On The Record with Author of the Russell Quant Mysteries – Anthony Bidulka
Interview with author Anthony Bidulka
by Jon Michaelsen
Anthony, thank you so much for taking time to answer some questions for members of the Gay Mystery-Thriller-Suspense Fiction Facebook group.
Let’s start off with, where do you live?
I live in the province of Saskatchewan in Canada. I was raised on a grain farm near a little prairie town called Prud’homme, but for the last many decades I’ve made my home in the city of Saskatoon. It’s a little gem few people know about or have been to, only 250,000 people, a little bit of everything you need (and for everything else, well, that’s what airplanes are for), dramatic changes in seasons, safe, friendly.
Without getting too personal, would you share a little about your home life?
Sure. For the past twenty years or so, my husband, Herb, and I have lived in a wonderful house we built on twelve acres just outside the city limits of Saskatoon. It’s a big house for two guys and two dogs (labradoodles Kona and Magic), but we use every inch of it. We each have busy lives and careers, so we treat our home as our refuge, a place where we can relax, luxuriate, hang out with the dogs and spend quality time together. But we also use it for entertaining – family get-togethers, pool parties in the summer, fundraisers for causes we support, and we throw a heckuva Christmas party for anywhere between 100-200 people that brings together people from every walk of life and from the age of 8 to 88. (One of my ‘things’ is decorating theme Christmas trees, I do seven every year.) The house is also a great place to hang our art collection, another passion. We’re big travelers, but whenever a trip is over, we’re always just as happy to come home to our life on the prairies.
What would you say is your greatest accomplishment to date?
I’d have to say my greatest accomplishment is finding a wonderful husband to spend my life with. From a professional perspective though, it was deciding to take a leap of faith and leaving my long-term, traditional career as a chartered accountant to pursue my long-term passion for writing…and it worked out!
You’ve probably answered this question a hundred times, but please indulge as our readers and fellow writers would like to know; Do you fly by the seat of your pants when writing or plot out your storylines?
Remember the thing about being an accountant? I am by no means a fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants kinda guy when it comes to writing. From the beginning I saw this as a serious career that I wanted to make a go of. So I approach each manuscript, each story, as any other entrepreneur would when starting a new business. I plan, I research, I create the best environment I can in which to carry out my task and be successful, then I put my head down and work.
I am a draft writer. It might take me two or three or thirteen drafts of a piece of writing before I feel satisfied with it (never entirely, but as close as I can get without overworking it). My goal is to present my editor with the best product I can create given my skill sets and the benefit of whatever experience I have up to that date (which of course is different..and hopefully greater…with each book).
Writing fiction can be a very fluid and spontaneous thing or very structured. For me I like to combine both. I first create a strong framework (outlines, drafts) upon which to build. I know my starting point, ending point, and key points in between. But everything else happens on the spot, allowing me the freedom to be creative and free. Sometimes it’s this unplanned stuff that is the richest material, but without a firm supporting structure, it would be useless.
Have you ever had to deal with homophobia and/or bigotry because of publishing books with MC’s who are gay? In what form(s)?
Not that I have ever been aware of. I’m sure somewhere along the line certain readers have chosen not to read a Russell Quant book because he is gay. Some may do so from what might be described as a homophobic point of view, others may do so because they simply believe – right or wrong – that they wouldn’t enjoy reading a book with a gay main character in the same way other readers would decide they don’t want to read a mystery with a main character who is a dog or a librarian.
I see writing about gay characters as an opportunity rather than a challenge. An opportunity to distinguish myself as a mystery writer amongst a massive pool of other mystery writers, an opportunity to present gay characters to readers who might not normally find them in their typical reading choices.
The first novel in your highly popular, award-winning Russell Quant mystery series is “Amuse Bouch”, released in 2005. The series now totals eight novels, yet has enjoyed resurgence with a new legion of fans, especially with the release of the novels in Kindle/e-book & Audio book. Did you ever imagine how popular your gay private detective would become?
