Saturday 27 February 2021

Award Winning Sci-Fi/Fantasy Author Hannah State of Fredericton, NB.


I discovered Hannah’s YA novel – Journey to the Hopewell Star - when I read the review on The Miramichi Reader, see it HERE. The review was followed up by an interview two months later and you can read that HERE.


I was impressed by what I read and since then I follow Hannah on FB. I believe this is an author to watch for. Her novel has garnered many 4 and 5 stars reviews and the buzz is, it’s quite good.


We are more than pleased she has agreed to an interview here on the Scribbler and is sharing an excerpt from her novel.


Hannah D. State is an award-winning Canadian author and science fiction/fantasy writer. She resides in Fredericton, New Brunswick, and loves the friendly community, quietude, and beautiful nature of Atlantic Canada. She graduated from McGill University with a BA and earned her MPL from Queen’s University. Hannah is bothered by inequality, violence, greed, complacency, snakes, entering a dark room, and not getting enough sleep. She enjoys writing about strong-willed characters who don’t fit the norm and who overcome great obstacles with perseverance, self-discovery, and help from others. Sometimes Hannah can’t keep up with her characters’ ideas and plans, so she takes breaks, drinks coffee, does sudoku and other puzzles, practices yoga, and takes nature walks to calm her mind and really listen. Journey to the Hopewell Star is her first novel.




4Q: Your intro on your Facebook labels your writing as Science Fiction/ Fantasy. What draws you to this genre?


HS: What I love about the science fiction/fantasy genre is that it allows you to explore creative, imaginative worlds full of diversity and possibilities, which really gives you a lot of freedom to navigate the unknown and to question things. I tend to have an overactive imagination, extending situations into a realm of possibility, and then I try to think of solutions to make things better. Even though I’m writing fiction, I find that many current issues can impact us in different ways. When I’m bothered by something, it sticks with me. I try to consider the ways it may affect society in the future and how it might affect characters if they were thrust into a similar situation. Reading about world issues drives me to further consider alternatives, and I’m also a bit of an idealist, so science fiction/fantasy is the perfect realm and creative outlet for me.




4Q: When our readers pick up a copy of Journey to the Hopewell Star, what can they expect? And how did you come about naming the star, Hopewell?


HS: The story is about twelve-year-old Sam Sanderson, who lives a peaceful, quiet life on her grandfather’s farm while her parents are on a secret otherworldly mission. One night, Sam meets a mysterious visitor from another world who is the catalyst that thrusts her on a perilous journey. Her mission is to find the elusive Hopewell Star to save a dying planet. It’s a multifaceted tale and explores some complex scientific and technological concepts but breaks them down in a way that’s easy to understand. But it’s not just about the scientific aspects—I wanted to create a story that would consider other important themes, such as interdependency with our environment, our interconnectedness with others, overcoming obstacles, and believing in yourself.

When my husband and I first moved to the East Coast, we visited the Hopewell Rocks in the Bay of Fundy, and I was inspired by the beauty of the landscape. Without giving too much away, the name stuck with me, and I was curious about building a mythology or legend around the name Hopewell, the merging of “hope” and “well”, and what it would entail on a larger, universal scale. I started asking myself questions, such as, what if another, more advanced civilization had been monitoring Earth, and they were dismayed with how we’d treated our planet and each other, and had decided to create a special star that had the ability to shine in such a way so as to reduce the hatred and suffering that humans had created and experienced? What if it represented a pact between those two worlds to do better? What if the star were fuelled by the good deeds, hope, and well-being that humans inspired in others? Then I asked the question, what if someone or a group of people wanted to harness that power for something more sinister in nature so that the source of that star’s power was threatened? What would that look like? And that’s how the story developed.



4Q: Please share a childhood memory and/or anecdote.


