Today it’s my pleasure to welcome Canadian romantic-suspense author Laurie Wood to the blog. Thanks for joining us today, Laurie.
Thanks so much for having me, Nola. It’s wonderful to be here!
A Life in Law Enforcement and Youth Work
You’ve led an interesting life. Could you share a few highlights with us?
Well, I think one highlight in my life was becoming a police officer for a small city in the mid-1980s. I was only the second woman they’d ever hired, and the first woman was off on permanent disability for a back injury. The other officers bullied and harassed me because it was somehow leaked that I’d gotten 100% on the entrance exam (that was true). I’ve never been a quitter, and I worked hard, but the harder I worked, the worse they made life for me. I loved being a police officer, but it was lonely and I only got a semblance of a normal life again when they hired five officers from a big city force where they’d had female officers for years already, and the new guys thought the original officers were being a bit Neanderthal in their treatment of me.
When I got married–not to a fellow police officer–I got a job as program director in an open custody facility for young offender males aged 16 to 21, and I really enjoyed working with them. They’re still reachable at that age, in that setting and I had a Christian secretary, so we saw our work there as ministry even though it was run by the province and had no Christian affiliation whatsoever.
That job led to me becoming Board Chair of a Christian organization trying to start an overnight crisis shelter for street youth in the same city I’d been a police officer. They’d existed for about five years and never got things off the ground. Having been a police officer, and then dealing with all the social agencies I’d dealt with in my role as program director opened doors for us they hadn’t been able to walk through before.
One day I was working in the office and Children’s Aid sent over an 18 yr old boy who’d aged out of the foster care system and had nowhere to go. So, I just accepted him and gave him a bed and then phoned the other board members and told them what I’d done. (laughs) A lot of them were furious with me because I’d just done it, but I said, “if this isn’t from the Lord, I don’t know what is, and I wasn’t going to turn him away, so we’re officially open now.” That was in 1991, and they’re still going strong today. So, that’s a pretty big highlight in my life and I’m thrilled that my two previous jobs combined to give me the tools I needed to get that place open.
Did Someone Say Mounties and Polar Bears?
Wow, that must have been so difficult for you policing in the 80s, but it’s wonderful that you were able to use those skills to help youth in need.
You’ve set two novels and a novella in the town of Churchill, Manitoba. Could you tell us a little about the books and what drew you to that setting?
I live in Winnipeg, which is the capital of Manitoba and the largest city in the province. Churchill is about one thousand kilometres north and sits on the bottom of Hudson Bay, which is the start of the arctic at that northern parallel. I originally wrote my first novel, Northern Deception, for a contest. The contest was to write a novel with a Canadian hero and the setting could be anywhere in the world, but the hero himself had to be Canadian. I figured most people would automatically think about writing an RCMP hero (Royal Canadian Mounted Police), and I was struggling to come up with a hero who could show his Canadian side and still be unique.
That weekend we took our kids to the local zoo, where we have nine polar bears that’ve been brought down from Churchill because they were orphaned somehow, or were nuisance bears who wouldn’t leave town. And then it hit me–Churchill is the “Polar Bear Capital of the World”–you can google it–and what better place to set a book than in Canada’s lower arctic with polar bears?
My hero became a wilderness tour company owner, of which there are a couple up in Churchill, and I made his best friend the RCMP officer up there. And the book series just grew from there as I wrote it.
Down Syndrome and Diversity in Literature
In ‘Northern Deception’, one of the characters has a toddler with Down Syndrome. I love the way you portrayed that relationship. What was the inspiration behind it? How important is it to represent diversity in fiction?
Thank you for saying that about loving how I portrayed that relationship! I appreciate your kind words so much. Both our son and daughter have Down’s Syndrome. I saved this highlight of my life because I knew you were going to ask me this question here. They’re 30 and 28 yrs old now. When I gave the hero a toddler with Down Syndrome, I wanted to give him a particular stumbling block to getting back together with his old girlfriend. Something more than the run-of-the-mill, “she broke my heart, can I trust her again?” trope. When it was published in 2018, there weren’t as many single dad stories as there are now, so the book went over well.
I also wanted to showcase my own daughter, and I just wrote exactly what she was like when she was three years old. And having a Down Syndrome child character wasn’t widely done in 2018 either. I feel strongly that we need to show diversity in fiction because the “dis”-abled are our last group of people who haven’t been totally accepted in society. They’re still maligned and bullied, and I include people with mental health issues in this category as well.
The more we write about characters with Down Syndrome, autism, Pervasive Developmental Disorder, bipolar, anxiety, OCD, etc. the more readers will be educated about the reality of their lives. We write to entertain people, but I hope we also write to educate in a subtle and meaningful way so that readers take something of value away from our books, rather than just a couple of hours of escape from reality.
PTSD and Hope
I couldn’t agree more. It’s great to see books like yours that show what it’s really like for people touched by such issues, rather than the stereotypes we sometimes see in the media and arts.
You certainly don’t shy away from difficult issues. The hero in your latest book, ‘Northern Protector’, is recovering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Do you have any words of hope that you could offer readers who may also be dealing with trauma in their own lives or in the lives of someone they love?
