Our Interview with Bruce Obee!

Image of Bruce Obee            Scuttlejack (A Damon Quinn Mystery)


The Pacific coastal environment has been the setting for most of Bruce Obee’s work during the past four decades. A writer of books, magazine articles, and television scripts, his work is published by National Geographic, Canadian Geographic, Travel & Leisure, British Columbia Magazine, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, and others. Obee has won several international magazine awards as well as Canada’s prestigious Leo Award for screenwriting. He is a recipient of the Governor-General’s Commemorative Medal for “significant contribution to compatriots, community and to Canada.” Bruce Obee lives on Vancouver Island with his wife, Janet Barwell-Clarke. They have two grown daughters, Nicole and Lauren Obee.

                                       Bio provided by author’s site

It was our pleasure to get an opportunity to interview Bruce and learn more about him and his lustrous and long career in writing! So please give a warm welcome to Bruce!

1.  What makes for a good hook in your stories? Where does your inspiration come from?

Three things: characters, setting, and plot. Damon Quinn, my investigative crime writer, is a departure from typical cops or private eyes. Someone different. The West Coast setting has always been the focus of my work. I’m completely comfortable writing about home, and readers find Pacific Canada extraordinarily attractive. The plot relies on the rural and wilderness features of the setting, and Quinn’s familiarity with the West Coast. Urban segments may come into the story, but much of the intrigue is found in the backwater ambience of coastal villages, islands, and oceans.

2.   Are you an organized writer? Do you do things like take notes and make lists of characters?  Or do you free write and work it out as you go?

I’m excruciatingly organized, I tie loose ends and tidy my desk at the end of each day. I research and interview extensively, and write from a detailed outline that keeps the story on track. I polish as I write so the first draft is reasonably clean. Then I rewrite, sleep, rewrite, sleep, and rewrite.

3.  What is your normal writing day like? Do you write when you are inspired or do you have a schedule?

I work non-stop in my home office from about 7:30 each morning until around 6:30 p.m., a routine I’ve maintained through 40 years of full-time writing. I write on assignment for established publishers—no government or corporate flacking—and always write to contractual deadlines. A thousand words is an extremely good day.

4.  Who is your favorite author and how did they inspire you to write?

The late Roald Dahl. I’ve been fortunate to have been published with him in an anthology. I envy his incomparable wit and economic style, moving his stories at a pace where every word is vital to the plot and tone. His Tales of the Unexpected are proof that no one can deliver so many surprises in so few words. 

5.  It’s easy to see that you have a passion for writing but is there any part of it you don’t like?

As I mention on my website, writing is a life sentence. Writers are plagued by a mind that travels with the body, so the work never stops. Sometimes I wish my vocation would just go away. But I love writing, and while I take days off like every other worker, the writing gears are always churning. Storytelling is an addiction.

6.  Do you make time to read and if you do what are you reading right now?

I read an hour or two every night, mainly mysteries, almost always Canadian, English, or Scottish authors, sometimes Kiwis and Australians. Mark Zuehlke, Peter Robinson, Giles Blunt, Jack Hodgins, Ian Rankin, P.D. James, Elizabeth George are some contemporary favourites. Lately I’ve been reading mysteries written by other Amazon Kindle authors, including several Americans.

7.   How did you get started in the mystery fiction genre? Is there personal life experience in the writing?

I’ve spent a lifetime writing illustrated non-fiction, longing for a time when I could create picture-free stories, and have the freedom to say things I’d never get away with in truthful journalism. Mysteries are my obvious choice. They lead off with a clearly-defined purpose, move methodically through a series of twists and surprises, then conclude with a tidy finale. My short story, The Partnership, sold on the first try to Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, which encouraged me to believe I could write salable fiction.

8.  Your books have been published with Amazon.com, Does this mean you see the publishing industry headed this way?

Yes, traditional publishers are struggling. Some of our most respected, i.e. Canada’s McClelland and Stewart, are being absorbed into larger companies. Many are going belly-up. Their promotion budgets are dwindling and authors are compelled to set up websites and market their own books. Not long ago self-publishing carried a ‘can’t-sell-it’ stigma, but now some authors are discovering higher sales, certainly higher royalties, in self-published ebooks. Readers, too, are finding talented authors whose talents were bypassed by established print publishers. Print is far from obsolete, but ebooks invariably offer a broader choice of books and authors.

9.  Do you have any online sites where others can read more of your writings?

My website, www.bruceobee.com, has frequently-updated blogs about writing, sometimes asking for fiction ideas from readers. There’s a biography, bibliography, FAQs on writing, books I’ve written, videos I’ve produced, and published magazine stories that have been requested by readers. There’s also a link to my photography website, with categorized photos and contacts for my photo agent.

10.  Do you have any more stories in the works? What kinds of stories do you plan to write next?

I’m dreaming up the next Damon Quinn Mystery, aiming to nail down the outline and begin writing within the next three weeks. I’ve offered these mysteries as a series and intend to keep up a scheduled pace for new books, hopefully every eight or nine months.

11.  Who would be your first choice to play Damon Quinn from your book “Scuttlejack”?

Colin Cunningham, a California-born actor now based in Vancouver, Canada. Colin and I met when we shared a table at Vancouver’s Leo Awards, where we both won Leos, his for acting, mine for screenwriting. He played a shady undercover cop in the long-running series Da Vinci’s Inquest, so he’s already primed for the role of Damon Quinn.

12.  If you could meet anyone from any time who would it be and what would be your first question?

Terry Fox. I’d ask where he found the strength to achieve a dream held by every political leader—to unite an entire country, to make all Canadians so profoundly proud of their own nationality.