Fall of 2022 marked the tenth anniversary of the publication of Lake On The Mountain, the first Dan Sharp mystery from Dundurn Books. I hadn’t planned on writing a series, but the book’s popularity took me and everyone else by surprise. When it won the Lambda Award for Best Gay Mystery the following year, its course was set.
Recently, I was asked about my writing process with regard to this book. I don’t like to think about process in case it paralyzes me, like the centipede that was asked how it knew which leg to move first and soon found it couldn’t walk, but the reality is that inspiration can be instantaneous while the route toward it is often long and tortuous. This was no exception.
The book began as a four-day sailing trip from Toronto to Kingston. On the final day, heading into the Bay of Quinte in Prince Edward County, an unusual-looking promontory caught my eye. When I asked, I was told it was called Lake On The Mountain.
“But what is it?” I persisted, feeling those writerly goose bumps that said here was something I needed to know. “It’s a lake that doesn’t drain the way it should,” came the reply. I parked that in the back of my brain and we sailed on. A subsequent trip by car confirmed what I’d felt then: this was a location that could prove fertile ground for something, if I only knew what.
A year later, at Cedar’s Campground outside Hamilton, I ran into an actor friend, Kevin Hartley. Through him I learned of a man who had recently committed suicide after being denied access to his sons by court order when he came out to his family. The tale of loss struck a chord. I didn’t know it then, but it was about to merge with my fascination for Lake On The Mountain to become the first Dan Sharp mystery.
Fuelled by feelings of injustice over the story, Lake On The Mountain took the better part of a year to complete. Though I had little idea where it was going when I started, I had a fire building inside me. By the time I finished, the book clocked in at a whopping 111,000 words. I knew it was unlike anything I had written before.
When it was published by Dundurn in the fall of 2012, I was pleased that my editors had not asked me to cut it down to what might have seemed a more reasonable length. They also did not ask me to cut any sex scenes. It was clear they trusted the book. Winning the Lambda was a vindication for their risk-taking.
Since its publication in 2012, the book has been reissued as both an audio book and a mass market paperback. The series, which has now grown to a total of seven books, was eventually nominated for three Lambdas in total. Not bad for an over-sized mystery that has far outstripped my and everyone else’s expectations as a one-off title.
You can find more on individual titles in the following blog entries:
Lion's Head Revisited https://jeffreyround.com/f/a-pictorial-guide-to-the-lambda-winning-dan-sharp-mysteries-5