PTSD is only now becoming more recognized and properly treated. I knew when I wrote the first book that my police hero would deal with PTSD because it’s something close to me. I experienced it myself (only back then we didn’t know what to call it) when I was a police officer after a liquor store robbery with a hostage. My husband is in the military and served in Afghanistan. He’s had friends who’ve left the military because of their PTSD. So, we know a little about its effects and the cost of dealing with it or not dealing with it effectively.
I wrote this book because I wanted to let readers know that there’s no shame in reaching out for help, whether it’s for PTSD, depression, anxiety, pill addiction, alcohol addiction–whatever the problem is, there’s help available and you don’t have to suffer alone. It takes guts to ask for help. There’s nothing shameful in it. So, this book is my “love letter”, I suppose, to my fellow police officers, EMT personnel, firefighters, military personnel, who might need to hear that message. Or, to support their family members as they go through their healing process.
Churchill, Manitoba - Polar Bear Central
It’s great that there is less stigma these days and that people are getting the help they need.
We mentioned before that Churchill is the Polar Bear Capital of the World. What were the most unusual, unique, or fun things you came across while researching the books? Did you get to see any polar bears up close?
Well, I saw a mother bear and her two cubs in July 2019, when my husband and I went to Churchill to research the book that became Northern Protector.
I learned that they study the polar bears via satellite collars they put on the female adult bears. They shoot them with tranquilizer guns from helicopters, and the polar bear scientists take their weight, measurements, fat count, etc. and put the satellite collars on them so they can track their range in travel for the season. As the bear grows bigger, the collar will just fall off, so it’s safe. And they have to use the females because the male’s neck is too big for a collar. The females will range over 1000 kilometres per season. They can swim up to 6-9 days if they have to without stopping. As a species, polar bears are amazing and if we don’t do something about global warming, we could lose them in 25-30 years.
They’re amazing creatures, Laurie, and your books certainly raise awareness of our need to care for them. Can readers expect some more adventures in the tundra from you?
I think for now I’m done with Churchill, but I may come back to it. There’s enough characters there I can expand the series. I’m working on two other stories and I’ll see where they go. I’d like to branch out a bit and do something different. I’ve been gratified to see people’s reactions to this series and how much readers have enjoyed learning something about Canada. I do plan to set most of my books in Canada, whether contemporary or historical.
Passion. Redemption. Adventure.
That’s interesting that you’re trying different things with your writing, though I guess all of your stories tie in with the tagline you have on your author site: ‘Passion. Redemption. Adventure.’ How does that play out in your writing?
Those are the three words that describe all my books, and I hope all of my future books. “Passion” because that encompasses passion for living, a passion for becoming what you’re meant to be, a passion between the couple falling in love (although my books are clean). “Redemption” because as I’ve written four books that didn’t get published, and have now published three, I realized that redemption is always the theme in my stories. Second chances, being able to redeem their mistakes, finding redemption with God, finding God at all. And “Adventure” because my books have a lot of action in them and take place in the wilderness.
And even if I’m published someday in the historical genre, which is a goal of mine, there’ll be adventure in those books as well.
Thanks so much for sharing with us today, Laurie. I really enjoyed your last two books. Can’t wait to read the new one.
Here’s the blurb for Laurie’s latest book, ‘Northern Protector’. Stay tuned after that for a giveaway!
Book Blurb for 'Northern Protector'
Constable Ben Koper is still healing from the polar bear attack that almost killed him. Nine months after it happened, he returns to Churchill, Manitoba, a changed man—scarred more than just physically. PTSD is his new shadow, haunting his every step, and he can’t seem to kick the pain meds he shouldn’t need anymore. He’s determined to prove, to himself and his colleagues, that he’s still up to his job. Failure isn’t an option.
ER nurse Joy Gallagher spent the entire last winter texting with a healing Constable Koper. What started as friendly concern from this single mother has grown into full-fledged romantic feelings, and she’s eager to level up their friendship and introduce him to the idyllic comfort of small-town life. Until a teenager is murdered at a summer party. The crime is strikingly similar to the cold case murder of Joy’s foster sister, stirring old trauma Joy has never fully dealt with.
When another victim is snatched in town, Ben and Joy must confront their own demons, and join forces to track down an elusive killer. The race to rescue the next victim before it’s too late will test Ben and Joy to their limits. Can they survive their encounter with this heinous killer, or will the past destroy them?
Laurie has kindly donated an eBook of her latest novel, Northern Protector, for one lucky reader. All you have to do to enter the draw is leave a comment below. Entries close at 5.00 pm (Australian Eastern Standard Time) on Saturday 19 December 2020 (which would be late Friday evening for Canadian and US readers). The winner will be determined by a random draw of those who have commented by the deadline. The winner will be announced on this blog, the Nola Lorraine Facebook page and my monthly newsletter. Click here for full terms.
Laurie Wood lives in Central Canada and writes inspirational romantic suspense with an edge of danger. She’s also a military wife who’s raised two wonderful special needs children to adulthood. They’ve lived all over Canada and are still on that journey. When she’s not writing she can be found at her spinning wheel, knitting, or hanging out with her dogs in the garden. She loves to hear from readers and always replies so feel free to get in touch with her.