Canadian crime writer Samantha M Bailey tells The Crime Hub about her debut novel, Woman on The Edge and her top ten Canadian crime fiction authors
Samantha M Bailey is a Toronto-based journalist who has written extensively for Now Magazine, Oxford University Press, and many other publications. She is the co-founder of ‘BookBuzz’, a promotional and interactive author event held in New York City and Toronto that has attracted the attention of prominent publicists, influential media, and bestselling authors. Her sensational debut novel, Woman on the Edge has caused quite a stir. Here’s a taster…
A total stranger on the subway platform whispers, ‘Take my baby’.
She places her child in your arms. She says your name. Then she jumps… _
Morgan has never seen the woman before, and she can’t understand what would cause a person to give away her child and take her own life.
When the police question Morgan, she discovers none of the witnesses can corroborate her version of events. And when they learn recently widowed Morgan longs for a baby of her own, she becomes a suspect.
To prove her innocence, Morgan frantically tries to retrace the last days of the woman’s life. She begins to understand that Nicole Markham believed she and her baby were in danger. Now Morgan might be in danger, too. Was Nicole a new mother struggling with paranoia? Or is something much darker going on?
Woman on the Edge is a pulse-pounding, propulsive debut thriller about the lengths to which a woman will go to protect her baby—even if that means sacrificing her own life.
Q & A
Samantha, was there an event that caused you to come up with the idea for Woman on the Edge?
Yes, it was a single moment six years ago on a Toronto subway platform. I was waiting for the train when a woman holding a newborn caught my eye. Like most writers, I find inspiration in the people and events happening around me. This woman looked tired and frazzled, as many new moms do—as I did—and she was standing so close to the edge of the platform. I wondered what she was thinking, and what her story was.
Then I thought: What if she asked me to take her baby? By the time the train pulled into the station, I’d written the premise for Woman on the Edge on an empty gum pack.
Can you tell us about BookBuzz?
In 2013, I met the most wonderful women in an online writing group, and it was one of those magical connections in which a beautiful friendship is instantly formed.
These two phenomenal authors are Meredith Schorr, who writes hilarious and smart contemporary romantic comedy, and Francine LaSala, who writes brilliant, quirky women’s fiction. I admired their talent and we became close very quickly. The three of us wanted to create an event where authors, readers, and bloggers could come together in a fun, relaxed space and talk about our love of books and cross-promote.
We worked for months and months to create BookBuzz, build the website, gather the other authors interested in participating, and find sponsors to help support the party we had planned. We did our first event in New York City with eight authors, our second in Toronto with ten, and our third back in New York City with nineteen.
We would absolutely love to hold another party with authors and readers of all genres and hope to do so in the future.
Are there particular traits or writing styles that are common to Canadian crime fiction?
That’s an excellent question, and I would have to say no because within the genre of crime fiction there are so many different styles: noir, hard-boiled detective, domestic suspense, psychological thriller, etc. What I can say all Canadian crime fiction shares is extremely strong writing from authors of outstanding talent.
Why are so many novels by Canadian crime writers set outside Canada?
Woman on the Edge takes place in Chicago. Canadian authors need a worldwide stage for our novels, so many of us use locations in the US or elsewhere to appeal to a wide market.
And perhaps because writing crime is a dark venture, we need a separation between our stories and our homes to fully immerse ourselves in our characters’ journeys. However, my next book might be set in Toronto.
I know it’s a tough ask, but who are your top ten Canadian crime writers and why?
It’s a tough ask only because I could fill pages and pages with my favorite Canadian crime writers. Here are the ones I’ve read recently, who I highly recommend, in no particular order.
1 – Shari Lapena
Shari Lapena exploded onto the psychological thriller scene with her debut, The Couple Next Door. Let me tell you, the hype is well-deserved. A New York Times bestseller, it also sold more than a million copies in the UK, was a #1 Canadian bestseller, and a Globe Best Book 2016, among many other fitting accolades. Her three subsequent novels, A Stranger in the House, An Unwanted Guest, and Someone We Know, are just as sensational.
2 – Hannah Mary Mckinnon
Hannah Mary McKinnon’s first suspense novel, The Neighbors, created an international stir when it came out in 2018. Born in the UK, McKinnon then moved to Switzerland before making her home in Oakville, Ontario, where she was CEO of her own start-up. Lucky for her readers, that company didn’t work out as she’d expected and she followed her oldest passion, writing.
Her third novel, Her Secret Son, was both a Toronto Star and Globe & Mail bestseller. I was fortunate enough to read an advanced copy of Sister Dear, coming out May 26, 2020, and it’s stellar. McKinnon is a master at creating very fleshed out, flawed characters you root for, and whose journeys you’re desperate to follow.
