Catherine MacDonald on Put On The Armour of Light

Catherine MacDonald on Put On The Armour of Light

Posted on January 30 by Kyle in Mystery
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Tell us about your book.

Put on the Armour of Light is an old-fashioned mystery in the amateur sleuth tradition, with touches of humour and romance. It’s set in Winnipeg in 1899 and the hero is a young Presbyterian minister, Charles Lauchlan. I’m more attracted to mystery books where character and setting are to the fore, and where the detective uses his or her grey matter to solve the crime rather than whizz-bang forensic technology. So that’s the kind of book I tried to write.


How did you come up with the title?

I loved the process of searching for a title. I read reams of poetry. I combed the King James Bible. I read nursery rhymes and classical mythology. It was fun but nothing seemed quite right and it was taking a long time. So I went back to the Bible and finally decided on a one word title: “Astray,” from Isaiah. “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way.” Good, I thought. That will do fine. The next day I opened my copy of Quill and Quire and found that Emma Donoghue had a book coming out called Astray. So I settled for my second choice, Put on the Armour of Light, from the Book of Romans, and I’ve been happy with it.


7. What was the creative process like for you?

It was the most fun I’ve ever had because there was a hint of wickedness about it. Consider that as a historian, the last thing you want to do is make anything up. Stick to the evidence; stick to the facts. And there I was doing nothing but making things up! But it was also difficult, because I had never written fiction before


What was the hardest part of writing your book?

Pressing forward into that scary white space on the page, into the unknown. I would work on the last scene, primping here, editing there. Anything to avoid going on to the next scene because, well; what should the next scene be? Even with an outline, that white space coming up, where you have to create something new, is really intimidating.


What are you reading right now?

My next book involves the characters from Put on the Armour of Light going to Scotland and getting enmeshed in a mystery there. So I’m reading all kinds of books about Scotland: Scottish poetry, geography, history. Also books about Canadians encountering Scotland for the first time. And books about bicycling in Scotland c.1900, since bicycles figure hugely in the plot. I got to do four days of research in the National Library of Scotland last summer, which was pretty much my idea of heaven.