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Author Interview: Kim Herdman Shapiro

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Ephantus Gold is talking with Kim Herdman Shapiro, author of The Raven's Cry: A Wynter Island Mystery.

FQ: The Raven's Cry suggests a deeply thought title. Although I've read the book, I would still like to hear and understand more about the idea behind this thought-provoking title.

SHAPIRO: When I was plotting this book, I wanted to make sure to include some examples of the Indigenous culture of British Columbia, in particular their rich connection with the land. There is a beautiful sculpture by Canadian artist, Bill Reid, entitled The Raven and the First Men, that I thought of. I then needed to figure out a way to include this imagery/mythology in the book. Voila! The Raven’s Cry!

FQ: Is Wynter Island a real place (I searched online and couldn't find it - but there are a lot of islands included in the Canadian Gulf Islands)? If it's real, what drew you to it, and if it's not, might it be based on an island you visited?

SHAPIRO: No, Wynter Island is not a real place. It is an amalgam of several of the Gulf Islands, with a particular emphasis on Pender Island, British Columbia. I have family and friends who live there. Luckily, I have been able to spend a fair amount of time there, as well as had the opportunity to eavesdrop on the small island gossip!

FQ: Jupiter is an animal character that brings out the best in Kate and is bound to make the book even more enjoyable to many readers, especially animal lovers. Do you have any plans of continuing with him in the next series? Two, why did you choose the name Jupiter for him?

SHAPIRO: Jupiter has been by far the most loved character in the series, and I have no intention of messing with that. So Jupiter is not going anywhere! I am a big animal lover, and have three dogs of my own. The name Jupiter just came to me several years ago, before I even started writing the book.

FQ: There were a lot of twists and turns in The Raven's Cry. Were these all planned out before you began writing, or did they "write themselves" as the story came together?

Author Kim Herdman Shapiro

SHAPIRO: Outline, outline, outline! I am not a pantser! In fact, I spent several months plotting all the details of this story. Certainly, there may be a natural growth and change in the story while I’m writing, but the intricacy of the plot is already worked out. I want readers to be able to enjoy a complicated puzzle with lots of surprises. That’s part of what I love about mysteries!

FQ: Your first book Gelato with the Pope: and Other Adventures of a Travel Writer in Europe has a great title and sounds like a fun read. Would you tell our readers a little about it?

SHAPIRO: Gelato with the Pope is based on my time as a syndicated travel columnist in the Nineties. It is a fun romp through the many adventures I had - and the many mistakes I made along the way. Like thinking I could avoid the security at the Queen’s Trooping of the Colour parade only to have it end badly. Very badly. Namely me, face down on the Mall, soldiers and police officers swarming everywhere. There is also a sweet love story, as I met someone on that journey.

FQ: Speaking of your first book, you've gone from writing a travel book to embarking on a new mystery series. That's quite a jump in genres. Was mystery writing always something you wanted to tackle?

SHAPIRO: I always planned on writing fiction, but got diverted into journalism and then non-fiction when I was scooped up to be a newspaper columnist while still at university. The pandemic gave me a window of time to have a crack at writing fiction and I went to the genre that I read the most: mysteries.

FQ: The fascination with murder mysteries continues to grow - it's a huge market (all the true crime shows on t.v. are a good indicator). Why do you think the general public is so fascinated?

SHAPIRO: I think it is a part of our nature to be curious, as well as to want to know how and why something has occurred. You throw into that mix interesting characters and human drama - sometimes all too real - and people are hooked.

FQ: You've been busy working on a video project, What the Hell is a Toque? Would you tell us a little about it?

SHAPIRO: What the Hell is a Toque? is a video project I started with my sons when they were eleven and fourteen. I wanted them to understand something about where their mother came from - Canada - as well as have an opportunity to see incredible things and meet a wide variety of people. It felt very much to me that the world was getting smaller then - small enough to fit on to the screen of a computer - and I wanted them to realize how vast the world and its peoples really were. So they have been from the tip of Newfoundland to the Pacific, with polar bears and beluga whales in between. And they have learned the bad as well as the good. They understand that no one, no country, is perfect, and that Canada has its own mistakes to mourn and remember.

FQ: Your watercolor paintings are beautiful! How long have you been painting? What inspires you? I'd love to learn a little about your background in painting!

SHAPIRO: Painting has always been a part of my life as my Great Aunt was involved in the Canadian art movement of the early twentieth century. I started actively painting watercolors about thirty years ago, but stopped when I had children and animals racing around my water jar and paint palettes! I’ve been able to return to it using the new digital painting options on my iPad.

FQ: What's next for Kate (and hopefully Jupiter)? Would you give our readers a sneak peek into book 2 in the Wynter Island Mystery series?

SHAPIRO: Well, Book 2 is completed and with my publishers. It is called The Loon’s Song, and my editor has agreed to allow me to give your readers an advance taste. It will be released in Spring of 2024.

"Beautiful actress, Rosalie Morgann, returns home to Wynter Island seventeen years after she fled because of her romantic liaisons with numerous island husbands.

Not many islanders are pleased to see her return, and even fewer are interested in hearing what she has to say for herself.

Rosalie manages to convince Kate Thomas - manager of the local community television station - to allow her on their inaugural broadcast from the newly redesigned studio. When Rosalie dies, live on-air, there are almost too many suspects for the RCMP to consider!

With the station’s financial sponsorship now at risk, Kate must help the police find the killer or risk losing the station and her new home on Wynter Island.”

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