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Characters in Crime

Virtual coffee clubs

Canada Writes has once again partnered with the Crime Writers of Canada to present a series of mystery, murder and mayhem. 

As part of the series, we are presenting Q&As with the regional chapters of the CWC so aspiring crime writers across the country can get a glimpse into the activities and advantages of becoming a member. 

Read our Q&A with Kevin Thornton, Regional VP of the Prairies chapter.
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Tell us about the activities you do for members in your region.
Geographically it is a challenge, The CWC RVP of the Prairies represents an area that is over half of Canada, (Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories). At over 5 million square kilometres, it’s difficult to pop in to fellow members for tea and whisky. I try to keep in touch through information, encouragement and congratulations  for the individual milestones in the members’ writing careers. Members in the bigger centres, Calgary, Edmonton and the other Prairie cities, do get out and support each other at functions, and one of the Arthur Ellis shortlist parties is held in Calgary every year. I may even get to it one day but it is an eight hour drive for me, so it’s not always possible.

How big is your membership? Are there a lot of crime writers in your area? What might differentiate your chapter from other CWC chapters?
We have about 35 members, or one for every 150 000 square kilometres.

How do define a ‘lot’? There are less members than horses, more than Greenpeace activists. 

The writers on the prairies are mostly published authors and I believe they are writing some of the best crime in Canada.

The difference is the distance. I meet all the members who go to the Bloody Words conference, otherwise we rely on social media to keep in contact. With one exception I am four hours from the next member, eight to the next group thereafter. Our coffee clubs tend to be virtual, online and often singular.

What are the benefits of being part of a national organization?
The connectedness that reminds us that what we have chosen to do is a noble profession that brings a lot of happiness and fun into peoples’ lives. The links and news that come frequently from the CWC management—magnificent Mel and amazing Ali—are interesting, amusing, and sometimes vital. The entire publishing world is changing. It’s good to have a national voice and be a part of the discussion.

What are the top reasons you would recommend an aspiring crime writer to become a member of the CWC?
Advice, experience and getting to hang out occasionally with the cool guys of the writing world. Aspiring writers need to write, but they also need to realize at some point that to be successful you need to be businesslike. The CWC has all the experience to share because if there is a mistake to be made in this crazy career, at least one member has made it and knows how to fix it.

There are a lot of people who experiment with the genre of crime writing these dayswhat are the criteria for being called a “crime writer”?
The book has to have a crime in it.

What is it about this crime writing that personally inspires you as a writer?
Putting characters through hell and then bringing them back out the other side. It’s exactly like life, only more intense.

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Kevin Thornton writes dithyrambic poems, debauched limericks, recondite newspaper columns, murderous short stories and opinionated magazine articles. A founding member of the Northern Canada Collective Society for Writers in Fort McMurray, his home, and currently a Crime Writers of Canada RVP, he is also the Vice Chair of the local Library Board.

He is currently working on his second unpublished novel.


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