Thursday, June 1, 2017

Another favorite Canadian: Owen Laukkanen

INGRID THOFT

It's an embarrassment of riches on Jungle Red this week:  Our own Jenn McKinlay, James Ziskin, and today, I’m welcoming critically acclaimed thriller writer Owen Laukkanen to the blog.

Owen is the author of six novels that feature Minnesota State Investigator Kirk Stevens and FBI Special Agent Carla Windermere.  Nominated for a host of awards, including a Barry, an Anthony, an ITW Thriller award, and a Spinetingler, Owen has been hailed by Kirkus Review for "combining great storytelling with compassion for the underdog."  This is no surprise to anyone who knows him:  He's a terrific guy with a strong commitment to social justice.


Can you give readers the scoop on your latest novel, The Forgotten Girls, which came out in March?


The Forgotten Girls is the sixth installment in my Stevens and Windermere series of FBI thrillers. It's about a serial killer who stalks the wilds of northern Montana and the Idaho panhandle, killing runaways, prostitutes and train-hoppers--the kind of women who seem to slip through the cracks.

In my neighbourhood in Vancouver, a serial killer operated for decades, and the response to these murders was pretty shockingly apathetic.  This idea that some people, and in particular women, are worth more than others really sticks in my craw. I walk my dog through the neighbourhood daily, and we pass the memorial rock to the missing women, and it's always decorated with some kind of stuffed animal or birthday card, some reminder that these women were more than just streetwalkers and junkies; they were daughters, sisters, mothers. I'm also really into trains, so writing a book about a serial killer who rides freight trains was a pretty good way to get my fix. 

Why did you decide to set your stories in the United States?

It was a threefold decision to set my books in the States. I grew up on the border, closer to Detroit than to any major Canadian city, and nearly all of the culture I consumed came from the States.

Also, the stories I was trying to tell just worked better in the U.S. My first novel, The Professionals, is about a group of itinerant kidnappers who make quick scores for low ransoms and keep moving from major city to major city. We don't have more than a handful of major cities in Canada, and only a couple of major highways, and with our population about ten percent of yours, any crime attracts serious attention, and quickly. I figured it wouldn't take more than a couple of chapters before the Mounties picked up the trail in Moose Jaw and were waiting for my guys in Medicine Hat, and that would be the end of it. It was just more of an American tale, to me.

Finally, and here's where things get awkward, it's nearly impossible to make a living as an artist in Canada if Americans aren't buying your work, and Americans, by and large, don't buy thrillers set in Canada.  Mostly, though, writing about the States means I have plenty of tax-deductible reasons to visit, which is just fine by me!

You’ve also written two YA books (under the name of Owen Matthews,) How to Win at High School and The Fixes.  Tell us about them. 


I wrote the first draft of How2Win when I was a really emo kid in university, believing that it would bring me instant fame and fortune. Needless to say, it did not, and I tucked it away in the proverbial drawer for about ten years, until I was a few books into my career writing FBI thrillers.  I rewrote the heck out of it, and essentially broke every rule I adhere to when I'm writing thrillers. It found a publisher really quickly, and I've since put out another standalone YA, The Fixes, which I pitched as "Gossip Girl with bombs."  I essentially treat the YA stuff as an excuse to go nuts and be wild and experimental, where I write the thrillers hoping to tell a good, straightforward story without the style getting too much in the way.


I know you get asked this question often, but tell me about your experience as a reporter on the world poker circuit.  Has it informed your books?


Ha! That gig came about during the summer after I'd graduated from university with a fine arts degree in Creative Writing, which was about as useful for obtaining gainful employment as you might expect. I found an ad that offered six weeks' paid travel to Las Vegas to write about the World Series of Poker, and though I didn't know a thing about poker, I did know I didn't want to spend my summer working midnights in a warehouse.

I went down to Vegas for a pretty epic summer, at the end of which, the company asked if I'd like to travel the professional poker circuit full time. I was 23 and had never left North America, so the answer was obviously yes, and for the next three years I spent 75% of my life on the road, traveling all over the world to wherever high stakes poker tournaments were played.



I've tried not to focus too much on poker in the thrillers; I didn't want to pigeonhole myself as the guy who only wrote poker mysteries.  I was exposed to humanity's seedier side, and though gamblers aren't all criminals, all criminals are gamblers by nature.  Working the poker gig was kind of a crash course in just how desperation and greed can drive a person to act. 



And now a couple of my favorite questions to ask guests to the blog.  First, what has surprised you most about becoming a published author?


