Some questions you
may want the answers to:
Which book was the
most challenging to write?
BRAVE DEEDS, because
it's nonfiction. I was used to writing novels and making things up. But
with BRAVE DEEDS everything had to be true. So I had to stop
myself many times and ask myself, "Is this how it really happened?" So
the research took more time. I also wanted to make sure I was doing the
two heroes in the book justice, so I took a lot of effort to write it.
you meet Mies Braal?
She phoned me one day and
invited me to come for tea. I was her neighbour and she wanted to get
to know me because we were both Dutch Canadians. We hit it off right
away. We laughed a lot and talked nonstop. That's when the story of
their time during WWII came out. She showed me all the pictures and
other keepsakes she had. She turned out to be a real storyteller.
Why did you use a
fictional narrator in a book of nonfiction?
I wanted to have "a fly on
the wall" character in first person and in the present tense. I felt
that the reader was more part of the story this way. I couldn't use
Mies's voice, or one of the other real characters in the book. So I
invented a child's voice that stands for all the children who have ever
gone through a war anywhere. I feel young readers can identify better
that way and it gives a more direct experience of the horrors of war,
Why do you live in
the wild mountains? (Aren't you scared sometimes?)
I love the wildness of
nature. I have bears, deer, elk and other wild animals in my back yard.
I can go skiing right out my back door. I feel a bit isolated in the
winter when the snow is halfway up the windows, but it's still the best
for me. The only animals I'm really scared of are the skunks around
here. Luckily I or Miepke have never been sprayed... so far!
Is Sheera a
I get asked that question
so often that I have set up a whole separate page about Shira/Sheera.
For the answer please go there and see her cute pictures.
Are you Anneke in Summer
No, Anneke is a totally
fictional character. She does live in the mountains and knows a lot
about how to survive in the outdoors. I made her that way because it is
good to write about what you know and I know about kids and the
outdoors. I used to take my classes camping once or sometimes twice a
year when I was still teaching. So I used all that information to
Is Skateway to
Freedom based on real people?
In a way, yes. When I was
still teaching I met some people who had escaped from their country the
way Josie and her parents escaped. The same sort of hair-raising
dangers, the same sort of reasons. Even when these people lived in
Canada they were afraid that their former country's police might come
after them, so I had to promise never to tell who they were or where
they were from. Their story gave me the idea for Skateway to Freedom
although Josie and her parents are fictional. And of course being an
immigrant myself, I know what it feels like to be a new Canadian, to
learn a new language and to have to start all over again. When I
immigrated, at age 23, I got off the train in Vancouver and I had no
home, no job, a bag with some of my belongings and $56.00 in my pocket.
That was it.
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