In the swirling snow of the Great White North, there exists an author so earnest, talented and kind that I’m sure her debut novel, Northern Deception, will be a hit. Fortunately, I had an opportunity to chat with Laurie Wood where we discussed polar bears, her writing process and the demise of Nickelback.
Alright, Laurie, let’s get this thing started. What is your deepest darkest secret? Just kidding! Did you always want to be a writer or was there some other dream that led to this one?
My deepest darkest secret is that my favorite story when I was a child was Peter Pan, and I always imagined myself as Peter, fighting the pirates and leading the Lost Boys. No being Wendy for me, sewing on buttons and telling bedtime stories! Still, I’ve always wanted to be a writer. Always. I went to college and took what we call in Canada “Radio and Television Arts” (although I really wanted to go to university to become a journalist) and there was a lot of writing involved in that program. I didn’t have the luxury of going to university and had to support myself, so life got in the way and writing fiction became just a dream. Later, when I was married and home with our two children, I took up that dream again and wrote a couple of novels. They were “practice” novels, like everyone does and I loved writing them. And then I wrote this book which began as just a first chapter and synopsis for a contest and I banged that off in a day and threw it into the contest. And here we are—it’s the book which I finally sold.
Cool! What is your favorite aspect of writing?
There are two things I love about writing. I love creating my characters and their world. Ideas usually come to me in pieces. I might get a glimpse of a character and his/her issues or them in a particular setting. And the other thing I absolutely love about writing is doing the research necessary to bring the piece alive. Because there’s nothing I hate more than reading a book that’s so generic you can tell the writer did nothing to research anything about the setting or who the characters are—I want my readers to learn something from my books and I want them to come away feeling like they spent time with real people.
I usually have to tell myself to stop researching because you can go down rabbit holes and waste time. But then, you can always use those tidbits in another story, or take those ideas and use them somewhere else.
I’ve often heard authors refer to researching for a novel as a “necessary evil.” It’s interesting that you think the opposite. What then, is your least favorite aspect of writing?
I suppose those days when the words just seem to be all drivel and have no spark. We all have those times when everything we write seems wooden and trite and our story seems like the worst thing we’ve ever done. For me, that’s around the middle to the three-quarter mark. I’m a “plotter” so I’ll have outlined and I know where I’m going with my characters and where the story should be going, but still, it can feel like you’ve just spent the day writing “the quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog” about three thousand times.
On that note, do you have a specific writing routine?
No. Surprise! I wish I could say I have a favorite Starbucks, or I only write to “Ride of the Valkyries”, or I have to light a patchouli candle, but the truth is—I’m at my best between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. and I’d better get myself in my chair at the dining table and get writing! I try to get chores and other things done on either end of those hours so I’m available to my adult children when they get home from work (they have special needs), and also to just use my brain when it’s at its most creative. But as to having a specific routine, I guess I’m pretty boring! I have taken my laptop and written in a nearby Starbucks a couple of times when I was on deadline and had to work Saturdays though because when everyone’s home, our house is too small to work with everyone ploughing in and out of the dining room.
I would guess that most writing routines aren’t exactly thrilling so boring is just fine, except in answering this next question. Using the most beautiful prose you can muster and without using the word “the”, tell us a little about Northern Deception. Just kidding, all words are fair game.
Northern Deception was written for a contest originally and it was looking for stories about Canadian heroes. They could be in any job, anywhere in Canada or living outside of Canada, but they had to be Canadian. I thought this was a fabulous challenge! I’d never written from the male point of view before. Then on the news, we saw one of those Jumbotron proposals where the poor guy went down on one knee, and the girl just threw her hands up and ran out of the stands, leaving him high and dry. I felt so sorry for him! Most writers go into “what if?” mode, and I combined that aspect of “what if a girl ran out on a marriage proposal without explaining why?” with “what if she had a horrible secret?” and “what if they both found each other years later in Canada’s far north?” and then once we’d been to our local zoo to see our wonderful polar bear exhibit with polar bears that’ve been rescued from Churchill, Manitoba, it all clicked together. Boom! Both characters had a reason to be in the far north, and once I came up with her horrible secret, the story ran on from there.