3 – Roz Nay
Roz Nay’s astonishing debut, Our Little Secret, was a national bestseller, won the Douglas Kennedy Prize for best foreign thriller in France, and was nominated for both the Kobo Emerging Writer Prize for Mystery and the Arthur Ellis Best First Novel Award. I’m grateful I could read an advanced copy of her second novel, Hurry Home, out July 7, 2020, because it’s remarkable.
Nay writes in that sweet spot between literary and commercial fiction, which is incredibly hard to do, but she makes it seem effortless.
4 – Robyn Harding
An international bestseller, Robyn Harding is the author of three phenomenal thrillers, The Party, Her Pretty Face, and The Arrangement, and her fourth, The Swap, releases June 23, 2020. She was a finalist for the Arthur Ellis award for best crime novel, and her books have been translated into nine languages.
She also wrote and produced the independent film, The Steps, which premiered at The Toronto International Film Festival. Harding is one of my go-to authors.
She tackles difficult subjects with compelling, tantalizing storylines, and captivates with even her darkest of characters.
5 – Jennifer Hillier
Jennifer Hillier is the internationally bestselling author of Jar of Hearts, winner of the Thriller Award for Best Hardcover Novel 2019 and a finalist for the Anthony and Macavity Awards.
The author of Wonderland, The Butcher, Freak, Creep, and the forthcoming Little Secrets, releasing April 21, 2020, Hillier is a superstar of suspense.
I don’t think I’ve ever read as powerful and unforgettable a thriller as Jar of Hearts.
6 – SL Mcinnis
New to the psychological thriller scene, S.L. McInnis is an author to watch. Her debut, Framed, out February 4, 2020, of which I was privileged to read an advanced copy, is crime noir at its best.
With a stunning blend of brilliant psychological suspense and hard-hitting police procedural, this explosive thriller has a cast of vivid, well-developed characters, a gripping, taut plot with twists in every chapter, perfectly placed clues, and a shocking, fully satisfying ending. McInnis has a degree in broadcasting and has worked in public radio and television.
Like Beth, one of the main characters in Framed, she studied music for years.
7 – Marissa Stapley
Marissa Stapley is the internationally bestselling author of three novels, Mating for Life, Things to Do When It’s Raining, and The Last Resort, which have been published around the world and translated into eight languages.
Stapley has taught creative writing and editing at the University of Toronto and Centennial College. Her award-nominated journalism has appeared in newspapers and magazines across North America, including Elle, Reader’s Digest, Today’s Parent, and The Globe & Mail. I fell in love with Stapley’s writing after her debut, Mating for Life. Her novels are emotional and powerful, and The Last Resort is delicious. Who wouldn’t love a chilling suspense set in the Mayan Riviera with a cast of vivid characters?
Stapley is also a huge supporter of commercial fiction in Canada, much appreciated by her fellow authors.
8 – Amy Stuart
Amy Stuart is the #1 bestselling author of two extraordinary novels, Still Mine and Still Water. She was shortlisted for the Arthur Ellis Best First Novel Award and winner of the 2011 Writers’ Union of Canada Short Fiction Competition. Still Mine was a Globe & Mail Best 100 Books of 2016 and was reviewed in the New York Times’ Books “Latest and Best in Crime Fiction” column. Stuart’s writing is stunning, layered, and brilliant, and I can’t wait for her third novel.
9 – Chevy Stevens
Chevy Stevens is synonymous with Canadian crime fiction.
Her debut, Still Missing, was a New York Times bestseller and won the International Thriller Writers Award for Best First Novel.
Her books have been optioned for movies and are published in more than thirty countries. She is the author of six books and counting and is a national treasure.
10 – Catherine McKenzie
I have devoured every single one of Catherine McKenzie’s books. One of Canada’s most beloved authors, McKenzie is also a partner in a litigation boutique in Montreal, where she was born and raised. McKenzie’s novels: Spin, Arranged, Forgotten, Hidden, Smoke, Fractured, The Murder Game, The Good Liar, and I’ll Never Tell are all bestsellers and have been translated into numerous languages. Spin has been optioned for a TV series, and a short film of Arranged won a Canadian National Screen Institute Award. Catherine has also recently collaborated with fantastic authors Jasmine Guillory, Elyssa Friedland, Shawn Klomparens, Randy Susan Meyers, and Kermit Roosevelt III on First Street, a Serial Box Original, out January 8, 2020.
Woman on the Edge by Samantha M Bailey (Headline, £8.99) and publication is 26th November 2019.
Samantha tweets from @SBaileybooks