HS: Some of my favourite childhood memories are of acting and performing in some plays on stage and in the small space of our living room for family and friends. I attended Lester B. Pearson School for the Arts in London, Ontario, and was in the Grand Theatre’s production of A Christmas Carol. But one of my earlier memories was of performing in a play that my mother, Barbara Novak, had written while I attended Ryerson Public School. 

Her play, entitled Sybil in the Middle, was a comedy about a middle child who felt that her parents didn’t understand her. A genie grants her a wish, but it backfires, and she ends up growing a pig’s nose. I played the role of the younger child, and I remember how proud I was of my mom. She had written this play that had the power to excite, endear, and uplift the audience of children and their parents. I still remember the laughter that filled that auditorium. It was a magical moment, and my mother was a huge inspiration for my love of the arts and writing.



4Q: The illustration on the cover of Journey to the Hopewell Star is quite attractive. Who designed it and what was your input?


HS: Thank you. Irfan Budi is an exceptionally talented illustrator from Indonesia. We worked together entirely online. I provided him with a concept, a description of the main character, and some colour elements. He first prepared a rough sketch, and then I provided my suggestions, and he worked with my idea and delivered a truly amazing result.




4Q: Which part of the novel was the most difficult to write?


HS: Some of the scenes with the main antagonist, Titus, were difficult to write. He’s a tyrannical business mogul; arrogant, manipulative, greedy, and dangerous. Getting into his mind caused my heart to race and my blood to boil sometimes. But at the same time, some of his scenes were particularly fun to write, especially the scene where he gets into a heated argument with his replicated robotic wife that he had created.


4Q: Plotter or pantser?


HS: That’s a great question! I’m somewhat of a plotter as I tend to first plan and map out the story in my mind in terms of the scenes and elements I want to include and where I want the story to go. However, I leave the structure somewhat fluid and open when writing, in case I want to take it in a different direction, and so I’m a bit of a pantser in that sense. If I plot too much in terms of outlining each chapter and creating a rigid structure, then it becomes difficult to change later on. Perhaps I’m a hybrid—a “plantser”.




4Q: What’s next for Hannah State, the author?


HS: I’m working on a sequel to Journey to the Hopewell Star and also hoping to launch my website in 2021. This will be a year of continued learning opportunities and exploring new adventures!



4Q: Anything else you’d like to share with us?


HS: I’m excited to share the recent release of the official book trailer. Towers Filmworks did an excellent job in putting it together. You can find it here:


Also, I just wanted to say many thanks, Allan, for this opportunity to discuss my book and writing process with the South Branch Scribbler.

***You are more than welcome, Hannah. Pleasure having you here.





An Excerpt from Journey to the Hopewell Star.

(Copyright is held by the author. Used with permission.)


Soon they arrived at the mouth of one of the caves. Boj stopped, staring up at the gaping entrance. Sam focused her gaze upon a series of markings; strange symbols like hieroglyphics were engraved into the rock along the edge of the cave opening. She peered inside, the darkness foreboding. How would she navigate this?

“Remember what I told you,” Boj said.

“You mean—you’re not coming with me?”

“I can’t. I’m sorry. Once you leave the cave, I’ll meet with him separately. Now, remember what I said about addressing him. Once you are inside, listen to his voice and he will guide you through the cave. Do not worry, Sam. I’ll be waiting here for you. Now, go. There is no time to waste.”

Sam took a step inside, unnerved and a bit shaky. Nevertheless, she had come this far. What were a few more steps to go?

Inside, darkness enveloped her. All she heard was her loud breathing, her footsteps echoing on the stone floor.





Thank you, Hannah, for being our guest this week. Wishing you continued success with your writing.


Thank you, Allan. Wishing all the best to you, too!




For all you awesome visitors wishing to discover more about Hannah and her writing, please follow these links:

Author Facebook Page:

Author Goodreads Page:

Official Book Trailer:



Barnes & Noble:

Saturday 20 February 2021

Award Winning Author Mark Scott Piper of Santa Rosa, CA.


