Author of: Scuttlejack: A Damon Quinn Mystery
When the Ocean Raider vanishes in the
Salish Sea, investigative crime writer Damon Quinn isn’t convinced it’s a hijacking.
But his skepticism is dispelled by an intensive air-sea search from Alaska to
Oregon that turns up nothing—no flotsam, no oil slick, no crew. Four
researchers and a fishboat converted to a high-tech science lab are gone without
a trace. Then two teenaged sailors are attacked in the night by an unseen boat,
and a luxury yacht is torched by an arsonist. Are these crimes tied to the
Ocean Raider’s disappearance? Quinn’s answer lies on the bottom of a Gulf
Island channel— a Japanese cash-buyer ship, scuttled on the herring grounds
nearly 40 years ago.
But locating the wreck of the Kochi Maru
is no guarantee that Quinn can prevent the murders of the kidnapped crew. It’s deja
vu on the Pacific coast. Harley Bowen, the fisherman-turned-immigrant-smuggler,
is back, with the infamous fishing magnate Uriki Kamamoto. And the sleepy Gulf
Islanders are blissfully ignorant of the monstrous crimes going down in the
ocean around them.
introduction, could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
The Pacific coast has been the setting
for most of my writing during the past four decades. An author of books, magazine
articles, and television scripts, my work is published by National Geographic,
Canadian Geographic, Travel & Leisure, British Columbia Magazine, Alfred
Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, and others.
I’ve won several international magazine
awards as well as Canada’s Leo Award for screenwriting. I’m a recipient of the
Governor-General’s Commemorative Medal for “significant contribution to
compatriots, community and to Canada,” and one of this year’s nominees for the
Western Magazine Awards Lifetime Achievement Award.
I live on Vancouver Island with my wife,
Janet Barwell-Clarke. We have two grown daughters, Nicole and Lauren Obee.
your book about?
Scuttlejack is a mystery set in the Gulf
Islands and waterways near my home on southern Vancouver Island, where I’ve
travelled by cruiser, sailboat, canoe, and rowboat since childhood. The oceanic
setting is integral to a plot that unfolds almost entirely on islands and channels, on
board boats, and at marinas. The book blurb offers a glimpse of the essential
story, but Scuttlejack also is about family and a troubled marriage, about
overcoming the impossible, about characters with saltwater in their blood and
why did you begin writing?
I inherited writing. My grandfather and
uncle were newsmen and I, too, began as a reporter with the daily Victoria Times in
1972, at the age of 20. I left the news business in 1977 to launch a freelance
career, branching into magazines, books, and television.
I haven’t had a real job since. I have
specialized in environment and nature, mainly in-depth coverage of issues. All
my work is done on assignment. Except, of course, fiction, which is my newest
do you prefer to write in?
As a methodical journalist, mysteries
intrigue me because they lead off with a clearly-defined purpose, move methodically through
a series of twists and surprises, then conclude with a tidy finale. I’m a tidy
freak: I begin each day with an uncluttered desk and clean up when I’m through.
That quirk creeps into my writing. Every article or book finishes with all
loose ends tied.
your biggest writing achievement to date?
I’ve written 20-odd books and hundreds of
magazine articles and television scripts, so it’s difficult to pinpoint a single
achievement. As an environmental writer, I’ve covered many issues that have profound
affects on Canada’s Pacific coast and British Columbia. I’m not an educator, I’m a
story-teller, and my hope is that my stories have helped readers make informed
decisions about issues that shape the future of an extraordinarily beautiful
part of the world.
inspired you to write this book?
I’ve spent a lifetime writing illustrated
non-fiction, longing for a time when I could create picture-free stories, and
have the freedom to say things I’d never get away with in truthful journalism.
My short story, The Partnership, sold on the first try to Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, which
encouraged me to believe I could write salable fiction. Factual necessity is
uncomfortably confining in good journalism. While fiction must be believable,
there’s nothing more liberating than sitting back in a Lazy-Boy chair, dreaming
up plots starring people who don’t exist. It’s what all writers want: to never
let the facts interfere with a good story.
your favourite author, and what is it about their work that strikes a chord
The late Roald Dahl. I’ve been fortunate
to have been published with him in an anthology. I envy his incomparable wit
and economic style, moving his stories at a pace where every word is vital to
the plot and tone. His Tales of the Unexpected are proof that no one else can
deliver so many surprises in so few words.
are you reading now, and would you recommend it?
Not Dead Yet, the latest Roy Grace
mystery from Peter James. I would recommend all Peter James books.
your current projects?
While I’m mulling over the next Damon
Quinn mystery I’m working on videos for Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre in Sidney,
British Columbia. I’ve written many scripts for Canada’s Knowledge Network, and have
been a photographer since my teens. I produce videos that I shoot, write,
narrate, and edit—a one-man show.
when do you do most of your writing?
work in my home office from about 7:30
each morning until around 6:30 p.m., a routine I’ve maintained through 40 years
of full-time writing.
you say was the hardest part of writing your book?
Separating my own personality from those
of my characters, realizing that no two people are alike, that everyone speaks
differently, thinks differently, and, most importantly, responds to certain events
or situations in the most unexpected ways. To give each character a distinct
personality is a challenge that brings credibility to fiction.
designed your book cover – and was the cover something you deemed important?
The cover is critically important. I
designed the cover, initially compiling several layers in Photoshop, attempting
to tell the book’s entire story in one picture. The result was disastrous, as
my colleagues and family confirmed. After perusing countless mystery book
covers I determined a simple photo portraying a place and feeling worked best.
I also got good advice from Amazon on type faces and colours.
try to go down the route of traditional publishing first or did you feel that
self-publishing was right for you from the beginning?
My last “traditionally published” book
was in 2008 and, based on my previous books, I was shocked at the minuscule
investment in promotion. Since the coming of the digital era in the mid-2000s,
publishers are shuffling off their promotional responsibilities to authors,
compelling them to set up websites and market their own books. With the advent
of ebooks and print-on-demand, does it make good business sense to share royalties
with a publisher who’s unwilling to invest in marketing your book?
whole, how have you found self-publishing?
Self-publishing, I quickly learned, is
self-marketing, unless, of course, you’re already famous. No matter how good it is, your
book will not sell if you’re not prepared to be seriously involved in self-promotion.
Don’t waste your time writing the book if you’re not willing to become
completely immersed in the digital (and unreal) world of blogging, Twitter, and
we buy the book?
have a website or blog where we can keep tabs on you?
have any advice for other writers?
Writing a novel, or any full-length book,
is a non-stop, all-absorbing, one-year commitment. Serious authors are not
hobbyists: we write to be published. Think long and hard about what that entails before
committing yourself to the massive task of writing a salable book. Also, write like
finally, do you have anything else that you’d like to say to everyone?
Not long ago self-publishing carried a
‘can’t-sell-it’ stigma, but now some authors are
discovering higher sales, certainly
higher royalties, in self-published ebooks. Readers, too, are finding talented
authors whose talents were bypassed by established print publishers. Print is
far from obsolete, but ebooks invariably offer a broader choice of books and
authors. Go to amazon.com, or other ebook websites, and check the fine work of
some of the lesser-known writers. You’ll be surprised.