Thursday, April 24, 2014

A Conversation with Mystery Author Nicola Furlong

Omnimystery News: Author Interview with Nicola Furlong
with Nicola Furlong

We are delighted to welcome author Nicola Furlong to Omnimystery News today.

Nicola's newly reissued murder mystery, Teed Off! (Oak Tree Press; January 2014 trade paperback and ebook formats) features golfer and part-time coroner Riley Quinn in a complex and engrossing murder mystery and a complicated and poignant family dynamic while also providing a fascinating glimpse into professional golf.

We recently had the opportunity to talk with Nicola about her books.

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Omnimystery News: Teed Off! was first published in 1996. Tell us a little more about the books you've written since then, and how you decide whether they are stand-alones or part of a series.

Nicola Furlong
Photo provided courtesy of
Nicola Furlong

Nicola Furlong: This is a great question, one that I've often pondered. In the mid-nineties, I wanted to write a murder mystery series starring a professional sportswoman for two reasons. One, I've devoured whodunits ever since my English father introduced me to the old green Penguin paperbacks. Two, growing up sports crazy in the sixties and seventies I lacked role models. I was game to change that, if only in fiction.

At the time, women were paid athletes in tennis and golf. Didn't take more than a wink to recognize that eighteen holes offers terrific locations for dastardly deeds. Why, even Dame Agatha plotted a murder on the links. When I discovered British Columbia allowed part-time, non-medically trained coroners, my club pro Riley Quinn swung into view in Teed Off!

I had ideas, plots and themes ready for a sequel, but something happened.

I heard about a local child committing suicide by hanging, and that image scorched into my brain, tearing my thoughts from the expansive, manicured greens, down into the messy, claustrophobic bleakness of shame. Months later, my dark suspense thriller, A Hemorrhaging of Souls, starring a soft-hearted cop and a haunted psychologist, was published.

I had notes and topics for a follow-up mystery novel, when — you guessed it — another image caught my fancy. Within hours, I was plotting a supernatural thriller, headlined by a rock star stigmatic, and Unnatural States took over my writing stage.

A couple of years later, I lucked into a divine gig writing six light-hearted mystery novels, part of Guideposts' "Church Choir Mysteries" series, and broke the sequel curse. Now that I've got the hang of it, I'm pruning the second novel in my new inspirational women's fiction series (Sisterhood of Shepherds).

Bottom line: I wish I had written the sequels for my first and second mysteries. I really enjoy the characters and looked forward to rejoining their appealing lives. If I had, however, it's possible my singing sensation John the Apostle and my spiritual gardener Charly Shepherd wouldn't have blossomed. So, guess I'll just keep zigzagging along.

OMN: Describe your writing process.

NF: Though I love surprises and unexpected twists and turns, I'm a very practical writer. I find to successfully meet the rigours within the mystery genre, it pays to follow a theme, to think the main plot scenes through and to fashion the clues and red herrings before the first draft.

Once I've nailed that, the secondary themes and plots evolve as I attempt to reinforce, echo or counter my main through-line. It's easy to become distracted or swayed to follow another plot or character, which may or may not improve the story, so I prefer doing this while germinating ideas rather than when actually writing. I know basic bits about my characters before the first draft, but I enjoy learning more as they come alive at my fingertips.

OMN: What are some of your hobbies or outside interests? And have any of these found their way into your books?

NF: I'm very athletic and love digging in the dirt so it's not surprising that my first sleuth Riley Quinn is a professional athlete, that my first cop Sergeant Patrick Painter is a gardening buff, and that my latest lead character Charly Shepherd owns a plant nursery. My best ideas spring to life while I'm on my own wheeling round my seaside peninsula or deadheading in my cottage garden. Both sports and gardening offer themes, expressions and histories that add layers and complexities to my stories, allowing me to dig deeper and broaden the psychological makeup of my characters.

OMN: What is the best advice — and harshest criticism — you've received as an author? And what might you tell aspiring writers?

NF: Best advice received: keep reading and studying other authors, and not just those in your field. Harshest criticism: ridiculed in 2009 for combining audio and visual interactive elements to my online thriller Unnatural States. Best advice for aspiring authors: find and heed the advice of a knowledgeable, professional editor, and don't give up.

