One of my goals in writing the Amanda Doucette series is to take readers, and myself, on a vivid trip across Canada with stops in some of its most unique and varied locations. I set the first book, Fire in the Stars, on the historic island of Newfoundland at the eastern edge of the country and travelled west through the wintery Quebec Laurentians to the sparkling islands of Georgian Bay and the eerie moonscape of Alberta’s badlands. Wreck Bay, the fifth in the series, is set on the remote Pacific Rim of Vancouver Island, where bears and cougars prowl amid the towering firs and cedars, and whales and dolphins frolic in the ocean swells.
Canada is a huge country, the second largest in the world, but 80% of its population is clustered within a hundred and fifty kilometres of the American border, and much of it is largely untouched. It’s a land of rugged, untamed wilderness: jagged coastal cliffs, soaring glacial mountains, rainforests, deserts, and more pristine lakes and islands than anywhere else in the world. Lots of places to encounter danger. And hide murder.
What better place to set an adventure mystery-thriller series?
I’m a stickler for realism. I do a lot of reading and internet research to learn as much as I can about each place, its history, and its people. But I want to draw readers into the story so that they feel they are right there experiencing the adventure, the thrills, and the danger along with the characters. Creating a vivid sense of place is essential of that, and nothing I imagine or read about can be as detailed and rich as reality. So, I always travel to the places I write about, and I try to walk in Amanda’s shoes, doing all the adventures she does (except stumbling across bodies, of course). The pandemic limited my ability to travel while researching Wreck Bay, but I did manage a three-week trip to Vancouver Island where I hiked the rainforest trails, kayaked around the Pacific islands, strolled along the endless, surf-washed beaches, and even took a seaplane to experience it from on high. I absorbed the sights, sounds, and smells, discovering the little details that make it unique and bring it to life on the page. Details like the two inobtrusive signs by the pioneer cemetery that warned “Cougar in area” and “Bear in area.”
In the process, I discovered my country and its culture in all its beauty and diversity. I hope readers enjoy the adventure as much as I did and perhaps are inspired to explore it further.
Barbara Fradkin is a retired psychologist who is fascinated with why people turn bad. She is the author of the Amanda Doucette series and the critically acclaimed Inspector Green novels. She lives in Ottawa. Learn more here.