Cabin Tales Author Interview 2: Jan Coates

A 15-minute episode of interview snippets with children’s author Jan Coates from Nova Scotia.

Read the full transcript:

Show Notes

[0:00] Intro

[1:20] Interview with Jan Coates

[1:30] CA:  Do you have a favourite setting from fiction, either your own books or other peoples’?

Hare in the Elephant's Trunk cover

JC: I don’t think so. My novels… are in real places. But I also like stories that could be anywhere…

[2:10] CA: Favourite characters from children’s books?

JC: I’m a huge Kate DiCamillo fan… And Owen Meany as an adult character….

[2:40] CA: Do you do character development exercises before drafting?

JC: I don’t write down details… I go through so many drafts…

[3:20] CA: And do you have any feelings about comeuppance tales?

JC: …Middle grade doesn’t do that so much….

Power of Harmony cover

[5:15] CA: Do you have a favorite point of view to write from?

JC: Definitely first person present…I am an 11-year-old girl inside.…

[5:45] CA: Have you ever written a monster story?

JC: No… I don’t think I’m interested in monsters…. But I like when I read novels that have monsters in them….

[6:10] CA: Have you ever written a story about a curse?

JC: No. Nothing… in the fairy tale/ fantasy genre… And I don’t read fantasy either…

[6:55] CA: Have you had an unreliable narrator?

JC: I don’t think so. I feel like I spend a lot of time actually making sure that my characters are true to who they are…

Sky Pig cover

[8:30] CA: Did you tell stories around the campfire as a kid? 

JC: So I did go to overnight camp… I sent my kids to overnight camp… she was 8 – and she did not sleep for months because of the stories they told at this camp…

[9:10] CA: Have you just made up stories on the fly?

JC: … I’m not a talker…When I first was doing school visits I was terrified. …But writing has made me a better speaker. …

[10:30] CA: So you’re not into scary, but do you have a favorite scary story? Like you did mention…

JC: Skellig by David Almond …and The Nest … by Kenneth Oppel. … I would never choose a scary movie. …

[11:05] CA: And phobias?

JC: Fear of water. And dying young. I say dying young; of course, now I just turned 60 this year…

[11:30] CA: And do you collect anything?

JC: Yes, I collect beach glass… And anything second hand….

Karissa & Felix cover

[12:15] CA: How was it illustrating your own picture book?

JC: I’ve never been artistic in my whole life but …I thought, I’m going to see if I can do this….

[12:55] CA: So I’m going to say some words, Jan, and you say the first thing that pops into your head.

JC: Oh my gosh, put on your psychiatrist hat….

[13:45 Goodbyes]

[14:15] Jan Coates introduces herself

JC: I’m Jan Coates. I’m a writer of books for young people. I live in Wolfville, Nova Scotia. I have two adult children, both of whom live in Ontario. My life goal is to live within an hour’s drive of them. I love the outdoors. I love my dog, my husband, used clothing shopping, hiking. And I love of course reading and writing.

Hermit cover

[14:45] Find out more about Jan Coates

You can hear Jan Coates on Cabin Tales Episode 1.5, “Author Interviews about Setting,” Episode 2.5, “Author Interviews about Character,” and Episode 8, “The Never-ending Story,” about revision. And find out more about Jan and her books from her website at

[16:15] Thanks and coming up on the podcast

I’ll be back next week with leftovers from my interview with Rachel Eugster, a playwright and picture book author who joins us from Ottawa, Ontario.

Thanks for listening.


Music on the podcast is from “Stories of the Old Mansion” by Akashic Records, provided by Jamendo (Standard license for online use).

Host: Catherine Austen writes books for children, short stories for adults, and reports for corporate clients. Visit her at

Visit the Cabin Tales home page.


Guest Author: 

Jan Coates grew up in Truro, Nova Scotia, and has lived in Wolfville for most of her adult life. She has published six picture books, seven middle grade novels, and 18 levelled chapter books for emergent readers. Her first novel, A Hare in the Elephant’s Trunk, was a finalist for the 2011 Governor General’s Literary Awards. Find her online at



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