Death on the Dun

Knowles interviewed by

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Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013. 8:44 pm

The website has published this interview with Paul Knowles:

Meet Paul Knowles:

Paul Knowles is a New Hamburg writer with extensive ties to Stratford and Perth County. He will be one of the featured speakers this Wednesday April 3, 2013, as part of our Mystery Writers Panel.

I've been a writer and editor all my adult life (for more than four decades). Many of my literary efforts have been as a journalist; I recently calculated that I have seen more than 5 million of my words published, most now fortunately lost through the wonders of recycling. I have been a reporter, editor and publisher. Since being offered a buy-out from my full-time job as a publisher/editor in 1996, I have written for many periodicals, some on an ongoing basis (Exchange Magazine, Forever Young, Selections); some sporadically (The Toronto Sun, The Ottawa Citizen; Ontario Gardener Living); some very occasionally (Macleans, Reader's Digest).

I have three mostly inapplicable degrees (B.Th., B.A., M.A.). I am an incorrigible community volunteer, and was awarded the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal for community contributions. Five years ago, my wife, Nancy Knowles, and I founded the New Hamburg Live! Festival of the Arts, and I continue to serve as Executive Director. I also enjoy being guest speaker to garden and community groups and conferences.

For a few years, I wrote a regular (and award-winning!) environmental column for the Stratford Beacon-Herald. I write travel articles, feature stories, business articles, humour columns. I have also written 16 or so books, ranging from three humourous garden books (including Escaping Eden), to humour (Why Is This Doctor Smiling?), to travel, to three or four niche histories (Piecemakers: The Story of the Mennonite Relief Sale), to my most recent book, a murder mystery, "Death on the Dun."I was raised near Tillsonburg, and have lived in New Hamburg for the last three decades or so.

Welcome, Paul. Tell us about your book.

Death on the Dun is a mystery based in a small town not unlike New Hamburg. The protagonist is a lonely, profane and often amusing newspaper owner and editor, who tackled a mysterious death with the help of two new-found friends. The crime is serious, but the book's sub-plots involving letters to the newspaper, conflict with local political leaders, and highly opinionated townspeople are quite funny.

You can find an excerpt of Death on the Dun on my website.

Is this book linked or connected to any other work you've published? If so, how?

Not directly, except that the town and the trade of editor are very much reflective of my own experience. The wild and crazy sex, however, is not.

Was there a specific incident, inspiration or concern that prompted the writing of this book?

My love of mysteries, and an incident of drowning that happened early in my journalistic career, and has morphed into the completely unrecognizable event in the book.

Did the writing of this book surprise you in any way?

Yes, often. In my other books (histories, gardening, travel), the historical figures and the plants do not do surprising things; the characters in Death on the Dun were continually surprising me, doing and saying things I had not at all expected. It was a marvellous and addictive experience.

What do you like best about being a writer?

I'd say having written, but I think Dorothy Parker and a zillion others (I heard it from Peter Gzowski) said it first.. and second, and third, and so on. I love words — their texture, their power. I love it (Dorothy Parker definitely didn't say this) when a literary plan comes together, whether it is a neat and tidy 600-word column, or a novel. And I love the entirely contradictory feelings of freedom and of entrapment that being a writer – with deadlines – brings.

Is there anything about becoming a published author that you didn't expect?

The riches and fame. Okay, no. The sheer satisfaction of making words work.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Write. Read. Write some more. I have met many "aspiring writers" who don't write, they simply want to. And I once talked to a group of journalism students who didn't read any journalistic publications. Wrong on all counts.

What's next for you and your writing?

A current project is "The River Rolls", a musical presentation based in the roots of Waterloo Region, written with composers Charlene Nafziger and Mike Erb, and about to be released as a CD, on line, and in performances this fall. I am also working on a fourth garden book, and a second mystery novel with the same characters.

Is there a local connection for your book(s)?

Dunford is very much based on New Hamburg.

Where can readers buy your book locally?

If you bug Bob at Fanfare Books, he knows where to find me. Sadly, our beloved Upper Case Books in New Hamburg is no more.

Is there a particular place in Stratford you like to write? Why?

I write in my office, which is in the basement of our New Hamburg home. It's messy, and full of stuff I like — books, music (I'm listening to gospel by Denise Pelley and Vicki St. Pierre as I type this), with easy access to the wine cellar.

Do you belong to a writers' group, locally or elsewhere?

No — no good reason, just no.

Do you teach writing workshops? If so, when and where?

Only very occasionally, when invited.

What do you think is the best resource in the area for writers and aspiring writers?

I'm pretty hopeful about Stratford Authors.

Is there one thing you'd like to see added to our community? Why?

I was the last chairperson of the Stratford Book Festival; it died because publishers wouldn't cooperate and send authors to the event. Our experiences with people like Paul Quarrington, Robert Sawyer, Pierre Berton, Jane Urquhart and many others was terrific, and I miss it. I doubt it is possible to revive it, because of the changed circumstances in publishing, but I wish we could.

Why do you live and write in Stratford/Perth County?

I don't, but I am close... New Hamburg. And, striving desperately for relevance, I attend Thamesview United Church in Fullarton, where my wife, Nancy, is the minister.

Any other comments you'd like to make?

Writing is the best thing. I have occasionally tried other ventures (most recently a six-month stint as sales manager for an adult lifestyle community) and I immediately realize that when I leave writing, I am NOT doing what I love. Writing may not pay a ton of money, but the rewards are terrific, and the compulsion must be assuaged. And when, from time to time, you sit and read a sentence or a paragraph, and smile because it is just right... that's living.

Connect Online!

Paul's websites

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In paperback from EGP (send a cheque for $15 to English Garden Publishers, 170 Shade Street, New Hamburg, Ontario N3A 4J2, with your name and address, and we will ship the book immediately) or

As a pdf e-book (send a cheque for $5 for English Garden Publishers, at the above address, along with your email, and we will email the pdf e-book to you immediately).

For a menu of some of Paul's other books, see our "What's New?" page.


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