Do you ever wonder what the next chapters are like in the lives of the visiting writers who pass through Winnipeg each year while reading at the Thin Air Winnipeg International Writers Festival?
Sometimes there’s a little blurb in the Globe and Mail or on CBC online with news about a new book that just came out or a Writer’s Fellowship. Oftentimes you don’t see anything at all.
Debra Komar taught a Writing Craft class on writing crime fiction at last year’s Thin Air. I sat in on her class because I was fascinated by her experiences with the UN and Physicians for Human Rights as a forensic anthropologist. She investigated human rights violations around the world, which often involved exhuming mass graves, and has testified as an expert witness in Canada, the US, England and the Hague.
Her class was gritty and not glossed over while she was describing the putrefaction of dead bodies in great detail. I’m a bit squeamish but any crime fiction authors would’ve loved all the gory details as they’re the things that make a murder mystery believable.
Since retiring, Komar has been writing True Crime and has had four books published by Goose Lane Editions to critical acclaim.
She graciously took the time to share some updates in her life since lecturing at last year’s Thin Air.
So in no particular order…
Are you still happy you became a writer?
I don’t regret a single moment. I may not be as financially secure as I once was, but I am much happier.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
The best advice I ever received (and would want to pass on) is learn to find your own voice. New writers tend to mimic their heroes – the authors they admire. The best thing is to figure out who you are and what you have to say, without trying to sound like anyone else.
What have you been doing since last year’s Thin Air?
The past year has been busy. I was working on creating a true-crime documentary series with Frantic Films for some time though that project is now on hold.
Have you started another book?
Yes, the next book is written although I am currently rewriting it under the guidance of an executive editor from one of the major publishing houses. It examines a series of multiple murders in the Yukon in the 1920’s.
Are your books selling well?
The books are selling well, going into multiple printings. The last one, “Black River Road”, was nominated for several awards including the Arthur Ellis for best Canadian crime writing.
What’s your favourite book that you’ve read in the last year?
A recent book I have loved the most (and learned the most from) is not a new release but is still great – “How Music Works” by David Byrne. It is one of the best examinations of the creative process I have ever seen and is relevant to all art forms, not just music. I found it very thought-provoking and it made me look at writing in a whole new way.
What book will you be reading next and what are you reading now?
Right now I am reading David Grann’s book on the Moon Flower/FBI – fascinating. After that I will dive into “The Fact of a Body” (I think that’s the title – I am in Los Angeles right now and the book is sitting on my nightstand at home). [Editors note: must be The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich]
And finally what’s your best memory of last year’s festival?
Sitting in the authors’ suite at the hotel and watching all the speakers come in and out. The festival was very well organized and run and it was fun to meet such a diverse group of speakers.
If you want to continue to follow Debra Komar’s writing career she has a twitter account – @DebraKomar1. Some of the posts are as funny as she was in person while lecturing at last years Thin Air.
Chances are most of the authors who were reading at this year’s festival have either a website, are on twitter, or both. If there’s an author whose work you really liked, a quick Google search will turn up their social media accounts.
You can read my interview with Debra Komar during last year’s Thin Air Festival here: Crime (writing) doesn’t pay