Brenda Chapman’s first Stonechild and Rouleau novel, Cold Mourning, was nominated for the Arthur Ellis Award for Best Crime Novel, 2015. Midwest Book Review highly recommends the series, calling it “outstanding.” Brenda is a former teacher and senior communications advisor and lives in Ottawa.
A Q&A with Mystery Veteran Brenda Chapman
Stonechild and Rouleau are back for round 3, tell us about Tumbled Graves.
The book opens with the disappearance of a woman and her three year old daughter, an investigation that begins in Kingston, Ontario, but expands to Gananoque, Ottawa and a biker bar in Montreal. In addition, major developments take place in the lives of the main cops: Officer Kala Stonechild becomes guardian for her cousin’s teenage daughter while Staff Sergeant Jacques Rouleau must face the impending death of his ex-wife.
Where did the idea for this newest mystery come from?
The genesis of the idea for this novel occurred many years ago when I was attending teachers’ college in Kingston. Part of the course curriculum involved community service, and so I helped out at a home that took in children of people in prison. Some of the kids had lived with this foster family from birth and would be reunited with their mothers once they finished serving their time. In one case, a mother was allowed to visit with her child on a day pass after years apart, but tragically she did a runner before she saw her child. This was an aspect of the justice system that I hadn’t considered before: what becomes of the children when their parent(s) are behind bars?
Did the title come from there as well?
The title Tumbled Graves comes from a line in T.S. Eliot’s poem “The Waste Land”. Rouleau’s ex-wife is particularly fond of Eliot as am I, having studied his work in university. The idea of tumbled graves makes me think of the randomness of death and the chaos that usually surrounds it—Stonechild and Rouleau are profoundly impacted by death in this novel.
What's the best advice you've ever received as a writer?
To me, the best advice always comes back to ‘read widely’, something that I have done all my life. I usually have a crime novel on the go but read outside the genre, including poetry. I studied English literature in university, giving me a rich survey of writing through the ages. I would add that part two of this advice is to write what you enjoy reading, and for me, this has always been crime fiction.
Describe the most memorable response you've received from a reader.
I appreciate every single time a reader takes a moment to share with me the enjoyment they derived from reading one of my books, particularly when they say that the book kept them up all night. Lately, readers have been saying that they are impatient to read the next instalment and can’t wait to see what happens to the main characters—music to any author’s ears.
What is your new project?
Shallow End, the fourth in the series is now with the editor and we will begin work on it soon. I’m gathering my ideas to begin book five in the next month or so after I complete an adult literacy novella for a series that I’ve been contracted to write with Grassroots Press.