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by Virna DePaul


Fall From Grace by Wayne Arthurson marks the debut of Leo Desroches, one of the most unusual amateur detectives ever to appear in Canada or points south.  This fast-paced, enthralling mystery is the story of a man who had everything, lost it all, and is trying to get it back.

Journalist Leo Desroches doesn’t look like a native, but his mother was Cree, and he understands the problems of indigenous Canadians of the First Nations. When he’s assigned to cover the murder of a young native prostitute, it’s just one more story…until the cop in charge lets him view the corpse, something the Edmonton police never do.

When Leo writes his article, it starts a chain of events that leads him to discover a much, much bigger story, one that could bring down the entire police department…if it doesn’t get him killed.

Wise and compassionate, vivid and witty, Leo is the kind of character you feel you’ve known a long time, and Wayne Arthurson is a writer to watch. What a great read. I couldn’t put it down.”  —Sparkle Hayter, bestselling author of the Robin Hudson mysteries

It’s about time someone set a kick-ass crime novel in Edmonton, and Wayne Arthurson is the man to do it.”  –Giles Blunt, bestselling author of the late John Cardinal mysteries

Recently, I interviewed Mr. Arthurson, who was named one of Canada’s top crime debuts for 2011 and a “writer to watch” in a Quill and Quire article written by Sarah Weinman, crime fiction reviewer for the LA Times.  Here’s what Mr. Arthurson had to say about his writing journey, his story, and his upcoming release.

You share a few things in common with the protagonist of Fall From Grace, including a journalism background, and Cree and French Canadian parents.  Can you tell us what other characteristics you and Leo Desroches share, as well as what makes the two of you very different?

The idea for Leo’s character actually came from a couple of journalists that I used to know when I was beginning my journalism career. And though Leo and I share many cultural similarities, and I used a couple of events from childhood and embellished for the novel, we are very different. For one thing, Leo is a degenerate gambler and has a serious problem with risk-taking behavior. I barely gamble at all, save for buying a lottery ticket here and there. He also had a much harsher upbringing than I did. Leo also believes that no matter how long he quits gambling and/or how successful he becomes as a journalist, one day he will still fall back into the depths.

At one time, you were also a clown, a punk rock drummer and a reality show participant.  Have any of those experiences played out in your fiction writing?

Actually, these experiences occurred at different times in my life. But none of them have appeared in any of my fiction. I’ve written non-fiction pieces about some, and they work to get media attention when I’m promoting my book, but I haven’t found any good reasons to use these experiences in fiction. One day, maybe.

In writing a novel set in your hometown of Edmonton, Canada, did you consider how the novel/setting would appeal to Americans and did this impact any of your writing decisions?

When I’m writing fiction, I never think about reaching a certain market or satisfying a specific audience. The only person I’m looking to please is myself. But I did try for over two years to sell this mystery series to just the Canadian market and was unsuccessful. A couple rejections even complained that Canadian readers aren’t interested in stories set in Edmonton, which is a medium-sized city in Western Canada. But once I started looking to the US, the reaction was different. I got an agent in less than three months and the first publisher she sent it to, Forge, offered me a two-book deal. And both my agent and my editor told me that, to American audiences, Edmonton is an exotic locale because they know little or nothing about it.

Is there a message in your novel you want readers to grasp?

The Leo Desroches series touches on a variety of issues facing aboriginal Canadians, and it would be nice for people to notice these issues, and possibly think about them. But overall, I want readers to enjoy the novel, tell their friends about it, buy many copies for gifts and then buy the second book (and hopefully the third, fourth and fifth, etc.) when it comes out.

On your website, you indicate a preference for engaging in social media (such as Facebook) over blogging.  What have been your most useful marketing or promotional strategies?

I’ve found the old-fashioned way of slowly making connections (either through e-mail, social networking and other means) and gently cultivating those connections can help when my novel is released. For example, a year ago, I quietly connected with Sarah Wienman, crime fiction reviewer for the LA Times and other places, plus a fellow Canadian. And when she needed subjects for a piece about Canadian crime fiction, I was one of the people she contacted and wrote about. She also called my novel, Fall From Grace, one of top Canadian crime debuts for 2011. I use that comment to create even further buzz about Fall From Grace.

What fictional novels are you reading now?

Right now I’m reading The Half Made World by Felix Gilman. Kind of a steampunk, fantasy, western. Very good.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging about writing?

My biggest challenge is finding or making time for fiction. I’m a stay-at-home dad and also make a substantial part of my income writing magazine articles, history books, and advertising copy.  So I have plenty of personal demands on my time and other writing deadlines to reach.

How has your writing process changed as your career has developed?

I think the biggest change in the last decade or so is that I don’t dawdle. When I have time to write fiction, I just start writing. I don’t worry about inspiration or whether I have enough time. I was already a relatively fast writer compared to some writers I know, but now I’m actually much faster and more efficient.

Can you tell us a little about the next writing project you’re working on?

I just finished the second Leo Desroches novel.  The working title is A Killing Winter.  I sent it off to my editor then had to write a non-fiction book of 60,000 words in three months; I finished that at the end of January. Now I’m working on promoting Fall From Grace, thinking about what happens in the third Leo Desroches book and possibly working on this graphic novel idea I’ve been thinking about. Like a lot of working writers, there are plenty of ideas in my head, and many ongoing projects due.

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WAYNE ARTHURSON, like his protagonist Leo Desroches, is the son of Cree and French Canadian parents. He has worked as a newspaper reporter, a drummer in a rock band, and as a freelance journalist. He was born in and lives in Edmonton, Canada. Fall From Grace is his first novel.

Virna DePaul
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