Many of your
books are illustrated by Bill Slavin. How do you work together?
Actually, we work separately. He lives in Millbrook, Ontario, and I live in Vancouver, B.C.. We work the way most writers and artists work on illustrated books. The writer writes the story. Then she sends it to the publisher, who gives it to an editor, who sends it to the illustrator, who creates the art. The writer and illustrator may never even meet. But because Bill and I are often invited to the same festivals and conferences, we know each other well. He's a GREAT GUY! He's also an amazing artist and extremely generous to let me use his art on this website.
Where do you get your ideas?
Ideas are like the dust in the air. Most of the time, you can't see the dust. But when the sun comes through the window, you can see that it was there all along. Ideas are like that. They're floating around everywhere, but you can only "get" them if you really pay attention. Writers are always looking for ideas.
What's your favourite book that you wrote?
I have two favourites. My last book and my next book. The last book I wrote is still close to my mind and my heart. And the next book is the most exciting because I'm always hoping it will be the best!
Where and when do you write?
I write at home (no coffee shops for me!), and I used to work at a desk. But now that I've discovered that my laptop computer really can sit on my lap, I take it all over the house to the couch, to the dining room table, even to bed. I try to write most days from 9 to 5, but life often gets in the way.
What's the best thing about being a writer?
You mean, besides working in pajamas or a bathing suit? Okay, after that, the best thing about being a writer is that you have a rich inner world. You may not be rich on the outside. But inside, you are rich in dreams and characters and stories.
Do you like to be edited?
I think most people expect me to say that I hated being edited. After all, the editor's job is to criticize my writing, right? And to tell me what I did wrong? Actually, I love my editors. They make my writing so much better. I have been lucky to have the best — Charis Wahl, Val Wyatt, Debbie Rogosin and Tara Walker. All of them are smart and wise and funny and sensitive. They have taught me more than I can say about writing.
Who or what inspired you to become a writer?
My inspiration was every writer whose books I ever loved. And that was many, many writers. Too many to list here!
What did you read when you were a kid?
Anything I could get my hands on. That's the short answer. The long answer is that I had wide-ranging tastes. I loved classics such as Anne of Green Gables and Huckleberry Finn and Little Women. But I also loved comic books. (My favourites were the Little Lulu comics.) Other books I enjoyed were the Freddy the Pig books and the Black Stallion books.
Do you have any advice for someone who wants to be a writer?
Read! Read, read, read. Read for the love of it. And some of the time, try to read-like-a-writer. As you read, try to figure out what the writer did to make you care. Try to see the "skeleton" of the story. Try to see how choosing certain words made a difference.