Tag Archives: Gail Bowen

A-R International … Self-Isolating Authors Edition: Part 1

On Dec. 1st, 2019, I began posting to a new series I’d developed that I called Authors-Readers International (you can read all about that idea here and here), and over several months I posted about and promoted Authors whom I either knew personally or had worked with in the past. These Authors were based in countries all around the world and the hope was that we would attract Readers from all around the world, as well. And we did! There were clicks on my blog during that time from almost 100 countries – Readers in more than half the countries in the world had discovered these great Authors I’ve had the pleasure to know! I plan to keep this series going and will be contacting more than 30 other Authors about joining in on this promotion. I will begin posting new promotions to this series once again beginning in early June.

But in the meantime, I realized that many of the Authors I had already promoted have kept themselves very busy during these months of self-isolation, so I asked them all to send me an update of what they’ve been doing. This is the first in a multi-part series that I will now post to my blog so Readers have a chance to catch up with their favourite A-RI Authors! (The link on each Author’s name will take you to their original promotion on this blog.)

Part 1 is all about Gail Bowen, because she was the very first to reply to my request and she had A LOT to tell, so I promised she would get to go first!

Gail Bowen

A Writer’s Life in the Time of  Corona – Gail Bowen – May 14, 2020

What I still can’t believe is how radically and how rapidly the world changed.  We are a family that celebrates everything, and on March 14th we had a family dinner at our house to celebrate our son-in-law Brett’s birthday.  There are seventeen of us, and we had a great time as we always do – well almost always.  When the kids and grandkids were leaving, my husband and I stood in the chill and waved them off, also as we always do.  We did not know that Brett’s birthday dinner would be our last family gathering for a very long time, and I’m grateful for that.

In April, I had a number of projects to finish up.  I was teaching a ten week on-line class in Mystery Writing for the University of Toronto, and the class had begun on February 2nd, Groundhog Day.  I had seven students, all but one of whom was affected in some way by COVID-19. A retired nurse in Toronto was called back to fill her former position in Forensic Psychiatry. Another student was ill with the virus herself.  A third had a mother suffering from Alzheimer’s  who was in a Toronto Facility where a patient had tested positive for the virus.  A fourth owned a small café that had to be shuttered, and employees who had to be let go.  A fifth student had a grand-daughter in hospital with surgery for spina bifida whom she could not visit.  Another was teaching a class for U of Toronto that suddenly had to be converted to on-line. The seventh student, mercifully was spared. All of the students finished the course, and all did well. A triumph of the human spirit.

My own writing routine was relatively unaffected.  I’m a retired university professor, and since my retirement, I’ve been treating my writing as a job.  I get up, shower, eat, get dressed, spend three minutes putting on makeup and begin work. I work from 8 -12 and then again from 1:30 to 4:30.  The Unlocking Seasonthe 19th novel in my Joanne Kilbourn Shreve mystery series will be published on September 1st.  Advanced Reading Copies were sent out to reviewers and a copy was sent to me, so I could check for errors. My manuscript had already been proofread by three professionals, but my husband, a friend from the English Department, and I found 15 additional errors.  As my publisher said, “Yikes”!

I’m finishing up A Reflection in the Streamthe 20th JKS novel, and I’ve written three columns on aspects of fiction for Freelance, the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild magazine.  One of my sons made a video of me discussing the role the arts play in a time of disruption and reading a fifteen minute segment from  The Unlocking Season.  The video will be part of on-line programming by Lyric Theatre, here in Saskatchewan, to remind audiences that although there will be no live performances because of the pandemic, The Lyric Theatre will always be there for them.

Along with three other writers, I participated in Isolation Conversation, a ZOOM meeting presented by our Writers’ Guild.  I learned from all the other writers, but I was particularly struck by Harold Johnson’s wise and humane perspective on how the pandemic will change our lives.  Harold is a member of the Cree nation; he has a Masters’ degree in Law from Harvard; he has been a Crown Prosecutor; he’s written novels set in Northern Saskatchewan against a background of traditional Cree mythology, and he still works his family’s trapline near Montreal Lake.

Recently I read an article in the New Yorker about how critics have been rating the ZOOM background settings of we hapless ZOOM participants. The critics’ criteria are stringent. Is our ZOOM background as blatantly cheerful as the living room in a ‘50’s sitcom or as bleak as a hostage’s basement living space? Do we have enough books? Too many books? Do we humanize ourselves by having plants in the ZOOM?  What about family photos? When I read the article, I wondered how those discerning critics would rate Harold Johnson’s choice?

