Do you like your main
This is an odd question but
it pops up a lot. Most readers like Max, some love him, but some can't
stand him. Obviously he's supposed to be the kind of kid that some
adults believe should be controlled or "treated." He is not sweet. He
does not want to be sweet. But seriously? Do I
like him? I love him. My heart breaks for him. He
is a good kid. He may not be "nice" but he is good - in a way that none
of the adults around him can compare to. Okay, yeah, he's arrogant and
annoying and maybe I wouldn't want to have to teach him English every
honestly, he's fifteen, living in a world of lies. Give the kid a
When you write in first
person, there's always some degree of unreliability in your narrator
because a person is never really the same as his self-image or the
identity he strives to maintain, and everything in the story is skewed
by his viewpoint -- the facts of what's going on around him, and the
"facts" of who his is and how he acts and what consequences those
actions have. If Max were described by a teacher, he might come off
worse. But if
he were described by me in third person, he'd
come off much better - if only because his thoughts would remain
private. (Really, how noble would any of us be if our unspoken thoughts
were on display?)
How did you get Tim
Wynne-Jones to give
you a quote for the book?
I was extremely lucky, no?
My first book, Walking Backward,
was a finalist for the Quebec Writers' Federation Prize for Children's
and Young Adults' Literature in 2010, and Tim Wynne-Jones was a judge
for that award, so of course he read the book. I later met him at his
launch of Blink and Caution
in Ottawa, and when I mentioned Walking
Backward, he told me he liked it
and asked if I had anything else on the go. I said I had just
written a teen novel, and he offered to read the manuscript.
nervous about that - I'm not used to being read by anyone, let alone
authors of his stature. But what the hell, I thought, if the book is
hopeless, it's better to hear that in private in a coffee shop than
read it in a string of bad reviews that some passive-aggressive type
will send me with their condolences. But hah, he didn't say it
was lousy at all. He said he loved it. He made a few suggestions for
and wished me well. What a nice man.
Is there going to be a
wrote All Good Children
as a standalone novel. I did not have any sequel in mind. I do not
generally like sequels as a reader and I'd never thought of doing one
as a writer. But several people have asked, including my editor, so I
decided to give it a go. I even got a grant from the Conseil des art et
des lettres du Quebec to write it. (Just in time because I went in
massive debt writing All Good
Children instead of writing
reports for clients.) So I wrote three
different partial drafts
of a sequel, all of which were basically stupid. I have not entirely
given up but it's not a burning desire for me.
Do you really think
this could happen?
Parts of it,
maybe. I think cosmetic and
pharmacology will become more commonly applied, so long as they are
cheap, and I think germline therapy and genetic screening of children
will become more common than in the book. But I can't say how -
they will make all people healthier, or maybe they will extend Haves
and Have-Nots into Ams and Am-Nots. (I sadly lean toward the latter.)
Will the elderly be herded
into hospitals and treated en
masse for the greatest ease and efficiency? That would not surprise me.
Would people extend that treatment to children? No. At least, not ALL
But that's what this story is about: it's about the erosion
of freedom that finally gets to your doorstep. It's about being a Have
(or an Am) but finding that insufficient protection for what's coming.
freedoms of poor vulnerable people are taken away all the time and
no one says, "Oh that would never happen." Because it happens now.
unlikely aspect of the book's future world is that an American
high school wouldn't care
about football. (I didn't set the book in the States
originally and when I changed the setting to the US, I thought, "Wow,
no one is ever going to
buy this." But no one mentioned it.)
Is the slow pacing of
the first part of
Very much so. It
follows a traditional arc (like the stories it references - I
wrote this purposefully as a sort of Stepford
Wives for kids). There is a
slow build-up to the realization of what's going on in part one, then
things fall to pieces quite speedily.
This is old-school student
story is your favourite?
The second one, in which
Dave and his friends help Andrew overcome his fear of public speaking.
It's the funniest, I think, and it's the one I usually choose to read
aloud when giving a presentation. (I read chapter 11, "If you want to
keep a secret, don't post it on the internet," because I get to read in
a devil voice, which is always fun.)
you write this as a sequel to 26
Actually, I wrote
a standalone middle-grade comedy, but Lorimer wanted to publish it and,
since 26 Tips for Surviving
Grade 6 had done well and won
awards and this book was likewise episodic, funny, and set in 6th
grade, it was natural to package it as a companion book. I think people
who like one would like the other, too.
any of the stories true?
No. It's all made up. But
I'd love to know the kids in it, if they really existed. I think
they're great friends.
you think Mr. Papadakis is a good teacher?
Hard to say. He's like a
typical student: not very organized, self-centred, and he'd
rather be anywhere than school. But he genuinely likes the students,
and that has to count for something.
you ever cured your own phobia?
I've come far in curing my
fear of heights. I can stand on a step-ladder without anxiety, and
I feel great when I climb a tree (just the right level of
thrill). I've been on small ski lifts
where I felt okay. I'm not ready to try the Whistler Mountain ski lift
again (I tried that when I wasn't ready and it set me back years) but
maybe one day. If I had Dave Davidson to help, it might take a little