First of all, I've been wonderfully surprised by what a warm, welcoming community the world of crime fiction has turned out to be.  It's a cliché to say that these people are my tribe, but I've been amazed at how at home I've felt in this community and how the community embraces people who want to be embraced.

Second, one of the really hard lessons I had to learn after I was published a few times was that just having a book out, or two books, or six or eight, no matter how critically acclaimed or bestselling, they don't change who you are as a human being, and they don't automatically make your life everything you'd ever hoped it would be.  I had to learn to separate my feelings of self-worth from whatever was happening in my writing career and to learn to be happy with what I was writing if it made me happy and satisfied.

I think most of all, though, what has surprised me is that anything is possible, so long as you're audacious enough to try for it, and dedicated enough to put the work in.  But those of us who succeed aren't necessarily the most talented, but we are the people who were dumb enough to think, "Why not me?" and then bust our humps until we got there.


And now my other favorite question: What are you working on now?  Is there a book you’d love to write if you didn’t have to take agents, editors, and your fans into consideration?  A western?  Romance?


Next year, I’m putting out a deep-sea adventure story about a female salvage tugboat captain and her crew chasing after a $100m shipwreck. It's a story I've always wanted to write, and I'm so stoked that Putnam seems just as into the idea as I am. 

I've just finished the draft of another departure, something inspired by all the David Joy and Ace Atkins I've been reading, and starring a dog based on my rescue Pit-bull, Lucy. I think my issue is less that I feel constrained and more that I don't have enough time to write everything I want to write!


Another giveaway!  Comment and you'll be in the running to win The Forgotten Girls!


THE FORGOTTEN GIRLS
They are the victims no one has ever cared about, until now. Agents Stevens and Windermere return in the blistering new crime novel from the fast-rising, multi-award-nominated suspense star.

She was a forgotten girl, a runaway found murdered on the High Line railroad pass through the northern Rocky Mountains and, with little local interest, put into a dead file. But she was not alone. When Kirk Stevens and Carla Windermere of the joint FBI-BCA violent crime force stumble upon the case, they discover a horror far greater than anyone expected—a string of murders on the High Line, all of them young women drifters whom no one would notice.
But someone has noticed now. Through the bleak midwinter and a frontier land of forbidding geography, Stevens and Windermere follow a frustratingly light trail of clues—and where it ends, even they will be shocked.

Owen Laukkanen is the author of six critically-acclaimed Stevens and Windermere FBI thrillers, the latest of which, The Forgotten Girls, was released in March 2017. As Owen Matthews, he's also the author of two completely inappropriate young adult novels. A former professional poker journalist and commercial fisherman, Owen lives in Vancouver, BC, with his girlfriend and their rescue pit-bull, Lucy. His next novel, Gale Force, will be published by Putnam in 2018.






57 comments:

  1. Congratulations on the new book, Owen . . . I’ve enjoyed reading your earlier books and am looking forward to reading “The Forgotten Girls” . . . .

    A deep-sea treasure adventure and a story about a rescue dog? Sounds like more great reading . . .

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    1. Hey, thanks very much, Joan! I hope you dig The Forgotten Girls -- and the deep-sea adventure -- but I have to say I'm really looking forward to hearing what people think of the dog book. It's a subject very close to my heart :)

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  2. Quite a prolific and varied book list there. Congrats on the new one, and I'm looking forward to a deep sea treasure adventure.

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    1. Thanks very much, Mark. It's quite a change for me, but I'm really excited to hear what readers think!

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    2. I'm very excited about the deep sea adventure! Sounds like a lot of fun research!

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  3. Hello to another fellow Canadian, Owen! I enjoy reading the Stevens/Windermere books a lot!!

    And I understand what you are saying about why you set your thriller books in the USA instead of Canada. Many people have this stereotypical perception of Canada being the cold white north protected by Mounties, and I agree that there is limited scope in setting continuing crime series even in our big cities (I am a Toronto native).

    Louise Penny is an anomaly being a global, bestselling mystery writers setting her books in small town Quebec. Many readers want to visit Three Pines.

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    1. Hi Grace!

      Thanks for the kind words. Louise Penny is definitely the exception. She makes the Eastern Townships sound so magical and unique, and I think that's partly the key. Chevy Stevens on the west coast is another author whose books are set up here but who has success in the States, though even she is setting her next book in Seattle, so...

      There are so many talented Canadian crime authors who don't get the exposure they deserve in our country or down south! I'm really hoping Sam Wiebe's "Invisible Dead" will break him out, and my friend John McFetridge's series' about Toronto and Montreal would be classics if they were set, say in Baltimore.

