Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Ten Questions with Christina Kilbourne

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Ten Questions with Christina Kilbourne

Christina Kilbourne is the author of four novels, including Where Lives Take Root (BookLand Press, 2007) and The Roads of Go Home Lake (BookLand Press, 2006). She recently told Open Book about her reading, research, writing, and a memorable exchange with Margaret Atwood.

OB:

Tell us about your books, Where Lives Take Root and The Roads of Go Home Lake.

CK:

Where Lives Take Root was originally published as Day of the Dog-tooth Violets in 2001. It is based on real events from my childhood in Muskoka in the 1970s and 1980s, with a lot of fiction thrown in. It deals with ancestry, poverty and the question of belonging. The Roads of Go Home Lake is the sequel and the prequel to Where Lives Take Root. I wrote The Roads of Go Home Lake a result of a review in Quill & Quire because the reviewer wanted to know more about one of the secondary characters in Day of the Dog-tooth Violets. So I wrote a whole book about that character – Winnie St. Pierre – who as a widowed mother of six has to learn to read and write in order to keep her family together. The Roads of Go Home Lake was a lot of fun to write. I really got to test my imagination and explore what would happen if a family had to pack up and flee their lives in a few hours. It’s a book about literacy, survival and reunion.

OB:

Did you have a specific readership in mind when you wrote your books?

CK:

I didn’t really write either of these books with a specific readership in mind. I was told early on by a mentor to write what was in my heart and so I did. I intended them both for an adult audience, but the feedback I received made me realize they are both well-suited to Young Adults as well, which prompted me to re-edit and re-release Where Lives Take Root with BookLand Press last year.

OB:

How did you research Where Lives Take Root and The Roads of Go Home Lake?

CK:

For Where Lives Take Root I did a lot of research on the German occupation of Norway during the second world war and about the Norwegian airforce base that operated out of both Toronto and Muskoka. The escape of Hamar and his brother from Norway is based on a real-life account I found in the Toronto Reference Library. Everything else came from my memory. The Roads of Go Home Lake required a lot of research about which wild plants can be used for foods and medicines and even now when I am out in the forest or fields I spot things I know I could use if I needed to. I also drew upon the trapping and hunting experiences of my father and older brother.

OB:

Describe your ideal writing environment.

CK:

A quiet, empty house.

OB:

What was your first publication?

CK:

My first publication was a short story in an anthology of stories and poems by the creative writing students at Windsor University. It was about the day in the life of my imagination.

OB:

Is there one book you think everyone should read?

CK:

The Diary of Anne Frank.

OB:

What are you reading right now?

CK:

The Lemony Snickett series to my daughter and The Magic School Bus series to my son.

OB:

Describe the most memorable response you’ve received from a reader.

CK:

I have two.

I was doing a presentation to a group of Grade 4, 5 and 6 students on Internet Safety in conjunction with Dear Jo, a juvenile fiction novel published in the spring of 2007. There was one little girl in the audience who was grasping a copy of the book and hanging on my every word. As I was leaving the school that afternoon, I saw her on the bus. She had her face up at the window and was waving frantically at me.

In 2003 I was living in New Zealand and Margaret Atwood was there giving a reading. After attending the reading, I had her sign a copy of Oryx and Crake and gave her a copy of Day of the Dog-tooth Violets. A few weeks later I got a postcard in the mail from her thanking me for the book and saying she enjoyed the legend of Go Home Lake that I had written about.

OB:

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received as a writer?

CK:

Write, write, write and then write some more.

OB:

What is your next project?

CK:

I am currently putting the finishing touches on a book aimed at a Young Adult audience - They Called Me Red. It deals with human trafficking and child exploitation. It is due out in the fall of 2008 and with Lobster Press.

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