Being able to create books about history is a dream job for me since I’ve always been enthralled by history. When I was growing up in Georgetown, Ontario, our house was just around the corner from the town library. And I haunted its children’s section—reading sometimes four or five books a week. Historical fiction titles by writers like Geoffrey Trease and Rosemary Sutcliffe were particular favourites. I still treasure a copy of Ernest Thompson Seton’s Two Little Savages that I was given as a prize in a library reading contest in 1960.
Since ours was the only house in the neighbourhoood without a TV antenna on the roof, reading was my primary form of entertainment. My parents thought their four children would read more without a television to distract us. And they were right, we did — though we also showed up at our friends’ houses whenever our favourite shows were on!
Our family had moved to Georgetown from a small town in Scotland in 1956, when I was six years old. When I was thirteen we moved to Guelph, Ontario, and I went to high school and university there. My first real job after graduating with an English degree in 1971 was with Scholastic – then a fairly new publishing company in Canada. As an editor for Scholastic Inc. from 1972 to 1984 in both Toronto and New York, I was involved in the creation of Scholastic’s Canadian children’s publishing program as well as in the selecting of books for Scholastic’s school book clubs. (One of our early discoveries was the teenaged author Gordon Korman and his Bruno and Boots books.)
Between 1984 and 2004 I was the Editorial Director and Publisher of Madison Press Books in Toronto. While there, I helped to create a number of successful books for both adults and young readers including Robert Ballard’s The Discovery the Titanic, that has sold over 1.5 million copies, and TITANIC: An Illustrated History a book that provided inspiration for James Cameron’s epic movie. Among the award-winning children’s books that I edited and compiled are: Polar the Titanic Bear, On Board the Titanic, First to Fly, and Journey to Ellis Island.
The first children’s book that I actually both wrote and compiled was Anastasia’s Album: The Last Tsar’s Youngest Daughter Tells Her Own Story, which was published in 1996 and won a number of awards. In 1997 I wrote the text for Inside the Titanic, which featured amazing cutaway illustrations by Ken Marschall. The next year, with Laurie Coulter, I compiled a book filled with fascinating facts about the Titanic entitled 882 1/2 Amazing Answers to Your Questions About the Titanic. Laurie and I went on to write To Be A Princess in 2001 which was a Silver Birch and Red Cedar nominee. In 2004, the 60th anniversary of D-Day, I wrote On Juno Beach which won the Children’s Literature of Canada Information Book Award in 2005. The success of that book encouraged me to write At Vimy Ridge which appeared in 2007 and won the Norma Fleck Award in 2008.
In 2005, I decided to devote myself to writing full-time and have produced seven books since then: The Other Mozart: The Life of the Famous Chevalier de Saint George published Fall 2006; Carnation, Lily, Lily Rose: The Story of a Painting and Breakout Dinosaurs. DIEPPE: Canada’s Darkest Day of World War II was released in 2009 and was followed by the novel Prisoner of Dieppe in Scholastic’s new I Am Canada series. A second novel, Deadly Voyage appeared in Fall ’11 and for the 100th anniversary of the Titanic, I produced a large adult book entitled Gilded Lives, Fatal Voyage in Spring 2012. For more information about all these books, just click on the “Books” link on the left.
For more biographical information about me, go to the CM magazine interview at:
For a podcast interview about DIEPPE go to: http://www.justonemorebook.com/