OMN: Tell us how Teed Off! came to be titled.

NF: The title, which came early in the writing, fits my story like a glove, given that the novel has a golf backdrop, as a fiction title at the time, it was unique, the expression itself is short and evocative, and most importantly, the phrase represented the attitude of my lead character Riley Quinn. She is angry, having experienced an injury that ended her stint on the professional women's tour, tormented by her older sister's continued Hall of Fame golf career, and struggling to adapt to life as a lowly club pro in her hometown. Thank heavens for her new part-time job as a coroner. It offers her a striking new career and fulfills her needs for competition and order.

OMN: You've adapted two of your books into screenplays. What was that process like?

NF: I've adapted both of my murder mysteries, Teed Off! and A Hemorrhaging of Souls, to screenplays. The process was extremely interesting, the page format challenging, and my dialogue and pacing skills improved. I adapted Teed Off! first, which was tricky as the story is told through the eyes of my coroner/golfer. First person narrative offers tremendous advantages in books, allowing the writer and reader to be inside the character's head and to closely experience her life. It is, however, problematic in a screenplay, unless you use the old crutch of character voiceover. I didn't want to, so spent much time reshaping the story line to offer other viewpoints.

Given that screenplays are generally no more than 100 pages, each containing few words, I learned to focus on the main plotline, reduce or combine characters, and reimagine each scene. Understanding that a screenplay is merely the movie's skeleton is humbling. Less is more, which can be an eye opener if your writing tends toward narrative or interior monologues. Unfortunately, despite being optioned, there are no movies yet. Bummer!

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Nicola Furlong pens mystery and inspirational novels, creates interactive books for the iPad, podcasts about genre writing ("The Novel Experience"), and teaches electronic publishing, when she's not playing Old-Timer's hockey, growing blossoms and bamboo or eating chocolate fudge. She has also written a gardening guide for the West Coast and has adapted two of her novels to screenplays; both were optioned for television.

The co-creator of Quillr®, a multimedia storytelling platform, Nicola gardens in a small town on southern Vancouver Island, BC.

For more information about the author, please visit her website at or find her on Facebook and Pinterest.

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Teed Off! by Nicola Furlong

Teed Off!
Nicola Furlong
A Riley Quinn Mystery

When coroner Riley Quinn tees off an investigation into the suspicious death of her boss and brother-in-law, she finds herself sand-wedged by a villainous environmental group, a mysterious Japanese consortium and her estranged sister.

In order to catch a cunning and ruthless murderer, Riley must face a nasty past she thought dead and buried.

The chocoholic club pro quickly discovers that not all bad lies are on the golf course; unfortunately, sometimes they’re much closer to home. Print/Kindle Format(s) Print/Nook Format(s)


  1. Love reading about your writing and how you've "zigzagged along," following the call of your heart!

    1. Thank you, Sara. I'm so glad my zigzagging progress makes sense to you. You're right. I was following my heart. Cheers!

  2. Wonderful post, Nicola!

    And I adore that title!

    1. Hi Autumn,
      Thank you so much for taking the time to read my little ditty and to comment. Greatly appreciate it. So glad you liked the title. It suits my Riley so well. Cheers!

  3. Nicola, one of the things that really stood out to me in Teed Off! was how well you nailed the setting--and the characters' response to that setting. Riley loves BC, and seeing it through her eyes made me want to visit.

    1. Hi Janet,
      How kind of you to comment so positively. Thank you. I'm so pleased you found the setting a strong character. Riley adores her home province and why not? It's fab. Come visit!

  4. Great interview Nicki. I am pulling the original copy off the shelf to read again. Need it signed. Can't believe it has been that long since you wrote it.

    Carol Ann (Charlie)

    Carol Ann (charlie)



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Lance Wright owns and manages Omnimystery, a Family of Mystery Websites, which had its origin as Hidden Staircase Mystery Books in 1986. As the scope of the business expanded, first into book reviews — Mysterious Reviews — and later into information for and reviews of mystery and suspense television and film, all sites were consolidated under the Omnimystery brand in 2006.

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