Today’s guest is author Debra Purdy Kong who will be sharing the background to why she writes mysteries, her publishing adventures, her viewing preferences and favourite quote. We will also find out more about her work at then end of the interview.
About Debra Purdy Kong
Years ago, when I was a criminology student, I spent many hours writing about criminal behaviour for term papers. By the time I received my diploma, I realized I’d rather write crime fiction than work for the Criminal Justice System, a decision I’ve never regretted.
While I learned the craft of writing, I worked as a secretary for accountants, professors, lawyers, and a host of other interesting people and businesses. Many experiences from those years worked their way into TAXED TO DEATH, my first mystery novel, which was followed up by FATAL ENCRYPTION.
When I left full time employment to raise my children, I used pockets of free time to develop short fiction while I kept working on novels. Needless to say, a number of my parenting experiences found their way into stories, essays, and anecdotes. When my children were older, I returned to a paying job and worked in retail for five years. From there, I ventured into security work, where I trained as a patrol and communications officer. Currently, I am devoting more time to fiction, as well as blogs and book reviews while holding a part-time job at Simon Fraser University.
My second series, featuring public transit security officer Casey Holland, begins with THE OPPOSITE OF DARK, a tale of the ramifications of family deceit. My work experience as a patrol and communications officer in the security business turned out to provided invaluable background information for Casey’s adventures. DEADLY ACCUSATIONS focuses on Casey’s working life with the murder of a colleague she didn’t like very much. BENEATH THE BLEAK NEW MOON is about street racing, a problem that arises in most cities all over North America. THE DEEP END is a story about youth at risk, and the many forms this takes. The story is based on my volunteer experience at a youth detention centre while I was studying criminology. My 5th Casey Holland mystery KNOCK KNOCK is a story about home invasions that have dangerous consequences for Casey.
A few years ago, I branched out to write novellas and created a brand new character named Evan Dunstan. Evan’s a campus security guard with a penchant for trouble and his debut appearance is in DEAD MAN FLOATING. The second installment A TOXIC CRAFT features his feisty grandmother Martha and her cronies who cause no end of trouble for Evan.
Now time for us to find out more about Debra from her selected interview questions.
Tell us about your chosen genre of books that you write and why?
My chosen genre is mysteries because it’s been my favorite reading choice since I was ten years old and first picked up a Nancy Drew mystery. I have fond memories of those books while growing up in Surrey, British Columbia, Canada. Surrey was mainly rural back in the 1960s, but had also begun to grow into an bedroom community. There were no libraries (except in our elementary school), but there was the dark green book mobile, a bus that literally drove into our neighborhood every three weeks. The highlight of my month was to climb those steps and enter new worlds filled with intrigue and adventure.
As a mystery reader, the appeal has always been to solve the crime and determine the killer’s identity. As a reader, I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough as Nancy solved one piece of the puzzle after another. She was my hero. Clever, calm, resourceful, and she had friends she could depend on. During those days, I also really enjoyed writing book reports in school (I never was much good at a math and science). So, it seemed natural to eventually become a writer.
The fundamental question in the mystery genre is the same one that captured my imagination all those years ago. What happens next? It’s become a mantra in my life as a whole, but as I’ve developed my craft, I’ve added two more questions prior to writing any book. What if, and Why? Even as a child I found myself drawn to the question of wanting to know why someone made the decisions they did and behaved the way they did.
Needless to say, this probably explains why I took a lot of psychology and criminology courses in college. Today, I’m still asking myself why, not only in fiction, but as real-life world events unfold. Although I achieved a diploma in criminology and spent time volunteering in prisons and youth detention centres, as well as working one summer as an assistant to a probation officer, I never pursued those careers. They were simply too emotionally draining, but I never stopped exploring the study of crime and criminal behaviour. Maybe I never will.
What adventures have you had publishing your work?
Adventures in publishing began in the early 90’s when I signed with my first agent. She lived in Alberta, and had been in the business for some time. I was with her two years, and although she never sold my first mystery, Taxed to Death, she did invest a lot of time helping me realize that the book was far too long. Thanks to that agent, I slowly learned how to pare down a manuscript that was longer than it needed to be. She also gave me one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever had, which was to read your competition. Her viewpoint was, how can you know what’s being published and what’s selling if you don’t read as much as you possibly can? I also realized that I could learn a lot while developing my own voice and style.