In mid-March, Harold and his wife, Joan, were on a book tour — as Harold wryly noted, ‘twenty hotels in twenty nights’. When that world abruptly shut down, Harold and Joan retreated to a world that never shuts down — his family’s trapline in Northern Saskatchewan On the day of our Isolation Conversation, Harold was outside with a mug of hot water and sugar.  The sky above him was cerulean; the trees behind him were as sturdy and beautiful as they had been for generations, and the air was filled with birdsong. Harold was by the lake waiting for the ice to break up, so he get in some fishing.

As the Isolation Conversation wound to an end, we discussed how we felt the world would be changed when the pandemic was over.  I said that Coronavirus had laid bare inequities in our world that we had been papering over, and that I hoped we would acknowledge J.S. Woodsworth’s belief that we are all sisters and brothers and that what we desire for ourselves we wish for others. My hope was that we would see the pandemic as a corrective, a signal that we had been hurtling along the wrong path – a path driven by the belief that fulfillment was only a click away on our smartphones..

When our moderator asked Harold what he believed the future held, he did not answer quickly. He looked around at the endless northern sky; at the lake, still frozen, but as always filled with fish that the patient and skilled could catch to feed their families.  Finally, Harold said  “I am pessimistic about the future but I try not to think about it.”  He made a sweeping gesture that enclosed the land and the water around him. “We have all of this, and we have today,” he said. “That is enough.”

A-R International: Gail Bowen

Gail Bowen
Authors-Readers International


Gail Bowen is a Canadian playwright and writer of mystery novels.

Born in Toronto, Bowen was educated at the University of Toronto, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1964. She then studied at the University of Waterloo, where she received a master’s degree in 1975, and the University of Saskatchewan. She subsequently taught English and was associate professor of English at First Nations University of Canada before retiring from teaching. She currently lives in Regina.

Bowen’s mystery novels feature Joanne Kilbourn, a widowed mother, political analyst and university professor who finds herself occasionally involved in criminal investigations in various parts of Saskatchewan. Many have been adapted as Canadian television movies by Shaftesbury Films.

Several of her plays have been produced, including Dancing in Poppies, an adaptation of Beauty and the Beast, The Tree and an adaptation of Peter Pan, all premiering at the Globe Theatre in Regina.

Bowen was selected as the writer-in-residence for the Regina Public Library from September 2013 to May 2014. She has previously served as writer-in-residence at the Toronto Reference Library (2009) and Calgary’s Memorial Park Library (2010).

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I have had a long and enjoyable friendship with Gail Bowen that began when her first Joanne Kilbourn mystery novel, Deadly Appearances, was published by Douglas & McIntyre in 1990. I wasn’t just one of her Canadian sales reps, but was THE rep for Southern Saskatchewan! Not only did Gail live in Regina, but her new series of mysteries was set in the city as well. Sales of the book in my territory were HUGE! And Gail and I hit it off right from the very beginning, too – I don’t think I’ve ever laughed as much or as hard as we all did whenever lunching with the late Mary Sutherland, one of the city’s booksellers, and already Gail’s good friend! Gail also took me in as part of her family over those years, and we always kept each other informed as to what was going on in our lives. When Gail and Ted Bowen came to Calgary for book promotions, Dennis would often be invited to join the three of us for dinner. One memorable evening was the closing night of the tiny, and very crowded, Latin Corner on 4th St., which we all loved. (The live music that night was supplied by Oscar Lopez who had to sit in the kitchen to perform, because the front was was so tightly packed with diners.) The author photo I’ve used above is one I particularly like, because I know exactly where it was taken as I visited that cottage while Gail was staying there, writing; and that area of Saskatchewan eventually became the “setting” in some of Gail’s mysteries. While we’ve kept in contact over all these decades, and I’ve purchased each new hardcover as soon as it was released, we hadn’t had any opportunities to actually see each other in person – until Sept. 2018 when Gail and Ted came to Kincardine, near to the trailer park where I live in the summer months, to promote her latest book. Dennis was visiting then as well! We both went to the event at the library and then drove Gail and Ted on to Collingwood the next day for another library event. We had lots of time then to catch up.

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Gail Bowen at the Kincardine Public Library

Gail wrote in my copy of Deadly Appearances … “Here’s where we came in,” and we’ve lasted through 17 more Joanne Kilbourn novels since then as well as several novellas in the Rapid Read series published by Orca Books (because I was Orca’s sales rep, too!). This has been a complete pleasure, my friend, and I look forward to many more books from you, dear Gail Bowen. The Ottawa Citizen definitely called it right: “Bowen is a national treasure.”

