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"I wrote the kind of book I liked reading, which I think is really good advice for any writer. At the time it didn’t seem inspired, but it was a good choice because I knew what I liked, I knew what worked – I was able to take a shot at it. And the kinds of books I always liked were the ones that were character-centered."

--Author Gail Bowen (on writing her first novel at age 43)

Photo credit: Ted Bowen

Gail Bowen, assistant professor of English at the Saskatchewan Indian Federated College, a noted playwright, and YWCA Woman of the Year alumni, won the 1995 Arthur Ellis Best Crime Novel Award for her fourth novel in the popular Joanne Kilbourn series A Colder Kind of Death.

Kilbourn has much in common with her creator: both are teachers at Saskatchewan universities, sometime TV panellists, and both have several children and a one-time politically connected husband. Bowen’s closeness with her character infuses Kilbourn with an extraordinary believability. She receives tons of mail saying that “Joanne is like someone you could have coffee with. She’s intelligent, fun, and capable – she’s pretty much like most of the women I know.”

Readers also empathize with the way Bowen addresses prairie urban life and work, the realistic and dimensional portrayal of contemporary Indigenous peoples, and complex family interactions alongside every-day domestic details.

Says Bowen, “I grew up with an extremely strange mother and its one of those things where you can either let something like that push you down under the waters forever or it can become, as Carl Jung would say, something that feeds your life. And I think it’s fed my life. I mean, I will never understand her, but the kind of energy that comes from an unresolved relationship with a mother drives everything I write.”

Bowen, who learned to read by age three from tombstones in Toronto’s Prospect Cemetery, has had a number of her novels adapted to television movies.



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Podcast: A Conversation with Gail Bowen

Read Gail Bowen's Author Chat