Crime writer Mofina juggles work and murders

SYDNEY (Reuters Life!) - By day Rick Mofina is a Canadian civil servant, commuting to work by bus, but by night and at weekends he travels through the worlds of espionage and murder as an award-winning thriller writer.

Mofina said his latest book, “Six Seconds,” released in the United States and Canada this week, was written the same way as his other eight books -- plotted on the bus on the way to work then typed out in his suburban basement in Ottawa.

He has been published in the United States, Canada, Norway and Sweden and he has received the Arthur Ellis Award, Canada’s top literary prize for crime fiction, and was shortlisted by the International Thriller Writers for a Thriller Award.

“Six Seconds” draws on Mofina’s travel experiences when he was a reporter and is the tale of two mothers, strangers from different worlds, who become ensnared in an assassination plot using a missing California boy as the weapon.

Mofina, who works as a communications advisor for the Canadian government, spoke to Reuters about juggling life as a working author:

Q: Did you always want to write?

A: “Yes, for me it has been a lifelong affliction. Every since I was a child I have enjoyed writing and reading. It became a lifelong thing for me and I felt I had to write every day.”

Q: When did you write your first novel?

A: “I wrote my first novel when I was 17 or 18. It wasn’t published but then I worked on some short stories. I thought I didn’t know much as a young person and journalism seemed to be the path most writers have followed so I thought I would try to see if I could get into writing. But it was a secret passion. I told no one about it.”

Q: Why did you keep it secret?

A: “That was the way I could get things done, without people asking me about my work. It was a separate world. But when I was a full-time crime reporter at the Calgary Herald, I suddenly thought that this could be the area I could fictionalize, knowing the anatomy of a crime scene and the natural story-telling that reporters encounter everyday, so I started my first crime novel (“If Angels Fall”) in the late 1990s and it was published in 2000.”

Q: How did you get it published?

A: “I wrote the book and managed to get it into the best shape I could then mailed about 100 query letters to agents. One agent then contacted me and asked to see my work and then the whole manuscript and that led to a contract.”

Q: No rejections?

A: “Well, I do tell aspiring writers that I sent out 100 letters and only got about 15 responses of any kind, some of those “thanks but, no thanks.” The percentage on my unofficial survey was a 10 percent response of any type. Then it took about 11 months for the agent to place the book. It was rejected numerous times. It was a magical day when it got accepted.”

Q: Did being published change your approach?

A: “Not really. I knew I was going to write all my life but I did think if I was going to write every day then I would write with a goal in mind - to be published. I just hadn’t been sure what type of book I would write.”

Q: Do you have much contact with other working authors?

A: “I have friends who are writing full-time. It is a matter of your personal situation and what you are willing to try and how things go for you. I would love to write full-time but I realize the realities of supporting the family and that publishing can be up and down, unless you have substantial sales of course. It can be a very tough business, particularly in the current climate.”

Q: How do you find the time to write?

A: “It does exact a toll on my home life. There are things I have missed because I write in the morning when I get up, I write notes on the bus, I write on weekends and on holidays. My wife and kids have just accommodated me in that way. When something important comes up I will set writing aside of course. I get up about 4 a.m. to 4.30 a.m. and by the time I am on the bus I am wide awake for the 45-minute commute and making notes. I really am a creature of ritual and habit and that is important for me.”

Q: Do you still read a lot?

A: I try to, but it is usually for research. I try to read and stay on top of the genre but it is very difficult because before you were published you seemed to have more time to read.”

Q: Any advice for aspiring writers?

A: “I always say don’t make excuses, make sentences. If you have a television in your home then you have time to write.”

Editing by Miral Fahmy