Books

20 fascinating facts about Louise Penny

20 things you might not know about the creator of Inspector Armand Gamache.
Louise Penny is the author of the novel A Great Reckoning. (Jean-François Bérubé)

Think you know all there is to know about Louise Penny, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and Three Pines? Think again. We've sniffed out 20 intriguing facts about this beloved Canadian author. 

2. ...but then she had writer's block for five years

3. Louise calls fear her biggest defect, though she feeds off it for her creativity. 

4. She knew she wanted to be a writer since she was eight but didn't start writing until her forties, and didn't have her first book published until she was 46.

6. Her first book, Still Life, was rejected — or outright ignored — by more than 50 publishers before finishing second out of 800 entries in the Debut Dagger, the British Crime Writers' Association's annual search for the best unpublished novel.

7. She's a really big fan of Country Life magazine.

8. Although her books are set in Quebec and feature many francophone characters, Penny estimates that they were translated into about 23 languages before they were translated into Québecois French.

9. Inspector Gamache is partly inspired by Penny's husband, Michael Whitehead, Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird and Jean Gamache, a tailor in Granby, QC.

10. She was an alcoholic from the ages of 21 to 35 and considers getting sober her greatest achievement. She credits this difficult period with helping her write the Gamache series: "My characters never feel what I myself have never felt. I know about jealousy, bitterness, self-hatred, anger; I own all that."

11. She goes through five to six drafts of her books before showing them to anyone.  

12. She supports unpublished mystery writers by reading their manuscripts, and helped launch the Unhanged Arthur Ellis Award for Best Unpublished First Crime Novel, a Canadian version of the Debut Dagger.

(Louise Penny)

14. She thinks of Three Pines as more of a state of mind than an actual place. She calls it "the place I live in when I choose to be kind."

15. Louise worked with a London perfumer to make an "eau de Gamache."

16. There's a real Bury Your Dead  walking tour in Quebec City.

17. The title of Penny's ninth Gamache book, How the Light Gets In, is inspired Leonard Cohen's song Anthem, "There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in."

18. She's a fan of Alfred Hitchcock.

19. While she was doing research for The Beautiful Mystery, she was allowed to spend the night in the "Presidential cell" of a local Benedictine monastery. It was about an inch bigger than the other monastery cells. 

20.  The latest book in the Three Pines series, Glass Houses, is scheduled to be released on August 29, 2017.

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