How did you get started in children’s books?
It was an accident. When I started writing my first novel, I didn’t think much about its genre, but it tumbled out as a fairy tale, and it tumbled out a book for young readers. In other words, I wrote the kind of book I like to read. I love beautiful language but I also love storytelling – and the great strength of children’s literature is it never asks you to pick.
What (or who) inspires your writing or art?
I love to read and draw great strength from books. Nothing makes me want to write like reading something terrific. But I also love art and science and history and ideas. Right now, for instance, I am collecting funny small town stories, reading up on graveyard lore, and studying the new neuroscience about memory. I’m stirring them all up and hoping there’s a bit of story-leavening yeast in there somewhere.
What was your favourite book as a child? Why?
When I was about twelve, I imprinted on three books: The Last Unicorn, The Wizard of Earthsea, and Lord of the Rings, and those are still the books that made me as a reader and a writer. I like their grandeur and their melancholy, and the largeness of their worlds. Later, I read about 200 Star Trek novels – one for each week of high school. My books generally lie at the intersection of classic high fantasy and unapologetic page-turning fun.
Also, unlike any of the things I had as a young reader, my books have girls in them.
How can teachers use your books in the classroom?
I’d like to think my books are great classroom choices, because they have page-turning plots, but also big toothy intellectual themes. For example, my most recent book The Scorpion Rules discusses the ethical use of power, duty, and right action. It uses ideas about transhumanism and robotics as lens on what it means to be human. It features a climate change plot in a Canadian setting, which is timely and fairly rare. But it’s also set on a goat farm and is oddly funny, as apocalypses go.
What are you looking forward to most during TD Canadian Children’s Book Week?
I’m going to southern Saskatchewan, which is also where my most recent books are set, and I think that’s fabulous. There are not nearly enough post-apocalyptic science fiction adventures set in Saskatchewan, and so few opportunities to destroy Saskatoon. It will be so much fun to be there, assuming the universe does not exact some kind of karmic retribution.