Rick Mofina is an Ottawa-based
award-winning ex-journalist who now works as a communications advisor.His work has appeared all
over the world in
various well-known newspapers and magazines including The
New York Times, Marie-Claire,
Reader’s Digest and The Moscow Times to name a few.He has written over ten
novels and is a
member of the Mystery Writers of America, the Private Eye Writers of America, the International
Thriller Writers, the International Crime Writers Association and Crime
Ayo:You are a lot better known in North America than you are here in
the UK. Would you like to tell
us a bit more about yourself?
grew up in a working-class family east of Toronto, in Belleville, Ontario, Canada. I started writing
fiction in grade school and never stopped. I was fifteen when I sold my
short story. I was eighteen when I hitchhiked to California and wrote a (dreadful,
still unpublished) novel about the experience. In university I studied
Journalism and English Literature, including a course in American
Fiction. I was a cub reporter at The
Toronto Star, the same paper where Hemingway worked, before I
embarked on a
career in journalism that spanned three decades and several newsrooms.
reporting has put me face-to-face with murderers on death row in Montana and Texas. I covered a horrific
serial-killing case in California, an armoured car heist
in Las Vegas and the murders of
police officers in Alberta. I have flown over Los Angeles with the LAPD, and gone
on patrol with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police near the Arctic. I have also reported
from the Caribbean, Africa and the Middle East.It
was during my time as crime reporter with
the Calgary Herald that I sold my
first book, If Angels Fall. I am
working on my eleventh.
have written five books in your first series featuring Tom Reed and
Sydowski based in San Francisco, California. The first in the
series was If AngelsFall
and the last one that you have written
so far to date is Be Mine. They are
two totally different characters: one is a hard-hitting journalist
other is a homicide detective. Where did you get the characteristics
two of them?
Reed is a compilation. I think he embodies the sins and virtues (yes
virtues) of every hard-driving new reporter I’ve ever known.
Every aspect about
him is drawn from someone’s reality somewhere. Then I push
him as far as I can.
He works well with Walt Sydowski. He represents every grizzled
ever met, including one or two with the SFPD Homicide Detail and some
Canadian Mounted Police investigators. And he stands as a foil and
father-figure to Reed. I’ve used some of my
father’s actual biography in
shaping Sydowski, in that my dad is Polish. He was a child when the
invaded Poland. So I’ve given that
background to Sydowski. Other elements I gleaned from other detectives,
including one whose dad was a barber and another who breeds canaries.
only wrote three books in your second series which is set in Seattle, Washington, and features Jason
Wade, a rookie crime reporter. Was he, by any chance, based on you?
did draw upon my time as a rookie reporter at The
Toronto Star. At the Star,
I learned the news business by reporting craft working in the suburban
and the metro news desk at One Yonge Street. I covered a range of
stories, including a murder trial, and a takedown by the SWAT team
an escaped killer. I also did time in the "torture chamber", the
cell-like room housing banks of chattering police scanners where you
ears pricked for the first hint of a story that could stop the heart of
city. Or break it. After I left TheToronto Star, I embarked on a news
career that would span three decades and several newsrooms. Over the
that time, I would write about death in all of its terrible
Reporting on death never got easier. If anything, I grew more
searching for deeper meaning in its aftermath. In the courage of
the determination of detectives and in the lives of reporters who
make sense of the chaos unleashed on them all. But it was in writing The Dying Hour, with rookie Jason Wade,
pursuing the first big story of his news career, which I looked back on
Through Jason, it was easy to re-live the thrill of landing a scoop and
adrenalin-fuelled days of my summer at The
you go back to either series?
September 2009, the Jason Wade series will be launched in the UK with the release of The
Dying Hour (selected finalist by the
International Thriller Writers, for a Thriller Award) by MIRA who will
a big push. Approximately six months later, the second book Every Fear will be released in the UK and six months after
that, the third, A Perfect Grave.
the response is strong, we could see Jason return. This could possibly
the release of the award-winning Reed–Sydowski series.
2003 Blood of Others, which is the
third book in the Reed and Sydowski series, won the Arthur Ellis Award
Novel. You have also won another award for your short story Lightning Rider in 2006. Has winning
these awards had an effect on your writing?
