How did you feel when you wrote I Am Not a Number? Did you feel sad when you spoke with Jenny Kay Dupuis about her grandmother’s story?
I always feel sad when I write stories about people who have been discriminated against or hurt in any way. These are sad stories about a terrible time in history. As a writer, I need to try and feel what my characters are feeling. Otherwise, I won’t be telling a truthful story.
How did it work to write a book with someone else?
Jenny had an important family story that she wanted to tell. But Jenny isn’t a children’s author. I’ve written twenty-five books over my long career. So I was very happy to lend my skill as a writer to help tell Jenny’s family story.
What was your favourite part of the book to write?
That’s a really interesting question. I think the beginning of any story is always the most important part for me. I spend the most amount of time developing the beginning. That’s where I will get young people like you to want to read more. So if I feel as if I’ve “nailed” the first part, then I usually feel good about the rest of it.
What is it like to be an author?
I love being an author! I love getting up every day and thinking about the story that I am working on, or just starting, or researching, or even re-writing! My head and my heart get swept up in story-telling. That’s the best feeling of all!
What inspired you to write about residential schools?
All of the other books that I’ve written have focused on stories about the Second World War and the Holocaust. That’s my family history; both of my parents were survivors of the Holocaust. I believe that I am very sensitive to stories that portray some kind of human suffering, but also demonstrate hope and courage in terrible times. That’s certainly the case with Jenny’s family story.
Why did you decide to work with Jenny Kay Dupuis to write her grandmother’s story?
I was actually approached by the publisher to ask me if I would lend my writing skill to developing this book with Jenny.
Gillian illustrated the cover for Red Cedar winner Finding Grace
How did you come up with the book title?
Oh, I wish I could tell you that the title was my idea! But I can’t. I have to confess that I’m not very good at titles. I don’t think I have named any of my other books! I had a bunch of other ideas for the title of this one; none of them were any good. It was the publisher and her team who came up with the book title.
How long did it take to write the book?
Writing a book, even a picture book, takes a long time! In this case, I think it took almost a year to write the book. And then, it took another year for the illustrator (the fabulous Gillian Newland) to create the wonderful illustrations. So, from start to finish, this was about a two year project.
Did you interview Jenny Kay Dupuis’ grandmother to write the book?
Sadly, Jenny’s grandmother passed away before this project was being developed. She told her story to Jenny shortly before she died.
Why did you decide to be an author?
I don’t think I ever decided to become an author. I knew that I loved writing. I had always written stories and poetry and songs and even a comic strip from the time that I was quite young. As a grown-up I knew that there was one story that I hoped I could write into something that might be read by lots of young people. That was a story about my mother who survived the Holocaust by hiding in a cupboard that was in her mother’s home while Nazi soldiers, the soldiers of Adolf Hitler, were searching through the house looking for her. That story became my first published book called The Secret of Gabi’s Dresser. Once that book was published, I thought about another story that I wanted to write, and then another one, and so on. And here I am today, with 25 books and lots more to come!
–Carmen Di Lucca and the Brentwood Red Cedar Students