When you are writing a story or a novel, the writing is the easy part. Getting it out to as many readers as possible is the difficult part. Now this is where Mark comes in. A generous supporter of his fellow authors, I had the good fortune of meeting Mark online. We both follow authors we enjoy and root for.

Two novels under his belt, his latest story is garnishing many positive reviews and generating a lot of excitement.

It’s a pleasure to have Mark join us this week for a 4Q Interview and is sharing an excerpt from his newest novel – The Old Block.



Mark Scott Piper has been writing professionally his entire adult life. He is a longtime freelance writer and video director/producer. Mark holds an M.A. and a Ph.D. in English from the University of Oregon, and he has taught literature and writing at the college level for several years. His debut novel, You Wish, was the 2019 American Eagle Book Awards first-place gold winner. His second novel, The Old Block, has just been released.

Mark's bookshelves are overflowing. Among his favorites are Christopher Moore, John Irving, Barbara Kingsolver, Stephen Crane, William Faulkner, Tony Hillerman, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and Anne Lamott--all of whom successfully conspire to keep him humble.

His stories have appeared in Short Story America, The California Writers Club Literary Review, and several online literary magazines, including, Scrutiny, Writing Raw, Fabula Argentea, Animal, Slurve, and others. In addition, two of his short stories have been Honorable Mention selections in Short Story America Prize for Short Fiction contests.





4Q: Thanks for being our guest this week, Mark. Before we chat about your latest work, please tell us about winning gold in the American Eagle Book Awards for You Wish. This must’ve been exciting. And can you give us a brief synopsis?


MP: Yes, winning the top prize in the 2019 American Eagle Book Awards was a complete surprise, especially given the circumstances. We were forced to evacuate our home because the raging wild fires in Northern California were getting dangerously close. That meant I didn’t have access to my computer for a while. Thankfully, we didn’t suffer any fire damage. Once the air became breathable again and we were settled back home, I checked my email. That’s when I found out I’d won. At first I thought it was another scam. Turned out it wasn’t.

Since You Wish was my debut, I had no idea how people will respond. So I’d already steeled myself for possible rejection. But the reaction to my novel was the opposite.

Here’s the elevator pitch for You Wish.

Imagine you are granted three-wishes—and your second wish is captured by a television news crew and broadcast across the globe. That means the whole world knows you can wish for absolutely anything, and it will come true. And they’re all watching. Now imagine you’re only fourteen years old.




4Q: Please tell our readers what to expect when they pick up a copy of The Old Block.


MP: You Wish was a YA crossover novel, featuring magical realism with a large dose of social satire. The Old Block, on the other hand, is a literary novel that touches a lot of subgenres—father-son relationship, mystery, adventure, humor, even romance. I’ve always had trouble staying strictly within a single genre,

Here’s a quick synopsis:

What would you do if you discovered that your father might not be the person you always thought he was?

Shortly after his father dies, twenty-four-year-old Nick Castle discovers what seems to be a draft of the novel his dad had always hoped to write. But a clue at the end causes Nick to fear that this story of a serious federal crime and escape from the U.S. may not be fiction at all. When Nick sets out to find out the truth about his father’s past, he learns more than he ever expected—about his father and about himself.

The Old Block is essentially two parallel stories. The manuscript Nick discovers is the tale of a federal crime committed during the student anti-war demonstrations in 1970, the subsequent escape from the U.S., and fifteen years in exile in Central America. The overall narrative of the novel, which takes place in 2012, is Nick’s reluctant quest to find out if his father’s tale is fiction or autobiography.

Here’s an interesting side note. I found a cover artist for The Old Block online. Designers were listed by first name and final initial. The one who’s work impressed me the most was “Nick C.” He was in London, and when we exchanged messages, I discovered his full name was Nick Castle—the name I’d already chosen for my protagonist. Didn’t see that coming.



4Q: Share a childhood memory and/or anecdote with us, Mark.


