Why was I drawn to this series?
First of all, the idea of writing a diary — something I'd never done, except for my own — really appealed to me. I'm always up for a challenge, too, and my Dear Canada adventure had all sorts of challenges — writing the entries in a way that's interesting (not boring, like the diary I wrote when I was twelve), believable (for a twelve-year-old living in a particular time and place), historically accurate (good thing I like research) and informative (without being fact-y). An even greater challenge was finding a reason for a young girl to want to record the factual bits.
Strange things happened while I was writing my Dear Canada diaries. Sometimes I'd get so immersed in my character's life, I'd forget my own. Like when I was writing Kate's diary in A Ribbon of Shining Steel, I wrote a cheque dated 1883. Fortunately I noticed in time. And during the writing of No Safe Harbour, set during the Halifax Explosion, I looked out my office window, which overlooks the city of Victoria, and thought, "Those buildings are in ruins! All the windows have been blown out!" The effect was due to the play of light and shadows that morning, but it gave me quite a shock.
What else? Well, I love the whole concept of Dear Canada. It's a great way to bring Canadian history alive for young readers — and older readers, too. The fictional characters writing the diaries weren't real people, but they might have been. And the way they record the small day to day events at home or at school, as well as the "big" historical events, enlivens the past in a rich and more colourful way than, say, a straight history book. I've always loved reading historical fiction, and since I'd written in that genre before Dear Canada came along, it was a natural fit. I know more about the C.P.R. than I did before, and way more about the Halifax Explosion.
The worst thing about the diaries is ending them. Because by then I'm so attached to my characters I don't want to leave them. It's some consolation to know they're going out into the world where others can enjoy them, too. And the books are so beautiful! When I started A Ribbon of Shining Steel, the series was just beginning, so I had no idea what the books were going to look like. What a thrill to see the hardcover editions with the ribbon to mark one's place! Just like a real diary!
I only wish I had time to read ALL the Dear Canada diaries.
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