Intriguing! Without spoiling anything, what is your favorite scene in Northern Deception?
I’d have to say both where Kira meets Lukas’s little girl for the first time, and the ending. I wrote the ending so many ways; it was hard. I wanted it to be perfect. Not mushy or overdone. I modeled it on my husband’s proposal to me, although we didn’t have a toddler interrupting the proceedings!
Polar Bears are probably my favorite species of bear, besides gummy bears, and I know that they are featured prominently in Northern Deception, how much research went to accurately portraying them? Since you like researching, I’m going to guess a lot.
I did a TON of research, and it was all enjoyable. I got verified facts, and some written studies from our own Assiniboine Park Zoo here in Winnipeg where we have six rescued polar bears who were either orphaned up north or who didn’t do well in human/bear encounters and needed to be relocated. And I reached out to Polar Bear International as well. One of the fun things I was able to do on my website and with my newsletter subscribers in mid-October into November was to hook up with the link to the Polar Bear webcam that goes live in Churchill. You can watch them on the tundra, and as that’s the same time period I set Northern Deception in, I think that garnered a lot of interest in the book.
Do you have any advice for any new or young writers out there?
Yes! Take some respected writing classes either online or through your local college. Learn your craft. There are writing associations out there like American Christian Fiction Writers, Romance Writers of America, and they run writing courses. You can Google great writing teachers like Michael Hauge, K.M. Weiland, Margie Lawson, Laura Drake, for a few names, and they all teach writing courses online. Put money into learning how to write and don’t just throw your first efforts up for sale on Amazon or at a publisher. Writing takes practice and we’re all learning with every book we write. It’s a wonderful journey and we will never reach our final destination. I think that’s the fun of it!
Final question and I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask this. How do you and your fellow Canadians feel about the rock band Nickelback. I ask because here in the States, they went from being cool to a comment section punchline and I’m not sure why.
I’m a HUGE Nickelback fan! Love them, love them, love them, although I’m not a fan of how Chad treated his wife Avril when she came down with Lyme disease and their marriage fell apart. However, how did they go from being “cool” to being a “punchline” is easy—the muck and mire of social media. They’re a perfect example of how a mob can form on social media and gossip takes off and before you know it, a career is tanked. James 3:6 tells us: “And among all the parts of the body, the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself.” We all know that what goes out on social media is out there forever. Even we Christians need to remind ourselves of that from time to time. And not just about social media, but in our daily interactions with each other. Gossip will kill a church faster than anything. But, the short answer to your question is: Canadians love our boys from Alberta and social media mobbing is what killed off their career. And I always felt sorry about it.
I appreciate the wisdom and it’s good to hear that Nickelback still has some support out there. I’ve enjoyed this interview immensely. Thanks for joining me.
Thanks so much for hosting me today, Sean, and for putting a little twist on your questions!
Find out more about Laurie and Northern Deception below.
Reunions can be deadly.
After a savage attack in university, Kira Summers fled to the safety of northern Canada and her work as a polar bear scientist. But when her whistleblower brother dies in a mysterious car crash, she must return home to bury him and pack his belongings. Unaware she’s carrying explosive evidence someone’s willing to kill for, she has no choice but to rely on the one person she never thought she’d see again.
Lukas Tanner, a widowed single father of a special needs toddler, moved to Churchill five years ago. As the proud owner of Guiding Star Enterprises, a wilderness tour company, he and his daughter lead a simple life. But when Kira comes crashing back into his world, he realizes God has other plans. Now, Lukas and Kira must confront a merciless killer as their past and present collide in a deadly race—a race they must win if they have any hope of a future together.
About the Author:
Laurie Wood is a military wife who’s lived across Canada and visited six of its ten provinces. She and her husband have raised two wonderful children with Down Syndrome to adulthood, and their son and daughter are a wonderful blessing to their lives. Over the years, Laurie’s books have finaled in prestigious contests such as the Daphne du Maurier (twice), the TARA, the Jasmine, and the Genesis. Her family lives in central Canada with a menagerie of rescue dogs and cats. If the house were bigger, no doubt they’d have more.