Decorated Newfoundland author Kevin Major dives head on into the crime fiction genre with his newest work, One For The Rock, one that may inspire a series.
Best-selling author Kevin Major is no stranger to a challenge. He has plied his trade at countless genres across the writing medium – from fiction, non-fiction, poetry and plays.
For his most recent work, lovingly titled One For The Rock, Major delves into a class formerly foreign to him and his catalogue – crime fiction.
Set in St. John’s and featuring an off-beat character and a curious death, One For The Rock is just another triumph for the acclaimed author behind Hold Fast, Found Far and Wide and As Near to Heaven By The Sea.
Major sat down with The Herald to discuss the art of a crime, using Newfoundland and Labrador as a backdrop and developing character.
One For The Rock marks, perhaps shockingly, your first foray into crime fiction in your storied career. Why now?
I’ve enjoyed crime fiction, to some extent. I’m not a veracious reader of crime fiction, but there have been some that I’ve enjoyed quite a bit. I have to give credit to my wife, who has read more crime fiction than I did, and encouraged me to move, at least for this book, in a slightly different direction away from the heavy and serious novels that I had been writing. She said it would also give me a chance to take advantage of my sense of humour. The central character in the story is kind of off-beat and there’s a lot to smile at over the course of the story. It was a lot of fun to write. I was kind of surprised how quickly it went.
You mentioned your off-beat central character Sebastian Synard. The understanding is that there is a depth of humour and levity in this book, considering the central premise. Was that an intent when you began writing, to steer away from a more dark and grim crime story?
I wasn’t really interested in doing a heavy, dark, ultra violent crime novel. Somebody dies, somebody is killed, so obviously there’s violence there, but the main character is not a detective to begin with. He’s a tour guide. This comes about because one of the six people on his tour ends up down the cliff at the bottom of Signal Hill. The focus changes to, was this suicide? Or did somebody else in the group push him? The character, Sebastian, really doesn’t come with a lot of expertise in how to deal with a crime and he kind of bumbles along a good bit of the time. That I thought was kind of charming in itself. Because he was a tour director, it also gave me a chance to explore St. John’s. I thought an ideal reader or a tourist here would want to be entertained, but also learn something about the city.
When you’re developing such an important key central character like Sebastian, you’re really betting on the idea that he will be likable, or at the very least engaging to the reader. Is there pressure that comes with developing an entirely new lead character?
That’s a very key element. You want the reader to connect and see the funny aspect of his offbeat approach to life. You want to sympathize with him when he’s going through some family difficulties. Most of the people who would probably read the book are parents and probably know what he’s dealing with. There’s a dog in the story, and the dog has a very prominent part. Dog lovers maybe will appreciate it as well. But you start with a character and you start with the voice. It’s told in the first person so once I laid down the voice I could take him to any situation and anticipate how he would react to it.
As with many of your works, Newfoundland and Labrador is almost a character in and of itself. Why, in this case, were you so inspired to immerse the reader in St. John’s and the island?
It’s a wonderful place to set any book, but a crime novel, there’s endless possibilities. You could say that generally for Newfoundland and Labrador. You could take the setting and move it anywhere in the province and still come out with a really interesting setting and approach to the novel, the characters that could evolve from outport to the city. I don’t think I’m going to be stuck for possibilities. I didn’t really give it any thought other than to set it in a place that I’m familiar with. St. John’s was right for a good crime fiction.
Based on indications, you seemed to enjoy creating Synard and this fictitious take on St. John’s. Would you be interested in further developing his story? Perhaps creating a series?
If the book was successful my idea would be that I continue on. There would be other Sebastian Synard crime novels. My idea is that his personal life would also develop. His kid will grow older, he may have other love interests and his life would change, but through the books you’ll see an evolution of his life beyond crime … There’s lots of possibilities. I can see it branching out with him into several different directions. You could have all kinds of crimes taking place. We’ll see how it works out. I’ve been pleased with the direction of this book so far, enough that I really want to try a second one.
One For The Rock is available at breakwaterbooks.com and wherever local books are sold.