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News from Gail Bowen:The Unlocking Season, Joanne #19 will be published by ECW in 2020 — change of publishers and I am so happy about it. I’ve taught two on-line classes in mystery writing for U. of Toronto and I’ll be teaching a third starting in February. I’ve been invited to speak at the University of Marberg in Germany in October and will attend the Frankfurt Book Fair, so big doing there!”

For more information about Gail Bowen, her books and writing, please see her website.

Gail Bowen has twice been a guest on my blog Reading Recommendations: March, 2015, and March, 2016.

Best Books Read in 2016 – Part 2

In Part 1, I listed all the Indie-Authored Books I had read this year that I considered to be the Best Books I Read in 2016.

During 2016, I was fortunate to read many other books, traditionally published, that I considered to be excellent. Some authors I list here are new-to-me and were recommended by reader friends – who definitely did not steer me wrong! Other authors are long-time favourites, some who I have promoted on Reading Recommendations and this blog (links to those promotions are included here), and a few are personal friends who I have known for many years in real life and whose writing I have always enjoyed.

These books are not listed in any particular order at all, but every one receives at least a 5-star rating from me.

So I give you Part 2 of the Best Books I Read in 2016!

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A Man Called Ove, My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry, Brett-Marie Was Here
by Fredrik Backman
Without a doubt, Backman is one of the very best “discoveries” in years! Not only are all three novels good, the writing is consistently good and I am now a fan for life, eagerly waiting for the next book by this author to be translated into English and available to read. If I were to rate books, I would give this author 11 stars on a scale of 10.

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Running Toward Home and Odd One Out by Betty Jane Hegerat
I recently reread Running Toward Home, Betty Jane’s first published novel, and read her new novel, Odd One Out, shortly after it was released. As with everything Betty Jane writes, i enjoyed both immensely!

Last Bus to Wisdom by Ivan Doig
Sadly, this was his final book as Doig died earlier this year. He had long been one of my favourite authors.

Brief Encounters by Brian Brennan

Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury
I reread this important book on writing and wrote a blog post about it.

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What’s Left Behind by Gail Bowen
The 16th book in Bowen’s Joanne Kilbourn novels and I have every one! I was Gail’s sales rep for the first book way back in the early 90s.

Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift

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Mennonites Don’t Dance by Darcie Friesen Hossack, published by Thistledown Press
I reread this book recently and it’s now available as an eBook. Darcie and I first “met” online when we were students in the Humber School of Creative Writing, but did not meet in person until she published this collection of short stories in 2010.

Circling the Sun by Paula McLain

The Ballroom by Anna Hope

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen
Well-deserved winner of this year’s Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

The Hanging Girl by Jussi Adler-Olsen
Number 6 in the Department Q series of crime novels by an accomplished Danish author. I’ve read them all and am eagerly awaiting the next in the series.

In the Woods (series) by Tana French
I thought so highly of the writing of this first novel by French that I immediately read the next three in the Dublin Murder Squad series and have the fifth book on hold at the library.

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The Three Sisters Bar & Hotel by Katherine Govier

Nutshell by Ian McEwan
McEwan is another long-time faourite author who never disappoints. With this book, I think he may win the award for “Most Unusual Narrator Ever”! (AND … I just discovered Ian and I share the same birthday, June 21st!)

Building a Movement to End the New Jim Crow: an organizing guide by Daniel Hunter
I received a free download of this book and found it a fascinating read on organizing activists. An excellent book for these current times …

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The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop by Lewis Buzbee
Lewis and I not only worked at similar jobs during our careers (bookseller, sales rep, writer), we repped the same publisher at the same time during the 1990s! The link above will take you to the blog post I wrote about Lewis and his book.

And here’s a link to Part 3 in this series.

Richard Ford – reading all his books from 1976 to present

You may or may not remember that back in March of this year I set out to read all the books written by Gail Bowen and talked about it in the blog post, Reading an author’s complete oeuvre – a suggestion.

That proved to be a very enjoyable task I set for myself, and I’m happy to say that I completed reading all of Gail’s Joanne Kilbourn novels and the four Rapid Reads titles on July 15th. It was great not only to revisit my friend’s writing but to see the development in the characters throughout her series – to really get to know those characters – and also to marvel at the craftsmanship that went into the writing of each of these books. Now I am truly ready for the publication of Bowen’s newest book, The Gifted, which is being released next month.

