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Write On Ottawa: Latest novel in Sgt. Windflower police series is ambitious

By Alejandro Bustos on July 23, 2015

Since releasing his first novel in 2012, Ottawa-based writer Mike Martin has been charming mystery fans with his entertaining Sgt. Windflower detective series.

Set in Martin’s native Newfoundland, the series of four books (and counting) follow the adventures of Sgt. Winston Windflower, a Cree man from northern Alberta who has been posted by the RCMP to Canada’s most easterly province.

The enjoyable collection offers an intimate look into small-town life on “The Rock”, with its different regional accents, colourful personalities and (this being a police thriller) criminal activity.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that this series has been turning heads, which includes being optioned for TV by Pelee Entertainment of Ottawa, which is actively pursuing the Windflower premise with producers and broadcasters.

While nothing has been finalised, Martin tells Apartment613 that there is a chance that the public may see his books come to life on the small screen in the future.

As for his novels, I have been following Martin’s literary career for a couple of years now, and have enjoyed watching him grow as a writer.  In particular, it has been interesting to see him tackle increasingly ambitious themes in his books.

For instance, in his latest novel A Twist of Fortune, which was released this past April, Martin looks at the issue of prescription drug abuse, as well as the impact on a small community by the planned closure of a fish plant.  These social issues strengthen the police-related plot, which revolves around a mysterious death in the middle of winter on a snow-filled highway.

“I think all writers take a few more chances as we move along in our writing,” says Martin, when asked if he feels more comfortable taking bigger risks with his writing now that he has a few books under his belt.  “That is part of the natural growing process.”

As Martin points out, however, he has never shied away from tackling larger themes in his previous novels, such as the tragedy of human trafficking, which formed part of the plot of his third novel Beneath the Surface that was released last year.

“I have always taken on some of the major challenges facing both the RCMP and small Newfoundland communities,” says Martin.

In addition to improving as a writer, the series has also become a lot better from an editorial point of view.  When I first started reading Martin, I noticed mistakes in the text, from typos to missing quotation marks to missing words.  Part of this was due to the fact that the books are self-published via Ottawa’s Baico Publishing.  (While each writer is responsible for editing their own manuscript, Baico provides assistance in printing, layout, marketing and distribution).

Mike Martin

Mike Martin

With each successive novel, however, the copy editing has noticeably improved.  This made we wonder if Martin had decided to focus on the editorial side of production.

“In each book in the series I have made a conscious effort to improve the quality of the writing and the production, including editing and proofreading,” he replies.  “This time I worked with an editor, T.R. Perri who helped me a lot with dialogue and some other basics as well as providing a first level copy edit near the end.

“Then I found a friend who was actually a copy editor in a previous career and we worked together to clean up the document to get it ready to publish.  But before I could get to any of those stages I went through a number of drafts on my own and then nine beta-readers who gave their input and suggestions about the story.  It really does take a village to publish a book.”

Looking forward, Martin tells Apartment613 that he hopes to start book five of the Windflower series after his summer vacations.  He is also looking into the possibility of working on another mystery series.

“I (also) have a few other fiction ideas up my sleeve that I’ll let percolate over the summer and come back to in the fall and over the very long winter,” he says.

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