It was in the pages of Nancy Drew and Agatha Christie novels the seed was planted for Confined Space, the first in a crime fiction series by Nelson-based writer Deryn Collier.
Growing up in Ottawa and Montreal, Collier quickly found herself writing, reading and dreaming of a career as a crime fiction writer.
“I think it was that I loved the experience of reading it,” she said. “I loved the feeling that it took me into another world and there was this puzzle and everything seemed to fall into place at the end, even though part way through it seemed absolutely impossible that it would. I loved that experience as a reader. And even at a very young age I was aware of wanting to create that experience for the reader.”
Collier’s plans to pursue writing took a turn when she was sitting in her school library with her friends at eight years old.
“We were talking about what we wanted to be when we grew up,” she said. “We had to do this task and there were these pamphlets by the government with different occupations. I immediately went to the author one and said ‘well, this is what I’m going to do. I’m going to write books.’ It said, ‘unless you are Margaret Atwood or Margaret Lawrence give up on this and go into PR, marketing or advertizing.’ That was the Canadian government telling me that when I was eight. I believed it.”
Collier went about the rest of her life, got married, had kids and pursued an array of different jobs, never committing fully to one.
“I had all these different jobs and could never really commit to any of them because I had this idea in the back of my head that really I am a mystery writer,” she said. “I would be working a part time job and someone would offer me a full time job and I would say no, because if I am this, then I can’t be a mystery writer.”
But eventually Collier decided she either had to be the mystery writer she thought she was or give it up completely.
For six years she focused on writing what would become Confined Space, a crime fiction novel set in a quiet mountain town called Kootenay Landing.
The story involves an ex-Canadian Forces commander named Bern Fortin who is called in for a routine investigation after a worker at a local brewery is found floating in the large bottle-washing tank.
Fortin brings in the brewery safety investigator and together they risk their jobs and lives to solve the mystery around the body and find a killer.
“The characters really developed over time,” said Collier. “It’s been six years, and I probably spent about four years of that writing. It’s not going to take me that long to write the next book, but a lot of the time spent was used figuring out how I was going to put it together. The characters kind of started two-dimensional and just grew with every draft. It’s really hard to say where they came from. I started with the character of Evie and then I had a very different version of Bern and he was really the character that just grew and grew and grew with each draft until he became the main character of the whole book.”
In addition to receiving rave reviews from readers across North America, Confined Space was shortlisted for the Arthur Ellis Award for best-unpublished first crime novel by the Crime Writers of Canada.
“I’ve worked really hard,” said Collier. “There have been a lot of steps along the way. I can’t say that I’m surprised but I’m very pleased with how it’s gone.”