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In conversation with mystery novelist Amy Stuart

By Kobo • April 14, 2021Author Interviews

Amy Stuart is the author of three mystery novels featuring PI Clare O’Dey.

She’ll be judging the Mystery/Thriller category in the 2021 Kobo Emerging Writer Prize

What have you been reading lately?

Reading during the pandemic has been hard for me. I’ve just started reading regularly again. It was deciding what to read that kept stopping me. Honestly, getting a Kobo helped: just being able to decide what I’m ready for and start it instantly made a huge difference. Generally, my reading has gone in fits and starts; last April I read five books, but then I dropped off in May. Reading is never far away, but concentration was hard at times.

Now I’m reading Gutter Child by Jael Richardson. It’s incredible. I’m taking it slowly. There’s an author’s note advising the reader to go slow and take breaks if it gets heavy -- and that’s working for me. There’s so much to absorb, and what she’s writing about and what she’s really talking about are two different things. So I’m enjoying taking that in, savouring it.

And I ripped through The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett and Ashley Audrain’s The Push.

I’m about to start Trickster Drift by Eden Robinson, and then I want to read a few books before I read the final volume in the Trickster trilogy, Return of the Trickster, because I’m going to be so disappointed when it’s over.

I don’t normally read multiple books at once, but I’ve also got Barack Obama’s A Promised Land on the go as well. It’s very dense, and I’m almost approaching it like a textbook. He’s such a strong writer, but it also feels like he’s got the upper hand on his editor, and every sentence he wanted to include is there in full. He explains everything.

How do you decide what to read next?

I’m pretty keen on being current. I like being able to participate in conversations about books in real time. Not to say I won’t pick up an older book -- I just read Alice Munro’s The Love of a Good Woman. But if I’m seeing people rave about a book I’m compelled to pick it up.

As a successful youth hockey coach and mystery novelist, how do books and reading fit into what sounds like a busy life?

That’s an interesting question to consider now, since sports just hasn’t been a factor for months. Reading for me tends to be part of my bedtime routine -- and I go to bed early so I can end up reading anywhere from five minutes to several hours. When I was reading The Vanishing Half over the holidays, I spent a whole afternoon on the couch with it.

When life is busy and normal, whatever normal means now, reading tends to take a hit. And I find that when I’m working on a final edit for one of my own books, that pushes reading aside completely for a while. Whatever energy reading for pleasure requires is sucked completely away by the energy that goes into closely reading my own book -- tracking the different story threads across the whole book, trying to see the details and the big picture simultaneously.

In Writerscape you work with all kinds of writers, from people wanting to publish fiction to anyone wanting to improve their written communication skills. Does it help you as a novelist to work with students this way?

After spending time with students teaching them to organize their thoughts, break the things they have to say into chunks, and just write clearly and well, sometimes I sit down to work on my own writing and I can feel a little like the shoemaker with the holes in his shoes. I don’t know if my teaching work helps -- but I believe so strongly that writing well is important and applies everywhere. Texting, word problems in grade 8 algebra, it’s all important -- though I have a child who disagrees. [laughs]

Have you considered writing a cozy mystery series about a woman who coaches hockey, writes mysteries, and solves murders?

Knowing the hockey world in Canada, I don’t think a murder-mystery would be that out of place. You might be onto something there…

This interview has been edited for clarity.

Still Here by Amy Stuart

Malcolm is gone. Disappeared. And no one knows where or why.

His colleague and fellow private investigator, Clare, is certain she can find him, as she holds the key to his past. She arrives in the oceanside city where he last lived and starts digging around. Not only is Malcolm gone without a trace, so is his wife, Zoe. Everyone who knew the perfect couple sees Malcolm as the prime suspect in his wife’s disappearance. Everyone except Clare. She’s certain there’s more at play that has nothing to do with Malcolm, a dark connection to Zoe’s family business and the murder of her father years ago.

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