Monique has recently published her debut novel – In the Dark of Winter – a thriller I’m looking forward to reading. I met her through a mutual friend that is also an author. She has graciously agreed to be our guest this week and participate in a 4Q Interview, as well as sharing an excerpt from her exciting novel.
I was born and raised in Saint-Louis-de-Kent, New Brunswick, in the 1950s, the youngest of nine children.
After graduating High School, I earned a two-year “medical stenographer” diploma and worked as a secretary for several years. But being someone who thrives on challenges with an unquenchable thirst for knowledge, I quit my job, enrolled at the Université de Moncton and came out four years later with a Translation degree. Although having written thousands of pages as a Translator over the years, I always craved the imaginative part of writing and find it both pleasurable and therapeutic.
When I look back at my journals, I find poems, an autobiography and short stories, in either English or French, written long-hand and never published. This book, however, was different. I wanted to get it out to market and check it off my bucket list. As it turns out, In the Dark of Winter was the biggest challenge of my life and, while taking a life of its own at 63,000 words, has had the uncanny power to teach me about character development, settings, criminology, police investigations, the justice system and my understanding of the English language.
4Q: It’s a wonderful feeling to finally have a completed novel after all the hard work involved in getting it to the public. Tell us about In the Dark of Winter.
MT: In the Dark of Winter is a mystery/thriller that opens at a pig roast bash in the back countryside of Albert County. There, we find Ben Walsh, our protagonist, who falls prey to a local gang after witnessing a rape at the party. Ben is given two choices: be framed for murder, or work for the thugs responsible.
A year later, Ben is still at the gang’s mercy and, during a major snowstorm, lineman Jack Thibodeau stumbles upon Ben’s property and is taken hostage. After his release, a distraught Jack hires private investigator Chuck Hanley to find the culprit.
Hanley, a retired cop, has it made. Spousal spying, insurance fraud. But as Hanley begins to make a connection between Ben and Jack, more sinister characters emerge and soon the talk of the town goes from a record snowfall to a record body-count. A manhunt ensues, one that rattles the sleepy villages of Albert County for weeks.
4Q: What inspired this story Monique? What made you want to write a thriller?
Photo Credit: Shweta Briijpuria - author
MT: My love for the genre, of course, and the fact that I have lived, like many of us, through countless winter storms and the reign of terror of Allan Legere. It seemed only natural to re-imagine those in a mystery setting with plenty of left turns, unforgettable characters and an ongoing cat and mouse chase between the law and the outlaws.
Writing a thriller was a no-brainer since I have always loved to curl up to a good mystery or psychological thriller.
4Q: Please share a childhood memory or anecdote.
MT: I remember a time when I was about eight or nine years old, sneaking up on my father’s lap in his Lazy-Boy chair, staring at the horrific pictures of corpses depicted on the pages of the Allo Police* that he was holding in his hands. On more than one occasion, I recall my mother scolding my Dad for letting me close to those forbidden pages and reading such trash in the first place. Seeing blood never startled me. In fact, those early memories have fueled my passion for a good mystery. My detective ears perk up when I hear the words “blood splatter” and my heart beats faster upon reading of a bloody footprint.
* A weekly tabloid known as Quebec’s unofficial gazette of the criminal world.
4Q: You belong to a writer’s group. Please tell us about that and the benefits you are enjoying.
MT: I am a proud member of the YWCA’s Moncton Women’s Writing Group. I joined the group in 2017 as an aspiring author looking for a place to share my writings. Over time, the Y Writes has evolved from simply being a non-judgmental place for members to share their creative stories to becoming an amazing network of support and resources in the field of writing. For me, it’s been a central information point on varied writing subjects from upcoming writings awards to local writing events.
4Q: Where is your favorite spot to write? Where do you feel most creative?
MT: I definitely love to write on my laptop in my office. But when I’m out, I will write anywhere. On the shore, in the park, on the deck, and in my car, either stuck in traffic or in a parking lot. I keep a notebook and pen on me at all times. A smell, a touch or a memory is sometimes all that it takes for me to stop on the side of the road to jot it down and come back to it later.
