Polar Night, a new mystery novel by Julie Flanders, features Detective Danny Fitzpatrick, who works cold cases for the police department in Fairbanks, Alaska. The book was published this month by Ink Smith Publishing, and we caught up with the author to ask a few questions about how this Delhi native came to write a book—and why she has set it in Alaska.
Q: Julie, how long have you been writing fiction?
A: I really didn’t start writing until I was an adult. I always loved to make up stories in my head but I never wrote them down. I honestly can’t say why except I guess I just didn’t see it as anything I could do.
Q: But now you do think it’s something you want to do—you made a conscious decision to begin writing seriously a few years ago, correct?
A: I started taking writing seriously after I volunteered as a writer for Best Friends Animal Society. I was nervous when I started doing that and was afraid to even submit my first article to the editor, but as soon as I did I realized I had been foolish as I received great feedback. I loved talking with the people involved in the animal rescues and as time went on, I gained more confidence and realized I enjoyed writing more than anything else I’d ever done. I'll always be extremely grateful for that experience.
Q: So, you were writing for the rescue society and also had articles in library journals, which aligns more with your work as a librarian at Mt. St. Joseph College on Cincinnati’s west side. What gave you the idea to write a novel with settings in Alaska?
A: I started thinking about the story after I had a dream that I was on an ocean liner in the 1920s and met a man who told me about a woman he loved and lost during World War I in Russia. Ultimately the novel didn’t have much to do with that, except that one of the characters is Russian, but that’s how it all started. Thinking about Russia made me think of cold and barren landscapes and somehow that led me to Alaska.
Q: How did you research the setting?
A: I used the Internet and lots of books to research Fairbanks and the Arctic town of Coldfoot, the two major settings of the book. I admit I was nervous about writing about a place I’ve never been, especially a place that is so different from my home, but I hope I did the setting justice. I used Google Earth and Google Maps a lot as well trying to put myself into the settings as much as possible. I spent a lot of time inserting the little orange guy on Google Maps onto the streets of Fairbanks!
Julie’s novel follows Danny Fitzpatrick as one of his cold cases connects to a young woman who disappears on the winter solstice. His investigation takes him to Coldfoot, above the Arctic Circle, where Aleksei Nechayev runs a haunted tourist attraction. The detective’s investigation uncovers a horrifying secret and he becomes obsessed with finding the missing women, despite the danger. It’s a cold case that turns hot in a cold, cold place.