I first met Tracy L. Ward at Bloody Words Toronto in 2012. At the time, we were both aspiring authors. Fast forward to Bloody Words Toronto 2014, and Tracy had not only followed her dream, her Peter Ainsley historical mystery series was selling, and selling well. Here’s a bit more about Tracy before she became an author (and I had no idea that Tracy had such an interesting history):
Shortly after my husband and I got married he enlisted in the Canadian Air Force. Within a year of his swearing in we were on the road, destined for military life and the frequent moves that accompanied it. As a recently graduated journalist this did not bode well for me. So much of the reporter’s job meant getting to know the community and the people in it. My employment prospects looked bleak. To my surprise I landed a position at small museum in an old, converted train station in the beautiful town of Collingwood, once a hub of activity where trains and laker ships met to transport goods to all the ports of the Great Lakes and beyond.
As a historical research assistant, I was charged with the wonderful task of creating a new archive, so the town and museum could centralize information regarding the new Historic District. It was my job to scour the archives at the museum, the local library, the county archives and even some provincial ones in Toronto, to find any information available regarding the over 150 properties within the designated district. I interviewed home owners, some who had lived in their homes for decades. I took pictures of historical aspects of buildings that remained such as coal shoots and root cellar doors. I walked every inch of the district over the course of that summer and relished every single second of it.
Archive retrieval can be monotonous. I would often spend days in front of the microfiche and only find a handful of helpful articles or pictures. The work is solitary, sedentary and quiet, but oh the little historical gems you will find!
I couldn’t help but smile every time I walked through the museum doors. When I donned the white gloves required to sort through old photographs and other artifacts I felt like my heart would explode. Lunch was often eaten sitting on the decommissioned train platform with my legs dangling over the edge to the tracks below. I never realized how much I loved history until I took that job. While working there I wrote a number of short stories, my first historicals, which were often inspired by photographs I had seen during my day job.
It was this job at the museum that inspired me to visit each and every historical museum and pioneer village within a few hours driving radius of my house. I was still a few years away from attempting my first historical novel but this job placed a spark in me that I didn’t realize was there. While trying my hand at contemporary novels, a few romances and some mysteries, I read non-fiction books about the early days of Canada, the wives of Henry Tudor and the lives of Victorian servants. I never imagined siting down to write a historical novel, not until an idea sparked inside me about a doctor called in to help solve a suspected poisoning.
The position was only available for the summer. By the time September rolled around I was switching gears and settling into a new position as a volunteer coordinator at a small charity. The commute was shorter, the pay better and there was never a shortage of people to converse with. Even though I only worked at the museum for four months I see it as the one job that inspired my writing the most. I don’t think I would have had the courage to write a historical if it weren’t for the summer I spent sorting through piles of old photographs and bent over dusty storage room boxes.
About the author: A former journalist and graduate from Humber College’s School for Writers, Tracy L. Ward has been hard at work developing her favourite protagonist, Peter Ainsley, and chronicling his adventures as a morgue surgeon in Victorian England. The most recent book in the series, PRAYERS FOR THE DYING, was published in May 2016. She is currently working on the sixth book in the Marshall House Mystery series. To find out more about Tracy’s books follow her on Facebook or visit her website