Nights Like These Pre-Release Party: Behind the scenes

January 25, 2015

Nights Like These is a work of fiction, but it’s inextricably tied to my own experiences.

At the end of 2013, I lost my job. So did my entire department. It was a shock, but not entirely unexpected. Like Miles, I was in a job I no longer loved, but after fifteen years there, I’d become complacent and used to the perks. Rather than mope, I decided I would use my severance period to write a novel while I job hunted. Nights Like These was born. It became both a way to cope and my way to say goodbye to the place and the people I had spent so many years with. The whole thing affected me in ways I never expected. After a year of unemployment I am working again, but essentially starting from the bottom.

Is the novel gloomy and depressing you might ask? On the contrary—it is humorous, upbeat and irreverent. Given the state of my life, it had to be light: no dark and depressing topics, no angst, no deep emotion–in short, nothing that would make me cry. A mystery seemed like just the thing.

With the exception of the main characters themselves, almost everything you read is based in reality. The Tokui Business Systems Toronto head office where Miles works is a low-rise office building in a suburban business park. It’s seen better days. It’s also modeled on the place where I spent many years of my career. From the too-basic security system, to the gym in the basement and the Tim Hortons down the street, it’s all real.

Ninety Winston Drive was located in a tired business park in what had once been the suburb of Willowdale, back before the greater Toronto area amalgamated in 1998 into one sprawling, dysfunctional megacity. It was a quiet neighborhood off the Don Valley Parkway, or DVP as it was commonly known, and the street was home to a number of low-rise office buildings all dating from the seventies, a period not known for its stellar architecture. Back then, buildings were designed for function, and no one really cared if they were pretty or not. Like its counterparts, number ninety was unapologetic in its postmodern ugliness—four stories tall and constructed of concrete and drab brown brick. Four narrow bands of windows wrapped around the squat, square building, delineating each floor and breaking up the stark expanse of brick. There was no signage to identify it other than the street number over the front entrance, but it was currently the regional head office of a company called Tokui Business Services. They distributed photocopiers. The only reason I knew that was because I looked it up on my first night.

To Miles’ surprise, the walls are lined with original art of all kinds. Again, this is taken from real life, although I have taken liberties with some of the artists (more on the art in an upcoming post). For Miles, who was once an Art History major, this is an unexpected bonus, and it leads him to the heart of the mystery. Even the art storage room is real. I was privileged enough to see it once. And the mystery itself, while never actually happening, would definitely be feasible—I spent many hours watching and investigating and determined how easy it would be pull it off.

For anyone who hasn’t worked in an office environment, some things may seem absurd, but I assure you they’re not. Offices are absurd, almost surreal, places, populated with a host of characters ripe for fiction. Have you ever worked real scenarios into your writing? Had an experience that was stranger than fiction? Or wished someone would fictionalize a certain time or place in your life? What would it be? Remember, anyone commenting today will be entered in a random draw for a giveaway of any of my titles.


6 Responses to “Nights Like These Pre-Release Party: Behind the scenes”

  1. Angela says:

    It´s nice to read a bit of background on your book.

    I worked in offices and i always felt the office was a little world on his own, if you know what i mean. I do agree with you because some collegae´s i had were definitely ripe for fiction LOL.

  2. JJ says:

    Office cultures can be so different depending on the company/organization, country, people, time period, etc. I’ve seen plenty of office politics over the years too. I guess that’s why Dilbert comic strip is so much fun to read.

  3. scullywrites says:

    Hi JJ, yes some things definitely apply no matter where you are. I love Dilbert too!

  4. H.B. says:

    I’ve worked in a couple of office settings and in all of them I felt it was just drama ridden. So many thing were happening and people were always gossiping about others.

  5. Waxapplelover says:

    Luckily my work environment doesn’t have any good/crazy stories. Your experience is eye-opening, for several reasons. One, no matter how secure you think you might be, that can all change. Second, starting over might not be the worst thing in the world and maybe you can find something new to do that you also love.

    Waxapplelover (at) gmail (dot) com

  6. Su says:

    I find it difficult to cope with all the office gossip and snobbery that is somehow expected of you if you work in certain departments. Although this attitude is not solely dedicated to office environments, its evident in most workplace environments. Although I do have a couple of funny stories that seemed to develop in shock value the more they worked around the offices!

    Thank you for the giveaway and I have enjoyed reading the excerpts from your book.

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