You took your degree in English and Cinema, I
believe, at the University of Toronto. Were you thinking in terms of
screen-writing, or was it a pull between two interests? ?
Yes, I was becoming more interested in film-making and screen-writing
at that time.
You have tackled many fields of writing for children- picture books
like " Cosimo Cat" and "Follow That Star", stories for younger children-"Emma's
Emu", and YA novels. Is there any age group you enjoy writing for in
particular, or does the idea strictly dictate the format?
My preference is for novels.
What are you working on now?
A picture book called "Peg and the Whale" is coming out in the fall
of 2000. It is about a rambunctious, irrepressible young girl named
Peg who wants to be the world's best fisherman, and sets out to catch
herself a whale. But even before then, my first adult novel, a thriller
called "The Devil's Cure", will be published in Canada by HarperCollins
in May 2000.
What were your favourite books when you were young?
Fitzgerald's Great Brain books, Brinley's "The Mad Scientist Club" books,
Danny Dunn, boy inventor books, Roald Dahl's books, especially "Danny,
the Champion of the World" and Myra Paperny's "The Wooden People".
Who was your favourite character in children's
books when you were small?
At the time, Curious George, Charlie Bucket, and Danny. But looking
back now, also Mary, from "The Secret Garden". In contemporary literature
it would be Lyra from "The Golden Compass".
Who or what are the influences on your work?
Science and technology issuess (particularly their social implications);
the Gothic, good sci-fi movies (Blade Runner, Metropolis); news stories
about people who take their beliefs, manias, delusions, to the end of
Whose writing was an inspiration when you were
beginning to write?
Roald Dahl, John Updike, Ernest Hemingway and G.B.Trudeau.
Who are among your favourite contemporary writers?
In Canada: Russell Smith and Andrew Pyper. In Britain, Ian McEwan. In
the U.S., Peter Carey (Australian I know, but lives in New York), Tom
Wolfe and Barbara Kingsolver.
One of the first things to strike me as I read
"Silverwing" was how you convey the sense of Shade as a young, insecure
and hesitant adolescent, yet he is at the same time always a bat, using
his natural abilities to sense and communicate. He is adolescent and
animal at one and the same time; and like most adolescents, he is constantly
questioning his world and challenging it. Some of his questions suggest
he is forming powerful and world-changing ideas (the challenge to the
establishment and established thought) that other bats have not brought
up- a sign of leadership. These challenges in Shade's view of the world
suggest strong feelings in the author. ?
I think most kids feel a sense of rebellion against the status quo,
and for a curious, intelligent adolescent like Shade, it can take the
form of questioning societal norms, even historical and religious perceived
truths. I was always interested in welding to the adventure story a
more cerebral. spiritual quest in which Shade would have to confront
a variety of different beliefs and systems, and decide for himself which
was right..he really wants a simple answer, the truth, but learns eventually
that the truth is a slippery thing and is usually elusive.
I've heard that "Silverwing" and "Sunwing" will
be filmed by a Vancouver animation studio. Will you take an active part
in the production?
Bardel has bought a one-year option on just "Silverwing", so it is far
from certain that the film will be made. I would have a role in writing,
or at least supervising, the script.
Silverwing's encounter with Goth, now king of
the bats, and the powerful priest Voxzaco is thrilling and dramatic.The
Aztec connection is brilliantly effective. What brought you to the idea
of using this civilization for Goth's bats- apart from the obvious connection
of their origin?
The Mayan deity Cama Zotz ( as seen in Mayan carvings) is a bat god,
and definitely has the nose of a spear-nosed bat, (Vampyrum Spectrum
is their scientific name), which is the bat Goth is based on. In developing
Goth's belief system I poached from Mayan mythology, but should stress
that I do a lot of inventing along the way, and never intended Goth
to be read as a straight analog to Mayan civilization. In "Sunwing",
the Stone is based on an actual Aztec calendar, and the Aztecs did have
a fear of eclipses.. I shaped that to fit Goth's desire to create eternal
night, so that Zotz could enter the world.