I’m Montréalaise by birth and identity, although I’ve called other parts of Canada and the United States my home: Ontario, Nova Scotia, the Yukon and, yes, New Jersey.
I’ve always loved to write. I have a clear memory, during an unremarkable working class upbringing, of writing derivative melodramas on waste paper brought home from the papermill. Now I write commercial suspense fiction but drop in references to the likes of Charlotte Brontë and Bertrand Russell. Plus ça change.
I grew up, and life seized me. I was a nurse’s aide and a graphic artist for a while, then a journalist with United Press International. I translated shirtless laird romances, and was in and out of school like a repeat offender. I ended up studying for a doctoral degree at Princeton, where I specialized in long bicycle rides and watching Oprah, but did enjoy writing academic satires involving my profs in the style of Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast. I still remember you, Madame Belladonna.
I couldn’t stay at Princeton or Castle Gormenghast forever, so I returned to Canada to face the music. I taught in Halifax for a bit, then lit out for the Yukon territory. In the frozen North I did a little of it all–dogsledding, piloting a small plane, cross-country skiing, the Kluane international bike relay. I obviously fell in with the wrong crowd because I am not the sporty type. I’ve had a few jobs in government along the way. When I worked in Toronto, my employer decided I was an Indigenous policy specialist so I worked in that area and certainly learned a lot. One fine day at the office, my boss said, you’ve led such an interesting life, Anna. I figured I wasn’t long for government after that.
During this time I began to write again—young adult fantasy. I have two unpublished books in this genre. Book one was a semi-finalist for the American Katherine Paterson Prize, and book two, in a mystery vein, made the long list for Canada’s Unhanged Arthur, the unpublished novel category of the Arthur Ellis Awards. After being told my words were too “big,” I shifted to adult mystery and domestic suspense.
AFTER THE WINTER is my first published novel. Its sequel, THE AU PAIR, was released in October 2017. They’ve both been singled out as Critics’ Suggestion books by Kirkus, reserved for the top 10% of books reviewed. Book 3, APRIL ON PARIS STREET, has been accepted for publication by Canada’s legendary Guernica Editions and will be out in September 2021. All three are set in Québec, although in book 3 private investigator Ashley Smeeton heads for Paris to “rescue” a young woman in distress.
My books are stories about women in danger, and what they do about it. I hope readers will recognize and love the classic suspense elements. Then I bend things in the ending. But the evocative landscapes, the secrets, the slightly Gothic houses on a hill, they’re all there. And of course the intrepid protagonist herself. In AFTER THE WINTER, Sally Ryder’s irresistible curiosity is the small bright flame that drives the plot. You’ll also meet PI Ashley Arabella Smeeton as a pigtailed nine-year-old with an addiction to Nancy Drew. Grown up in THE AU PAIR, Ashley is a down-to-earth and unsentimental PI, with a taste for Whippets (Dare, I am open to corporate sponsorships) and, despite her emotional aloofness, a strange propensity for entanglement in domestic suspense cases. APRIL ON PARIS STREET is a partial departure from these books, a hybrid literary mystery with some genre and narrative surprises. It’s set in Montreal and Paris and explores every aspect of doubleness you can work into popular narrative. So a Two Solitudes for the wrong side of the tracks–plus dead bodies.