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Ron Corbett: On the Way Characters Can Surprise Us

Bestselling author Ron Corbett discusses the way his characters evolved throughout the writing process of his new mystery novel, The Sweet Goodbye.

Ron Corbett is a writer, journalist, broadcaster, and cofounder of Ottawa Press and Publishing. A lifelong resident of Ottawa, Ron’s writing has won numerous awards, including two National Newspaper Awards. He has been a full-time columnist with both the Ottawa Citizen and the Ottawa Sun.

He is the author of seven nonfiction books, including Canadian bestseller The Last Guide, and the critically acclaimed First Soldiers Down, about Canada’s military deployment to Afghanistan. The first book in his Frank Yakabuski mystery series was nominated for the Best Paperback Original Edgar® Award. Learn more at roncorbettbooks.com. Find him on Twitter and Facebook.

Ron Corbett: On the Way Characters Can Surprise Us

Ron Corbett

In this post, Ron discusses the way his characters evolved throughout the writing process of his new mystery novel, The Sweet Goodbye, his advice for other writers, and more!

Name: Ron Corbett
Literary agent: Gail Hochman (Brandt & Hochman Literary Agents)
Book title: The Sweet Goodbye
Publisher: Berkley
Release date: April 19, 2022
Genre/category: Mystery-thriller
Previous titles: Ragged Lake, Cape Diamond, Mission Road, The Last Guide, First Soldiers Down
Elevator pitch for the book: A gritty, noir story that plays out in a forgotten America. Memorable villains, a twisting plot, and a hero with as much brain as brawn.

Ron Corbett: On the Way Characters Can Surprise Us

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What prompted you to write this book?

I have written three novels based in the Northern Divide, a real place in Northern Canada which I fictionalized. This is a new series, with a new character—Danny Barrett—but it is very much an extension of my previous work. This was the next book.

How long did it take to go from idea to publication? And did the idea change during the process?

The idea changed a great deal during the process. Most of the changes were suggestions from my agent, Gail Hochman. One of the last rewrites, for example, switched the narration to first person, which changed the feel of the story a great deal.

The characterization changed throughout the process. There is a strong female lead in the story, Pearl Lafontaine, and her character was always a work in progress. Pearl became one of the most important characters in the story during the writing process.

Ron Corbett: On the Way Characters Can Surprise Us

Were there any surprises in the writing process for this book?

I’m tempted to give the same answer, but the character of Pearl Lafontaine truly was a surprise, how integral she became to the story. The very last section of the story does an odd switch in narration, doesn’t end with my main character, and that was another surprise. That I got away with that. I was expecting an editor to call me on it.

What do you hope readers will get out of your book?

I hope they get a good story, well told. It’s what I always hope.

If you could share one piece of advice with other writers, what would it be?

Hemingway was once asked what the hardest part about writing a novel was. He answered—“Finishing the damn thing.” It’s true. The hardest thing about writing is finishing your story.

Never a problem starting one. So, don’t get discouraged, don’t over-think what you’re doing. You’re a writer. Finish your story.

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