MP: One that’s stuck with me took place just before Christmas when I was eight. Everyone was asleep but me, and like kids everywhere, I wanted to know what I was getting for Christmas. Our tiny duplex didn’t allow much room to hide things. But we did have a storage space (not a full-on attic) above the ceiling in the bedroom I shared with my younger brother and sister. The only thing between me and my goal was a thin slab of plywood covering the hole in the ceiling from the inside.

I climbed atop the dresser and carefully pushed the plywood up out of the way. I leaned it back against one side of the framed opening. As I eased myself up into the crawl space, I accidently bumped the plywood lid with my knee and it dropped back into place with a thud. I was suddenly swallowed up in pitch black.

Photo by woodleywonderworks.

I tried to get a hold on the edge of the plywood, but I couldn’t. I didn’t know what to do, but I did know I had to escape back to the safety of the bedroom before I found out exactly what other living things might be in the dark watching me. I did the only thing I could think of. I stomped on the slab with both feet, hoping to knock it loose. The board cracked just enough to allow me to get a grip on the edge and pull it back up. Back on the dresser, I put the injured board back in place, hopped down and dove back under the covers.

My parents didn’t seem to notice the minor structural damage, and they never said anything about it. I was tremendously relieved, sure that I’d gotten away with it. That confidence didn’t wane until may years later when I had children of my own. That’s when I discovered that parents know so much more about what their children are up to than they let on. Mine knew I’d learned my lesson without their having to teach it to me. Maybe there’s a short story in there somewhere.



4Q: You are also the recipient of two Honorable Mentions for your short stories, which have appeared in many publications. What appeals to you about short stories?


MP: Like many of us, I started with short stories. In some aspects short stories are more difficult to writer than novels, often you’re working with a tighter narrative than with a longer work. I like the way a short story can be open ended, leaving the reader to fill in the blanks.

For me, short stories are snatches of life. Snatches that have meaning in the moment and may even have long-term consequences, but the focus is on the moment, on the particular event. Then again, a short story can do whatever the author wants it to. That’s freedom, but that’s also a challenge.



4Q: What can you tell us about your writing habits? Do you have a favored spot to write? Has anything changed because of the pandemic?


MP: My alarm goes off at 5:00 every morning, and that means I have a quiet work environment every day for four hours or so, until the rest of the house is awake. I have an office where I do my writing. It’s my creative sanctuary. Afternoons can be full of errands and family, but the mornings are mine. If I’m really on a roll with something new or editing a manuscript, I sometimes go at it again in the evenings. You have to strike when the iron is hot, or some other appropriate cliché.

I’m retired—as much as any active author can be. My partner is retired and she’s also disabled. So, we didn’t go out much before the pandemic struck. Our daily routine hasn’t been affected as much by the restrictions—I still spend most of my time writing, re-writing, and editing. Although I try to keep my trips to the market to once a week, and we buy a lot more things online than we used to. As it is for most people these days, being cut off from family has been difficult.



4Q: Favorite authors? Novel?


MP: Disclaimer: I have advanced degrees are in English, and I spent the bulk of my academic career studying and teaching literary works. So, it’s not surprising that most of my favorite authors generally fall into that category. I have many favorite authors, and it’s tough to pick a single novel from my favorites. Christopher Moore’s Lamb is the novel I’ve most recommended and given as a gift. Here are some of my favorites who came up when I tossed a few darts at my bookshelves.

John Irving

Barbara Kingsolver

Christopher Moore

Anne Lamott

Stephen Crane

William Faulkner

Fyodor Dostoevsky



4Q: What are some of your interests outside of writing?


MP: I have four grown children, all of whom live near me. Of course, we’re all stuck inside at the moment, but we try to keep in touch through texts and emails. But I have one-year-old grandson, which makes staying away that much more difficult.

I’ve been a big baseball fan since I was a kid, and I still follow it, though not as closely, these days. While in graduate school in Eugene, Oregon I played softball in local leagues and in state-wide tournaments on weekends. When I moved to California, I continued playing as long as my creaky joints allowed, and until I’d reached the age where playing in an “Over-50” league became too much a misnomer.

