Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Welcome guest blogger Janice MacDonald!

Photo credit: Arif Kassam
How did Randy Craig come to be?

I had gone back to university to do an MA in English, with a focus on detective fiction and popular culture.

I remember quite clearly sitting in the grad lounge, reading some lovely trashy paperback novel like The Maltese Falcon or The Night The Gods Smiled, when some person up to their armpits in Chaucer and Derrida said, “So now I suppose you’re going to write a mystery novel, are you?” and I responded, “Yes, I suppose I am.” I had been out of school for a while, and had already written a couple of local history books and some radio plays at that time, but I don’t think till that moment happened, I had seriously considered writing a mystery series.

But, there I was -- committed. And they do say to write what you know. So the idea of a grad student coming back to do an MA, after having been out in the freelance world a while seemed a natural row to hoe. Randy’s return to academe had been because she had found a brand new writer to study and base her thesis on, but what about people who wanted to create an academic life around Shakespeare or Samuel Beckett? 

At just about that time, I had friends in Genetics who had been told their research was only going to net them M.Sc. degrees rather than Ph.D.s, because it was negative findings, and no journal would publish their work. Scientists all know that negative findings can be just as valuable as positive ones, but there is an element of a rat race in everything, right? So, the whole idea of looking at what people would do to make it in academe came about, and with that came the start of a series.

It had to be set in Edmonton. Nothing was set in Edmonton, and I figured we needed to correct that. I’d also done an interview of L.R. Wright who said she had really had to fight to get her series set in Sechelt, B.C. I just thought it was about time we owned up to existing. Detective fiction requires location to be a main feature of the work, too. Character and location is really what draws people back to a series time and again. It’s been a wonderful thing to become an ambassador for my city to the world, and readers here in Edmonton still find it fun to see their own streets becoming a bit “mean.”

Her name, Randy, is short for Miranda, of course, one of Shakespeare’s true naïfs, who has to learn who to trust and who not to trust in her “brave new world.” But another reason for the androgynous nickname was to fit into the tradition that was building in female detective fiction, which I had just been writing about in my thesis. With that either/or name or those initials, the reader can believe the character to be somewhat of a tomboy, and therefore probably better able to hold her own in a physical altercation. She also has the potential of getting the drop on someone once in a while, if they think they are coming to meet a man.

The trouble is, between the publication of my first and second book, I met and married a lovely man named Randy, which gets people who are just meeting us all confused for a bit. I am surrounded by Randys now. 

And I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Janice MacDonald lives in Edmonton.  She writes for the government during the week and mystery novels on weekends.

The Roar of the Crowd is part of The Deadly Medley Sweepstakes at Criminal Element!  For your chance to win — and to learn more about the latest and greatest in crime fiction — just click here before February 17.

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