They are terrific validations but they don’t erase self doubt.
most recent book, Six Seconds, is your first standalone novel.
What made you decide to write a standalone?
Rick:I was ready for it. After producing a total of eight books
for two series, I was ready to take a shot at a standalone with a story
had a global canvas. It seemed the perfect way to get things rolling
Books, my new publisher.
it deals with current issues – i.e. terrorism, the
possibility of an
assassination attack and Al-Qaeda – what was the impetous for
the plot of the
Rick:Six Seconds took shape
by refining a
number of unrelated scenes, dramas and events I had observed during my
a reporter; such as the heart-wrenching anguish of interviewing a
child had vanished. Then there was the time I was on assignment in Nigeria, not long after the
September 11 attacks. I was in Abuja where I saw a boy in a
slum wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with Osama bin Laden’s
picture and message
calling him #1 Hero. On that African trip I also visited Ethiopia where I watched old
women, who lived in some of the harshest conditions on earth, weaving
a loom in the slums of Addis Ababa. Prior to that, I was
in the Gulf where I talked to British aid workers, and at Kuwait’s border with Iraq; I also visited the
tank graveyard in Kuwait city. I talked to
peacekeepers from Canada concerned about the
toll land mines were taking on children who plucked them from the dunes.
And I’ll never forget
the big-city homicide detective back home who confided that he was
the case he couldn't clear. I also remembered years back, when Pope
II visited my city where I was attending university. I went out to see
met an international student who joked about assassination as the papal
entourage passed by our group near the campus.
It got me thinking.What if I took these elements and twisted
them into fictional threads that were all connected? What if ordinary
from different parts of the world became ensnared by extraordinary
could alter history as a clock ticked down on them? Suppose it all came
Ayo:What amount of research did you do for Six
Seconds and how do normally do your
whenever I can, I try to draw on my own experiences, but that is not
possible. However, for Six Seconds,
as well as all the travels and experiences that I mentioned above, I
the privilege of touring a police facility at home where bomb
showed me everyday objects that were actually bombs. It was chilling. I
lot of online work on the psychology of suicide bombers, on
of course VIP security. And I was
fortunate to have some help from people who’d actually been
security during a papal tour. I read a lot of stuff on plots and
against the pope. Much of the stuff I used in Six
Seconds is drawn from reality, and much is made up.
you happy about the way in which Six
Seconds turned out? Are you pleased about the amount of
success that you
have had with the novel?
it is a bit overwhelming and MIRA, my publisher, has been fantastic
have been doing quite a lot of interviews about Six
Seconds. What’s it like being on the other side of
for once and being the interviewee?
have to be careful not to feel self-important and you have to choose
you going to continue to write standalone novels or are you going to go
writing a series?
or character? Which is more important for you and why?
are equal in my view. Can’t have one with out the other to
make a solid
Above all, a good story
is a good story, which includes believable sympathetic characters,
of the genre. What was it F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote: action equals
or character equals action. I guess an argument could be made that with
fiction, you’re writing about people at the most dramatic
point in their lives,
so how they respond shapes their character. If the drama is compelling
two go hand in hand. Think of a character as a car, an interesting car
get to know really well. You know one tyre is bald, or the sound
great, or the thing never lets you down in the dead of winter. But this
like a friend. Then think of the plots or crime elements as the gas,
you have to do is put the two together and you’re in for a
you plot as you go along or do you write an outline? For example, do
know who is going to be killed and by whom or do you just go with the
see where it leads?
have always used a general outline, that’s just my process.
But things change on
the journey. It’s like this for me, an outline is a road map,
you know you want
to go from A to B and you have some notes on what you want to do in
The actual writing is the trip and to pervert T.S. Eliot, between the
the reality, emerges the book.
it a long journey in between your work as a journalist and starting to
crime fiction? If so why the long journey?
was always writing since I was maybe seven years old. It is an
first novel was written when I was eighteen. Others followed. It
some twenty years later that I became a published novelist. My path
clearer when I started in news in the 1980s at The
Toronto Star before moving on. During that time, it took me
several years to understand what I wanted, or needed, to write about. I
written and abandoned a few novels. Supernatural, straight literary
other genres. Then one day, reluctantly, I was assigned to my
police beat. Unless you’ve done this kind of work, nothing
prepares you for it.
