Interview with P.D. Workman

Published 2021-08-28.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
The Outsiders, S.E. Hinton - one of my first exposures to the lives of youth gangs or social issues
The Hobbit, LOTR, Silmarillion, JRR Tolkien - okay, so that's five books at once, but I love the whole journey from mythology to epic fantasy and a personal journey
Anything by Dick Francis - I love the level of heart-pounding tension, sympathetic characters, the complex mystery
The Pigeon, Jay Bennett - like S.E. Hinton, a journey into the world of the young offender - love the hard-hitting bare bones dialogue
Nero Wolfe books, Rex Stout - fabulously colourful characters, complex plots, and gourmet eating
What do you read for pleasure?
Thriller, mystery, fantasy, general fiction, Christian/Amish romance, cookbooks... pretty much anything with a fast-moving plot, good characters, and no 'adult' content.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
Kindle on iPhone.
When did you first start writing?
For as long as I can remember, the blank page has held an incredible allure for me. I have samples of stories and booklets that go back to my early childhood. I collected notebooks of all shapes and sizes with plans to fill them with words and stories. By grade four I found that inventing a story in my head could rival the joy of reading one from a book. I wrote and bound a series stories about a rabbit, painstakingly typed on my dad’s Selectric typewriter and illustrated by tracing pictures.

In grade five, I spent a lot of leisure time creating a Narnia-like world of my own. I drew pictures of it… unicorns, rainbows, forests, mountains in the distance. There were six meals a day, with names like nibble and munch. I didn’t write a word of the story, though I imagined the plot line, which included my arrival in the land via a pair of magical red tennis shoes.

In grade six I had a language arts teacher who had a box full of pictures to use as story prompts, and we would write a creative writing story every Friday. I loved it. I wrote a number of stories about a pair of magical black dogs with glowing red eyes. In grade seven I continued to enjoy creative writing at school, much of it about horses, my new obsession as I read every book in the Black Stallion series. I started to write my first full-length novel, a classic plot line about a class of school children who get marooned on a deserted tropical island. No, no Lord of the Flies here. It was all about survival. I went to a young writer’s conference and talked about it. I read it to the kids I babysat. I never finished it.

Then at the age of twelve, I finally did it, I wrote my first complete novel. It was full of fantastic ideas. It was the spring board for many stories over the next few years.
How do you approach cover design?
I design my own covers now. Study the genre and pick an image/images that are representative of the story.
Describe your desk
I am using a standing desk now. Nice clicky keyboard with my MacBook Mini and one monitor, and my MacBook Air on a second arm, the keyboard and mouse shared between both computers.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
Several times over the years, I have taken up the pen and dabbled with contacting publishers, submitting to contests, etc. And each time, the joy has disappeared and the creative juices have dried up. And I’ve gone back to my hermit-like writing existence, proclaiming that my estate can publish my work after I’m dead.

But at the same time, I've watched the indie market mature, making it possible and even mainstream to publish your own work to Kindle or other electronic formats. I decided that the time was right, both for the market and for me, and started out by reading "The Naked Truth About Self-Publishing". Wow. After that, I was incredibly excited about starting out on this venture, and having full control of the process.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
I love to create and get to know new characters, to see what they are going to do and what they can achieve. I like to see how they change and progress (or not). And I want my readers to understand and empathize with people who think differently and have had very different life experiences than they have.
I find the idea of a hero with a fortune-teller gig that started as a scam and turns into a gift so intriguing. What inspired you to write the series, Reg Rawlings, Psychic Investigator?
Reg Rawlins, Psychic Investigator is a spin-off from the Auntie Clem’s Bakery series. Reg is a foster sister of the main character (Erin) in that series and makes an appearance in book 6, Coup de Glace. I enjoyed writing her so much I knew she needed her own series. I already had the plot for the first book in a paranormal cozy series on the backburner (believe it or not, from a dream my husband had), so I adapted it for Reg.

