Yesterday is set in your home town of Toronto. Did you include places you were familiar with or did you research the neighborhoods yourself?
Sort of a mixture of both. So far all my books have been set in Canada but mostly I invent composite suburbs just outside of Toronto for them because it gives me more freedom. In My Beating Teenage Heart, for example, Strathedine was basically a stand-in for Oakville and the neighbouring town Bourneville I thought of as a combination of Burlington and Hamilton. With Yesterday, because I was sixteen in 1985 myself and spent a lot of time in Toronto then (I grew up in Brampton) I was able to think back to what was around at the time – stuff like the old Eaton’s department store and Bellair Café in Yorkville. For Garren’s neighbourhood I did actually walk around the Annex. And I’ve since walked down it many more times virtually on Google Street View.
I didn’t visit Cranbrooke Avenue (which is another major Yesterday setting, near Lawrence station) in the flesh but strolled down it virtually many times too. Because I’m a ROM member and love the museum I knew I wanted to include scenes there.
How did you come up with the plot of Yesterday?
I never really know how my plots come together. It feels like they congeal in some part of my brain I don’t have conscious access to. But several years ago I’d been thinking of writing a realistic teen novel set in the 80s so I guess my fondness for that time as a setting was still hanging around. I’d also written so many contemporary novels in a row (even My Beating Teenage Heart, although one of the characters is a ghost, feels more or less like a contemporary realistic novel to me) that I really wanted to try something else. We’re already beginning to see the disastrous effects of global warming on the planet and that’s a constant concern. Another thing I’m very aware of is how we’re becoming enamoured with technology to an unhealthy degree – it’s taking us over. So somehow all these things collided to form Yesterday.
What are your goals as an author?
I want to continue to write about the characters and stories that I find myself drawn to. Ideally I hope my books would generate enough income to sustain me but I can’t write for the market; I write for me.
Whatever happens I plan to continue to write for as long as I live. In the more short term, I would love to write a middle grade novel and a creepy ghost story.
What books did you read as a child? As a teen?
When I was really young I especially loved having Babar and Winnie the Pooh books read to me. I enjoyed stories from all genres but I remember being especially fond of ghost stories as I got a little older. I was also a big fan of Tintin, anything by Judy Blume and The Hardy Boys. When I hit about fifteen/sixteen I became obsessed with the sixties and I remember reading lots of books about the period (including Nam: Vietnam War in the Words of the Men and Women Who Fought There), especially Beatles and John Lennon bios. One of the other novels that I discovered around that time that hugely impressed me was John Wyndham’s The Chrysalids. I went back and read it again about three years ago and it still awes me.
If you could have a fictional best friend from any novel, who would it be and why?
I would have to say Anne Shirley, which I know might sound somewhat like a stock Canadiana answer but people from everywhere love Anne. I discovered of Anne of Green Gables when I was a kid and promptly devoured all the books in the series. I’d never heard of the concept of kindred spirits before and I loved how Anne kept getting into scrapes and how brave and true to herself she was. I don’t think I’ve ever been fonder of a fictional character than I was of Anne. Both child and grown-up Anne would be a wonderful friend to have – imaginative, intelligent, courageous and loyal.
Who are some of your favourite authors?
In adult fiction Margaret Atwood, Julian Barnes and Ian McEwan.
In young adult – E.R. Frank, Coe Booth, Courtney Summers, Tara Kelly, Blake Nelson, Catherine Ryan Hyde and British author Jenny Valentine.
I love books that are perceptive about people.
What can we expect from you in the future?
It’s hard to say what will be next to hit shelves because I don’t have any other books under contract right now but I have two contemporary young adult books currently being submitted to publishers and am working on a third. I’d also love the chance to write a Yesterday sequel and have several ideas for that. Plus, I just recently released a “new adult” book called Come See About Me which has a twenty-year-old main character. When it was sent out to publishers in late 20120/early 2011 virtually every editor that read it said it was too young for adult fiction but too old for YA. It seemed ridiculous to me that there was no place for a twenty-year-old character in traditional publishing so I decided to put it out myself. Now the new adult label seems to be catching on in indie and self-published fiction and I hope to write more new adult books in the future too.
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Drop by the rest of the stops below
September 23 – Diary of a Bookworm – Guest Post
September 24 – Just a lil’ Lost – Interview
September 25 – Mermaid Visions – Interview
September 26 – Evie Bookish – Guest Post
September 27 – Midnight Bloom Reads – Interview
September 28 – That’s me!