As an avid reader and writer of crime fiction, Vanessa Westermann’s ideal day would be spent plotting fictitious crimes. Vanessa is a former Arthur Ellis Awards judge, and has given a talk on the evolution of women’s crime writing, at the Toronto Chapter of Sisters in Crime.
Vanessa’s book review column entitled “Vanessa’s Picks” was published in the monthly newsletter of a popular Toronto mystery-specialty bookstore from 2012 to 2016. The column was developed into a blog, featuring literary reviews and author interviews.
While living in Germany, she attained an M.A. in English Literature and went on to teach creative writing.
She currently lives in Canada and is working on her next novel, while drinking copious amounts of tea.
What inspires you to write?
Conversations inspire me to write. A good chat with a friend or an overheard fragment of dialogue in a crowded setting can spark an idea for a story.
Tell us about your writing process.
My writing process involves a lot of editing. I do like to have a general outline, but for the most part, I collect ideas, sentences and images in a bulging notebook. When I write, I work on a chapter in stages. The first stage is free writing – just getting my ideas down. Then I go back and add dimension, adding details to the setting, creating "depth". For me, writing is similar to painting – the first version of a chapter or story is like a pencil sketch, to which I then add colour, shading and emphasis.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
I listen to my characters. I can tell right away if I'm trying to force a character into making a decision that doesn't suit their personality. If I try to talk my characters into doing something they don't want to do, the scene feels off. Lose the character's voice and it's like someone has drawn back a curtain and revealed the stage-hands and props. The magic is gone.
Who are your favorite authors?
I love reading crime fiction, from the Golden Age of detective novels to current mysteries, especially ones with a touch of humour. I'll read anything by Jasper Fforde and Louise Penny!
How did you decide how to publish your books?
I was offered a contract with The Wild Rose Press and appreciated their guidance in editing and marketing.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
As a debut author who received many rejections before signing a publishing contract, I do know that it's becoming increasingly challenging to convince a traditional publisher to take a chance on a new writer. However, a well-written query letter and persistence can make all the difference. All it takes is one person who believes in you and your book!
What genres do you write?
What formats are your books in?
All information is provided by the author and is presented as it was submitted so you the reader get to hear the author’s own “voice” in their interview.