Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Ten Questions with Andrew Vanderwal

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Ten Questions with Andrew Vanderwal

Tundra author Andrew Vanderwal sits down to talk about his first novel, The Battle for Duncragglin. The launch for this amazing new book is Tuesday, April 14th, and full event details are here.

OBT:

Tell us about your young adult novel, The Battle for Duncragglin.

AV:

The Battle for Duncragglin is about a boy’s quest for identity and origins. The main character is a twelve year old Scottish boy named Alex whose parents went missing when he was very young. He ended up uprooted, living overseas in the care of an uncle who was reluctant to take him in. One summer, his uncle asked his equally unenthusiastic aunt back in Scotland look after Alex to “share the burden.” The events of the novel take place during this trip.

Learning by accident that a labyrinth of caves may lie below nearby castle ruins, Alex beings to suspect it has something to do with his parents’ disappearance. Together with his newfound friends, he sets out to find evidence of this and becomes trapped underground. When they eventually find a way out, they discover they are in a very different time.

Alex’s favorite comic book is Jane Porter’s The Scottish Chiefs, an illustrated classic his father had left him. It tells the story of the 1296 – 1305 Scottish rebellion led by William Wallace, and depicted his battles. Alex finds himself in the midst of one such battle: specifically, the battle for Duncragglin.

OBT:

How did you research your book?

AV:

Although I had been to Scotland often, when I started writing The Battle for Duncragglin, I knew little more about the life and times of William Wallace than the contents of Alex’s favorite comic book. Only once the story progressed did I set out to learn more – everything from what the landscape looked like back then to what people ate (thank you, Google). I waded through several academic publications, read William Hamilton of Gilbertfield’s re-written version of Blind Harry’s Wallace; or the Life and Acts of Sir William Wallace of Ellerslie (then attempted an 1869 new edition of the original). I even turned to historical fiction, reading Nigil Tranters’ The Wallace, and watched (for better or for worse) Mel Gibson’s Braveheart; but the most enjoyable part of my research was exploring battle sites in Scotland and transporting myself back in time (not literally, unfortunately).

I have always found it hugely enjoyable to stand in amongst castle ruins and imagine what it might have been like in times gone by. I rebuild the walls, smell the manure and visualize the mud, blood and glory of the place until everyone I came with is fed up and ready to go home. After researching the revolution led by William Wallace, I was able to do my imaginings with real battles in mind.

OBT:

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

AV:

Not really. I started off writing for my sons, but soon found myself writing for the young adult in myself and hopefully every one of us.

OBT:

Which books made a great impression on you when you were a child?

AV:

As a kid, I did a lot of reading, often taking a bus to the North York public library to sign out yet another stack of books (usually the limit they allowed).

One book series that was very enjoyable and memorable for me was Enid Blyton’s Adventure Series, particularly The Valley of Adventure. It sparked me into making fantasy adventures of my own. Every night before falling asleep, I would pick up where I left off the night before.

OBT:

Describe your ideal writing environment.

AV:

For peace and quiet, nothing beats mornings at the cottage when everyone else is sleeping in. Failing that, there’s Saturday and Sunday mornings at home with a big mug of coffee.

OBT:

What was your first publication?

AV:

The International Regulation of Direct Foreign Investment, which appeared in “International Perspectives” (Nov/Dec 1985) and “The Political Economy of North-South Relations,” Broadview Press Ltd. 1987.

OBT:

What are you reading right now?

AV:

It is rare for me to read non-fiction, but I’m just finishing A Voyage for Madmen, by Peter Nichols, which I found provided hugely fascinating account of what it is like to rise up to an enormous challenge (in this case, a race to be the first to single-handedly sail non-stop around the world).

Also, I’ve recently finished The Book of Dead Days, by Marcus Sedgwick, which is right down the alley of young adult fiction I enjoy most (gritty adventure).

OBT:

If you had to choose three books as a “Welcome to Canada” gift, what would those books be?

AV:

Shaman’s Daughter, by Nan F. Salerno and Rosamond M. Vanderburgh
Never Cry Wolf, by Farley Mowat
The Disinherited, by Matt Cohen

OBT:

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

AV:

To do a lot of reading, and to stop now and again to closely examine the author’s writing – everything from style to punctuation.

OBT:

What is your next project?

AV:

Duncragglin is the first of a trilogy. The second book has been written (but still needs work); the third is underway.

For more information about Andrew Vanderwal’s The Battle for Duncragglin, visit the Tundra Books website at www.tundrabooks.com.

Author Photo Credit: Anka Czudec, Anka Studio

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