Mystery Mondays: Kathy Prairie On Inner Voices and Her New Release

Thirst webToday on Mystery Mondays we welcome Canadian author Kathy Prairie. This is a special week for Kathy. Her novel, THIRST, is now available for pre-order and the official launch is February 18th. Yup, That’s this Thursday.

I’m thrilled to be part of Kathy’s launch and to have her share her writing advice on “inner voices.”

To entice you to have a look at THIRST, R.J Harlick, a previous guest on Mystery Mondays has this to say:

“With compelling characters and an extraordinary setting, THIRST is a fast-paced thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very last word.” – R.J. Harlick, author of the popular Meg Harris mystery series

That’s just a teaser for now. The description of THIRST is as the bottom of the blog.

So on to Kathy and her advice on finding your inner voice…

INNER VOICES by Kathy Prairie

I’m delighted to join a fellow B.C. author today – thanks for the invitation, Kristina.

I’ve heard the advice “find your voice” at almost every writing workshop I’ve attended and while the concept seemed simple enough, trying to achieve it has been anything but. So today I’d like to share the three elements that were key to finding my voice: characters, perspective and style.

First a simple defintion of voice: It’s your signature, your way of telling a story. But I think it’s also that sweet spot where your sentences flow with ease and your characters come to life. If you find that spot you’re sharing your personality with your readers and your writing will be as unique as a fingerprint.

I’d suggest that you start with your characters because they tell your story. In our lifetimes we probably meet thousands of people and no two of the them are exactly the same and your characters should be unique too. There are many decisions here including gender, profession, physical appearance, personality and motivations and it can be tough! I’ve heard much advice about writing what you know, but I believe it’s more important to write about what interests you.

I’m fascinated by science and intrigued by politics and through my geologist Alex Graham, I’m able to weave these elements into my stories. She’s an interesting character to me, someone I’d like to know in real life and I look forward to writing more stories about her. Ask yourself what kind of personalities most interest you. Are you intrigued by the psychology of the criminal mind or the intellect of the puzzle-solving detective? If you follow your passion, you’ll create memorable characters and perhaps find a protagonist you love enough to include in another book.

Next focus on how your characters will tell their story. First person proved the most challenging for me, but I liked the resulting scenes. Omniscient on the other hand, never really felt right because of its impersonal nature. But limited third person felt right from the start because my story flowed effortlessly through each character’s viewpoint.

You might find that you naturally gravitate towards first person, omniscient or third person but it’s worth exploring each of them fully. A simple change from “she” to “I” can profoundly affect your scenes and I found that my style, the dialogue, the details – everything shifted as I moved from one perspective to another. I wrote three complete scenes in each perspective before finally deciding on third person and even now when I’m having trouble with a particular scene, I’ll switch to first person because it changes how I see the scene and often identifies the problem.

Once you’ve decided on perspective and characters it all comes down to how you tell your story. If you allow your characters to guide you, you may find that your style develops naturally. For example, a hard-boiled detective would tell a story differently than a twelve-year-old girl.

The nature of your sentences – smooth, choppy, long, short. The kind of language you use – gritty, soft. The level of description – too many adjectives, too few, too flowery, too blunt. All of these elements contribute to your unique writing style and you need to find what suits you best. I’ve found that some of the most interesting authors break the grammar rules, so go ahead and explore. Don’t get me wrong, your story has to be readable and you should never ignore the good advice of your editor, but you also don’t need to sound exactly like everyone else.

How you paint a scene or describe a character is equally important. Some authors include few details while others write long descriptions and especially if you’re a new author, you’ll likely favour one extreme or the other. Read your favourite authors. Do you skip over the details or read every word? You probably won’t feel any more comfortable writing loads of description if you don’t like to read it. But your challenge is to balance your natural writing style against the reader’s need for detail. Push beyond your comfort zone here and add a little more descriptive detail as you write, and vice-versa and you may find your answer.

Through characters, perspective and style I finally feel that I’ve found my voice and focusing on these elements might also work for you. Your voice will evolve over time as your writing matures – I’ve seen that happen already in my own work – but your overall approach should stay steady. And if you stay true to your personality your voice is guaranteed to be unique!

Kathy’s Biography

Screen Shot 2016-02-14 at 3.22.32 PMKatherine, a geologist and IT specialist, stepped away from the international petroleum industry to follow her passion for writing. An avid traveller with an insatiable curiosity, you never know where you’ll find her next! But most days, she’s in Vancouver, Canada quietly plotting murder and mayhem under the watchful eye of a cat. She is an award-winning presenter and the author of the thriller THIRST.




Science. Politics. Deadly Intent.

