The butler didn’t do it. So who did?

Exeter writer Rick Hundey set his first novel Death at the Bend in Grand Bend. It was released in November by Faux Pop of Goderich.

As told to Casey Lessard

I’ve been playing around with writing for years. I didn’t get serious about it until about six or seven years ago. I joined a writers’ group and we would share our writings and critique. I sent short stories to various contests, and I finally won one in the summer of 2005, and that was the Alice Munro writers’ festival and short story contest. It made me feel I was on to something.
I had been working as a management consultant and had enough contracts to keep me going, and I had some wonderful clients, but I wasn’t as interested in what I was doing as I should have been. I was working on manuscripts, and I got to the point where if I got a phone call from a client while I was working on a manuscript, I saw it as an interruption. That’s when I thought it was time to get at it full-time. That was a year and a half ago, when I was in the first draft of Death at the Bend.
I worked at it quite steadily and did seven or eight major rewrites; some authors do 20. Realistically it was two major rewrites with the rest fine-tuning.
The last few drafts were the result of the review process I went through with a couple of people in the writers’ group, a friend of mine who judges short story contests, and a couple of author friends. Then I linked up with Faux Pop in Goderich and decided to go with it.

In a nutshell, it’s about a coffee shop owner in Grand Bend who used to be the town’s police chief. I know they haven’t had one in recent memory, but I made up an amalgamation story where he turns down a job offer with the OPP and decides to put up his shingle to run a small consulting business and buying a small Main Street coffee shop with his girlfriend.
An ex-girlfriend reappears and she was a major problem in his life; yet here she is, needing help, having been charged with the murder of her spouse.
I found that the characters would end up telling me what was next. I always knew the ending and the main events, but the shifts along the way added more suspense. I’ve read a fair number of books on writing, and these people tell you that this happens to you. One writer in particular said to write biographies of your main characters. I did, and they’re fairly detailed biographies. You find yourself getting to a point where you know what your plot outline says but you ask yourself, what would he do? If he did this, what would happen?
I was done in the early summer and I was hoping to have something by the end of the summer, in time to catch the Grand Bend cottagers. I discovered that my expectations were unreasonable. There’s a copy editing process where revisions can affect other parts of the book. There was also a fair amount of work regarding decisions about the cover.
We weren’t ready for a launch until three weeks ago, and we’re thinking for our first stage that we’ll print three blocks of 300, and two-thirds of that first block are spoken for. That part has gone pretty well when you think that it’s only been two or three weeks.
Most of the sales have been by word of mouth or through library readings. After this stage we want to go to independent bookstores and possibly the chains. I think this is the more common approach than it used to be.

This is fun. Especially the writing part, and I really enjoy interacting with people at readings. If you’re a painter, you either sell your painting or you hang it on your wall. Either way people are going to look at it, and that’s your goal. When you write a book, it’s not just for you. Your only proof of its merit is that people buy it and tell you that it’s good. It will make a little bit of money, but that’s not the goal; if that’s your goal, there are better ways to do it.
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Rick Hundey’s writing advice:

Just do it
I was writing when I was working full-time. This is as much a lifestyle decision as anything else. If you can write short stories with success, then you can do it part-time and it’s a great leisure pastime. I don’t think working on it full-time is required.

Hone your skills
I now think it’s more a skill than a talent. There are a lot of good books out there, and good courses. I took a fantastic course at Fanshawe with Susan Regier, who is this sister of our fire chief John Morgan.

Find others
It also helps to get in with some people that write. Talk to them, and exchange your work.

Write, write, write
The other thing you have to do is write a lot. If this was the old days, I would have a cedar chest full of manuscripts. My computer’s full of stuff. Just write and keep trying. Throw stuff out that doesn’t work or that you’re not happy with.

Favourite authors: Walter Mosley, Robert Crais, Tony Hillerman, and Elmore Leonard