The Chronicle-Journal

(Thunder Bay), July 7, 2005

Brenda was interviewed by the Chronicle-Journal while visiting Thunder Bay in July 2005. The article was written by Stephanie MacLellan.

Growing up in Terrace Bay, Brenda Chapman loved reading Nancy Drew stories and other mysteries. So she knows how much kids love tagging along with a young sleuth through the pages of a book, imagining themselves in the middle of a mystery.

“I think it’s the puzzle, and the suspense,” she said. “They put themselves right in the book, and identify with the protagonist. They think, what would I be doing?”

Growing up in Terrace Bay, Brenda Chapman loved reading Nancy Drew stories and other mysteries. So she knows how much kids love tagging along with a young sleuth through the pages of a book, imagining themselves in the middle of a mystery.

“I think it’s the puzzle, and the suspense,” she said. “They put themselves right in the book, and identify with the protagonist. They think, what would I be doing?”

When Chapman’s daughters, Lisa and Julia, were about 12 and nine years old, she wanted to give them that experience. She had worked as a special education teacher, and she also dabbled in poetry and short story writing when she studied English at Lakehead University.

But this would be the first time she tried her hand at writing a novel.
The result was Running Scared, the story of 13-year-old Jennifer Bannon and her search for the driver behind a mysterious hit-and-run, who she fears might be her long-asbsent father.

“They really liked it,” Chapman said. “So I thought maybe I’d try to get it published.”

The book was eventually picked up by Napoleon Publishing, where it’s garnered praise from critics and readers young and old.

“I’ve had great feedback from the kids who have read it, and adults too,” she said.

A lot of that centres on the character of Jennifer, who has been praised as a strong female protagonist that girls can look up to.

“I wanted her to be a strong character,” Chapman said. “I wanted her to have a strong set of values, and to be in a situation that’s difficult, with a lot of challenges, but to show that kids could overcome them.”

Chapman also wanted her young readers to be able to relate to the heroine. In addition to figuring out a mystery, Jennifer has to come to grips with slipping grades, problems with her best friend, and her parents’ break-up, which means she must care for her younger sister while her mother works.

“When I was writing the book, I was teaching, and one of the kids’ parents were splitting up,” Chapman said.

Chapman is still working in communications for Health Canada, but her career as a short story writer and novelist isn’t slowing down. She has a mystery story for adults in a compilation called When Boomers Go Bad, and the sequel to Running Scared, Hiding in Hawk’s Creek, is expected in the spring of 2006.

In the new story, Jennifer goes to live with her grandmother in the fictional town of Hawk’s Creek, which Chapman based on the Terrace Bay area.

“In my mind, it’s the north,” she said. “I think there are lots of stories up here to be told. I’ve realized through writing mysteries, woods and forests can be a good place, but also a frightening place.”

Even though she lives in Ottawa now, Chapman comes to visit her family in Thunder Bay and Schreiber every year or two. Her connections to the area still run deep, so it’s little wonder it shows up in her writing.

“I think the north is always in your blood, even when you move away,” she said.

Brenda Chapman will be signing copies of Running Scared at Coles in the Intercity Shopping Centre today at 7 p.m.


© 2005 The Thunder Bay Chronicle Journal. All rights reserved.

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"Deeply atmospheric and tightly plotted, Cold Mourning is Chapman’s sharpest mystery yet.” ― C.B. Forrest, author of the Charlie McKelvey mysteries

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