      Obviously I can go on and on about this, but thanks so much for the comment, and for reading my books!

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    2. Owen, yes I agree with that both Sam Wiebe and John McFetridge deserve more exposure both in Canada and the USA. In fact, I always found it odd how little Canada does not do more to publicize its mystery authors both here and abroad. I found about this year's Arthur Ellis Awards winners via my US contacts and bloggers last week, and not via the Crime Writers of Canada or CBC and/or national newspapers/media. So there is room for improvement!

      And I did not know that Chevy Stevens is from Canada's west coast until recently. Even here in Ottawa, mystery writers Victoria Abbott (aka Mary Jane Maffini) and Erika Chase (aka Linda Wiken) have their current cozy series based in American cities/towns instead of small town Canada. Vicki Delany (aka Eva Gates) is another Eastern Ontario author who has several mystery series set in the USA but I prefer her Constable Molly Smith series set in Trafalgar BC.

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  4. Welcome Owen! I love seeing who Ingrid brings to visit our blog, as she runs in a different circle than many of us. Wonderful interview! I especially loved the part about what you've learned...realistic but hopeful. And very smart of you to realize you didn't want to be pigeonholed for writing "poker thrillers"--I'm still working out from under being a golf mystery writer LOL

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    1. Hey, thanks Lucy! Golf mysteries actually sound intriguing, though I can see how you wouldn't want to paint yourself into a corner and only write about golf. It worked for Dick Francis and horse racing, but the rest of us can't probably expect to be so lucky...

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  5. "Owen Laukkanen is the author of six critically-acclaimed Stevens and Windermere FBI thrillers"

    I read "erotically" for critically, which had the effect of waking me up and spitting coffee. One more reason to love Canadian writers perhaps?

    I will go directly and get a sample of your books, am ready for something new. O Canada!

    Ann in Rochester, which is practically in Canada.



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    1. Ha! Thing is, my mom reads my books, so I try to keep the eroticism to a minimum, lest I have to answer any awkward questions over Thanksgiving dinner. She's a forensic pathologist, though, so our dinnertime conversations are unusual for other reasons!

      Thanks for the note, Ann. I hope you enjoy the read!

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  6. Congratulations on you new book, Owen! I love that you're telling the story of those women honored my the memorial! For a newcomer to your series, would you recommend reading the books in order or is it okay to jump around?

    It sounds like you have quite a few varied interests that make for good book ideas. That's encouraging to me as a so-far unpublished author, as my book ideas are all over the place!

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    1. Thanks very much, Mary! I think as an author it really helps to have a varied range of interests; it helps to ensure you'll never get bored, and as a series author especially, it's nice to not feel like you're telling the same story over and over and over again. The challenge, I've found, is distilling that range of interests down to one good book idea, and sticking with it until the book is written. Which can be tough if you're like me and your mind has a tendency to wander...

      You can start the series anywhere; they're pretty self-contained. I really like "The Forgotten Girls" but I would still probably recommend starting at the beginning with "The Professionals", just because the bad guys are probably my favourite characters in the entire series. You'll see why :)

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  7. My Amazon account is certainly getting a workout this week, as I will now have to buy your books, on top of the ones I ordered last night. Should I read them in sequence? Or can I jump in anywhere? And kudos to you for applying for the poker job without knowing anything about the game. It sounds like the perfect gig for a young man who wants to get out and learn about the world. Arising from that sense of adventure, your books can't possibly be boring. I look forward to reading them.

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    1. Thanks so much for the note, Gigi. The poker gig was a pretty wonderful, serendipitous adventure for a guy who'd kind of painted himself into a corner with that Fine Arts degree. It's still one of the greatest experiences of my life. You can read the books in any order; I always say they're like Law & Order episodes, so if you jump in a few books in, you'll still get a self-contained story. But I'm pretty partial to the first book, The Professionals, so if you can get your hands on it, I'd recommend starting there. Thanks again!

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    2. I hear ya on that Fine Arts degree. I have a BFA in Theatre and Interpretation, myself. Although it actually has come in handy a time or two.

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  8. Owen, congratulations on the new book! Great interview. I'll be honest--I don't read thrillers usually and I avoid serial killer stories. But, I admire your willingness to leap into the unknown. Poker tour? Sure! YA? Sure! Book about a dog? Sure! And I am going to find The Forgotten Girls and read it. Somewhere along the line I got tired of stories that seemed to glorify the serial killer, to focus on the gruesomeness of the crimes, the cleverness of the killer--this one seems different--from the title alone--there are just too many forgotten girls out there and they deserve to be found.

