I need to move to a bigger apartment. That, or get used to my bedroom/office looking like a cross between Bipolar/Manic-Carrie Mathison-in- Homeland mode, and a serial killer's lair. With sticky whiteboard all over my walls and closet doors covered in colour-coded dry erase markers - complete with arrows made of Post-Its and scribbled quotes and photos and piles of non-fiction crime books and criminal code statutes cluttering the place up - my bedroom looks as though I am either solving a crime, or very carefully plotting one.



I have developed a possibly inappropriate fascination with weaponry. Or household objects that could be used as weapons. I am happy to report that I have never had to actually *use* one of these on a person in a real-life situation, but I do all kinds of odd tests in my apartment. If I am being secretly filmed by obsessive stalker, I'm sure s/he's plenty entertained by my experiments with my toaster's cord.

Perhaps because of my long history as a film buff (or movie nerd, if I'm feeling less posh), I found I had visual images of actors in my mind for certain characters. While I don't do a ton of what I call 'looking in the mirror description,' in my writing - you know, where a writer describes what the character looks like as she tosses her raven locks and studies her emerald green eyes in the mirror - I may have a picture or two of certain actors as my screensavers sometimes. (This being said, I won't tell who I have in mind - I want readers to do their own fantasy casting!)

When working on Cracked, and now on the second book in the series (out November 2016), I can't stray too far from mystery/suspense/crime in my own reading life. I did the ever-useful English degree in university (Victorian literature, I'll have you know), and I've always read voraciously and widely. But when I'm immersed in writing crime, I can't seem to read anything where characters aren't in imminent peril. And not from, you know, their marriage breaking down.

Having a female character who does whatever the hell she likes is one of the most liberating things I have ever done. I'm a feminist, and I've always been a strong, independent woman. But Danny's strength - despite her addiction and all her other flaws - inspires me. It's an odd dynamic. It's like she's my spirit animal.

Writing a noir crime thriller is a very good excuse to spend time watching crime/thriller/suspense/mystery films and television. For inspiration, you see. Preferably whilst consuming Prosecco and sneaking the odd cigarette. (Don't tell anyone. That's another excuse. Everyone knows that all the great noir writers smoked - how many pictures have you seen with Dash Hammett without a cigarette or pipe in his hand? Please. If the occasional cig helps me get in the mood to kick some proverbial ass while I'm writing, then I open a window. And I'm blessed, these days, with being able to pick them up and put them down again days later. Not that I'm advocating taking up smoking, mind you!)

If not carefully checked, I could easily become one of those women who walk down the street muttering to themselves…with no phone in sight. I go for long walks most days - I live in downtown Toronto, and my main mode of transportation are my own two feet - and I have, on more than one occasion, found myself whispering dialogue, trying out speaking styles, while I'm walking. (This may refer back to #1 on this list. I really should change neighbourhoods as well at this point, come to think of it.)

I became intensely, acutely attached to my characters, so much so that reading certain scenes now still makes me cry. (Note to self: don't read those scenes at any public readings. I am not a pretty sobber.) Although Cracked is just the first in a trilogy, I am already dreading the day I have to say goodbye to Danny Cleary et al.

There are different kinds of mysteries, different tones, different styles. I started writing Cracked at a fever pitch and wrote most of a very early first draft quite quickly. It's been rewritten many times, but the tone has always been the driven, quick, at times slightly gonzo kind of thing that the finished product is. It's not a cozy cottage mystery, nor is it heavy on, say, forensic detail. Don't get me wrong - I love both of those kinds of books. But writing my own made me realize what my crime writing style is, and is not.

Because much of my 'day job' work has involved being around police and prosecutors in the justice system, I've seen and heard a lot of horrific detail around crime. And when I wrote Cracked I realized that what I had always suspected was true: I have an iron stomach. I can feel the horror emotionally, but on a pure blood-and-guts level, very little makes me squeamish. I'm like a 12-year-old boy that way. Some critics have commented about the high body count in Cracked, which surprised me - I thought I'd toned it down!