Amateur sleuth mystery author Debra Purdy Kong has published more than one hundred short stories, essays, and articles for publications including Chicken Soup for the Bride’s Soul, B.C. Parent Magazine, and The Vancouver Sun. Her criminology studies and experience as a patrol and communications officer in security, provided inspiration for her Casey Holland mysteries and Evan Dunstan novella, Dead Man Floating. Learn more about Debra and her books at her website.
When did you realize you wanted to write novels?
I first realized that I wanted to spend my life writing while I was traveling through Europe and working on my first short story many years ago. At the time, I was sharing a flat with an aspiring actress/songwriter who was really supportive. After working on short fiction for four to five years, I decided to challenge myself with a full-length book.
How long did it take you to realize your dream of publication?
The road to publication was a rocky one. I submitted my first novel, Taxed to Death to several publishers, then acquired an agent here in Canada who helped me cut the book by 100 pages. In the end, she couldn’t sell the book, either. While working on the sequel, I also started the Casey Holland series, which landed me an American agent and nice comments from publishers, but again no sale. I wound up selling the book myself to a small Canadian publisher. The submission process took about seven years in all.
Are you traditionally published, indie published, or a hybrid author?
I’m enjoy being a hybrid author. Both have up and down sides, but I don’t believe there’s a wrong way, provided you make an informed choice.
Where do you write?
I write in my basement office in our house. It’s spacious and quite, and cool in summer.
Is silence golden, or do you need music to write by? What kind?
For me, silence is golden, however, when traveling with my husband and the kids to the tiny summer cottages we rented, I used classical music like Mozart, Vivaldi, and Bach whenever I took a little time to write.
How much of your plots and characters are drawn from real life? From your life in particular?
The plots aren’t drawn from my real life, but from real life around me. Crime plots also come from local news headlines. My protagonists’ occupations come from my own work experiences or that of relatives.
Describe your process for naming your character?
Choosing a name is hit-and-miss at first. I imagine the type of protagonist I want to create, then find a name to suit him or her. Once I start creating a complete profile, the names may change as I learn more about them.
Real settings or fictional towns?
I use real settings. I live in the ‘burbs of Vancouver, in the City of Port Moody. It’s all hills and mountains, lots of green space and centered around the end of Vancouver’s Burrard Inlet.
What’s the quirkiest quirk one of your characters has?
In my new novella, Dead Man Floating, Evan’s sidekick, Sully, eats donuts when he’s upset or stressed. Since his father’s a baker, he brings them to campus by the bagful.
What’s your quirkiest quirk?
Scarfing down chocolate, peanut butter, and banana, sometimes all at once.
If you could have written any book (one that someone else has already written,) which one would it be? Why?
I would have written To Kill a Mockingbird. This book is really the whole package: a crime story, a coming of age story, a hero’s journey set against a vivid setting and immersed in heated socio-political issues.
Everyone at some point wishes for a do-over. What’s yours?
My first book, definitely. It’s been twenty years since I published Taxed to Death. The other day, I was looking at the first few pages and realize that I would have approached the opening chapters with more action and less back-story.
What’s your biggest pet peeve?
Self-published authors who do not see the value in properly edited work. I review a lot of indie published books. I see so many great ideas fall apart due to numerous errors.
You’re stranded on a deserted island. What are your three must-haves?
Water, food, and my iPad.
What was the worst job you’ve ever held?
Security was both the best and the worst. I remember patrolling outside in two feet of snow. We had to record the completion of patrols in our notebooks, but the weather was so cold that my pen wouldn’t work. I fell, I froze, and was nearly speared by a huge falling icicle. Spring and summer, though, were wonderful.
What’s the best book you’ve ever read?
That’s a tough question, and I think the answer changes from year to year. But right now, the answer is All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, which I read last year. I still marvel at the use of language and the structure of the book.
Ocean or mountains?
City girl/guy or country girl/guy?
What’s on the horizon for you?
Finishing two novellas this year and finally getting the first draft of my first fantasy novel finished.
Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and/or your books?
I’ve been writing for over thirty years and, despite the ups and downs, it’s still one of my favorite things to do in life. Writing has kept me grounded, given me goals and purpose, and allowed me to meet many terrific writers over the years. What could be better?
Dead Man Floating
One wrong decision…
Security guard Evan Dunstan didn’t expect to find a body floating in a campus stream. An empty vodka bottle nearby suggests that the highly despised George Krenn, head of the plumbing department, had drunkenly fallen in. Refusing to let the death of a vile man ruin his romantic plans, Evan decides to leave the body for the next shift to find.
One friend in trouble…
When it’s discovered that Krenn was murdered, Evan has a lot of explaining to do. So does his friend Sully, Krenn’s least favourite student. Evan uses his hacking skills and campus knowledge to keep them both out of jail, but the investigation forces him to question Sully’s innocence.
One mystery to solve…
Uncovering the truth proves to be more than challenging. It may cost Evan his job, his friendship, and his woman. Will Evan find the killer, or will the killer find him first?