So, when casting around for another favourite author’s complete oeuvre to read, I decided that there was none better than Richard Ford, My Favourite Living Author.

Favourite Living Author is not an honour I bestow lightly, either! The first to hold that position was Graham Greene. Then he died. Second to be appointed was Brian Moore. But then he died, too. So Ford is only the third author to hold this position in my heart, and I do hope he continues to hold it for a very long time. He can only lose it by dying … or by writing something really awful, but I doubt he is capable of doing that.

So I begin at the beginning with Richard Ford’s first novel, A Piece of My Heart, published in 1976. It’s been a long time since I read this and Ford’s other earlier works. Already I can tell that reading these books will be an antidote for any of the bad writing I’ve had the displeasure to read over this past while. You know, the books you pick up in great anticipation only to put down again after having spent far too much valuable time on them, hoping they won’t be the disappointment you suspect they actually will be. Ford’s writing is perfect in every way!

I see that all copies of his books I have on my shelf are signed (except Women Without Men) and I do have the lot of them! And Independence Day is signed: For Susan, with my gratitude, and with the pleasure of meeting you. *Sigh* Major Author Crush here, folks!

I met Richard Ford for the third time in Calgary last Fall when he was at the Calgary Public Library for an on-stage interview with Aritha van Herk to promote his most recent novel, Canada.

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In the meantime, while I’m enjoying visiting with Richard Ford once again, here’s an article for you to read about Richard Ford that ran in today’s Boston Globe.

Reading an author’s complete oeuvre – a suggestion

That post title sounds kind of weird, but honestly, I don’t mean anything obscene here. Oeuvre, if you didn’t know, refers to an artist’s work of art or the complete body of work. In this case, I’m talking Authors specifically and their entire output of published books.

And I’m beginning with my long-time friend, Gail Bowen. When Gail posted a copy of the cover for her new book, 14th in the Joanne Kilbourn mystery series, The Gifted, that will be released in August, 2013, I decided it was time to go back and begin at the beginning – always a good place to begin, don’t you think? – and reread the previous 13 novels.

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Gail and I, we have a history, you see. I was her sales rep for that very first novel, Deadly Appearances, when it was published by Douglas & McIntyre Ltd., oh-so-many-years-ago, in 1990. And for the second, Murder at the Mendal, and even the third, The Wandering Soul Murders. I had a great time then, driving across Alberta and Saskatchewan, spreading the word about this NEW author who was not only writing IN the backyard of those very Prairies, but also ABOUT the place. That was a lot of fun! Gail and I, and Gail’s husband Ted, have remained in contact, and have been friends, ever since.

So I thought it was high time to revisit those books that take up a considerably impressive amount of shelf space, going back to read of Joanne’s life and her stories, solving crimes in her hometown (and, coincidentally, also Gail’s hometown) of Regina, Saskatchewan. This way, my memory of the events will be completely refreshed in time for the new release in August.

And now here’s the suggestion part of the post title … Consider doing this yourself with your own favourite writer: Reread, in order, all the books they have published (great idea if they’ve written a series, but also of benefit if you wish to see how they have progressed as an author). Just for fun, but also to become reacquainted with that author’s writing all over again, and remember what it was you enjoyed about their writing in the first place. I bet you will discover new aspects, ideas, nuances that you didn’t notice the first time you read their books. Then, either while you’re reading or after you’ve finished, tell the author what you’ve been doing – obviously, only if they are still living. You can usually contact any author through their most-recent publisher or through their website. I can guarantee that any author will be thrilled to receive a letter telling them you’ve been a long-time fan, have recently undertaken rereading their complete output, and that you are still a fan – or maybe even more of a fan now.

And don’t forget to tell the rest of us what you’re reading, too – why you believe this author to be one of the very best, and how much you’re enjoying rereading their books. And why we should consider reading all of this particular author’s books, as well. Please feel free to post in the comments below if you plan to take part in this “Rereading My Favourite Author” idea, or post a link to your blog if you have one. I don’t want to call this a “challenge” at all, because there’s no competition intended – you either do this or you don’t. But I thought it would provide you with a new way of reading – a directed way of reading that might appeal to some readers, and it could also give everyone a list of interesting authors to consider perusing the next time we’re looking for a good read.

(Plus, it’s not a bad way of giving the old backlist some much-needed dusting off and attention – wink-wink, nudge-nudge!)