When I’m not working on my own writing, I read and review the fiction of others as much as I’m able. I like to focus primarily on independent writers. Indies like us especially need reviews to help promote their work.



4Q: What is the most surprising thing you’ve discovered as a writer?


MP: I’ve discovered several things by trial and error along the way. For instance, in a very real way publishing a book is just the beginning. You think the job is done when you see your first novel in print, but it’s only the beginning. If you hope to sell you have to market constantly and well. I’m getting better at it, but posting on social media and begging others for reviews can be draining.

But the most surprising thing I’ve discovered is how much I enjoy editing. I’ve heard that it’s like chewing gum twice, something dreaded. Yes, it’s a constant chore that’s never completely finished, but every time I edit a section I can see how much I’ve improved it beyond catching typos or grammar slip ups. It may be that I’m simply coming to the manuscript with new, rested eyes by the time I sit down to do a comprehensive edit, but it’s a wonderful experience. And I get to repeat it with each book or story I write.

Something you’ll appreciate, Allan. When I posted the excerpt from the first chapter of The Old Block below, I had to constantly stop myself from making edits—and it’s already published.

*********We all know that feeling Mark. 

An Excerpt from The Old Block.

(Copyright is held by the author. Used with permission)




Chapter 1

May 2012                   

I splashed cold water on my face to shock some life into it. I should be doing better than this. Over a month since the funeral, and I still wasn’t getting much sleep. I glanced at my reflection, eased out a sigh. Every time I looked in a mirror I saw Dad looking back at me. Easy enough to see why: same dark eyes, same jawline, same smile. A smile that didn’t come easily for me these days. At least I didn’t break into tears this time.

I ran a palm over my cheek. I’d either have to shave or commit to growing a beard. I flicked on the Norelco and started in on my six-day-old stubble. The buzz of the razor wasn’t loud enough to block out the voices that still wouldn’t leave me alone.

t t t


The clamor of a hundred simultaneous conversations overwhelms me at the post-funeral gathering in the Shoat Valley Presbyterian Church. The whole town has turned out.

The barrage never lets up. Everyone feels compelled to corner me, pay their respects, share their fond memories of Jim Castle—his kindness, his gentle way with people, his humility, his willingness to step in and help. As if I somehow didn’t already know what he was like.

Mary Ellen Camp, our mayor, pumps my hand with her two-handed candidate’s grip. “Nick, your dad’s smile always lit up the room. He will be missed.”

Charley Hanson, the town pharmacist and Dad’s frequent golf partner, leans in close to remind me: “Jim Castle was truly an honest man. Might be the only guy I know who never once cheated at golf.” I reward his hearty guffaw with a forced smile.

Mom’s sister, Eloise, sincere as always, drunk as always, covers me with sloppy kisses and tells me, “Your dad was one of a kind. He could make anyone feel special … even those of us who weren’t. I’ll never forget the time I’d had too much to drink, and I started to sound off about how life wasn’t fair and …”

I tune her out. I’ve heard that story so often, it’s embedded in my brain.

t t t


Okay, they were going to miss him. I got that. But now that gathering and those songs of praise were long gone. Those well-wishers had moved on as if nothing had happened. Their day-to-day activities shifted back to normal. Mine wouldn’t. My mentor, my role model, my best friend … my dad was dead. And now, my life had a cavernous void in the middle of it that would never be filled.

Dad and I did everything together. I was his shadow. For my whole life, the adults in Shoat Valley have referred to me as “Little Jim,” “a chip off the old block,” “the apple of his dad’s eye,” or “a spittin’ image of the old man.” Some still applied, but tired clichés couldn’t begin to describe our relationship.

As a young child, I was a fixture at Dad’s side at our family bookstore, Book Castle, and I tagged along while he ran errands. Even when I was only three or four, Dad would let me “help” by carrying packages back to the car, including some that were probably too big or awkward to trust me with. A proud moment. When I was older, I realized he most likely secretly spotted me the whole way, but he never let me know that.

