Name: Debra Purdy Kong
Books: Casey Holland mystery series: The Opposite of Dark, Deadly Accusations, Beneath the Bleak New Moon, The Deep End, Knock Knock, The Blade Man, A Gold Satin Murder
Genre: Crime Fiction
Background: I live near Vancouver, British Columbia and I’m the author of eleven mystery novels (three of them are out of print). After many years spent learning the craft of writing and the business side of things (I’m still learning), I now mentor newer writers through workshops offered by my local community center.
When did you first decide you wanted to be a writer? In 1979 I spent a year travelling alone through Europe and working as a legal secretary in London, England. I wrote a lot of letters home, kept a journal, and began writing my first short stories to fill my evenings. I wound up with a roommate who encouraged me to keep writing. By the time I came home, I knew I wanted to write fiction for the rest of my life.
Do you write full-time? If not, do you have an outside job or other responsibilities? For most of my adult life, I’ve either raised kids, volunteered, and/or worked part-time at various jobs. It was never my goal to write full-time, since much of my inspiration comes from getting out in the world and doing things. As a retiree, I still don’t write full time, although I now devote a fair chunk of my days to marketing and promotion, blogging, and book reviewing. I also have two young granddaughters whom I love to spend time with.
Where do you get your ideas for characters and plots? My ideas come from real-life crime stories happening here in Vancouver and other parts of Canada. Some ideas are also inspired by my experiences. For example, my fourth book, The Deep End, is largely set in a youth detention center, so I relied heavily on my volunteer experiences when I was a criminology student. I’m so glad I kept journals back then.
Have you ever written yourself into a story? I can’t say that I’ve ever written myself into a story, but when I first started writing the Casey Holland series many years ago, Casey and I shared some traits. My character hasn’t aged the way I have, and I find that we have less in common. I did use my work experience as a security and communications officer to create the character of Casey. She’s a transit security guard and I worked security on campuses, however, the basic training would have been the same.
What route did you take to get published? Describe your experience. Like many authors, my publication journey has been a roller coaster, starting with two agents I worked with on two series. When that didn’t pan out, I eventually found a small press to publish the first four books in my Casey Holland series. But the publisher decided to cut a number of authors, so I self-published the following three books. I’ve also worked with another small press who published two of my novellas until health issues forced the publisher to shut down. With the fantasy I’m currently working on, I might try the agent route again, well aware that the odds are long and that it’ll take patience.
What kinds of things do you do to promote your book? My promotion strategy is fairly straightforward. First, I connect with local writers and do both online and in-person events with them such as readings, launches, book signings, or workshops. I find that working with others is much more fun. I also connect with the rest of the world through my blog, newsletter, and social media. Book promotion sites that are recommended by marketing guru David Gaughran have also proven to be helpful. One of these days, I’ll learn how to properly advertise on Facebook and Amazon.
Have you ever had a book-signing event? Tell us about your experience. I’ve had several book signings, one at a library, others at community centers, and virtually. My favorite and first launch was held in my home one autumn evening. We had food, wine, and lots of laughter. I loved It, as did my guests, so maybe it’ll happen again some time.
Do you belong to a writer’s group? If so, is it in-person or online? Tell us about your experience I’ve belonged to at least three writers’ groups over the years, but my current group is a small online group I formed when Covid restrictions kept us all at home. I chose three people I already knew through creative writing workshops. I chose them for their commitment to writing, their willingness to give honest feedback, and because I thought we’d work well together. It’s been amazing.
Name three unread books on your bookshelf. Three unread books on my shelf are Playing the Long Game, which is a memoir of Canadian soccer legend Christine Sinclair, The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner, and The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware. I’ve actually started that one.
What is the hardest thing you’ve ever done? One of the hardest things I’ve ever done is watch my mother go through dementia and then pancreatic cancer. On the writing front, the hardest thing I ever did was write my grandfather’s eulogy, as requested by my aunts. They were quite the editors, but in the end they were happy with the piece.
What advice can you give to new writers entering the writing and publishing arena? First, practice writing as much as you can. One good way is to keep a journal. Also, read all types of books, including how-to books on writing. Take courses and workshops. You’re not going to get it right the first time, or even the second or third, but if you focus on just one thing, you’ll make progress. Second, connect with other writers in your community. One good source are libraries some of which host book clubs, writers’ groups, and writing-related events. Attend events either online or in person. Third, take care of yourself physically and emotionally. The writing life isn’t a sprint but a marathon filled with twists and turns that you can’t control. Writers can let self-doubt paralyze them. Negative self-talk is inevitable but see it for what it is and carry on. The journey is everything, not the endgame.
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