Today I am quite pleased to have an interview with author Rachna Gilmore. Welcome to Escape Through the Pages!
– That Boy Red (2011)
– The Trouble with Dilly (2009)
– The Sower of Tales (2005)
– A Group of One (2001)
– Mina’s Spring of Colors (2000)
– A Friend like Zilla (1995)
+ many more picture books, adult books and non-fiction books
That Boy Red has an episodic feel to it, and I would love to read more about Red’s adventures. Do you see yourself ever writing more in his world?
Well, thank you, Cait; I’m delighted that you’d love to read more about Red. Yes, I can see myself writing more Red stories. He’s just the kind of character who keeps coming up with all kinds of strange and bizarre ideas that will inevitably land him in trouble. And I love his world; I’m curious about some of the peripheral characters who appeared in the first book – it would be fun to develop some of their stories through Red’s adventures. I have a few brewing!
What drew you to that time period, and to Prince Edward Island specifically?
I was inspired to write this book after hearing my father-in-law’s anecdotes about growing up in P.E.I. during the Depression. But I also wanted to explore this world because I’ve always loved P.E.I. even as child when I lived in India and England, because my favourite books were the ANNE books. In part it was the ANNE books that drew me to the Island, where I met and married my husband, and where I lived for fourteen years. Although we’re in Ottawa now, we still visit every year. I think I also wanted to write about this time period because in a way it was an extraordinary era, with strong community spirit, ingenuity, and a steady acceptance of hard work as a way of life.
What kinds of research did you need to do in order to effectively portray not only PEI, but The Depression?
The research was quite all-encompassing and diverse. I interviewed my father-in-law as well as other family members to get a sense of everyday life in the 1930s. I also read books about that era in PEI, and dug around the internet for information and for pictures of old farm equipment, cars and all manner of other things. As well, I had to research farming, particularly the daily rhythms and challenges of working a family farm. The Depression didn’t hit PEI as hard as many other places as it was largely a barter society and hence less vulnerable to the market crash. Even so, I had to dig through books and the internet, as well as interview people to understand how the Depression impacted on the Island, so I could weave in authentic and pertinent details such as Islanders providing a haven for their destitute relatives from what they called the “Boston States.”
On the back of the book, it says “First came Anne Shirley – now meet Red MacRae.” If you could write a book with Anne and Red as the main characters, how much mischief do you see in their lives?
Oh, that would be a fascinating task. I think there’d be a lot of friction, both being so headstrong. One reviewer said that THAT BOY RED is ANNE OF GREEN GABLES from Gilbert’s point of view. I hadn’t thought of it that way when I wrote this book, but it makes a certain kind of sense, although Red is his own particular character and not really that much like Gilbert. For instance, I can’t see Red being quite as devoted to Anne as Gilbert is, after she scorns him. Red would be more likely to double scorn her back and genuinely so! Yes, there’d be sparks. I think, though, that Red and Anne might become friends and get into many scrapes together, each egging the other one on. Mmm. I wonder if Red could be the brother Anne never had?
If you were sent back in time to PEI during The Depression and had only one modern day book with you, which one would you want it to be?
What a wonderful question. It’s only when I got thinking about this that I realized how much my favourite books are set in the past — from Montgomery to Austen. I think I’d take Isaac Asimov’s FOUNDATION series in one volume (if I could find them all together – it would be a big book) so I’d have a glimpse of an imagined future in a way that would transcend even the present time. Or I’d take the most up-to-date Atlas of the world. Wouldn’t it be something, pouring over that in the 1930s and speculating how and why the world changed?
Thank you, Rachna!