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    1. Hey Flora, thanks so much for the note. I'll be honest, too: I feel the same way about serial killer stories. I have no taste for graphic violence, and in particular, for violence against women. I think there are a lot of sleazy thrillers about awful men murdering beautiful women (sex workers, in particular) where the violence is gratuitous and meant to titillate, and I can't read that stuff and I certainly can't and won't ever write it.

      So I hope you'll find The Forgotten Girls is different. I didn't set out to write serial killer novels, but the stories of these women in my community was too heartrending to ignore.

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    2. Flora, if you follow Owen on social media, you'll find that he is the kind of man we need more of in the world! He's genuinely concerned about people (all kinds of people, but especially women) whose voices aren't heard and who are marginalized by society. That comes through in his books, and as a reader, you don't feel like you're reading suffering merely to create a plot point in the story.

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  9. So thrilled to see Owen here today on Jungle Red. I am such a huge fan of his books. I am making it my personal campaign to get folks to considering reading and voting for THE FIXES for the YA Anthony at this year's Bouchercon. This is a wonderful book and deserves more attention. If you want to see a spoiler-free review Owen's book, feel free to pop over to BOLO Books. (http://bolobooks.com/2016/08/the-fixes-the-bolo-books-review/) I have a feeling you will be ordering it quickly afterwards.

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    1. Oh man, I'm such a huge fan of YOURS, Kristopher! Thanks so much for the note and for plugging THE FIXES. If we win in Toronto, we'll have one heck of a party :)

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  10. This is SO fascinating! And--because it's all about ME, I need advice. I have agreed to participate in a poker game this month with Ben Mezrich--you know him, right, who wrote Bringing Down the House? So the problem is, I have the basics of poker,but I am pretty sure I'm terrible. Any advice? Besides, you know, stay away.

    And let's talk about Canada. Why do you think there's so little crossover? Is it different from writers from England or Ireland or Scotland? (And I am going to Canada in two weeks!)

    Congratulations on your wild success!

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    1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jj4nJ1YEAp4

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    2. HILARIOUS! I am howling with laughter. Indeed, Finta! xoxooo I should walk away, right???

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    3. I think you should wear the outfit he has on, Hank!

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    4. Bahaha! I think Ann nailed it, Hank. Just know when to fold them, and you'll be fine. And definitely wear that outfit; it'll mark you as a real poker pro.

      (As an aside, I'm quite envious that you're playing poker with Ben Mezrich! But the good thing about poker is that so long as you know the rules, you can irritate people tremendously by playing horribly and still getting lucky and winning their money. So I say just have fun and definitely, DEFINITELY, dress the part.)

      I think the thing about Canada is that it's not quite exotic enough for the average American to think much about, and it certainly doesn't come off as a romantic locale for a thriller. If you're going to go outside American borders, it definitely helps to be somewhere, well, different, and I think Canada has a reputation of same-ness that makes it hard to get readers' motors running.

      I dunno, I snuck my FBI characters in THE FORGOTTEN GIRLS over the Canadian border for a bit; you just have to be tricky about it :)

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  11. Congratulations Owen. I enjoy your novels. Being Canadian and growing up in Montreal I enjoy reading books that have Canadian locales. Wishing you much success and happiness.

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    1. Thanks very much for the note, and for reading my stuff! Have you tried John McFetridge's Eddie Dougherty series of Montreal crime novels? They're set around major events, ie the October Crisis, the Olympics, etc, and are really fascinating and well done. If you like Canadian crime fiction, you'll love them.

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  12. What a fascinating introduction to such a talented author. The Forgotten Girls sounds enthralling. I read books which have Canadian settings since I can relate to them and they resonate with me since I know Canada so well and was born there.

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    1. Hey, thanks so much for the kind words. I'm a big fan of Canadian fiction, and it's my mission to see that some of my author friends get a little more recognition outside of our borders. If you're looking for a few good books set up here, try Sam Wiebe's "Invisible Dead" and John McFetridge's Montreal series. They're both fantastic.

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  13. I'm drooling waiting for the deep sea adventure. The Forgotten Girls sounds like a wonderful read. Since I live partly across the river from New Brunswick I understand what you say about Canada, but it is such a wonderfully yeasty area for a mystery...you might want to plumb the depths a bit.

    Big hugs to your rescue pup!

