Today’s author interview is with Vicki Delany, author of The Klondike Gold Rush series. Vicki speaks to us about her series, what inspired her to start writing it, and what the hardest part about writing it is.
Caitlyn: Tell us about your book
Vicki: Gold Mountain: A Klondike Mystery is the third in the Klondike Gold Rush Series, following Gold Digger and Gold Fever. The books are set in Dawson City in 1898, at the height of the Klondike Gold Rush. They’re intended to be light-hearted, just a mad-cap romp through the muddy streets of Dawson with a mystery or crime to drive the plot. The main protagonist is Fiona MacGillivray, owner of the Savoy Salon and Dance Hall and a woman with a mysterious past. The books also feature Fiona’s 12 year old son, Angus, and Corporal Richard Sterling of the North-West Mounted Police, as well as an assortment of dancers and musicians, croupiers and bartenders, prostitutes and madams without hearts of gold, miners and shopkeepers, gentleman and layabouts, and businessmen both respectable and shady.
In Gold Mountain we learn that Fiona first intended to settle in Skagway, but she ran afoul of the infamous gangster Soapy Smith and decided to seek her fortune on the other side of the border. Unfortunately she’s followed to Dawson by Soapy’s henchman, Paul Sheridan, who is in possession of a secret map leading, supposedly, to unimaginable riches.
Caitlyn: How did you come up with the idea for this work?
Vicki: The idea for the series came to me several years ago when I was on a canoeing trip in Algonquin Park. I realized that we were doing for fun what our ancestors would have considered real hardship. I told my trip mates stores of the incredible difficulties people endured in their attempts to get to the Klondike in search of gold, and I thought, “That would make a great story.” Gold Mountain itself grew out of stories and legends of lost lush green valleys, sort of a Canadian Shangri-La.
Caitlyn: How did you research your book?
Vicki: The Klondike Gold Rush is very easy to research. There’s such a wealth of information available, and what’s really nice for a historical period – photographs, lots and lots of photographs. I want to have the history as accurate as possible, so I do a fair amount of research. Almost all of it from second-hand sources, I don’t have much access to first person accounts. Although I am hoping to go to Dawson City next year and spend some time in the Museum reading the old documents. The definitive book on the subject is probably Pierre Berton’s Klondike, the Last Great Gold Rush, and the accompanying book, The Klondike Quest, A Photographic Essay. Plus many, many others. I have included a bibliography in the back of Gold Mountain and the other books for those interested in reading more.
I was in Alberta and Saskatchewan last year and I visited the RCMP Heritage Centre in Regina and the NWMP museum in Fort MacLeod, Alberta to get a feel for policing in the times.
For the things that don’t change – the land, the trees, the birds and animals, I got a lot of help from a writer by the name of Jessica Simon who lives in Whitehorse and is a wilderness guide.
Caitlyn: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Vicki: I ran into a bad patch when Fiona and Paul Sheridan leave town and head off into the wilderness. With half the townsfolk in pursuit. I have been to Dawson City but I’ve never been north of there, and I wasn’t on foot! I was concerned about how I was going to portray the landscape accurately, having never been there and almost gave the story up until I could arrange a trip. Then I thought, they’re searching for a mountain of gold and a valley as warm as California. How accurate do I have to be?
Caitlyn: What inspired you to write your first book?
Vicki: My own first attempt at fiction began more as an exercise in escapism than as a novel. I was taking a creative writing class. We were asked to keep a journal for a week. At this time I was having some trouble with one of my teenage daughters, nothing out of the ordinary – just normal teenage girl angst, but I didn’t want to write about my own feelings. Instead I wanted to turn my back on my problems and escape into that mythical, always beckoning, Canadian wilderness.
Which I proceeded to do. In my imagination. Rather than write the class exercise, I wrote the first chapter of what became a novel, Whiteout. The story, roughly, begins as follows: middle-aged computer professional flees the fallout from a troubled teenage daughter and quits her job, cashes in her savings, and rents a falling-down old cabin on the outskirts of a no-hope town in northern Ontario. It is the middle of winter, and the climax takes place in a snowstorm, thus the title.
I read the section to the class, and they loved it. Most of the women said they wanted to do the same thing. So I decided to keep on writing it and find out what happened.
Vicki Delany is one of Canada’s most prolific and varied crime writers. Her work includes standalone novels of gothic suspense, the Smith & Winters series set in the British Columbia interior, and the light-hearted Klondike Gold Rush Series. She lives in Prince Edward County, Ontario.
The Markerting Coordinator at Dundurn, lover of books, tea and dancing in the rain.