“I’ve heard and read so many stories about people – what brings them together and what keeps them apart,” says Deborah Griffiths, executive director of the Courtenay and District Museum since 1992. “It seemed like a natural progression.”
Creating exhibit storylines and applying for grants is an art Griffiths has mastered well. But last year she decided to take elements of what she’d discovered in various museum archives, twist them around and explore the world of fiction.
Her first novel, Good Deeds – Bad Deeds, is now available as a print or ebook.
Throughout her 37-years in the museum industry Griffiths absorbed the stories of communities based on resource extraction, the growing pains often experienced by small towns and the heartbeat of it all — the people who live and work, and sometimes love and lie, in rural areas.
Good Deeds – Bad Deeds takes place in Boundary Country, a region comprised of south central B.C. and north central Washington. Griffiths knows the territory well from her years at the Kelowna Museum.
She started with two characters and let the story take off from there.
Abby Wells, now town planner for Coulter City, left San Francisco and heartbreak behind when she moved back home. So she’s caught off-guard by the “the samba in the heart” generated by Jack Fraser.
Fraser’s dealing with his own baggage and unprepared when it comes to revelations about his past. When small-town politics and development set the stage for the telling of family secrets, blackmail and mystery, the couple’s relationship takes a nosedive.
“I liked the people part of it — developing the characters and having them work out their challenges by the end of the book,” says Griffiths. “But as much as I liked Abby and Jack, I had the most fun writing about the villain.”
The landscape is a big part of the story, too.
“I really enjoy exploring how people behave in certain landscapes and the influence it has on them and what they do,” says Griffiths.
Her biggest challenge was letting go of the facts that have been the basis of her entire career.
“At the museum we usually require at least three original sources for anything we write,” she explains. It was a challenge to move out of that environment.”
Griffiths devised a way to trick herself into writing faster and more freely by turning off her monitor whenever she felt self-editing was slowing progress.
“I was really surprised how the word count went up,” she says. “When I turned the monitor back on, I’d go back and correct any typos.”
Good Deeds – Bad Deeds is part of a Boundary Country series that will involve some, but not all, characters in each book. Griffiths is already three-quarters of the way through book two, Snow on the Monashee.
Initially Griffiths classed the series as romance/suspense, but by the end of Good Deeds she knew she liked suspense the best. She expects to release Snow on the Monashee next summer.
Griffiths, who publishes fiction under her maiden name, Deborah Anne Greene, self-published Good Deeds.
“I want to get a couple of books under my belt before approaching a publisher,” she says. “And the whole indie publishing industry is interesting as it allows all sorts of people to express themselves in a variety of ways.”
Griffiths recently explored another aspect of that herself with the release of The Grant Seeker’s Helper: The Little Book of Grants for Big Community Dreams.
“I wrote it as a guide for non-profit organizations and communities that don’t have large budgets but have great ideas to improve their community. A lot of them depend on grants to get the funding they need.
“I wrote this primer because I’ve worked with communities and organizations with little or no experience in grant writing,” she adds. “Funders want to make things work for communities. If you have a true and compelling story for a project that makes your community a better place to live, funders are interested. It’s why they’re there.”
When asked how she juggled museum work, a novel and a non-fiction handbook over the course of a year, Griffiths replies, “I live in a quiet area and have a supportive family. And I’m a contractor, so am used to working to deadlines.
Good Deeds and The Grant Seeker’s Helper are available on amazon.com and Kindle. For more information about Good Deeds – Bad Deeds and Snow on the Monashee, visit www.deborahannegreene.com.
Paula Wild is a published author and regular contributor to the Comox Valley Record’s arts and entertainment section. www.paulawild.ca.