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    1. Hey, thanks Kait! I'm working on copyedits of the deep sea adventure right now and chomping at the bit to get it out into the world.

      And you're right about New Brunswick. My folks live partly in Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia and I've often thought how fascinating an area it would be to set a murder or two. If Louise Penny can do it for southeast Quebec, there's gotta be a way to make the East Coast a mysterious locale...

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    2. And you could eat amazing seafood and call it research! I'm always thinking about the food angle...

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  14. Good for you for taking on The Forgotten Girls. I'm afraid there are too many real serial killer vicims out there who may never be acknowledged. We lived in El Paso for a few years, hopefully before the time all those women were being murdered in Juarez. And who was the killer who rode the rails? Rodriguez? I recall my neighbor and me being a bit anxious for a bit with a railroad track backing up to our properties in NE Ohio. Sounds like you have more ideas for books than time right now. How cool is that!

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    1. Thanks so much for the note, Pat. I always thought I was a little too squeamish to write a serial killer novel, but living in a neighbourhood that still bears these scars made it impossible NOT to write this book. It's a fine line between trying to do a subject justice and exploiting it, and I hope I've stayed on the right side of that line.

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  15. Congrats on the new book, Owen! I've read all but this one of your series and just love it! Your books are just dark enough to satisfy my mood when I'm looking for that intense experience. I love Carla-- she rocks as a MC! And now you're branching out into other types of books... I like the deep sea adventure idea. Good luck with everything and thanks for writing those titles!

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    1. Hey, thanks so much for the kind words! I'm a big Carla fan myself; she started as such a one-dimensional character I never thought I'd see again, and it's been such a fun experience getting to flesh her out and explore her character over these books. Some people really hate her, though, so I'm glad to hear you're a fan!

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  16. Hi, Owen! Congrats on the new book and the deep-sea story sounds fascinating. I grew up in Buffalo NY, so I spent a good bit of time in southern Ontario in my youth. Yeah, I think it would be hard to set your kind of book in Canada (at least from what I saw). ;-)

    Mary/Liz

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    1. Hey Mary, thanks for the note! I think even if I were to set a mystery in Canada, Southern Ontario wouldn't be my first choice ;)

      But Buffalo! I played hockey there a few times, and it seems like it would be a wonderful setting for a crime novel. I think it's a fascinating, underrated city and I bet it's rife with mysteries hiding inside all of those beautiful old buildings. You might have sparked something here...

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    2. Hockey and Buffalo. Not a surprising combo. =)

      I have written one set in Niagara Falls and my next project will probably be a historical set in Buffalo, so I'll let you know how it goes. ;-)

      Mary/Liz

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  17. Congratulations, Owen, on the new book! I was interested to see Ingrid's comment about your strong commitment to social justice. Can you tell us more about that and how it affects your writing?

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    1. Hey, thanks very much, Jim. I think what Ingrid is referring to is how I won't shut up on social media about causes that are important to me :)

      I think one of the great things about being a writer, and in particular about writing crime, is the opportunity to tackle important issues while couching them in an entertaining storyline. For me, writing thrillers would be much less rewarding if I were retelling rote stories about one-dimensional killers and their beautiful victims.

      I'm passionate about womens' rights, for instance, and about the need for men to take responsibility for combating violence against women. It's something that plays a big role in how I live my life, and it's in large part the foundation for how The Forgotten Girls was born.

      I'm also very vocal about mental healthy awareness, and I'm a strong proponent for antibullying and teen suicide prevention programs, and those interests led to me writing the previous book in this series, "The Watcher in the Wall" which is based on the real-life case of a man who posed as a teenager online and tried to convince other teens to enter suicide pacts online and on-camera.

      It's not the best idea I've ever had for a book from a commercial perspective, but I can't conceive of anything worse than preying on so vulnerable a subset of society, particularly when the real-life perpetrator claimed as many as five victims and spent less than a year in jail. It was cathartic to write a fictionalized version, both to hopefully attract some attention to the real-world issues, and also to deal with my own anger about what this monster had done.

      I guess the short version is that I try to write about what I'm passionate about, and I try to do it in a way that reflects my sense of fairness, empathy and compassion, while still telling a story that keeps the pages turning.

      Thanks again for the note and the great question!

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    2. I was referring to Owen's dedication to various causes. ;) Owen is one of the few men I know who is committed to women's rights and embraces the notion that men have an important role to play in the fight for equality and have a responsibility when it comes to addressing violence against women. Unfortunately, even though it's 2017, he seems to be in the minority in this regard.