I still remember, early on—I must have been five or six—my first Little League game. I’d failed miserably that day. I missed a couple of grounders, made a bad throw, and my performance at the plate should have earned me the nickname “Whiff.” On the way home in the car, I stared straight ahead trying to hold back tears.

Dad pulled over to the side of the road and stopped the car. After a moment, he laid his hand on my shoulder. “Don’t be so hard on yourself, Nick. It takes time to master this game.”

I looked over at him, my lower lip quivering my response.

He pulled me into a hug. “You’ve got to remember, Kiddo, baseball is a game of failure.” He ruffled my hair. “The best hitters in the big leagues average only three hits for every ten at-bats.”

“Wait. So, they fail seven out of ten times? Really?”

“Yep. But don’t worry, you’ve got the skills. You just need some help developing them.”

“What does that mean?” I wiped away the remnants of tears with my sleeve.

“Means you need some personal instruction.” He chuckled. “And you’re in luck. I know just the guy who can do it.” He threw his hands out to the side, grinned.

We both knew who he was referring to.

When we got home, he took me out to the backyard and showed me the basics of playing the game. We laughed, kidded around, had a lot of fun. No pressure, no disappointment. It was just the two of us. And we were out there nearly every day for weeks. 

He taught me plenty of skills—how to place my feet in the batter’s box, how to generate power when I swung, all that stuff. But most of all he taught me how to have fun playing the game. It was a lesson in baseball and in life that I’ve tried to hang on to ever since.

I’ve never been as close to anyone in my life. Guess that’s why it’s been so hard for me to let go. Even at Sonoma State, I regularly Skyped with my parents, most often Dad on Book Castle’s computer. And when I returned to Shoat Valley with a degree, we picked up right where we left off. My degree was in English, which, if nothing else, made me a good candidate to run a bookstore someday. But Dad made sure I thought my career options through. Even an English major has some choices. I’m sure he knew all I really wanted to do was follow in his footsteps. Same as I always had.

But now, his footsteps were gone forever, and I wasn’t sure what that meant for me. Everything I did, everything I believed in, everything I hoped to become was a reflection of Dad. Being Jim Castle’s son defined me—like being Batman’s sidekick defined Robin. And now? Well, now it didn’t. Robin without Batman was just some weirdo in tights waiting for instructions.


Thanks again for taking the time to share your thoughts. Wishing you much success with your future writing endeavors.


Thank you for asking me. This was fun.



For all you wonderful visitors wanting to discover more about Mark and his writing, please follow these links:



You Wish

The Old Block

Amazon Author Page





Facebook Author Page

Saturday 13 February 2021

Award Winning Author Jennifer McGrath of Moncton, NB.



The Scribbler is most fortunate to have Jennifer as our guest this week. She is an accomplished author of children’s stories. Her books have garnered numerous, excellent reviews and high praise.

Her stories have been making a splash with children and teachers alike.

She has graciously agreed to a 4Q Interview and is sharing an excerpt from Chocolate River Rescue (Nimbus Publishing).



An award-winning children’s author from Moncton, New Brunswick, Jennifer has published two middle grade adventure novels, and two picture books. Her book, The Snow Knows, (Nimbus Publishing) was the 2017 recipient of the prestigious Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award, presented to the year’s best Canadian picture book for children. It also won the inaugural Alice Kitts Memorial Award for Excellence in Children’s Literature. Her books are a favourite with educators, librarians and young readers alike, and have been included in a number of reading programs, literacy initiatives, and book clubs across the country. 


Jennifer received her B.A. in English from St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia and holds an M.A. in English Literature with a Directed Study in Children’s Literature from the University of Victoria.


Her next book, Pugs Cause Traffic Jams (Kids Can Press) is scheduled for release in 2022, with Kathryn Durst illustrating. (Hey, Grandude, by Sir Paul McCartney).




