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.


How did 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, any 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 real dog?
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 of Changes?
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 create Anneke.


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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