Monday, July 13, 2009

Cool Canadian Crime: Garry Ryan

Here's the latest installment of Cool Canadian Crime Writers. Today mystery author David Cole returns with another interview in his Cool Canadian Crime series: Garry Ryan Previously, David has interviewed Louise Penny, Barbara Fradkin, and Mary Jane Maffini, Thomas Rendell Curran and Gail Bowen. These interviews were organized by David Cole, a US author and CWC member. The group of 13 authors were chosen by David to represent a variety of mystery genres, styles, and historical periods. Some of the authors have won or been shortlisted for the Arthur Ellis award for best mystery novel.

Garry Ryan was born, raised and lives in Calgary, Alberta. He received a B.Ed and a Diploma in Educational Psychology from the University of Calgary and taught for more than thirty years in Calgary public schools. His first novel, Queen's Park, sprung from a desire to write a mystery with an emphasis on the rich diversity and unique locations of his hometown. The Lucky Elephant Restaurant is the second title in his Detective Lane series and winner of a 2007 Lambda Literary Award.

David Cole: In what ways do you think your upbringing has influenced the kind of writer you've become? When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer, and how did you break this distressing news to your family?

G.R: The biggest influence was living in Southeast Asia for two years. It taught me to look at my home (Canada) through a different pair of eyes.
I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I’ve always been a reader and needing to write. Some of my family is embarrassed/scandalized by my subject matter. Some are incredibly supportive. Some have never read my books and probably never will but have already made up their minds about me and the writing.

D.C: Which do you prefer to write: stand-alones or series books? Can you say something about the strengths and weaknesses of both, from the writer's perspective? Maybe you can give me some tips, so I can convince myself to take a break from Rebus.

G.R: I’m trying to do both. I like both. A series allows the reader and the writer to enjoy and develop a relationship with a character. Stand-alones offer the chance for a one of a kind experience. It’s hard to recreate the magic of a stand alone book. With a series, it seems I’m always chasing the magic.

D.C.: Whom do you write for? Do you have any notion of an audience "out there" while you are constructing a book?

G.R: That’s a good question. I think people write for the same reasons we breathe. It keeps us alive.

D.C. I'm fascinated by the way real life can impinge on a fictional universe. Have you experienced anything similar? Maybe you could give us some examples.

G.R: I come at it from the other end. There are people and circumstances from my experiences who become characters in different circumstances and a different setting. So, I see a personality and put it into a different environment.

D.C: If you were to appear on "Oprah," what would you want the caption to say after your name: mystery writer?

G.R: Canadian, Misfit

D.C: Your house is on fire, and you can save only two books: one by yourself, one by another author. Which do you choose?

: The one I haven’t finished writing.
The one I haven’t finished reading.

D.C. What does the word "evil" mean to you?

G.R: Fundamentalism.

D.C. You wash up on a desert island. Which three items would you wish to find awaiting you? (No boats and outboard motors allowed.)

G.R: A freezer full of popsicles and a shower.

D.C.: As a Calgary writer, how do you feel about being awarded the LAMBDA Literary Award and Calgary Freedom of Expression awards?

G.R: They settled on my shoulders as honours and a responsibilities.

D.C.: Let's start with a philosophical question. In the universe of your work, where does evil come from?

G.R: Evil is self-interest; a total disregard for the needs of others and an obsession with getting what the evil individual wants no matter the cost to others.

D.C.: Seems to me the eternal question when it comes to series fiction is how do you keep it fresh and interesting. Do you care to answer that and perhaps enlighten me?

G.R: It’s the characters. They grow, change, go through unique experiences, do unexpected things. They offer up their surprises to the author and the reader.

D.C.: How do you construct a novel? Plot first? Character journey first?

G.R: Sometimes it’s a title, sometimes a photograph and sometimes it’s a map (diagram) of the characters and their relationships that forms the foundation of a novel.

D.C.: If you consider that Lane is on a character arc or journey, where in general can you say he is going? Or is that asking you to give away the store?

G.R: He’s looking for a place to belong; a family.

D.C.: Before this showed up in your e-mail, what were you working on? I don't want a general description of the book you're on. Tell us about the very page you were writing. What was happening? What does it mean?

: Sharon (the main character) just killed fifteen men. She is in the middle of a war, has a particular talent for aerial warfare and is revolted by this talent.

D.C.: What was the question you wished I had asked you but didn't? Just the question. I don't want the answer.

How come you like popsicles so much?

D.C: I've chided you (affectionately) for working too much. You're the only writer I know who can babysit his grandson, do home renovations, keep the house clean, do the wash, shovel the sidewalk (Will it ever stop snowing?), volunteer to work at schools, do yoga and walk your pain-in-the-ass dog. Is this energy, or fantastic organizational skills or what?

G.R: An enervating environment.

D.C.: Have you ever fantasized about being a reclusive, respected writer who never does promotion, is impossible to locate, and maybe is even reputed to have a bad temper?

G.R: No, I’ve fantasized about making enough money from writing so we could live on it, though.

D.C.: Do you find it difficult being yourself? What I mean is, do the expectations that publishers and readers bring to you ever feel limiting? Or have you arranged your career in such a way that you can pretty much try the books you want to try?

G.R: I’m beginning to feel that I have to keep Lane going but, at the same time, determined to write some historical fiction.

D.C.: How about a tiny sneak preview of the next novel?

G.R: Smoked is about the games adults play to get what they want and hide their appetites from everyone else. It’s also about the intelligence and sensitivity of damaged children.

D.C: What would you like to see more of, and less of, in crime writing these days?

G.R: More of a sense of humour. Less science.

D.C.: When you decided to write fiction, why did you choose crime fiction?

G.R: It can allow you to tell the truth about the society its set in.

D.C.: As a writer, what have you not done yet that you'd like a chance to do?

G.R: Travel to Europe to research the historical novel I’m working on.

D.C.: What are you working on now?

G.R: An historical fiction piece set in Britain in 1940. The main character is female and has a bit of an attitude. The more interesting women I know have a `bit of an attitude’.

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