4Q: As a writer myself, I admire authors of children’s books such as the beautiful collection you’ve penned. What draws you to this genre?


JM: Wow, that’s a surprisingly tricky question to answer. The short version is that’s just what comes out when I put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard).  I write about things that make me happy. They are, in no particular order: things that I find beautiful; things that I find funny; things that delight me; and things I think might possibly delight others. By happy accident, much of what I write seems to delight younger readers. And that delights me, too. And when I’m delighted, I write. So it’s really a vicious circle of delight. (Except when it’s a vicious circle of angst and self-doubt, but that’s a blog for another day.)

Without disappearing into the rabbit hole of ‘What is children’s literature?’ and what makes a particular piece of writing for children, I will say that there is a sort of authenticity that’s embedded in the best children’s books – an emotionally honest and undistilled way of perceiving the world, and reflecting it back in words and art. Fantasy writer, Lloyd Alexander suggested that children’s books offer “a means of dealing with things which cannot be dealt with quite as well in any other way” and I think there is truth in that as well.



4Q: The first book of yours that came to my attention is The Snow Knows. I understand you and your Illustrator, Josee Bisaillon, are both award winning artists. Tell us about the Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award. How exciting it must be.


JM: So, it’s kind of a funny story. I didn’t actually know about the Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Prize prior to that year. It just wasn’t on my radar at all. In fact, I didn’t even know The Snow Knows had been submitted for consideration, much less nominated and short-listed until I got a Facebook message from a writer friend of mine, saying ‘OMG, CONGRATULATIONS!!!” And I replied: ‘THANK YOU!! WHAT FOR???” And she told me that The Snow Knows was on the short list for the Marilyn Baillie Prize. That was the first I knew of it.

The Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Prize is presented annually as part of the TD Canadian Children’s Literature Awards, sponsored by TD Bank and the Canadian Children’s Book Centre. It recognizes the year’s best illustrated picture book. To say I was gobsmacked would be an understatement. That year, The Snow Knows was nominated alongside Col. Chris Hadfield’s book The Darkest Dark (illustrated by the brilliant Fan Brothers), as well as New York Times bestselling author-illustrator Jon Klassen’s book We Found a Hat. It was a completely surreal experience. 

And then, when I arrived for the awards ceremony in Toronto, I found out the event was being emcee’d by CBC Radio’s Shelagh Rogers. I may or may not have had a complete book-nerd/fan-girl meltdown at that point. Plus the room was FULL of children’s authors and illustrators I had idolized forever. It was definitely a what-am-I-even-doing-here moment. Really, I could not have been more dazed and amazed if you had tapped a pumpkin and turned it into a coach-and-four. It was also the first time I got to meet my illustrator, Josée Bisaillon, in person. Which was, of course, utterly delightful.




4Q: Please share a childhood memory or anecdote.


JM: Well. Let’s see. There are so many to choose from. There was that time my parents and some friends decided it would be a good idea to build a homemade boat and sail it to the Caribbean. Did they have any boatbuilding experience? Nope. Sailing experience? Mmm, not so much. At seven years old, I was the oldest of half a dozen kids bundled aboard that boat. We set sail from the Bay of Fundy on a freezing, wind-swept day in November, loaded to the gunwales with gear, winter clothes, rations, charts (no GPS in those days), baby diapers, books, Gravol, and barf buckets. 

It was the Boat’s maiden voyage as construction had taken a longer than anticipated (I am told the sails were still being sewn the night before our departure) and the window to get out of the Bay before winter weather made it impassable was rapidly closing. There were storms, waves, whales, a brief mutiny and, oh yeah – we ran aground on Plymouth Rock. Yup. That Plymouth Rock. It was underwhelming. There weren’t even any pilgrims.


I should probably write a story about that someday.

***I agree, Jennifer, it would be an amusing story.


4Q: Tell us about The Chocolate River Rescue. What was the most difficult part to write?