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  18. Hi Owen! So looking forward to your books, and I am definitely going to check out The Fixes on Kristopher's recommendation. For the series books, should I start at the beginning, or with The Forgotten Girls (which sounds fascinating)? I understand your reasoning for setting the books in the U.S., but I do enjoy books set in Canada. One of my new favorite Canadian writers is Ausma Khan, whose books are set in Toronto--and who also has a strong focus on social justice.

    Will you be coming to Bouchercon in Toronto?

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    1. Hi Deborah, thanks so much for writing! I'm glad you mentioned Ausma Khan, who is one of my favourite people in this community, both as a writer and as a human being. I was lucky enough to do an event with her at the Cuffed Festival in Vancouver last year, and we've become good friends since. She's wonderful!

      You can read the books in any order; they're designed to standalone, so if The Forgotten Girls sounds interesting, you can definitely jump in there. You just have to promise to go back and check out the others if you like what you read!

      I would not miss a Bouchercon on home territory. I've been looking forward to it all year! Will you be there?

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  19. Great interview! I'm looking forward to reading "The Forgotten Girls," right down my alley about pursuing justice for the women who are unseen and unmissed.

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    1. Thanks so much, Cathy. I'm glad there are people out there for whom these women aren't, and won't ever be, forgotten. One of the most devastating things about researching this book was reading the personal stories of the women killed in my hometown and contrasting those stories with the apathy their loved ones were faced with when they attempted to seek answers. It's just so heartbreaking and infuriating.

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  20. Owen, did you do any exciting research for GALE FORCE?

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    1. Hey, thanks for having me here, Ingrid! As far as research goes, I'm not sure if this counts, but much of what made the story interesting to me came from the summers I spent working as a commercial fisherman on both the Pacific and Atlantic coasts.

      On the Pacific, in particular, we'd go out on our forty-foot boat for weeks at a time, living aboard and not setting foot on land, dealing with weather and isolation and the incredible natural beauty that you're surrounded with constantly when you're living and working on the water. So that was the best research I did, even if I didn't realize it at the time.

      I'm hoping Gale Force is the start of a new series, though, and I have plenty of fun research trips planned to the South Pacific and the South China Sea if Putnam does pull the trigger :)

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    2. That sounds like amazing preparation for GALE FORCE, and I'm thrilled to hear that it might be a series. I've been fortunate enough to go to Fiji a couple of times. We'll have to confer at Bcon!

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  21. Thanks for visiting Jungle Reds -- I really enjoyed your post. It looks like The Professionals is about to be added to my Kindle. Your following the World Series of Poker sounded like it was an interesting job (my husband, a golfer, not a gambler) would love to spend six weeks in Vegas -- Viva! So many players wear sunglasses -- you'd think that would be a disadvantage, or are they glare and reflection free?

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    1. Thanks for the note, Celia. Living in Vegas for six weeks was an experience for sure, although it did have its downsides. We lived most summers in one of the big resort casinos, which meant we never got bored, but it wasn't the most fun in the world coming home from a work shift at four in the morning and having to navigate a huge crowd of gamblers and partiers in the lobby on the way to bed.

      I'm an outdoorsy guy, too, and Vegas in the dead of summer isn't the best place for outdoor recreation, but it was still a fascinating place to spend time, and I wouldn't trade my experiences.

      Plenty of poker players were golfers, too; I once covered a high roller who bet someone $800,000 he could play four rounds of golf over one day in July while still shooting under 80, and caddying his own gear. The guy nearly died, but he pulled it off--and amazingly, that wasn't the craziest bet I ever saw while on the Tour.

      One day, I'll write a book about this stuff...

      (And I think the sunglasses are a big advantage. The risks of showing your cards in the glare are pretty minimal, the way the pros handle their cards, and our eyes give so much of our personalities away that a lot of players find it beneficial to keep them hidden. I knew guys who wore scarves in the dead of summer so you couldn't see the carotid artery throb as they tried a big bluff...)

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    2. So what you're saying is that Hank needs to wear large sunglasses and a thick scarf at her upcoming poker game!

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  22. Diane Hale, you won yesterday's giveaway! Contact me at Ingrid@ingridthoft.com so I can get your address!

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  23. There's so much to love here, Owen! Your back story is terrific and I love the diversity of your writing journey and the wisdom you shared of separating your self-worth from your career. I didn't know you wrote YA, too, as a former YA librarian, I have to check that out. Having just written book that features my rescue pit bull mix, Annie, I can see you are my people. Thanks for stopping by today!

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