I had some great teachers in high school, particularly at Algonquin High School, with a
woman named Helen Velad, who taught grade 12 English and she gave us an assignment
one time. One of the things you could do was something called a walk with John Keats. We had
studied a sonnet or two of his, and I wrote a little thing about going for a walk with John Keats and she was very complimentary about it and she said you know, you are a very good writer and
that made me think it might be something I could do
And then in grade 13, a very good teacher named Ron Klingspon, who later went on to teach up at Nipissing University, was very encouraging about poems. He praised them far beyond what they were
worth I know, but he was very encouraging then and that also, you know, I got the bug from that and I was very enthusiastic about poetry at the time, so when I went to the University of Toronto I went full-bore into as much English literature as I could. I took as many courses as I could, but yeah, certainly the impetus came from here.
I don't think I started a short story until I was in college. I was writing poems from the age of 13, you know, when I was at Scollard and then right through high school here at Algonquin and into university and then I started writing short stories, some of which were set in North Bay, at summer camp and things like that, and then the lure revolved around the kind of people that I knew here, French Canadians or Indigenous people. Yeah, certainly where you grow up affects every writer you just can't get away from it.
In particular, when I came to write a crime novel, a detective novel, I thought long and hard about where to set it. I was living in New York at the time, had been living there for a long time; well, I could set it in New York that might be a good thing in terms of commercial value and I thought, well Northern Ontario would be interesting, and the more I thought about it the more I liked it because I did grow up here and I knew it very, very well and also had been coming back every year, at least once a year, from New York, but having been away so long I began to see it, you know, from more of a distance or more objective view, so things that somebody who lived here constantly that they wouldn't notice or think twice about, to me they looked pretty exotic you know, and you have a sense that civilized as North Bay is, certainly a, you know, lovely small city but at the same time you know you get to the edge
of town, you walk out into the bush you know 300 yards, if you get disoriented you can be in here for a long time before you find your way out.
There's that sense of with you writing thrillers it's wonderful because it's a sense of threat if you're an
adventure-some type who wants to conquer the wilderness and your own fears and your own discomfort with winter, it’s a great place to live for that and I also found the islands out of Lake Nipissing
very mysterious; they have quite an Aboriginal history and they had this history of a small mining operation that was there that I used in one of the books, just again that's very exotic. This tiny little island you know not much bigger than this auditorium and there's a mine on it. It just comes straight down. Being raised here, yes I think it had a big impact. It's funny it's a small town you don't tend
to think of small-towns as inclusive, easily half of my friends are French-Canadian francophone of which
again, I keep coming back to that word exotic, but North Bay was exotic to me coming from southern Ontario and later when I lived in New York and I still see those friends. They all, I think, because they grew up bilingual they have a great love of language and puns and funny use of words and stuff so I
love chatting with them. I've often used lines of theirs in the books. Lake Nipissing,
until you see it, you don't realize how big that is. I mean, you know, you see it on the map and because the great lakes are down there you think that's a little lake, but you come up here and you know a
lot of days you can't see the other side. That's a big piece of water and it’s very special to grow up on the side of a big lake like that. Two very different lakes and two different characters you know that was
like heaven for a little kid.
Oh my goodness, me and my brother going camping with a best friend and his dog and that was exciting. The woods were a big part of my growing up. I went to summer camp all the time. I used to love that, those are all good memories. Especially a couple years ago, what 4 or 5 years ago when they had a big wind and all the ice huts started moving across the horizon, brilliant, I put that in my last Cardinal book and it's just, how could you not, you can’t make that up.