JM: CRR was first book I’d written so I really had no idea what I was doing. Because the idea for the story stemmed from real-life events, I struggled initially with how much to ‘stick to the facts.’ I didn’t know when, where or if I should take creative license. The first draft followed the real-life incident as it was told to me very, very closely. There were three boys adrift on an ice floe who were eventually rescued by firefighters and a SAR helicopter. It read a little bit like those Reader’s Digest drama-in-real-life stories…but, you know, not as good. It felt stilted, two-dimensional.  When I submitted my manuscript to my editor, she read it and very gently pointed out that there weren’t any girls or women in the story. Would I perhaps consider adding another character or two? And that’s when the lightbulb went off in my head.

I could do that? Really? You mean, I was allowed to, you know, just…make stuff up??

That’s when it hit me what being a fiction writer actually meant.

I could write Anything. I. Wanted.

It was a dizzying realization. I felt like I had been driving with the emergency brake on, but now it had been released, and I was free to hit the gas.

The character of Petra pretty much leaped onto the page fully formed and she completely changed the course of the book. I re-wrote the entire thing from the beginning, in less than three months.



4Q: Favorite authors? Novels?


JM: You KNOW that this question melts the brains of the book obsessed, right? My favourite author this week? This month? Of all time?? Favourite Canadian author? Children’s author? Picture book or YA? Modern or Classic? Fantasy? Sci-fi? Short Story?

Okay, I’m spiraling.

I will be forever and infinitely grateful to my parents for reading to me for as far back as I can remember. Treasure Island, Robin Hood, The Lord of the Rings, Watership Down, Pippi Longstocking, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Jacob Two-Two and the Hooded Fang, Alice in Wonderland, Jake and the Kid, Anne of Green Gables and countless others were read aloud to me before I’d even lost my baby teeth. 

Others I discovered later on my own – Narnia, A Wrinkle in Time, Northanger Abbey, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. My grandfather gave me books like White Fang, The Grapes of Wrath, Sherlock Holmes and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Today I am delighted by storytelling wizards like Neil Gaiman, Cherie Dimaline, Ami McKay, Thomas King, Holly Black, Theodora Goss, Eden Robinson, Michael Chabon, Maggie Steifvater, Daniel O’Malley, Erin Morgenstern, N.K. Jemisin, Katherine Arden, and so, so, so many others. A galaxy of authors. A wonder of worlds.



4Q: How much and what kind of research do you have to do for your books?


JM: I am an obsessive researcher. Compulsively curious.  The hard part is making myself stop researching long enough to begin writing. I take what I call the ‘White Rabbit’ approach to research (alternately referred to as, ‘Squirrel!’).  I love it when I go to look up something and stumble upon something else entirely by accident - something that takes me on an entirely new and unexpected path but that also, simultaneously, feels absolutely RIGHT. I think most, if not all stories are born out of serendipity.



4Q: Anything else you’d like to share with us?


JM: I’m pretty sure I’ve overshared as it is. I like dogs. And ponies. And also goats.




An Excerpt from Chocolate River Rescue (Nimbus, 2007)


“We’re losing ice!” said Craig.

It was true. Almost every wave that rippled over the floe carried away another piece of the crumbling ice. Tony half-turned his body to look toward the shore. The ice floe tilted dangerously. A large wave sloshed onto the ice, soaking the boys up to their ankles.

“Whoa!” yelled all three boys. Slowly, slowly, the ice floe righted itself again.

“Do not move!” ordered Shawn.

“Move?” croaked Tony. “Man, I’m barely breathing!”

Another wave washed the ice floe. A piece of ice crumbled away.

“It’s breaking apart, Shawn,” whispered Craig. His blue eyes were very wide.

“Don’t move,” repeated Shawn.

“We’re out of time,” Tony said softly. “This is it.”


(Copyright is held by the author. Used with permission)




Thank you, Jennifer for being our featured guest this week. Wishing you continued success with your stories.

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