New Westminster author Colleen Cross is hosting a book launch event for her début novel on Friday, February 17 from 6-9pm at the Heritage Grill (back room). I recently sat down with New Westminster author Colleen Cross to chat about Exit Strategy, Book #1 in the Katerina Carter suspense series.
Drawing on her experience in finance and accounting, as well as her interest in how and why people orchestrate massive and tiny frauds every day, Colleen has written a suspenseful tale starring Katerina Carter, a forensic accountant with a struggling business and a potentially compromising new case involving an international diamond mining company. Colleen was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about writing, getting her work published, and her suspenseful exploration of fraud through the lens of an enterprising, but not always ethical, accountant.
Marcy: This is your first novel, correct? Did you have any experience in writing fiction before this?
Colleen: Yes, Exit Strategy is my first novel. Prior to Exit Strategy, I had written a few short stories, but I prefer the novel length.
M: What is the process of publishing like? What advice can you give to other writers who would like to have their work published?
C: There are many steps involved in publishing. It starts with the writing and editing, and continues after your book is published. Promotion is important—especially establishing a social media platform. I recommend attending workshops, writer’s conferences, and interacting with other writers to learn more, as the publishing landscape is undergoing rapid changes at the moment. There are some very informative blogs on the subject, such as Bob Mayer and others.
M: Was there any research involved in writing Exit Strategy? Obviously you know a lot about finance due to your own career but what about the criminal aspects?
C: I did a lot of research on mining, diamonds and money laundering, since diamonds are a very portable, near-cash alternative. I was fascinated to learn that each diamond has it’s own unique “fingerprint”, which can be used it trace its origin. Fraud has always fascinated me. In addition to my professional experiences with fraud, I enjoy reading about it in general.
M: Do you feel that you draw inspiration for your work from where you live? Is there something distinctly Canadian (or “New Westminsterian”) about Exit Strategy?
C: Exit Strategy is set in Greater Vancouver and in Argentina. Although I haven’t specifically identified the location of Kat’s house in the book as New Westminster, it is a composite of several Victorian houses in the Queens Park neighbourhood.
M: Katerina stumbles into a conspiracy in her work as a forensic accountant. Many of us are familiar with forensics, and with accounting, but less so with the combination of the two. What can you tell us about Kat’s chosen profession?
C: Like other forensic specialities, forensic accounting uses techniques to determine and trace evidence and events to prove a crime. A forensic accountant is able to uncover manipulated data and records, follow a money trail to its ultimate destination, and/or uncover hidden assets. These might be the evidence needed to convict a criminal of fraud, provide a motive for murder, or prove financial abuse.
Fraud is everywhere, whether it’s a multi-billion dollar heist like the one in Exit Strategy, or smaller, everyday ones like auto insurance fraud. It impacts each of us financially, though we may not be aware of it. Fraud is conservatively estimated to cost our economy about 5% of our national GDP. That’s huge. Society could do a lot of good with the money that is lost to fraud each year.
M: It says on your website that Exit Strategy is part of a series. Can you give us any hints about what is in store for Kat in the future?
C: I’m currently at work on the second book in the series, Game Theory. Kat’s fraud investigation at a currency hedge fund takes a sinister turn when she discovers its connection to the mysterious World Institute and the murder of a Nobel nominee. In her personal life she must deal with her uncle’s worsening dementia while her boyfriend mysteriously disappears.
M: Is there anything else you would like to tell the readers about the book?