After I parted company with that agent two years later, a couple of life-changing events happened. One was that my sister was diagnosed with breast cancer. The second was that I became pregnant with my second child at age 39. After two miscarriages, this was a huge blessing. Both experiences taught me that life is short and that dreams can come true, but you have to put in some effort and take a leap of faith sometimes. After shopping the book around, and having a couple of close calls, I decided to self-publish Taxed to Death in 1995.
It was a huge learning curve, but one of the most satisfying decisions I’ve ever made. I learned the business of selling and marketing books (all before social media took hold), and the value of hiring a professional editor and jacket designer
While I was raising our kids and working part-time, I wrote and self-published the second installment, Fatal Encryption. By then it was 2008 and things had changed. Ebooks were taking hold. Amazon began hosting forums to promote, and a writing colleague introduced me to the world of blogging. Learning to market books is still an ongoing learning curve as things change constantly.
While writing Fatal Encryption, I was working on a second series and shopping that one around to agents and traditional publishers. Again I landed an agent (American this time) and worked with her for another two years until we also parted company. After thirty submissions (about a dozen by the agent and the rest on my own), my first Casey Holland mystery was eventually picked up by a BC publisher, TouchWood Editions, who published the first four installments before deciding to downsize their mystery division. Happily, I got my rights back, including the rights to the cover art, and reissued the books in 2016. This year, I released the 5th book, Knock Knock. I finally feel that I’m back on track with the series.
By the way, the writer who encouraged me to start blogging (which I’m still doing ten years later) became a publisher and released my first two mystery novellas, Dead Man Floating and A Toxic Craft. Will I still pursue traditional publishing? I honestly don’t know. I’m working on an urban fantasy that I might shop around when it’s finished, but that’s a long ways off and, honestly, I’m still undecided. There are plenty of pros and cons to both publishing choices, so we’ll see.
Do you prefer television, film or theatre?
Television is far more appealing to me then film or theatre. While I do like theatre, it’s obviously more expensive than a daily dose of TV. In my opinion, film has steadily gone downhill over the last thirty years, as production companies continue to bash out remakes (really, how many King Kong movies do we need?) and Marvel Comic movies, with varying degrees of success. Sure, there are truly imaginative stories and beautiful productions also being made, but they seem far and far between.
I guess that the same could be said for TV. There’s plenty of shows I’m not a fan of, and I really don’t understand the appeal of “reality” TV, which to me are little more than elaborate game shows based on negative and strange relationships. Although I like singing competitions, it’s slowly become more of the same old thing.
What really draws me these days are TV dramas. Shows like True Detective (especially the first season), Strike Back, The Good Wife and now The Good Fight, Madam Secretary, the Blacklist, are examples of shows that are so well written and compelling that I really enjoy watching them.
Science fiction and fantasy are also raising the bar. Story lines and special effects technology have come a long way from the old Star Trek days. A number of new shows like Expanse, Killjoys and Dark Matter are really entertaining. Of course, I’ve been a fan of PBS mystery movies for a long time. The British productions are so well done. Stations like HBO are also raising the bar by way of a grittier, more provocative form of storytelling. The variety of cable shows and diversity of content make them far more intriguing to me than movies.
The thing is, not all of the new TV shows are successful and the quality of writing varies greatly, but then so do viewers’ tastes. TV writers are constantly striving to tell good stories and have been for a while.
One of my favorite series of all time was Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It was a truly original mix of horror, fantasy, and comedy, set in a teenage coming-of-age environment. The writing stepped out of the box in a way that I’d never seen before. Since then, cross-genre TV writing is more common, and that’s exciting both as a viewer and a writer out to explore new possibilities and opportunities.
Do you have a favourite quote? What does it means to you as an individual?
My favorite quote is “No snowflake ever fell in the wrong place”. It’s a Buddhist quote that I came across many years ago, I think in a book called The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen. The quote is beautiful in its simplicity, and deeply profound.