You see what cops, paramedics, fire-fighters, emergency experts see.
For me, as
a reporter by day, novelist by night, a light had been switched on.
human tragedies and dramas up close was overwhelming. But on another
having a university degree in English Literature and Journalism, and
studied religious responses to death and American Detective Fiction, I
was equipped to try to make sense of what I was experiencing. To try to
through fiction the truths I’d learned. That’s how
I came to write my first
Reed–Sydowski book, If Angels Fall.
has been your most rewarding experience as a journalist and what was
was a little girl who had a terminal brain condition and her dream was
a certain music star. When her family’s situation was made
known to my news
organization, we wrote about it and her dream came true. The family
back stage for the meeting, there was not a dry eye there.
The most scary, there
were many, let’s see … One quiet night I was
working alone in the newsroom on
the cop beat when a call came in for me. It was a convicted murderer
calling from prison. From the psych ward. I didn’t know him,
but I had written
about him. That night he confessed to me how he tricked his way to get
to a telephone because he needed to talk to somebody outside the
So, I said, talk. He then went into every detail, every vile,
detail, of how he abducted two young women then held them hostage in a
home. Then he told me exactly how he murdered one but decided to let
live. He was not remorseful, or even emotional. He just wanted me to
clear accounting. Then he hung up. My spine rattled for hours after. I
trouble sleeping that night. That’s only one strange
experience from the beat.
you miss being a journalist?
sometimes miss aspects of it. The adrenalin rush of being parachuted
with the goal of making sense of whatever drama is unfolding
– of finding the
story within the whirlwind. Then having to tell that story in plain,
language to a large, immediate audience while facing a deadline. I miss
with other reporters, photographers and editors, of sharing war
don’t miss having to talk to people victimized by tragedy. No
matter how many
times I had done it, it never ever got easier.
was the biggest challenge you faced when you first moved from the world
journalism to writing fiction? And did you always intend to write crime
opposed to literary fiction?
was writing fiction long before I became a journalist, so the shift was
really a challenge. I saw journalism as a passport to experiences that
strengthen my lifelong pursuit of writing the best fiction I could.
found myself on the crime desk of the Calgary
Herald, I thought, this is it, this is the palate from which
I can draw.
you passionate about the genre and what do you think of the current
think crime fiction is in its golden period. I don’t reflect
much on trends. A
good story is a good story.
do not consider the genre to be "literary" enough and at times it
does not get the accolade it deserves. Do you believe that this is the
if so have you any views on how people’s views might be
course it is true and I don’t give it much thought.
It’s wasted energy to
debate it. As mentioned, a good story is a good story. The job of any
to keep the reader engaged. If the reader is struggling to find the
the book, or the story between the covers, then the author has failed.
authors have succeeded and failed in all genres. And just take a look
seller lists around the world, crime fiction stands well.
you I am a civil servant and my world of crime fiction tends to take
the evening and at weekends. How do you manage to cope with the two
is there anything you would like to change?
Rick:I don’t know, I just do my best, I
don’t think there is much I’d change.
seems that it is quite the norm to have a book trailer on YouTube
What made you decide to have one and are you content with the result?
trailer for Six Seconds is my
My UK publisher did it and
surprised me. I think it is absolutely perfect, just perfect.
authors such as yourself, Louise Penny (whose first mystery, StillLife,
was the winner of the New Blood Dagger, Arthur Ellis, Barry,
Anthony, and Dilys awards), and Alan Bradley (whose novel The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
won the CWA Debut Dagger)
are becoming a lot more well known over on this side of the pond. Why
think that this is the case and could there be an invasion of Canucks
it has something to do with us being somewhat insular from the winter
spending much of our time in deep thought during the deep freeze. A
has yet to win a Nobel Prize for Literature. I’m hoping Alice
Munro will be our
first, although I’d say Margaret Atwood is the odds-on
is more important – the first or the last chapter?
If the first is not strong, the reader won’t get to the last.