All books in both series can be read as stand-alones, but of course you’ll get extra enjoyment from reading the whole series.
Please tell us about Reg Rawlins. What is she like?
Reg was born to an addict mother and spent her first five years in poverty and neglect and the rest of her childhood in foster care. Always in poverty, she grew up to be a scam artist, always trying to make money off of a con. She thought she’d really found her sweet spot with telling fortunes and pretending to commune with the dead. Fun clothes, big acting, and the ability to cold-read people made it the perfect profession. But when she moves to Black Sands, a haven for psychics, witches, and people with other gifts, things start happening that she can’t explain…
The title for your new book in the series is unique and full of contrasts. Tell us about Fairy Blade Unmade and how you came up with the title and what is special to you in her new adventure.
Fairy Blade Unmade brings back a character that Reg first met in book 2, A Psychic with Catitude, the adolescent fairy Calliopia. Calliopia has received a dire wound and everyone has given up on being able to save her. Reg believes that the destruction of the magical weapon that wounded Calliopia is the key to her being able to heal. But unfortunately, no one in Black Sands has the ability to unmake it. Can you say road trip?*

I generally title my books before I begin writing them, brainstorming various words and phrases that fit with the theme of the book, playing with them, and searching on Goodreads to avoid identical titles if possible. Then I lay the various “winners” out on a mocked up cover to see what works well visually. I particularly liked the rhyme and resonance of “blade unmade” for this book.

*Tip: Don’t take two cats, a pixie, and energy drinks on a quest. They don’t mix well.
As a prolific writer, you write both thrillers and mystery. Do you get into a different frame of mind when moving from one genre to another?
I think the protagonist makes a bigger difference to my frame of mind than the genre. Thrillers and mysteries have a different structure, but it is really the characters’ that I need to switch tracks for. Erin Price is light and optimistic, Zachary Goldman darker and grittier, and Reg Rawlins is playful and adventurous. It’s always fun to go back to Reg after writing something more serious.
You give your readers a taste of your writing by reading a chapter to them on YouTube. Is reading aloud also part of your writing process?
No, it’s all composed in my head, but I do have a very strong internal narrator. It’s been very interesting to learn as I get older that not everyone has a voice narrating everything they do and think!

Usually, reading for my fans on release day is the first time that I’ve read aloud from my book. I enjoy reading aloud and have read all of the Harry Potter books aloud to my son at least three times. Some of them more. Dobby still makes me cry…
What inspired you to write the Parks Pat Mysteries?
I was working on a collaborative project with another author when we came up with a similar idea. That project ended up not going anywhere, but I had already scheduled the time to write it, so I decided to take a run at murders that took place in Calgary area parks on my own. I had been thinking about setting something locally for a while. Most of my stories are set in the USA, which always means doing extra research into those little details like weather and climate, foliage, animal life, and sunrise and sunset times, as well as cultural aspects such as speech/colloquialisms, dress, demographics, jobs/industry, government, and more. Setting a series in Calgary, I could take advantage of my knowledge and experience living here. And I love Calgary parks!
Can you tell me about the Parks Pat Mysteries series?
Parks Pat Mysteries is a police procedural series, with Métis detective Margie Patenaude investigating, a new Calgary homicide detective, investigating a spate of murders in Calgary and area parks.

Margie is a single mom arriving in Calgary in August/September 2020 in the midst of the covid epidemic, so she has a few things on her plate. She also has a grandfather in Calgary who she reconnects with.

