I met Christine Cowley at the 2017 Indie Author Day hosted by the PineRidge Arts Council and Pickering Public Library. Christine is an author, speaker and writing coach. She also moderates STORYLINES on 88.7 FM The Bay in beautiful Muskoka, a show that connects readers and authors.

In November, Christine kindly interviewed me about Crook’s Hill: click above for the full-length version. I discuss what interests me in character development, how writing and practicing law relate and book marketing. And I get to discuss my creative project for 2018: visual short stories that will carry forward the Crook’s Hill protagonists.


Copyright © 2018 Peter Fritze

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Crook’s Hill and Daisy

In my new book, Crook’s Hill, the main protagonist is Alan Boltby. A workaholic corporate lawyer, he yearns for a real life but ends up turning investigator. However, a second protagonist emerges, Sara Ramachandran. Alan and Sara are the basis for a new series.

Sara hasn’t been treated right, so she has difficulty interacting with people. But she’s always felt comfortable with horses. In Crook’s Hill, she makes friends with an Arabian gelding, Grand Master (it doesn’t end well, but anyway…). I eventually sought help to write those scenes (thanks, Anne). At first, though, I thought I could create them from my own riding experience. With Daisy.

Eons ago, when I was a teen, my godfather became interested in riding horses. For several years, he picked me up Sunday mornings and we went to the local rent-a-nag. I met Daisy on the first visit. The farmer sized up my slight frame and lack of experience, then said Daisy was the only one for me.

Daisy had a cheery chestnut coat and, unlike the horse my godfather liked, she was calm. Really, though, she was tired and old. She’d been around the paddock, as it were, a few thousand times. She accepted me hurtling myself onto the saddle. She plodded out of the paddock following my godfather’s horse without prompting. She tolerated that I flailed on top of her, avoiding a fall only by squeezing my thighs like hell and clutching her mane. (Sorry, Daisy…but she was tough.) The farmer seemed right. Daisy was the only one for me.

That is, until we’d ambled along a dirt path far enough to reach a forest. I guess no one had told the farmer what happened when Daisy spied those trees. Without warning, she sped up. I don’t mean she walked faster or even found a canter. No, I mean she went into a full-on trot, zipping us right past my godfather’s steed. She thumped the ground so hard, everything south of my waist hurt. Thank goodness Daisy didn’t have a gallop in her legs anymore. Because I’m pretty sure she had it on her mind. “Hang on,” my godfather yelled. “Whatever you do, hang on!”

And that’s what I did until Daisy ran out of juice. My godfather arrived a minute later, laughing, and guided Daisy and me back to the paddock. The next day at school, I excused myself from P.E. class. My inner thigh muscles were too sore to walk properly.

Daisy jumped into that same trot every time we approached the forest. I was prepared on our third ride. And my riding abilities improved a lot by our fifth ride. Not to the level I imagine my character Sara learned, but they did get better.

Eventually I understood. When Daisy raced for the forest, she was making a break from a pretty horrible existence. Poor Daisy. She wanted Grand Master’s life.

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The Crook’s Hill House

Crook's Hill Final Cover

My third mystery, Crook’s Hill, soon to be published, has two main settings: New York City and Crook’s Hill Farm, near fictional Spring Woods, Ontario.

The farm is based loosely on one that my godfather bought when I was twelve. He’d already involved me in his interest in horses, taking me many Sunday mornings to a place where you could rent a nag to shake every bone in your body. But he decided he wanted the full country life, and I visited his farm the day after he took possession of his farm.

This place wasn’t like many older Ontario farms, with square, two-level red or orange-brick houses on manicured front lawns. The house sat well back from the main road at the end of a long laneway, a bit like a lonely widow hiding on a hidden park bench, and it sprawled over one level, ivy consuming its stucco sides. It seemed to have been empty for months: the air was dank, the ancient cream wallpaper stained and peeling, and a massive hearth in the living room cold and dirty. And around the house, debris and thick brush ruled, hiding an ancient swimming pool and collapsed structures behind.

In other words, intrigue swirled around the place! Which only deepened when my godfather shared the local rumour that booze had been run from the farm during the Prohibition, and that the illegal proceeds were used to build not only the house, but the pool, cabanas, a ballroom and thoroughbred stables with leather-lined stalls.

So when I imagined writing a mystery involving two brothers who’d been fractious since the younger caused the older a terrible injury on their boyhood farm, I used my godfather’s place as a starting point. And if I self-publish, I’ll use the view of the back of the Crook’s Hill house shown above for the cover. My good friend and artist extraordinaire Peter Fischer did the painting, and below is a cool time lapse of his progress on the house.

And in Crook’s Hill, the house is only a small part of the intrigue!

For other time lapse videos, click on my Instagram follow icon above.

Fritze’s Back

May 15, 2013 178

I like Rome—a lot. The photo captures the front of the city’s famous Pantheon. Sometimes I look to Rome and its history for inspiration or support. For the last year, I’ve been leaning on the adage “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” actually a medieval French phrase, to explain the slow emergence of my third mystery novel, Crook’s Hill.

The storyline: insider trading, unexplained deaths and a horrific, long-buried crime envelop highly successful but fractious brothers. Seemed relatively straightforward when I created the first outline. But the six outlines, five chronologies and twelve or so drafts tell a different tale.

Still, I enjoyed almost every moment of writing Crook’s Hill. The truth is that the characters, especially the female characters, needed time and work to reach their potential. And when they did, the plot weaved in surprising directions. I went with the flow and am proud of the result. And I realized I have a male and female protagonist for a series.

The payoff? Lots of positive feedback from beta readers, and a very strong Kirkus review, which I’ll release once I know how Crook’s Hill will be published. I’ve been strongly encouraged to seek an agent, and I’ve sent about thirty queries. Let’s just say it’s like being one of a thousand anglers dangling hooks in a pond with one fish: no bites. Soon, I’ll submit Crook’s Hill directly to publishers interested in high quality mysteries. Likely, though, I’ll self-publish in early November. I’m gearing up for that now.

So, thanks for your patience. I hope you’ll like Crook’s Hill and maybe I’ll see you at the mystery convention, Bouchercon, in Toronto, October 11-14.

Copyright © 2017 Peter Fritze

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