Monday, December 3, 2012

Vicki Delany - Weather Signals

It was a dark and stormy night.

Nice first sentence, eh?

Okay, maybe not. But the principle is still a valid one. Weather is incomparable in creating mood and atmosphere. As a reader I am expecting something different to happen if we are hurrying along damp cobblestones on a foggy London street versus swimming at the beach at Grace Bay, TCI surrounded by white sand, turquoise water, and blue sky. Change the weather – a category 5 hurricane is descending on that beach or it’s an exceptionally hot day in London -and you’ve changed not only the mood of the story, but the readers’ expectations of what is about to happen.

As I reader I look for clues in the weather and as a writer I use weather to try to signal in some way what my book is about.

My forthcoming novel, the sixth Constable Molly Smith book, is titled A Cold White Sun. (August 2013, Poisoned Pen Press). Essentially the story is about how a family deals with the sudden shocking death of one of the family members. You should be able to tell by the title that this is not going to be a cheerful read. The book is set over March Break, a time when people are enjoying the last of the skiing season and looking forward to the warmth of summer. But, for this family, it will be a long time before they are warm again.

Wonder of wonders, Wednesday dawned bright and cheerful. John Winters got up before first light. As he ate breakfast and lingered over coffee and the paper he was delighted to see the weak rays of the early spring sun poking out from between the mountains. Soon the snow would start to melt and before you knew it, crocuses and daffodils would be pushing their heads out of the ground.

The third book in the series is titled Winter of Secrets. As the books are set in the mountains of BC, it shouldn’t be much of a surprise as to what sort of weather you’re going to find in that book.

They don’t often get big snow storms in the Kootenay area of British Columbia. Lots of snow, that’s a given; sometimes the air is so full of snow that the daytime is as white as the night is black. But there isn’t much wind in these mountains, and the snow falls thick and fast and straight down, where it lies deep on the ground. The word “whiteout”, meaning when high winds whip falling snow around, reducing visibility to nothing, isn’t often heard in Trafalgar.

Tonight it would be.

Canada isn’t all cold and snow; we can get some mighty hot summers as well. I find occasionally that this comes as a surprise to some of our American readers, so I deliberately try to have some hot season action too. Here’s Valley of the Lost, which is set in July.

Constable Smith rolled her shoulders and shifted the considerable weight of her gun belt. Late in the afternoon, when she’d passed the big sign outside the drug store that displayed the time and temperature, it had said it was 42 degrees Celsius, 107 Fahrenheit. Although it was now early hours of the morning, the temperature didn’t seem to have dropped much. She suspected that if she were so inclined, she could fry an egg underneath the Kevlar vest, in the gap between her breasts.

Weather – a writers best tool.

Vicki Delany is one of Canada’s most prolific and varied crime writers. Her latest novel is More than Sorrow, is a contemporary thriller. She is the author of the Smith & Winters police procedural series set in the British Columbia Interior, and the light-hearted Klondike Gold Rush Series. Vicki lives in Prince Edward County, Ontario.

Visit Vicki at
She can be found at and Twitter @vickidelany.
She blogs about the writing life at One Woman Crime Wave:


  1. I like our four seasons and varied climate. Just wish Winter was 4 months, instead of 7...

    1. We have two seasons in Ontario: winter and construction. ;)