The first thing I wrote was a dark, dystopian thriller. I thought this was the book that would start my career. But it was the second thing I wrote, the manuscript for Amuse Bouche, which immediately got attention from publishers. That’s when I knew I had something important here. Maybe I knew it all along because I wrote Amuse Bouche with the full intention of it being a series, not a one-book-thing. I had plans for all these characters that needed to be told over a number of books. I hoped we’d get three, maybe five books. For the series to have run to eight books (so far…I never say never), is a thrill for me.
Your novels often feature scenery from world-wide locales, including New York, France, exotic ports in the Mediterranean and Hawaii to name a few. Are your travels as varied as Russell Quants?
Yes. Except for one locale (can you guess which one?), I have traveled to all the same places Russell Quant has. Even the cruise he’s on in Tapas on the Ramblas was loosely based on an itinerary for a cruise I’d taken a few years earlier. Writing this series has been a joy for many reasons, one being the opportunity to marry two things I love to do: write and travel.
Most recently we visited Ireland for the first time, coming up we’ll be strolling the canals in Venice, sun bathing in Turks & Caicos, hosting houseguests in the hills outside of St. Tropez, and we’ve just finalized a trip to Japan that had to be postponed because of the tsunami. We like to mix it up between new places, old familiar haunts, relaxation trips, new adventure trips, traveling with friends, traveling alone. The world is too cool to ignore.
Your most recent release, the start of what I understand is a planned new suspense/thriller series featuring Canadian Disaster Recovery Agent, Adam Saint, is a 180 from the Russell Quant mystery series – for starters, Agent Saint is straight. What influenced you to branch out into mainstream fiction?
I like change. In my life I’ve had careers everywhere from being a bartender, a school teacher, a shoe salesman, an accountant and a writer. Every so often I get the itch. Fortunately the itch wasn’t to change careers entirely and become a mountain climber or lawyer, but I did want to stretch my artistic muscles and try something new. I had a lot of push back from some readers about writing a non-Russell Quant book. I realized that they’d grown to love him as a dear friend, and who wants a friend replaced? I knew I had to approach this from another perspective. Instead of replacing our friend, I was simply introducing a new one to the fold. The key was going to be creating a new character who was very different from Russell.
As far as Adam Saint being straight. That’s just the way he turned out. Like life, right? And really, going back to one of your earlier questions, just as I expect straight readers to accept a gay detective and give the Quant books a try, I also expect gay readers to accept a straight main character and give Adam Saint a try. In the end, all readers read for different reasons, which I respect. If a reader is only reading because of the sexuality of the main character, rather than the story, quality of writing, or type of genre, there is nothing I can do to influence their choice. I write the books I write. Hopefully you like my style, or humor, or storytelling ability, or whatever. If not, that’s okay too.
What can Russell Quant fans expect from you in the future?
I can tell you this: I never say never. So if you were to ask if the Russell Quant series is over, that would be my response. Should there never be another Russell Quant book, I feel I left him in a very good place at the end of the 8th book, Dos Equis. But that book could also be a great starting point for an interesting turn in his life both professionally and personally.
For reasons I’m not entirely sure of, this series continues to attract attention of filmmakers who believe the subject would translate well to TV or film, so that is always another possibility for Russell Quant’s future. That’s a great about the future, you never know what wonderful things are yet to come.
Last question; can you share with us a little about your current release and/or WIP?
I’m currently in the final editing phase and working on cover design and all that other fun new-book stuff for the second Adam Saint novel, The Women of Skawa Island, which will be released November 2014. And, true to my aforementioned love of change, I’m also trying my hand at a new standalone novel that I’m excited about. It’s something very new for me in terms of style and content, and if I were to compare it to something out there today, it’s along the lines of Gone Girl. Who knows if anything will come of it, but I’m enjoying the challenge of it and the ‘stretch’.
On behalf of the Gay Mystery-Thriller-Suspense Fiction Facebook Group, thank you so much for sharing your time with us and answering questions fans of the genre would like to know.
It’s been my great pleasure! Any time! Thanks for your interest.
Find Anthony Bidulka on the web: www.anthonybidulka.com and check him out for daily bits and pieces about travel, writing, art, parties, or just hanging out with hubby and dogs at Facebook and Twitter (@abidulka)