Deep in a Columbia River valley rocked by violence and tightly controlled by a U.S.-Canada military force, geologist Alex Graham is on the hunt for silver. Her plans are derailed when she joins the search for a suspected toxic spill as the victim count rises. But the lethal contamination is no accident.


Mystery Monday: R.J Harlick on When Dreams Become a Reality

This week I have the honor of hosting R.J. Harlick on Mystery Mondays. I was lucky enough to have R.J. provide an endorsement of BLAZE which I proudly display on the cover, so it is a true pleasure to have her on Mystery Mondays.

R.J is here to talk to us about When the dream becomes a reality.

By R.J. Harlick

Hi Everyone.

I’m thrilled to be speaking to you today on Kristina’s blog . Thanks, Kristina for inviting me.

Today I thought I would address a question I am often asked by readers. At what point did I know I wanted to be a writer?

Though some of my confrères knew at a very young age, for me it was a more gradual transformation. There was no lightening bolt moment when I shouted, “Yes, I want to be a writer.” I more or less slid into it, starting where most writers start, as a reader.

As a child, I devoured books, in particular mysteries beginning with Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, eventually graduating to Agatha Christie, Sherlock Holmes, Dorothy Sayers, Raymond Chandler, Nero Wolf and the like. Sometimes I thought it would be fun to write one of these myself.

I even tried writing a mystery for a grade seven English class. But I blush at the memory. I’m afraid this first attempt was far too long and, I hate to say it, far too boring. Nonetheless I kept this idea of writing a mystery buried in the far reaches of my mind.

Though I loved reading, English was never my favourite subject in high school. I found the piecemeal taking apart of a story would destroy the magical hold it had over me. But I loved the creative writing part of English classes. I’d spend many an hour on class assignments making the stories swirling around my head come alive with words. Needless to say many had a mystery angle to them.

In university, I continued to enjoy playing with words. I excelled at making essays sound as if I knew something about the topics about which I was writing, when I didn’t. Studying wasn’t one of my strengths. Perhaps this is where my penchant for creative writing started.

I also continued to read voraciously branching out into the world of the greats. Though I thought it might be fun to become a writer, like Ernest Hemingway or Somerset Maugham, I didn’t treat it seriously. I didn’t really think I had it in me.

This enjoyment for words continued on into my work life as an information technology consultant. I invariable preferred the writing part of my job to other aspects. But it was business writing; letters, proposals and reports. Nonetheless I continued to harbour the dream of being ensconced somewhere bucolic penning the next great Canadian novel, or should I say mystery.

To satisfy my need to write, I started recording my time spent at my log cabin in a journal. Finally, one day after reaching a significant birthday, I decided it was time to find out if I could become the fiction writer in the bucolic setting of my dreams. The setting was easy. I was already sitting in it; the screened-in porch of my log cabin overlooking the surrounding forests. And so I set out to write what would eventually be published as my first Meg Harris mystery, Death’s Golden Whisper.

My first goal was to see if I could write a novel. Up till then, none of my business writing had approached the one hundred thousand word length of a typical novel. The next goal was to determine if I could write fiction, for I quickly discovered fiction writing was a totally different animal from business writing. As I marched along this new adventure, scene after scene, chapter after chapter, toward the climactic end, I realized I really, really enjoyed it. I decided writing was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. The third goal, of course, was to see if I could get it published. But this is a story best left for another day. Let’s just say it was a long haul with many disheartening rejections.

Seven books and the odd short story later I am still having fun. I’m in the midst of continuing my adventure with Meg. I’m midway through the writing of the eighth Meg Harris mystery. Though I do have a title, I’m not quite ready to share it, in case I change my mind. But I will tell you that the colour for this book is purple and it will be set in the Northwest Territories.

What about you? Was it a slow gradual slide into becoming a writer or did you know from the get-go that you wanted to be one?

Cold White Fear final coverNow for some BSP – If you happened to live in the Toronto area, I will be reading from and signing my latest book A Cold White Fear on Thursday, January 28 from 6:00 pm to 7:30 at Sleuth of Baker Street on Millwood Ave. It would be fabulous to see you there.



RJ Harlick is an escapee from the high tech jungle. After working for over twenty-five years in the computer industry, first for major computer corporations such as IBM and DMR Group, then with her own management consultancy practice, she decided that pursuing killers by pen would be more fun than chasing the elusive computer bug.

Originally from Toronto, R.J., along with her husband, Jim, and their standard poodles, Sterling and Miss Molly, now bides her time between her home in Ottawa and log cabin in West Quebec. A lover of the outdoors, she spends much of her time roaming the forests of the Outaouais. Because of this love for the untamed wilds, she decided that she would bring its seductive allure alive in her writings. This she has done in her Meg Harris mystery series, where the wilderness setting plays almost as large a role as the main character, Meg Harris.