Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Barbara Fradkin to the blog. Barbara gets a special place in my heart (me being Kristina Stanley). She generously provided the first endorsement I ever received for my first novel Descent. That’s a kindness I’ll never forget. Canada is proud to claim Barbara as one of our own.
Tell about yourself and what you write.
I’m a retired child psychologist who discovered that plotting murder was the perfect way to vent the frustrations of my job. Mysteries give me license to probe moral and social issues while exploring the dark side of ordinary people. I’m fascinated by what people do when they’re desperate and what drives them to that ultimate choice. My books blend mystery and suspense in a gritty, realistic, and psychological style.
I have three distinct series so far, including ten books in an award-winning police procedural series set in Ottawa and three easy-read books with a country handyman as reluctant sleuth. Most recently I have been working on a mystery-thriller series featuring passionate, adventurous former aid worker Amanda Doucette, who can’t turn her back on people in trouble. Each book is set in a different iconic location across Canada, the most recent being PRISONERS OF HOPE, set in the spectacular islands of Georgian Bay. I’m currently hard at work on the fourth, entitled THE ANCIENT DEAD, set in the Alberta badlands.
How do your pets impact your writing?
I have two Nova Scotia Duck Tollers, because one of these live wires is never enough. Besides being part of my stories, as I describe below, they help set the mood for my day. They can lift my spirits or calm me down. They can make me laugh or drive me to distraction.
I write to the rhythm of their day. Right now, they are curled up on the sofa beside me on this cold winter day, providing a warm, comforting backdrop. At other times they remind me, by grumbling at the door or dropping a ball on my computer, that it’s time for a break. And best of all, I can work out story problems, think up new plot twists, and argue loudly with my characters during the long, relaxed dog walks.
Do you include animals in your stories?
In all three of my series, the hero has a dog. A pet spotlights the emotional side of a character. Inspector Green is an accidental dog owner who’d never owned a pet but “inherited” a traumatized mutt during one of his murder investigations. As he tried to build trust between himself and the dog, I got to explore a softer, more uncertain side of Green. Cedric O’Toole, the handyman in my easy-read series, lives alone on a farm and is far more comfortable with his dog than with people.
But it’s in the Amanda Doucette series that animals truly take centre stage. Amanda experienced a trauma during an overseas posting and, back home in Canada to recover, she got a Duck Toller named Kaylee, which is Celtic for kitchen party. Modelled on my own dogs, Kaylee is bouncy, playful, and always up for adventure. They’re way better than Prozac; you can’t help but smile when you meet a Duck Toller. Kaylee becomes Amanda’s unofficial therapy dog who accompanies her everywhere. As a bonus her other skills, mainly her acute nose, ears, and tracking ability, help out Amanda in her sleuthing efforts. It’s no coincidence that in real life dogs are the ones to discover bodies hidden in the bush.
What is your funniest pet story?
Almost every day my dogs do something that makes me smile. But one time stands out. I have a modest cottage on a lake in Eastern Ontario and one of our summer challenges is to swim across the lake and back. For safety’s sake, someone has to forego the swim and go alongside in the canoe. We usually swap places for the swim back. My dogs love to go in the canoe – actually they just want to go along on whatever adventure is on offer – so when I got in the canoe, one of them hopped in for the ride. On the way back, everyone wanted to swim, including me, so we left a very startled Kaylee alone and we all took turns towing her back. It was a funny sight!
Barbara Fradkin is a retired child psychologist with a fascination for why we turn bad. She has been writing since she was a child, but didn’t get serious until she discovered crime. In the past two decades or so, she has published at least thirty short stories and thirteen novels, along with three Rapid Reads short novels. Many of her works have been shortlisted or won Arthur Ellis Awards from Crime Writers of Canada.
Until recently she has been best known for her gritty, psychological Inspector Green series, which has received two Arthur Ellis Best Novel Awards. However, her newest mystery suspense series features foreign aid worker Amanda Doucette, who battles her own traumatic past to help people in trouble. PRISONERS OF HOPE, the third in the series, was released in October 2018, and she is currently writing the fourth, entitled THE ANCIENT DEAD.
You can find her books here! Everyone one is fantastic – I know because I’ve read them all. Thanks for reading today – Kristina