Thursday, March 7, 2024

Q&A with Loreth Anne White



Loreth Anne White is the author of the new novel The Unquiet Bones. Her many other books include the novel The Maid's Diary. She lives in Canada's Pacific Northwest.


Q: The Unquiet Bones was inspired by an actual case--can you say more about that?


A: There were actually several real events that came together to inspire the story of The Unquiet Bones, but the pivotal one was indeed a true crime: the 1976 murder of 16-year-old Rhona Duncan, who was assaulted and killed within sight of her house after walking home from a party with a friend at night.


Rhona was murdered in North Vancouver (Canada). At the time it was a very quiet, peaceful, and “safe” neighborhood, and not far from where I myself lived and attended school when I was just a little younger than the victim. I recall the area well, and the kids of that period.


Even though police still periodically revisit her case, and Rhona’s boyfriend and close friends plus hundreds of others have been questioned—and DNA samples taken—to this day, Rhona’s case remains unsolved. 


While my fictional case is completely different from Rhona Duncan’s tragic murder, it grew out of pondering what might have happened, and how a young teen could be raped and killed right outside her parents’ home in a safe neighborhood without leaving a clue as to who did it.


Q: How did you create your characters Jane Munro and Ella Quinn, and how would you describe the dynamic between them?


 A: Through detective Jane Munro I wanted to explore the various emotions and trauma that arise from a lack of closure.


I also wanted—through Jane—to examine the unique ambiguous grief—or grief limbo--that comes from being forced to live with the idea that you might never get an answer about a missing or deceased loved one. I wanted to show how this limbo can shape lives.  


Jane’s personal circumstances give her a deeply empathetic understanding of the people—the victims—involved in her cases. Her own tragedy also feeds a particularly fierce determination in Jane, because fighting for closure for others becomes a way of fighting for some kind of closure herself, some reason to keep going.

Q: How did you research the novel, and did you learn anything that especially surprised you?


A: I read several books by forensic anthropologists and I took online workshops as well as attended online discussions and explorations of various cold cases.


The study of bones is endlessly fascinating. I remain intrigued by how much our bones—the last things we tend to leave behind—can tell others about who we were, and how we lived, and sometimes how we died.


Right down to little details like whether we were breastfed or not, and until when. And whether we were vegetarian or ate an omnivorous diet. And sometimes even where we lived.


For the police procedural angle I built on years of research that ranges from reading law enforcement manuals on how to investigate homicides and cold cases in particular, to stints at the Writers’ Police Academy, to visiting various police departments across the US, including a session at the FBI’s famous training and research center at Quantico.


I also covered the crime beat for a period when I was a journalist, and I have done camps with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police dog handlers and Search & Rescue volunteers.


Q: What do you hope readers take away from the story?


A: My hope is always that readers will take whatever they need to from one of my stories. Every reader is unique. Each person brings to a story all their own feelings and past and present circumstances, and while certain things might resonate for some, they may not for others.


While some readers will see deeper layers and echoes, others will be happier to read a story on a more surface level. There’s no right or wrong way! It’s what I love about stories—they’re interactive that way.


Q: This is the first in a series--can you say anything about what's coming next?


A: Next in the Munro & Quinn lineup are two novellas. In the first novella Jane is pushed into taking maternity leave a little earlier that she really wants to. However, it also provides her with an opportunity to partner with forensic anthropologist Dr. Ella Quinn on a much older forensic mystery, and it becomes a cold case/murder that hits home for Jane in a very personal and profound way.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: I’m also excited by a novel I have releasing Sept. 10. It’s called The Swimmer, and while The Unquiet Bones is more of a procedural/mystery meshed with a psychological suspense component, The Swimmer leans more heavily into the psychological or “domestic” suspense/thriller territory.


I’m hoping readers who loved The Maid’s Diary will love that one, too.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Loreth Anne White.

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