I’ve had the pleasure of working with Alison Bruce on a couple of projects through the Crime Writers of Canada, and she’s just one of the many folks I look forward to interviewing over the next few months.
As you read on, you’ll find out more about what else Alison does, but check out how eclectic her writing can be!
PF: Deadly Legacy sounds to me like one of those wonderful “fusion-fiction” type stories, one that mocks the artificial boundaries between genres. You describe it as Mystery, Suspense, Noir and Science Fiction. Most people could understand the difference between “mystery” and “science fiction”, but how would you distinguish the other three categories from one another? What are the unique attributes of mystery vs. suspense vs. noir?
AB: That’s me, a dyed in the wool genre mocker.
First off, although I use the term science fiction because everyone understands that, I’m really writing speculative fiction. The science in DEADLY LEGACY isn’t much more futuristic than your average Bones episode. Ask any cop and the biggest problem they have with most cop shows, especially forensic shows, is that they are so unrealistic – science fiction. I set my story in a future where all that stuff was possible and then speculated on what our society might be like by then.
In the spectrum between a whodunit mystery (which is all about solving the puzzle) and a thriller (which is all about the danger) DEADLY LEGACY leans towards the whodunit. If you look at the sub-genres of crime fiction as a spectrum, I’m not nearly the mocker people think I am.
Noir is a flavour of mystery. It’s a dark, often bitter flavour — like dark chocolate. It usually involves private eyes, night and/or gloomy weather. DEADLY LEGACY has all of the above.
PF: So now, on the one hand you’ve got a near-future story with shares of crime fiction and science fiction; and then you change gears entirely with “Under a Texas Star”, which you say is a western, historical fiction mystery/romance. How are you able to jump from one flavour of fusion-fiction to a completely different flavour?
AB: Like George Lucas, I write what I like to read. I have eclectic tastes so my writing is eclectic too.
I grew up surrounded by books. My mother introduced me to Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, Rex Stout and Georgette Heyer. My father introduced me to Louis L’Amour, Zane Grey and Alistair McLean. (I discovered science fiction on my own.) Writing fusion westerns and mysteries comes naturally to me.
PF: Aside from friends and family, do you find much of an overlap between your two audiences? Or have you managed to land two completely unique and devoted fan bases?
AB: Regardless of what I write, I have a distinctive style that connects my stories. There’s always humour and coffee if nothing else. Because of that, unless the reader loves westerns and hates mysteries or vice versa, there’s no reason you can’t enjoy both.
PF: Have you found you’ve had to adapt your marketing style, based on the type of book you’re selling?
UNDER A TEXAS STAR has a lighter tone so I use a lighter tone in marketing. I’ve found a wonderful group of western romance authors and readers that I’ve joined and my connection to my readers is more personal as a result.
DEADLY LEGACY is still finding its feet. Beyond promoting it through Crime Writers of Canada more, you’ll have to ask me next year what I’ve done differently that’s worked.
PF: Now, you’re also a very, very active member of the Crime Writers of Canada. I know that, in conjunction with a few others, you’re responsible for a lot of the publications that the CWC produces. I’ve actually lost track of all the different material we send out. What do we offer, anyhow? Who’s the target audience, and what are the benefits?
AB: As Publications Manager of CWC, I produce a monthly Author Events newsletter and quarterly Cool Canadian Crime newsletter plus the annual catalogue. Cool Canadian Crime promotes our author members’ new releases. These publications go out to about 3,000 subscribers via Crime Beat. Our subscribers include members, booksellers, librarians, and readers. Readers often use it to track when their favourite authors and find new ones. We hope that booksellers and librarians will order more Canadian crime ficition.
I also do the layout for Crime Time, our member newsletter.
PF: Speaking of the CWC: have you ever found that other “pure” crime fiction authors look at you strangely for having blurred the lines between genres? What’s been the reaction from other “literary” (i.e. mainstream, non-genre) authors?
AB: People look at me strangely all the time. So far it hasn’t been about what I write.
PF: Since you cover a broad spectrum of genres in your writing, do have a similar taste in reading? Or is there a specific genre that has a special place in your heart?
AB: As I mentioned, I’m an eclectic reader and writer. In addition to the mystery and western, I have a paranormal suspense and urban fantasy waiting in the wings. But I don’t write every genre I enjoy reading. I am an ardent fan of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books, but I don’t write that kind of fantasy. Also, I enjoy reading comic capers, but I’m not a comedienne.
PF: On top of being a published author and all that, you’re also a business woman. What else have you got on the go?
AB: I’ve been a freelance writer and editor since my cousin (a consultant) asked “What do you write?” and I answered “What do you want written?” Turning expert-written reports into plain English is one of my specialties.
When my sister needed help with layout and graphic design for her business, I learned those skills. I designed the current CWC logos and have been known to dabble in cartoons.
I used to be a partner in a niche publishing company (Women’s Work) and have been a web designer. Now I help fellow authors set up websites they can manage themselves.
Crossing genres is just the tip of the iceberg for me.
PF: Since you’ve covered science fiction, suspense, mystery, romance, historical fiction, western, noir and humour, what your next book will be is anybody’s guess! What do you have coming down the pipe in the near future?
AB: I’m working on the next Carmedy and Garrett book: DEADLY SEASON and researching the American Civil War for a historical romance – a sister novella to one Kat Flannery is writing. Kat and I are two of the few Canuck authors in the Western Historical Romance Book Club. Both, I hope, will be out for Christmas 2013.
I’m also adding a new mixed genre to my repertoire: Chicklit Romantic Suspense. Prudence Hartley comes home to find a strange man dead in her living room. That’s just the beginning of her troubles.
Alison Bruce has a degree in history and philosophy, which has nothing to do with any regular job she`s held since. A liberal arts education did prepare her to be a writer, however. She penned her first novel during lectures while pretending to take notes.
Alison grew up surrounded by pulp fiction, the great dames of golden age mysteries (Christie, Sayer, Marsh), Georgette Heyer’s historical romances, and the classic westerns of Louis L’Amour and Zane Grey. In her teens she discover Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov and Harry Harrison. This explains why she writes western romantic suspense and a noir-light detective mysteries set in a Max Headroomish near future.
Copywriter and editor since 1992, Alison has also been a comic book store manager, small press publisher and web designer. In addition to writing, she is the Publication Manager of CWC and a crossing guard.
“Bruce is a terrific story-teller…a complete joy to read.” Midwest Book Review, Under A Texas Star
Check out Alison’s work! (And buy it, while you’re there!)
And then connect with her!