Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Ten Questions with Curtis Parkinson: "in that half zone between waking and sleeping."

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Ten Questions with Curtis Parkinson: "in that half zone between waking and sleeping."

Award-winning Tundra author, Curtis Parkinson, talks about his sequel to Death in Kingsport.

OBT:

Tell us about your brand new book, The Castle on Deadman’s Island.

CP:

When the owner of the coveted castle on Deadman’s Island dies, his bizarre will leaves it to three of his friends who hate each other. Graham becomes involved when his aunt, one of the new owners of the castle, disappears.

Has his aunt gone on a trip, as some insist, or has there been foul play? With a sense of foreboding, the three teens make their way down the river to investigate. They uncover dark schemes, but not before the curse of the castle strikes again.

OBT:

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

CP:

Not particularly. Teens, of course, for that’s the age I was when I spent my summers on a similar island in the St. Lawrence, but not limited to any specific age. Uppermost in my mind when I begin a new book are the characters, the setting and the opening scene. I look for a setting that interests me, like the castle, an opening scene that leads into the story, and characters that grab me.

Graham’s character, for instance, in The Castle on Deadman’s Island, is based on a boy I knew back then. A bit of an oddball, Graham is very bright and has a vocabulary that may be challenging for some. However most teens, I find, like to be challenged.

One thing I never do is “write down.” Whether it’s a picture book, a Y/A novel, or an adult novel, it’s important to respect the intelligence of the reader.

OBT:

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

CP:

The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter and The Adventures of Reddy the Fox by Thornton Burgess. Read by a sweet-voiced librarian at the Kingston library on Saturday mornings, these stories have stayed with me through the years. Later on, when I read to my own children, I also came to love The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham and The House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne.

The one thing all these books have in common, I realize now, is great characters – from Toad, Badger, and Mole to Eyore, Kanga and Tigger.

OBT:

Describe your ideal writing environment.

CP:

A room that is quiet and bright with a view of trees and sky and water, and a cat purring on my lap. Of course this is an ideal. Fortunately, what I have comes close enough to this to keep my muse happy.

I also do a lot of scribbling when I’m traveling. That’s when you can observe people in groups and how they act and react to each other.

My best plot ideas are often developed, surprisingly, when I’m in still bed in the early morning, in that half zone between waking and sleeping.

OBT:

What was your first publication?

CP:

Tom Foolery, a picture book. All I’d been getting was rejection letters until our cat fell off the boat one night. The cat’s story was different enough to attract a publisher’s attention – which makes the point that a writer, particularly a beginning writer, has to have something special about his story that distinguishes it from the dozens of others in the pile of manuscripts on the editor’s desk awaiting attention.

OBT:

What are you reading right now?

CP:

I usually have 2 or 3 books by my bedside table. Right now they are:
The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett, On Beauty by Zadie Smith and Ghost by Alan Lightman.

OBT:

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

CP:

The Man Who Made Us, by Richard Gwyn
The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be, by Farley Mowat
First Times: Stories selected by Marthe Jocelyn

OBT:

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

CP:

Don’t take rejections personally. The editor may be having a bad day, or is simply not looking for your type of story. If you believe in your work, send it out again.

And . . .
Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite.

OBT:

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

CP:

It is always gratifying for an author to hear that his lengthy (and necessarily lonely) efforts to get it all down on paper have resonated with someone. My most memorable response was from a reader in Sydney, Australia, whose letter read in part:
“. . .I have just finished reading your wonderful book, Domenic’s War. The story holds a significant and sentimental meaning to me, as my father lived through the very same battle of Monte Cassino that you describe in your book. My father, Angelo, is now 78 years old . . .”

OBT:

What is your next project?

CP:

It’s a sequel to The Castle on Deadman’s Island. Graham and Neil find summer jobs as deckhands on the Rapids Prince, a small steamer which takes tourists on a thrilling ride through the Lachine Rapids to Montreal (this is in the 1940’s before the St. Lawrence Seaway drowned the rapids).

But, while the boat is docked on the Montreal waterfront discharging passengers, Graham happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. He is grabbed by an Al-Capone-like gangster on the run and taken as a hostage. The story is still developing and I can hardly wait to discover what happens as Neil and Crescent frantically look for him.

For more information about Curtis Parkinson’s The Castle on Deadman’s Island, visit the Tundra Books website at www.tundrabooks.com.

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