Many of our talented alumni and faculty have stretched their writing muscles beyond journalism into the realms of fiction, non-fiction and poetry. The RSJ Book Club is an occasional series created to highlight these works. If you know of a notable grad you’d like to see featured, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Latoya Powell (RSJ ’21)
April Lindgren is a professor at the Ryerson School of Journalism, the Velma Rogers Research Chair and principal investigator for the Local News Research Project. Before
joining the Ryerson faculty, she spent more than 20 years covering economic and political news on Parliament Hill and at Queen’s Park in Toronto. Her first mystery novel, Headline: Murder, was nominated for an Arthur Ellis Award for Best First Crime Novel following its publication in 2008.
We spoke to her recently about the book and her decision to write a mystery novel.
Below is a Q/A with the author:
What inspired you to write this book?
I’ve always been an avid mystery reader, so I enjoy the genre. It was intimidating to think about writing fiction after so many years of writing news so I thought it writing a mystery would be a good place to start because there’s a set formula: A crime occurs, pursuit of the murderer ensues, the mystery is resolved.
Why did you choose to base the story in Toronto?
I love Toronto and wanted the city to be a character in the book. I was also covering Queen’s Park at the time and I wanted to make the most of that by writing about that great old legislature building – its history and idiosyncrasies. I know from my own reading that there’s a bit of a thrill in reading about a place I’m familiar with – seeing it through a writer’s eyes. I wanted to give my readers that experience.
Why was it important for you to incorporate romance into your story?
Mysteries are interesting for more than the “whodunnit” element. They are also character portraits and I wanted Pia, my protagonist, to be more than just a one-dimensional sleuth. It wasn’t the romance per se that interested me so much as the idea of portraying her as a multifaceted character. She’s ambitious, a great reporter, a single woman of a certain again, she has friends and relatives who are intriguing, she has her personal demons. It seemed only natural that she would also have a man in her life.
Where did the inspiration for Pia Keyne’s character come from?
Well, people are always curious to know whether a protagonist is really just the writer in disguise. I admit nothing. I will say that Pia is an amalgam of people I have encountered over the years. I wanted to create a strong, smart female character who would be a bit unpredictable and keep readers interested.
Why do you like writing mysteries?
Mysteries are satisfying because they begin with a world in turmoil, where something has gone terribly wrong. The situation tends to deteriorate as the book progresses but in the end, order and justice are restored. As readers we find it reassuring to finish a mystery novel and find that all is right with the world once again. I like that about the genre.
From the perspective of writers, mysteries are a puzzle and the challenge is to make all the pieces of the puzzle fit together by the last chapter. Assembling the puzzle and then turning it into a story that weaves together people, places and traumatic events is a challenge and really great fun.
What were some of your challenges while writing Headline: Murder?
I always enjoy it when readers ask me if certain characters are based on real-life people – say a politician. The guesses are amusing. Politicians who read the book have bugged me to find out if a particular character was really one of their colleagues, thinly disguised. My answer, of course, is “no comment.”
How long did it take you to research and write the book? What was your process like?
Well, I just loved, loved, loved the fact that when I was kind of stuck, I didn’t have to do a ton of research or a dozen interviews with people to sort it out. I could just sit down with a cup of coffee and invent the solution. Being liberated from the tyranny of facts was an absolute delight.
What can we expect next from you as an author?
Well, I do have another Pia novel that’s about a third of the way finished. But I have been so preoccupied with my teaching and research I’m having trouble getting it done. I’m not giving anything away by saying a journalist dies. At this rate, though, you’ll probably have to wait until I retire to find out more.