1. Please describe Belle Palmer’s character development throughout the mystery series. Over the course of the series how does Belle grow, and what types of realizations does she make about herself?
By the mid-forties, barring catastrophical events, a personality is relatively fixed. I've never been a fan of "growing" characters too much on the assumption that if readers like a character, why make changes? Luckily Belle has aged fewer than two years, judging from the seasons in her four books, but add a decade and dealing with heavy-duty life-threatening situations requiring physical strength and stamina wouldn’t be credible. On the other hand, she knows her father hasn't that many more years, so time with him is more precious, as it is with an aging Freya. As an author who bears many of Belle's characteristics, my problem is that I'm fifteen years ahead and must constantly adjust my perspective. I walk the forest paths; she jogs on them when bugs are rife.
2. Belle’s connection to Micro gives us a new look at her character, one that is more maternal. How does this change your perspective of Belle? She refers to her mother and the lack of maternal warmth she received from her. How does Belle’s awareness of this alter her responses and interactions to Micro?
As an only child and an infrequent babysitter, Belle has no experience with children, other than the obnoxious high school students who caused her to flee the profession (“I hate English!”). In Micro, however, she finds an intriguing and bright companion, and a city boy to introduce to her wilderness delights. This comes with responsibility, though, from figuring out how to feed him to setting boundaries to saving his life. Dogs don’t have such complicated opinions, nor can you take an irredeemable boy or girl to the pound.
3. Belle is a modern-day environmentalist. She feels a connection to her surroundings yet her career is based on the industry of real estate, primarily in the selling of northern proprieties. This contradiction can be noted throughout the novel; even Belle makes some passing remarks about this. How does she deal with this paradox?
Belle would be only too happy to have trilobites from the Pre-Cambrian era retake the earth and start again, once man has left the planet to "develop" Mars. But she loves the bush on the magnificent Shield. Selling lots and calling in dozers isn’t her game. Helping someone find a cottage to cherish pleases her. If a developer were going to raise ten-storey condos on a pristine lake, she'd want no part of the deal.
4. The Canadian landscape used in the series sets a particular mood, that of a cold and vast wilderness. How does this compare/contrast to the intimacy of a heated murder?
Northern Ontario is more populated than the South imagines. If you want cold and vast, Nunavut is a better choice. But Nature is amoral. It will drown you, burn you, freeze and starve you if you don't respect its power. But it doesn't hate and it fights fair. At the end of every book, I send Belle off into the landscape for a fight to the death. Because she knows her territory, usually she has an advantage. She'd much rather face a mother bear with a cub than a drug dealer in an alley.
5. Your research on the Canadian environment is involved. How does this help paint a vivid landscape? Do you feel Canadians are generally better adapted to their environment?
Canadians rooted in cities are no more aware of the landscape north of Barrie than anyone else. Even townies in Sudbury have no idea what's out there unless they hunt or recreate, and most of my neighbours would rather “walk the road” instead of forge inland. My bookshelves are full of reference books on geology, resource history, trees, flowers, plants, fungi, insects, and animals. I've even bought topographical maps so that I can better image where I'm sending Belle. What are the watercourses, the swamps, the hills? The pole line (hydro path) could be a critical element.
6. Belle’s analogies are humorous even when the scene calls for some serious action. This contradictory dark humour/comic relief is a popular outline for your murder mysterious how do you think it helps set the mood?
A sense of humour is a critical asset, especially when faced with a crisis. Belle doesn't like people who take themselves too seriously and can't laugh at themselves. A love of irony goes hand in hand. This proactive attitude helps her to "get up and start doing" instead of wringing her hands. (This last image courtesy of Margaret Laurence by way of Catharine Parr Traill.)
7. Describe the perfect murder weapon.
Jamming a large icicle down someone's throat sounds imaginative. Using Off bug spray to disable an opponent occurs in my next book, Enemy of the People. I've always wanted to try bashing a skull with a handy drill core (a rock cylinder about one inch in diameter and up to a foot long common in old mine sites), but never got to experiment to see what damage it would do. A pumpkin was too soft, and no one volunteered.
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