Welcome to the first stop on the brand-new, just been released Secrets Blog Tour 2015! I’m so pleased to kick things off today with an interview with series founder and recent Order of Canada recipient Eric Walters (Innocent), and the chance to win a boxed set of all seven books! See below for details.
For those of you familiar with the Seven Series, you may notice something a little different this time around. Instead of Norah McClintock being the female voice with six male colleagues, Eric Walter takes on the role as the literal ‘odd man out’ this time. Joining Eric and Norah for this adventure are some of the best authors Canada has produced, including Teresa Toten, Kelley Armstrong, Kathy Kacer, Marthe Jocelyn and Vicki Grant.
New to the series? Want to learn more? Visit http://www.readthesecrets.com, and keep a look out for all seven of these authors as they tour together during the first two weeks of the series release. This is the perfect time to dive in – just pick a book, any book and get reading, because there are secrets to discover!
After the orphanage she lives in is destroyed by fire, Betty, an innocent and trusting teen, takes a job as a maid in Kingston, Ontario. Welcomed into the household of the wealthy Remington clan, Betty makes friends with the staff at the house and soon discovers that her mother had also been a maid there—and that her father is in a nearby jail, convicted of murdering her mother.
When she meets her father, she is taken aback by his claims of innocence, and she decides to try to uncover the truth about her mother’s murder and her father’s conviction. A friendly young policeman assists her in her investigation (and shows an interest in Betty that is more romantic than professional). But all is not well in the Remington household, and someone doesn’t want Betty to learn the truth.
Q: Eric, you’ve been the motivation behind the original Seven series, the sequels and now this – how did this series come about?
EW: It was actually Teresa Toten who came up with the main premise of this series. She came up with the idea of the orphanage, and then she and I worked from there, working up the scene of the fire. We actually wrote the chapters in our books related to that simultaneously, sitting side by side in Calgary. We just sat down a couple of evenings and wrote them.
Q: That’s pretty amazing, actually! There is a point in the book where your characters do ‘connect’ in a way (no spoilers!).
EW: That’s right. Teresa’s character and my character have some contact – what was actually nice about setting the books in 1964 was that we didn’t have cell phones or telephone calls, text messages, Facebook, Twitter, Skype or any of the things that would normally get in the way of a mystery. Our characters have a couple of letter exchanges, but that’s it. It allowed the characters to go their separate ways quite distinctly, and to very different places.
In the Seven series, we had to account for certain contact – in the Sequels as well, where they contacted and texted each other, but this was cleaner. We got to leave faster. Originally, some of the other writers wanted more time together at the orphanage, but we agreed that it just couldn’t happen. The characters needed to get out and away and into their own stories.
Q: I’ve read five so far… they are really diverse!
EW: Yes, they are. From the Holocaust, to psychic powers to civil rights – they are incredibly diverse. I just wanted to do a straight mystery, with a little twinge of romance in there.
Q: Why Kingston? As someone who’s spent a fair amount of time there, you really captured the feel of the city.
EW: Why not? I was doing the Kingston Writer’s Festival when I wrote some of it. I did wander around Kingston and I took pictures – I took pictures of where the murder took place, I found the cemetery site where Sir John A. MacDonald is buried, I found some mansions … I found things that fit the character.
I have lots of pictures that I took and that I’ll integrating into my presentations. I always have pictures of everything.
Q: What about your experiences with the penitentiary?
EW: Oh the conditions were brutal. It was a pretty awful place to be, and the major murderers were kept in Kingston. They were treated really badly, and the visitations happened like they do in my book.
Q: What about the people? The Remingtons are very different from Betty – and I really liked what you did with Ritchie (no spoilers). He plays a pivotal role in the story.
EW: I had fun with him. I liked him. I thought he was a nice, gentle person, and the way that he treated the birds – I just believe you treat animals nice then you’re probably a nice person. Readers will have to make up their own minds about him.
Q: What about Betty? Did you always have an idea for her, or did she come up in discussions?
EW: Betty was my mother’s name. I also made the decision to have the character the same age as I was when my mother died. It was emotional at times, writing that character and write those scenes. She has a lot of her qualities.
I’m writing a lot of dead mothers lately – there’s two more in the books I’m writing right now!
Q: Do you see this series continuing?
EW: I don’t think so … there isn’t really a prequel that we can do since they started out at the orphanage, and I think I’ve left Betty in a pretty good place. I think this is the end of her story. Some of the other authors may want to continue with their characters, but I’m happy with how I’ve left things.
Q: How was the process different this time?
EW: It was different in a lot of ways, but just as wonderful. There was a little more process this time, but I’m good friends with a number of them already so we adjusted quickly. They are a really talented group of writers.
Q: Tell me a little about the tour.
EW: We’ve worked really hard to arrange this. We have six days, eighty-four schools and six evening events with independent bookstores, plus we have a number of events at twenty local Chapter’s stores in between. It’s pretty phenomenal, and the support from schools and independent bookstores and Chapter’s has been great. Can’t wait.
Q: Thanks, Eric! Can’t wait for the Secrets to hit the shelves.
Innocent takes us from the smoking ruins of the orphanage to the bustling streets of Kingston, Ontario, where Betty Shirley has been sent to take up a position of service with the Remington family. She quickly feels at home with them, but is soon startled to discover that her past is not as hidden as she might have believed. The story moves quickly, as Betty discovers more about her history and that of her mother and father, aided in her sleuthing by the dashing Officer David Gibson.
Betty/Elizabeth Anne is sweet, compassionate and honest to a fault. She’s a little naive from growing up in the orphanage, and only wants to find some part of her past but this doesn’t make her a pushover. She can be determined and single-minded, and she is willing to brave some uncomfortable – and even dangerous – situations to find the truth. I grew to admire Betty and her desire to find out the truth about her mother’s death, even knowing that the knowledge might not be something she wanted to hear. I appreciated how kind she was with Ritchie, spending time with him and with his birds, even when we as readers might have had our qualms.
Walters has written a fast-paced mystery that includes some wonderful details that bring Kingston to life. As the mystery surrounding Betty’s past deepens, you can feel the small-town curiosity closing in and it adds an extra dimension to the unease you already feel for Betty. The ending is swift and a little shocking, and there are some darker moments that I wasn’t prepared for, but it was an absorbing read.
Innocent was a great start to the series (although you can read them in any order), and sparked my interest to keep reading the rest of the books.
Now it’s your turn – for a chance to win a boxed set of all seven books in the #Secrets series, leave a comment below and tell me what secret would shock you most right now!
UPDATE: the winner has been selected and notified – thank you to everyone who entered!
Innocent and the other books in the Secrets series were provided by Orca Books for the Blog Tour. They are available for purchase from your favourite book retailer as of today! Be sure to stop by the other blogs on the tour for more interviews and reviews, including a return to Lost in a Great Book for Marthe Jocelyn’s Q&A!