These are quick, easy to read mysteries that are just right for those days when you could use a break from your busy life
What did you learn when writing Out with the Sunset?
With the stories taking place in Calgary, I didn’t have to do as much research on setting as I have had to in other series. I have also previously written about Indigenous peoples in Canada in Questing for a Dream, so I focused more specifically on the Métis people. One thing I learned was that there are a lot more people with Métis roots than I realized in Alberta, and a lot of people who don’t even know that they have Métis roots.
With this series, I was able to walk through the settings with my husband, scouting out various places where bodies could be found and features of the park that might come into play. I took pictures and immersed myself in the settings. We tried to be careful not to talk too loudly about body dumps or murder around other park visitors, and luckily didn’t have any actual Calgary police officers coming to our door asking what we were up to. In exploring Edworthy Park, we actually came across a Calgary Parks sign itemizing the many ways that you could be killed on the Douglas Fir Trail. How very convenient! Thank you, Calgary Parks.
What does the title Out with the Sunset mean?
I have tried to structure it so that all of the titles in the series say something about a feature of the park they take place in and something about the murder or plot. The victim in the first book goes out with the sunset, and the sky, sunrise and sunset in Fish Creek Park are a big part of its beauty.
Was Marguerite Patenaude inspired by a real person?
Margie is not inspired by any one person. I did a workshop on characterization for When Words Collide in August 2020, and decided to involve the participants in some of the exercises I go through when developing new characters. I indicated that I did not want a main character who was white, and it was one of the participants who suggested that she be Indigenous. I have previously written a Cree character and decided Margie should be Métis. There were also suggestions that she be a single mother, and several other bits that I eventually included.
Will you write more in the Parks Pat series?
I have enjoyed writing the series and exploring parks around Calgary, and have written six so far. I think you can expect at least another three in the series.
You were involved in the creation of the Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park?
I was! I have worked for Calgary lawyer Andy Crooks for many years, and one of his long-time clients was the Harvie family, beginning with Neil when he was still alive. We worked with Neil’s four children to help establish the legacy that he had envisioned decades before, protecting the land from urban development for future generations. We helped with the build-out, creating and staffing Glenbow Ranch Park Foundation, and getting the initial programs off the ground. As with many of the volunteers, stewards, and neighbours of the park, I consider GRPP “my park.” But it is quite a distance from my house, so I don’t get out there as often as I would like. I recently took part in GRPF’s “Steward an Acre” fundraiser, and sponsored an acre of the park near my murder site in Long Climb to the Top.
How did you deal with covid in the plot of the Parks Pat Mysteries? When are the stories set?
The first three books are set in September 2020, one year ago, which is when they were written, and I did take the pandemic restrictions into account, so you will see some unique aspects in the stories. Police detectives and others wearing masks, and the issues that causes during an investigation, NHL playoffs being held in September instead of May/June, and more.

The next three books are set in July 2021, so they include the removal of restrictions by the Alberta government, though there were still masking recommendations in place for Calgary Police Services.
You touch on the issue of residential schools in Out with the Sunset. Why did you address this subject? Was it because of the recent discovery in Kamloops?
The homicide detective in the Parks Pat series is Marguerite Patenaude, a Métis woman. Growing up, Margie saw the impact that the systemic abuses of the Residential School program had on her family. Her grandfather, who features in the story, is a residential school survivor, and his experiences still affect him decades later. He talks with Margie and her daughter about it and warns them about not letting others subvert their culture.

Out with the Sunset was written in September of 2020, before the discovery of the Kamloops graves was announced.
I have been concerned for a number of years about the intergenerational trauma caused by residential schools, living conditions on reservations, and discrimination faced by the Indigenous peoples in this land, and have written about some of these issues previously in Questing for a Dream. It is my hope that my writing can raise awareness and educate readers on both the history and the current conditions of those who have lived these experiences.

If you are also concerned about these harms, I would encourage you to write to your MP (if you are Canadian), encouraging the federal government to follow through on the calls to action made by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in their final report in 2012 and the promises they have previously made with regard to such things as clean water, medical care, and keeping Indigenous families together.

You can also make a donation to a charity that benefits residential school survivors, such as the Indian Residential School Survivors Society.
Your books often deal with serious real-life issues like mental illness, addiction and abuse. Why do you take this approach?
It was my compassion for others and outrage over injustices that pushed me into writing as a way to express my feelings and to tell the stories of the vulnerable and marginalized. These issues will always find their way into my books, no matter the genre.

The topics that I feel the need to tell stories about may be in the news, something I have seen or experienced, or topics that my friends and readers email me about or send me articles on. They have talked to me about EDS, hair strand testing, electric shocks of autistic individuals, medical kidnap, the marginalization of aboriginal youth, and other topics that I’m sure I’m not remembering right now. It is incredibly gratifying to get an email from someone who says “thank you for writing about this” because it helps them not to feel so alone.

It is also so good to hear “I never knew that this was happening. I googled it as soon as I finished reading your book, and it’s a real thing! I couldn’t believe I’d never heard it before.” Because that means I’m doing my job. I’m educating at the same time as I’m entertaining and people are really “getting it.”
What is the most wonderful thing about being a writer?
I love to write and to create. I probably get more joy and satisfaction out of writing a book than my readers do from reading them. I love to explore characters and find out what will happen next. I love to reread them again later.
I also love hearing from my readers and seeing the excitement on someone’s face when they find out that I’m a “real writer.”
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author or publisher.

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