To me, it means that everything happens for a reason and that even the smallest, quietest gesture has a specific purpose. The universe unfolds and each of our lives goes on quietly or dramatically, depending on circumstances. We’re all here to experience whatever we need to experience to learn, to share, and to connect to make things better than they were, despite everyday obstacles and frustrations. Even the flakes that sting our eyes or make our fingertips freeze are there for a reason.
On a personal level, it means that everyday things matter in my life. The simplest gesture I make could make a difference to someone else. The near-miss while driving is a lesson learned, an opportunity to do better. Events, obstacles, and decisions placed in front of me have a purpose that is sometimes huge. At other times, they are simply baby steps leading to somewhere else.
Even if those proverbial snowflakes keep falling in what feels like the wrong place, I see it as a message to either re-evaluate the situation, change my attitude, or make a necessary change for improvement. It’s not always easy. Like everyone else, I’m a work in progress, but I like to think that I’m moving in the right direction.
Tell us about your work in progress, plans for your blog in the next year any special events that are coming up that are very special to you.
In 2018, I’ll be focusing on two novels that are both really important to me. One is the six installment of my Casey Holland mystery series. This book has been in the works for six or seven years, but other commitments and projects needed to be completed first. Now, I’m finally giving time and attention to a story that’s been on the back burner for too long.
The second novel is working on the second draft of my first urban fantasy. As mentioned above, I really enjoy this genre, and wanted to explore the topic of Wicca, witches, and the battle between good and evil in a different way from the novels I’ve read. Second drafts are always arduous for me. They require work on pacing, setting, character development, and so forth. I’m over 200 pages into the second draft, and I’m not sure how it will turn out, but I’m sure enjoying the process.
About the novella Dead Man Floating book 1 in the Evan Dunstan Mystery series
One wrong decision…
Security guard Evan Dunstan didn’t expect to find a body floating in a campus stream. An empty vodka bottle nearby suggests that the highly despised George Krenn, head of the plumbing department, had drunkenly fallen in. Refusing to let the death of a vile man ruin his romantic plans, Evan decides to leave the body for the next shift to find.
One friend in trouble…
When it’s discovered that Krenn was murdered, Evan has a lot of explaining to do. So does his friend Sully, Krenn’s least favourite student. Evan uses his hacking skills and campus knowledge to keep them both out of jail, but the investigation forces him to question Sully’s innocence.
One mystery to solve…
Uncovering the truth proves to be more than challenging. It may cost Evan his job, his friendship, and his woman. Will Evan find the killer, or will the killer find him first?
One of the recent reviews for the book
In Deadman Floating, Debra Purdy Kong introduces us to her likeable protagonist, Evan Dunstan, who is butting heads with his superiors in his current role as campus security officer, while en route to his dream job in municipal policing. Interfering somewhat with Evan’s professionalism is his pursuit of a potential girlfriend, which is what causes him to fail to report his discovery of the body of a miserable and frequently inebriated campus maintenance worker. Obviously an unfortunate accident—or, maybe not!? In this fun, quick read, the first in the Evan Dunstan Mystery series, Purdy Kong tightly weaves a twisty plot that will hold the reader’s attention to the very end.
Read the reviews and buy the book: https://www.amazon.com/Dead-Floating-Evan-Dunstan-Mystery-ebook/dp/B014K0UY1A/
Also by Debra Purdy Kong
Read the reviews and buy the books: https://www.amazon.com/Debra-Purdy-Kong/e/B000APLEFU
And Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Debra-Purdy-Kong/e/B000APLEFU
Read more reviews and follow Debra on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1391841.Debra_Purdy_Kong
Connect to Debra
Thank you for dropping in today and I am sure that Debra would love to answer any of your questions. Your comments are always welcome. Thank you Sally
I am now booking the interview for the first week in April… If you would like to participate then please answer the questions in this post. You will find details of what I need if you have not been featured here before.
NB. Previous guests of the Sunday interview show in all its formats are more than welcome.. If you featured in the previous open house, then just answer different questions.
Look forward to hearing from you.