Chocolate, Murder and Mayhem

By Judee Fong

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An avid hockey player, chocolate lover, enthusiastic gardener and mystery writer, Nicola Furlong admits she is also the sixth of eight brothers and sisters, who stay closely connected. “There are eight furlongs in a mile, and I like telling people I’m from a mile of Furlongs!”

Books played a large role in the Furlong family.

“My father was a voracious reader and a great mystery fan who started all of his kids on John Dickson Carr, Ngaio Marsh, Rex Stout and Erle Stanley Gardner,” says Nicola. “It’s probably a bygone era now, but we found the books quite exciting. Before these writers, I would read my brothers’ Hardy Boys series and ignored the Nancy Drew books that were too fluffy.”

Working as a consultant on environmental issues, a policy writer for the federal government and writing grant proposals for others, Nicola began using her spare time to write a successful series of six books, recently re-released in large print, called The Church Choir mysteries, featuring Gracie Parks.

“It was my divine gig, and I really enjoyed writing them! I thought at the time this may be a niche for me to get into - lighthearted, interesting, fast-paced, an easy read,” she says.

Instead, Nicola wrote more intense murder mysteries such as Teed-Off, A Hemorrhaging of Souls and Thy Will Be Done.

Story ideas can come from anywhere - newspapers, television news or everyday life. “What works for me is either an image or an emotion. The seed of an idea starts germinating while I’m biking or gardening. If someone is experiencing a death or a tragic accident, I do the old ‘what if’ thing and how it affects that person. There’s a lot of stuff that grabs your attention, but whether or not it has the legs to become a novel, you have to work your way through it to find out,” she says.

In each of her books, Nicola has fun researching activities that may involve her characters. For instance, in her psychological thriller of murder and mayhem, A Hemorrhaging of Souls, she says, “I took music lessons and found I couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket, but my protagonist Tempest Ivory studies to become an aspiring opera singer! I wanted her to have another life that’s totally different from solving murders.”

Nicola feels one of the perks of researching is discovering new people such as her recent conversation with an ethnobiologist who spoke about 1,000-year-old bones or reading about Wendy Morton, the P.I. Poet featured in Senior Living magazine. Conversely, she believes the “downside” of research is that it can easily distract a writer and lead to information overload. So, Nicola adheres to a strict schedule of writing three hours a day before fleeing to her garden, biking through her neighbourhood or searching for chocolate, preferably fudge.

A departure from her murder mysteries, Nicola’s next book, *Sisterhood of Shepherds*, will be a heartwarming and inspirational journey of discovery, heartache, humour and redemption revolving around three sisters, Faith, Hope and Charly Shepherd.

“It’s been an interesting challenge to modify my writing and to try a different genre,” says Nicola.

One of Nicola’s non-writing passions is ice hockey. “I absolutely adore it! I’m in a fortunate position where I get to play three times a week with an all-men’s team. They’re all retired, in their 60s and annually compete in ‘Old-timers Hockey.’ I dedicate my fall/winter to playing ice hockey. I’m too young to play in their tournaments, but I get to play with them all the other times.”

Pondering the possibility of a hockey playing protagonist or a hockey mystery, Nicola decides the story will “have to be something different with a new twist.”

Flying off the online bookshelves, Nicola’s *Youdunit Whodunit: How to Write Mysteries* is a fascinating, easy-to-digest primer written for any writer, regardless of genre because the tips given are usable for any form of fiction writing. Her latest online primer is called *Self Publish Your eBook in Minutes*. Through Camosun College, this active lady teaches mystery writing and offers a popular ePublishing workshop. Her entertaining website/blog, is filled with tips, excerpts and timely interviews with current Canadian mystery writers. And, somewhere in her busy schedule, she self-promotes and markets her cleverly crafted murder mysteries.

“I’m not a gregarious, outgoing, shake-your-hand kind of person,” says Nicola. “I’ve had to push myself to do it. I’ve never walked into a room without thinking about what I’ll say and what I’m likely to be asked.” She adds, “It’s like the ‘elevator pitch.’ When you see an editor in the elevator with you, you want to be ready with the three-minute pitch for your book.”

For the 21st century, Nicola believes the trend will move to online books, read on electronic readers rather than paper books.

“Because there are more inexpensive electronic readers available, people buying them are committed to reading ebooks, creating a definite demand and market for them. Enhanced books like my multimedia *Quillr* created for my website two years ago was really ahead of the times,” she says.

“Publishers are slowly producing books with multimedia capabilities and that will be the next wave of books in demand.”

Fueled by chocolates and whipped into shape by cycling, walking, ice hockey and growing poppies, Nicola creates satisfying mysteries that are thoroughly researched and carefully plotted to delight armchair detectives everywhere.



Nicola Furlong’s books can be purchased on online bookstores or by emailing her at

An excerpt from Sisterhood of Shepherds can be viewed on Nicola’s blog/website at where she scopes out the crime scenes, scoops interviews on mystery writers and offers tips on writing that great Canadian murder mystery.

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Showing 1 to 1 of 1 comments.

Very interesting read; Nicola Furlong is a charming person and this interview brings that out. I've heard her speak twice and she is a technological leader in book publishing.

Good job Judee!

Posted by Caroline Mufford | October 5, 2010 Report Violation

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