4Q: Anything else you’d like to add?
MT: I want to thank you for giving me the opportunity to be interviewed. And, I’d love to leave you with this quote by Octavia E. Butler “You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence.”
An Excerpt from In the Dark of Winter.
In a field next to an abandoned farmhouse, a salt-and-beer-seasoned ninety-pound hog, its flesh spitting and crackling, rotated over an open fire. Word of mouth had brought this crowd together, a no-frill yearly event in the foothills of Blossom Mountain, twenty kilometres south of Moncton. No signage existed and, year after year, the site was only found by come-by-chance, or through the grapevine. This year was no different. The crowd, eager to sink their teeth into the juicy, roast pig, huddled around the farmhouse, whose sagging roof begged for a new spine.
Early in the evening, Ben Walsh and his wife Maryel drove straight to the party by way of four-wheeler, using backroads and trails. They parked the ATV on Salem Road, behind a thick line of white pines across from the farm. Ben unlatched the tent and sleeping bags from the back of the quad and pitched the tent up, throwing the sleeping bags in it. Then, weighed down by lawn chairs and cooler, they crossed the road and reached the back of the farmhouse.
Ben paused for a moment and stood tall, gazing out at the crowd. The field teemed with hundreds of partiers, their tents, coolers and boom boxes. A roar of laughter and music echoed back as a large wave of new arrivals flooded the pasture. Farther down the field, speakers, resting on mini stages in the sprawling farmland, blared “Magic Bus” by The Who. The drums’ rhythm reverberated through his body, pulling him in. He grabbed Maryel’s hand and they moved downhill, where the music thumped harder.
For the next hour they moved through the crowd, connecting with old friends, making new ones. And although Maryel’s brother, Mike, had insisted on them going to the party, they saw no sign of him.
As the sun set, Ben and Maryel followed a flock of people through a narrow path, crisscrossed with tree roots, that opened up to a gravel pit in the back of the property, closer to a bonfire whose blaze raged against the night. Dozens of people, eyes glowing, sat around the fire, captivated by the flames and its flurry of sparks. The grass was littered with plastic cups and paper plates. In the distance, they heard the beat of ZZ Top’s “Sharp Dressed Man.”
Ben took Maryel’s shoulder and pointed. There was Mike, the only one standing, intoxicated and struggling to keep his balance. The crowd cheered him on as he jumped near the blaze, one minute throwing handfuls of flame-colorant packets, and the next, armloads of deadwood. Mike waved his hands in the air to the beat of “Here for the Party” as if a maestro conducting a Mozart sonata. Girls joined him on the pretend rock stage as the fire strengthened, coughed out flames of blues, green, and hot pink. The inferno intensified, the dancers backed off and the circle of chairs widened.
Ben, nodding to the music, picked a beer can from the cooler. He cracked it open and pushed it down into the mesh cup-holder in Maryel’s chair. He fixed himself a Rum and Coke and watched as Mike, normally shy, continued to dance. Ben wished he had a camcorder to embarrass him later.
With the revelers burning through their booze and drugs, straggling and stumbling near the fire, Ben was happy they’d pitched their tent away from the redneck ball. He was cautious. It was their anniversary, after all. Ten years. Ten challenging years parenting Alec, a problem child, but they had stuck together through it all. This party was just what he and Maryel needed to mark the milestone and unwind. Ben winked at Maryel. Her lips quirked at the corners and she shook her head, eyes scanning his chest. She always got a kick out of the T-shirts he wore. Tonight, the white letters “If found…Please return to the pub” popped against the black fabric. His long, jet-black hair, tied at the nape of his neck, showed his strong jaw.
Party abandoned and holding hands, they walked past the farmhouse and across Salem Road, retiring to the tent. They undressed quickly and he climbed on top, jostling a bit until he was inside her. She gripped him harder, bracing for climax. He felt her nails on the top of his back go deep; Maryel moaned, shuddered.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us Monique. Wishing you all the best in your writing journey.
For all you wonderful readers wanting more information on Monique and her novel, please follow these links:
Amazon: In the Dark of Winter, available in paperback or Kindle.
By all means, feel free to leave a comment.