Christie, Dashiell Hammet, Georges Simenon and Raymond Chandler.  Hadley introduced Deadly Fall as an example of what modern authors are doing with the genre. She invited me in to talk with the class about the novel as well as my writing, since her students have the option to write a mystery short story as their major course requirement.

I began each session by describing my writing trajectory and must admit I was nervous facing the first group of 50 students who were mostly under age thirty, not my usual demographic. By the second group of 50, I was more relaxed. The students followed my opening by firing off questions that were interesting, intelligent and somewhat different from ones I’m used to.  Some had an academic slant: “What do you think Deadly Fall contributes to the genre?” Others simply surprised me: “Why do the swear words only start half way through the book?” They do?

I wrapped up the sessions with some writing tips and sympathized with their course assignment, as I’ve never written a successful mystery short story. How do you manage the surprises and twists with so few characters and little space to conceal clues?

I wish all of the students the best luck in the Detective Fiction course and in their academic careers. I’m so glad I had the chance to meet with this younger generation and hear their comments about Deadly Fall. If nothing else, I hope my appearance showed them that writers aren’t all dead white guys from other places. They can be ordinary people living in your own home town – your mom or neighbour or some day, perhaps, you.