And if the last
is not strong the reader won’t bother with your next book.
part of the fiction-writing process do you find most gratifying?
there’ve been a lot of nice comments, like “you
kept me up all night”, and “you
need to write more books faster”. But one that stands out
came from a lovely
handwritten letter from a woman in Indiana. Seems she was on
vacation in the west and bought my first book, If
Angels Fall, in a used book bin for 25 cents. After reading
she liked it so much, she cut me a personal check for the full cover
$7.00, which she’d attached to her letter. She told me
I’d earned it. I was
blown away. I thanked her. And yes, I cashed the check, but
I’ve kept a
photocopy that I intend to frame some day.
you could have dinner with any of your characters who would it be and
Francisco Homicide Inspector Walt Sydowski from my first series. He is
compilation of a number of real detectives I’ve known and my
is a Polish-American, child of World War Two. He’s a
cops’ cop, a man who could
tell you stories. A detective who can scare the truth out of a lying
criminal, then go home to his empty home, reflect sadly on how he
long-deceased wife, while tending to the baby show birds he raises in
understand that you are due to start a third series with a book called Vengeance Road.Can
you tell us a bit more about it and why
have you decided to start a new series?
launching me with Six Seconds, MIRA
thought starting a new reporter series would be a good strategy, and I
I love the reporter sub-genre. As for Vengeance
Road, it launches in the US and CanadaSeptember 1, 2009. The story concerns the
murder of a broken-hearted woman and the chilling disappearance of her
The incidents slowly raise questions about their ties to a respected
after the body of Bernice Hogan, a troubled young ex-nursing student
tragic past, is found in a shallow grave near a forest creek. Jolene
single mom struggling to build a new life with her little boy, vanishes
night she tried to find Bernice. Hero cop, Karl Styebeck is beloved by
community but privately police are uneasy with the answers he gives to
the life – and the lie – he’s lived.
The case haunts Jack
Gannon, a gritty, blue-collar reporter whose sister ran away from their
years ago. Gannon risks more than his job to pursue the story behind
dark secret, his link to the women.
you have any foibles when it comes to writing?
answer: None. Author’s wife’s: "you’re
loaded with eccentricities."
Ayo:Is there a book out there you would
have loved to have written?
Rick:The Postman Always Rings Twice.
does your family think of your writing?
my wife says she is impressed that I can produce a book a year, attend
conferences all while holding down a full-time job. The truth is,
and our family doing everything to keep our real lives functioning, I
be able to spend so much time in fictional lives
Ayo:What do you like to do when you are not
kinda boring and quiet. I try to remind my family that I do exist. I
like to go
for walks or drives in the country with my wife, or go to the movies or
stores with my family.
words of advice would you give any up and coming writer?
starters, don't make excuses, make sentences. If you have a television
home then you have time to write. If you get published, be prepared to
harder than you’ve ever imagined to not only stay published
but keep delivering
better work. The reader who invests their money and time in your
deserves the absolute best you can deliver – the absolute
best. As Stephen King
said about the craft, do not come to this lightly.
writers are known to be very gregarious and part and parcel of being a
is attending conventions like Bouchercon, Left Coast Crime, Bloody
and meeting fans. For some it is very overwhelming. Do you enjoy this
there been any particular event that you have enjoyed the most so far?
do enjoy it for all it offers. The crime fiction family is large and
the conferences are great for talking with readers and discussing all
of writing with other authors. And, of course, to star gaze. In Chicago, I took a picture of
Dennis Lehane with a fan, in New York, I managed to get a few
minutes with Lee Child and James Patterson. Ian Rankin’s very
kind and so is
Michael Connelly, Val McDermid and Peter Robinson. David Hewson and
Barclay, being ex-journalists, are fun to hang around with as well.
you were on a desert island and could only take five books with you
they be and why?
Rick:The Red Badge ofCourage, Lord
of the Flies,
Crime and Punishment, TheSilence
of the Lambs, and As I Lay Dying.
are you working on at the moment?
second book in the new Jack Gannon series. It’s called The Panic Zone and is due out summer 2010
in the US and Canada.
hockey or baseball and why?
Are you kidding me? Hockey is the fastest sport around. I advocate the
and absolute banning of fighting. It is the most asinine aspect of the
must go. I enjoy baseball when there’s action. And you get
some, every now and
then between naps.
More information about
Rick and his work can be found at –