📖Authors To Watch: Winona Kent Author of Ticket to Ride #authorstowatch #interview
In Lost Time, the third book in Winona’s Jason Davey Mystery series, professional musician / amateur sleuth Jason Davey was rehearsing for Figgis Green’s 50th Anniversary Tour of England. Now they’re on the road in Ms. Kent’s fourth book in the series, Ticket To Ride.
We welcome you to My Bookish Pleasures! Can you tell us how you got started writing fiction?
I was telling stories before I knew how to write—I drew pictures on my bedroom walls! I had a mother who read to me every day when I was small, so I grew up with a voracious appetite for books. I decided at a very early age that I wanted to write stories myself—so that’s what I did. I taught myself to type when I was 12, and I wrote my first novel when I was in Grade 8. I handed out chapters for my schoolfriends to read at Recess. I kept writing all the way through high school and into university. Back then, you couldn’t really make a living as a writer in Canada unless you were on a best-seller list, and I did need to earn money to live, so I settled for a series of full-time jobs that had nothing to do with writing, but I kept working on my fiction in my spare time. I won a fiction contest for one of my short stories, and then my novel, Skywatcher, was a finalist in a first novel competition and was published by Seal Books in Canada and Bantam in the US…and that’s what set me on the road!
Describe your writing process. Do you plot or write by the seat of your pants? When and where do you write?
I used to write in my spare time, on weekends, evenings, holidays. That was back when I was working in a full-time job completely unrelated to writing. In October 2019, however, I retired from my job at the University of British Columbia, and since then, I’m happy to report I’ve finally become a full-time writer…and now I try to write (or research my current WIP) every day, usually between 10am and 3pm. My writing desk is in the living room of my apartment, next to a huge window overlooking my balcony, which itself is seven stories up in the air and overlooking a vista view of the Fraser River.
I very definitely plot. I picked up the skill when I went to Vancouver Film School and learned how to write screenplays. I’ve found it incredibly useful, and there’s no rule that says the outline you start with has to be the same one you end with. In fact, I constantly tinker with the details and the plotting and quite often, the ending is as much a surprise to me as it is to my readers.
I’ve tried a variety of plotting software programs, but my favorite at the moment is Plottr. It’s fantastic.
Can you tell us about your most recent release?
Ticket to Rideis the fourth book in my Jason Davey Mysteries. Jason is a professional musician / amateur sleuth, and in this new adventure he’s on the road, standing in for his late father and touring England with his mother’s folky-pop band, Figgis Green. But when a psychic warns Jason and Mandy, his mother, they're in danger from something "dropping”, the band is plagued by a series of seemingly-unrelated mishaps -- including a plummeting gargoyle! After Jason is attacked in Cambridge and nearly drowns while he's punting on the river, and a fire alarm in their hotel results in a theft from Mandy's room, it becomes very clear they're being targeted by someone with a serious grudge. And when the band plays a gig at a private estate in Tunbridge Wells, that someone finally makes themselves - and their deadly intentions - known. Jason has to rely on his instincts, a mysterious Instagram follower who calls herself his "guardian angel," and the ghost of a Battle of Britain airman, who may or may not share his DNA, in order to survive.
How did you get the idea for the book?
This story owes its existence to my third Jason Davey mystery, Lost Time. In that novel, Jason is on the south coast of England, rehearsing with his mum’s band while he solves the puzzle surrounding the disappearance of a young woman in 1977. I had so much research and so many good ideas left over from Lost Time that I thought, why not actually send him out on the road in the next book? So that’s what I did. The mysteries that Jason tackles along the way are directly related to my own passion for family tree research—which Jason shares.
Of all your characters, which one is your favorite? Why?
Very definitely Jason, the main character in the series. He’s interesting—he has a very dry wit, he’s clever, but he’s often confounded by the situations he encounters, and he’s human—and has many vulnerabilities. He makes mistakes. He’s a very accomplished musician but he’s not completely comfortable being an amateur sleuth—he’s still not certain he can do it successfully. He still hasn’t written the final exam that would grant him a Private Investigator’s license in England. And I’m not sure he ever will, to be honest.
What was the most challenging aspect of writing your book?
Actually, it was writing the book! All the time I was working on the story, my mum (aged 95) was encountering health problems, which were actually to be expected in such a very ancient lady. She lived with my sister, but I was sharing care-giver duties, and twice a week I would drive from New Westminster (where I live) to North Vancouver (where they lived) to help out, to take mum for a ride in the car, to basically spend the day with her. Without wanting to sound selfish, all those journeys did have an impact on my concentration and my ability to maintain some kind of continuity with the story. As my mum’s health declined, the problem only got worse. I resorted to all kinds of outlining software to try and keep the story straight in my mind (I’m definitely a plotter, not a pantser), until, in the end, my lovely mother had to go to the hospital and, ultimately a hospice, where she died, peacefully and with nothing left unsaid. Following that, I had to help my sister with her grief, and go through a process of sorting through mum’s belongings and papers and photos, and help my sister find somewhere new to live…so it wasn’t surprising that Ticket to Ride ended up having to be put on temporary hiatus. Finally, with mum’s affairs settled and my sister in her new flat, I found I had time for myself again. It was as if a curtain had opened. The way became clear, and I was able to finish the book. I hadn’t been aware of all the things I was dealing with at the time, but my publishing partner, Brian Richmond (from Blue Devil Books) very kindly pointed out that my attention had been very much distracted over the previous year and a half, so it was all completely understandable. I hadn’t been aware of it at all. But, looking back, I have to tell myself, of course that was the problem. You were just so caught up in everything, you didn’t see it.
What projects are you currently working on?
I’m starting to outline the next Jason Davey mystery (#5 in the series), which is called Bad Boy. It marks the return of one of my favorite baddies, Arthur Braskey from Notes on a Missing G-String. And it has a rather shock beginning that takes place at The Shard, in London.