Day 3. In total, twelve authors will be 'stopping by' during these two weeks. Out of those twelve, I've only met three of them in person. Others I've talked to on Twitter. Two in particular, I talk to a lot on Twitter. Canada's a big country, you know. This is why I'm thankful for e-mail and Twitter, they give me the chance to meet authors in different ways. Like today's author, even though we both live in BC. :)
Robin Stevenson currently lives in Victoria, BC with her partner and son. Previously, she worked as a counsellor and social worker, but these days she writes and teaches writing. Her published books include A Thousand Shades of Blue, Escape Velocity, Hummingbird Heart, and Inferno, all published by Orca Books. Record Breaker came out in early March, and Damage, part of Orca's Orca Soundings series (teen fiction for reluctant readers), came out in early April. You can find out more about her and her books on her website and on Twitter (@robin_stevenson). :)
Q: Since it's an event featuring Canadian authors, I figured I'd ask all the authors who chose the Q&A to say how they would count as a Canadian author, be it they were born here, lived here, or moved here. So, how Canadian are you?
A: I was born in England but moved to Canada when I was seven, and other than a few years spent travelling, I’ve lived in Canada ever since. Most of my childhood memories are of southern Ontario- specifically, the small town of Ancaster, just outside Hamilton. An earlier version of Ancaster is the setting for my newest novel, Record Breaker.
Q: Do you have a specific writing space or routine? Can you write in different places, or does it have to be a specific spot at a specific time?
A: I am a mother, so I write whenever and wherever I can! I started writing when my son was a baby and my schedule has evolved with his. I used to write during his naps, and when he stopped napping, I started getting up early to write. He is eight now, so it is a little easier, but because he unschools, I still work around his schedule. My mother lives nearby and she and my son have a very close relationship-- I generally write when the two of them are hanging out together. I can write anywhere but I prefer the white noise of coffee shops and the fact that I don’t get as distracted by the phone ringing or the laundry needing to be done.
Q: Your book Record Breaker came out this past March. Since it's set in 1963, did you have to do much research to keep events historically accurate?
A: Record Breaker is my first historical novel and I really enjoyed doing the research. I read a number of books about the early sixties and a number of novels either set in or written around that time. I watched some documentaries about the Kennedy assassination and video clips of the original news broadcasts. I particularly enjoyed trying to get all the small details right— for example, finding out what books Jack might have read or what kind of candy he might have bought at the corner store! Some, like candy cigarettes and marshmallow cones (yuck) I remember from my own childhood, but others, like Atomic Fireballs, I’d never heard of. I also found a 1962 edition of the Guinness Book of Records, which came everywhere with me while I was writing Record Breaker.
Q: Where did Jack's character come from? Was there a specific person or event or idea that first inspired you to write about Jack and his family?
A: Honestly, I’m not sure where Jack came from. I wanted to write about a child who was desperate to break a record, and I felt like he should be a boy—though most of my other novels have female protagonists. I sent him to the elementary school that I went to when we first moved to Canada, and Jack’s dislike for baseball and his lack of skill at it come directly from my own experience. (In my defense, it turned out that I was incredibly short-sighted and badly needed glasses. I just remember striking out over and over, and wondering how the other kids know when to swing the bat. I could barely see the pitcher, let alone the ball!)
Q: By contrast, Hummingbird Heart seems to be a very different sort of book than Record Breaker. How different were Dylan and Jack's voices as you wrote them? Did one come easier than the other? Or were both of them just as easy? Or as difficult?
A: You’re right; they are very different books! Most of my novels are about teen girls, so it initially felt like more of a challenge to write in the voice of a twelve year old boy. Once I stopped thinking about twelve year old boys in general and just about Jack in particular, it got a lot easier. Jack is right on the cusp of childhood and adolescence... it is a time in my own life that I remember well and I found his voice came easily to me. Dylan, in Hummingbird Heart, was in some ways a more challenging character— of all my books, Hummingbird Heart is the one that holds the record for most rewrites!
Q: Are there any real life experiences of yours in your books? Anything specific (or even a little vague) that inspired a story and wouldn't let go until you wrote it?
A: Most of my books have something from my own life in them. A Thousand Shades of Blue is the most obvious example, as the route sailed by Rachel and her family is the same one my partner and I followed in our old sailboat, Tara, travelling from Lake Ontario to the Bahamas. The scene in which Rachel’s family boat goes aground on the rocks off Long Island is, unfortunately, exactly what happened to us- right down to the cracked rudder and the return to Georgetown for repairs. The characters-- and any bad behaviour!-- are pure fiction though.
Q: Do you have a favourite part of Canada, be it in BC or in another province or territory? What about a spot outside of Canada?
A: I love the west coast and I love Victoria. I moved here from Ontario in 2001, and am so very glad I did. Outside of Canada… I can’t pick just one! But some of my favorite countries from my travels— and places that I definitely hope to visit again-- are Greece, Italy, Croatia, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, and Malaysia. My parents have always loved to travel and I seem to have inherited the travel bug from them.
Thanks to Robin for taking part. Go check out Record Breaker and Damage, as well as all her other books! :)