Walking in Amanda’s shoes

Walking in Amanda’s shoes

Posted on October 16 by Barbara Fradkin in Fiction, Mystery, Recent Releases
Share on FacebookShare on TwitterShare on Pinterest

Like all the Amanda Doucette mysteries, Prisoners of Hope is strongly grounded in one of Canada’s most iconic locations.  When setting comes alive, it becomes a powerful character that pulls the reader in, and I wanted readers to share each unique journey across the country.

Georgian Bay is a classic Canadian Shield landscape with sparkling bays, huge open water, pink granite shores, and 30,000 islands scattered along its eastern shore. It is a mecca for kayakers, hikers, birders, and cottagers, who easily lose themselves in its wilderness of secret bays and rocky isles. Also tucked into the pine-covered islands are the million-dollar country homes of the super-rich, who often fly to their island paradises in private seaplanes.

Years ago, I had explored this spectacular landscape on a kayak trip, and when it came time to choose the setting for Amanda’s third adventure, the vivid memories of the archipelago leaped immediately to mind. This is a place of deserted beaches and glorious sunsets but also of ferocious storms and lashing wind. It was turtles sunning on logs and Great Blue Herons fishing in reeds, but also bears, hidden shoals, and two-metre waves that could swamp an unsuspecting boat in an instant.  A beauty full of danger, perfect for a wilderness thriller.

I did not want to rely on my fuzzy recollections from nearly 20 years ago, however, and I wanted to see the landscape through a writer’s eyes. I can’t truly capture the rich detail and texture of a place by using my imagination, books, and internet searches alone. So I always make at least one trip to the location I’m writing about. I need to walk in my characters’ shoes and experience with my own senses all that they do. I need to hear the sounds of the whippoorwill calling across the bay at dusk or the trucks grinding gears on the distant highway, neither of which I would have thought of from the comfort of my writing chair. I need to see the dance of sunlight over the waves and the smudge of remote islands in the morning mist.  

More than that, I need to follow in my characters’ footsteps. Take the hikes through the rolling forests, drive through the little villages, kayak over the open waters, and weave in and out of the sheltered coves.  As I go, I record as much as I can; I take photos and use my iPhone to record voice memos that I will later transcribe. In the evenings, I make notes. I not only imagine what my character would see and hear, but also what they would feel. What they would think. The spike of fear when a fierce wind catches the bow of their kayak, the sense of peace and awe that accompanies a night on the beach under the stars.

Often ideas for story and character come directly from these experiences.  Plot, character, and setting walk hand in hand as the story unfolds in my mind, and I often revisit my notes and photos for inspiration once I am back home in my my writing chair. The memories transport me back into the wild, back into the shoes of my characters. At the end of it, the story is captured in its setting, and through the magic of imagination, I hope the reader will walk in the characters’ shoes as well.

Barbara Fradkin

Posted by Kendra on December 6, 2014
Barbara Fradkin photo

Barbara Fradkin

Barbara Fradkin is a retired psychologist who is fascinated with why people turn bad. She has written numerous short stories and novellas as well as the critically acclaimed Inspector Green novels. Two of these, Fifth Son and Honour Among Men, have won the Arthur Ellis Award for Best Novel. She lives in Ottawa.