Thanks for this interview, Winona. Congratulations on your new book! Would you say it’s been a rocky road for you in regards to getting your book written and published or pretty much smooth sailing? Can you tell us about your journey?
It was very much a rocky road for this book. Getting it formatted and published wasn’t an issue, because I’m an indie publisher and I take care of that myself. Getting it written, however, was a whole other problem.
I haven’t had writer’s block since my second novel, The Cilla Rose Affair, decades ago. But this was quite different from that. Ticket to Ride battled me every step of the way, from the outline through all six drafts. All the time I was working on the story, my mum (aged 95) was encountering health problems, which were actually to be expected in such a very ancient lady. She lived with my sister, but I was sharing care-giver duties, and twice a week I would drive from New Westminster (where I live) to North Vancouver (where they lived) to help out, to take mum for a ride in the car, to basically spend the day with her. Without wanting to sound selfish, all those journeys did have an impact on my concentration and my ability to maintain some kind of continuity with the story. As my mum’s health declined, the problem only got worse. I resorted to all kinds of outlining software to try and keep the story straight in my mind (I’m definitely a plotter, not a pantser), until, in the end, my lovely mother had to go to the hospital and, ultimately a hospice, where she died, peacefully and with nothing left unsaid. Following that, I had to help my sister with her grief, and go through a process of sorting through mum’s belongings and papers and photos, and help my sister find somewhere new to live…so it wasn’t surprising that Ticket to Ride ended up having to be put on temporary hiatus. Finally, with mum’s affairs settled and my sister in her new flat, I found I had time for myself again. It was as if a curtain had opened. The way became clear, and I was able to finish the book. I hadn’t been aware of all the things I was dealing with at the time, but my publishing partner, Brian Richmond (from Blue Devil Books) very kindly pointed out that my attention had been very much distracted over the previous year and a half, so it was all completely understandable. I hadn’t been aware of it at all. But, looking back, I have to tell myself, of course that was the problem. You were just so caught up in everything, you didn’t see it.
When not writing, what do you like to do for relaxation and/or fun?
Like my main character, Jason Davey, I’m very much obsessed with family tree research. I have a great-grandfather who is quite a mystery. I did the DNA test and I don’t appear to have anything in common with anyone with his surname. So I’m on a quest to discover who he really was. It’s a bit of a challenge because I haven’t yet been able to find a birth record for him.
I’m also almost ashamed to admit it, but I knit. I find it so relaxing! When I’m plotting out my novels, I knit hats. I have quite a collection, as you might imagine.
What makes your book stand out from the rest?
I think it’s the fact that there aren’t a lot of Musical Mysteries out there. It’s a relatively unknown genre, but I think all of my Jason Davey Mysteries fit squarely into it. How many professional jazz musicians / amateur sleuths do you know of?
Can you give us the very first page of your book so that we can get a glimpse inside?
My parents were the founding members of Figgis Green.
I’ll forgive you if you don’t remember them. But an amazing number of people do—and still refer to them, fondly, as the Figs.
The Figs were a folky pop group that was huge in the 1960s and ‘70s and less huge—but still touring regularly and putting out albums—in the ‘80s and early ‘90s.
Mandy Green—my mum—was the main singer and my dad, Tony Figgis, shared vocals and played lead guitar.
Their best-known song was “Roving Minstrel,” a catchy thing about a faithless suitor and his careworn lady, tormented hearts, lessons learned and a really fortunate ending. It was their anthem, and they always closed their shows with it.
It was Mitch Green—mum’s brother and the Figs’ bass guitarist—who’d first floated the idea of a 50th Anniversary Tour.
“There’s something wrong with your maths,” said my mother. “We first got together in 1965.”
“The 50th Anniversary Three Years Late Tour,” Mitch said, cleverly.
“The Lost Time Tour,” I said.
And the name stuck.
The only trouble was, my dad, Tony, had died in 1995.
“You can take his place,” said Mitch. “If Mandy doesn’t mind.”
I am actually a musician and I do actually play the guitar. Quite well, in fact. I have a regular gig at a jazz club in Soho—the Blue Devil—with three mates who join me on tenor sax, organ and drums. My professional name is Jason Davey.
Plus, I had the added bonus of being completely familiar with the Figgis Green catalogue—I grew up with it.
“I don’t mind,” said my mother. “As long as no one else does.”
There were no objections.
And so, in September 2018, we started rehearsals for our thirty-four-day, eighteen-stop Lost Time Tour of England.
If your book was put in the holiday section of the store, what holiday would that be and why?
Very definitely summer holiday airplane or beach reading. It’s a nice, short (70,000 words) story that’ll keep you turning the pages for a day or two and you might even end up remembering some great tunes from your past.
Would you consider turning your book into a series or has that already been done?
It’s already been done! This is Book #4 in my Jason Davey Mysteries.
When you were young, did you ever see writing as a career or full-time profession?
Absolutely. I was telling stories before I knew how to write—I drew pictures on my bedroom walls! I wrote my first novel when I was in Grade 8, and I handed out chapters for people to read at Recess. I kept writing novels all the way through high school and into university. Back then, you couldn’t really make a living as a writer in Canada unless you were on a best-seller list, and I did need to earn money to live, so I settled for a series of full-time jobs that had nothing to do with writing, and I kept working on my fiction in my spare time. I was able to get nine novels written and published over the next thirty years. But it wasn’t actually until October 2019, when I retired from my job at the University of British Columbia, that I was finally able to call myself a full-time writer. So, here I am! At last!
What’s next for you?
I’m shortly going to start on my fifth Jason Davey novel (and my 11th book overall). It’ll be called Bad Boy, and it starts on top of The Shard in London, England. I’m bringing back my favorite baddie from an earlier book, Arthur Braskey. It promises to be great fun.
In Lost Time, the third book in Winona’s Jason Davey Mystery series, professional musician / amateur sleuth Jason Davey was rehearsing for Figgis Green’s 50th Anniversary Tour of England. Now they’re on the road in Ms. Kent’s fourth book in the series, Ticket To Ride.