Do you like your main character?
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 sequel?
Yes or no. I don't know. I
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.)
Through 2011, I wrote three
different partial drafts
of a sequel, all of which were basically stupid. I have not given up,
though - I
had a dream where Dallas was standing in a field, crying, "Don't leave
me here!" so I can't give up in good conscience. I'm on my fourth
attempt. (The first draft was from Max's POV, the second switched
between Max and Dallas; the third was omniscient; this new one is just
Dallas's POV.) At this point I don't care if it's ever published. I
to write Dallas's story and get him out of that field.
Do you really think this could happen?
Parts of it, maybe. The
walled city is mostly a metaphor for the
divide between rich and poor, with the surveillance of a country that
fears its own
population. I hope such a city would never really be built.
I do 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 much 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.)
do not have a clue what kind of parents and teachers today's toddlers
will become, but higher expectations and lower patience might be on the
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.
Of course, the most
unlikely future is one in which an American high school doesn't care
about football. (I didn't set the book in the States
originally. I'm Canadian - I didn't know who was on the football
team when I was in high school. Nobody did, except the other players.
In fact, I'm not entirely sure if we even had a football team. Today,
my son's high school
has a football/soccer field - no lines, no bleachers - that only a few
parents and even fewer friends stand alongside of to watch the games.
When I set the book in the US, I thought, "Wow, no one is ever going to
buy this." But no one mentioned it.)
Is the pacing of the first part of the
Yes. 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