I’m tickled pink that I had the chance to do a Q&A with Rachna. I loved her MG book That Boy Red (review coming tomorrow) and as an Islander it was awesome to get to pick her brain about her book. 🙂
Was there a particular reason that you made the main character of That Boy Red
Thank you so much – I’m delighted that you loved him. It’s always wonderful to know that the children of your imagination find their way into others’ hearts. Red is a boy because I was inspired to write this novel by my father-in-law’s anecdotes about growing up in P.E.I. during the Depression, so it felt natural to have a boy as the main character. The book is dedicated to his memory. It’s the first time, by the way, that I’ve written from the point of view of a boy – I loved it, and found it easier than I thought I would.
What was your inspiration for writing the book?
My father-in-law’s anecdotes about his childhood growing up on a farm in P.E.I. during the 1930s. But I guess, too, I’ve always loved L.M. Montgomery’s Anne books, so it was partly a desire to spend time on the Island, and to create a wonderful family – the kind of family I’d want to spend time with – that made me want to write this book. Oddly enough, sometimes, in order to read the books you want to read you have to write them! So perhaps this book is a homage to my love of Anne of Green Gables as well as to my father-in-law and his family.
How much research went into writing That Boy Red?
Tons and tons! I kept a notebook for research and another one for my fictional ideas. I tend to do research in a spiral alongside or parallel to the successive drafts of my novels. I never do all my research to start off, because I don’t want the facts to interfere with my instinctive leap and inner connection with my characters and their emotions. For this book, though, because I didn’t have a ready understanding or knowledge about the everyday sights, sounds, smells, tastes and textures of Red’s world, I did a fair bit of research first, and when I felt I had enough, I wrote my first draft. With each successive draft, I was able to see where the gaps were, and I did the necessary research to fill those gaps. Sometimes, it took hours to unearth one small detail that might only be mentioned peripherally, in half a sentence – but it was still completely necessary to do that research to get the background details right. For instance, I had to know about the ins and outs of farm life so I could describe in a brief sentence what a crop might look like in a certain month, or describe what Red did as part of his morning or evening routine during a particular time of the year. But the most exciting part of my research was going up in a biplane, much like the one on the cover of the book, so I could write about that experience with authenticity. It was wonderful. Exhilarating. I think my grin was probably every bit as wide as Red’s in the novel!
That Boy Red is very reminiscent in tone and style of Anne of Green Gables. Which of the Anne books is your favourite?
I am honoured and thrilled that you find THAT BOY RED reminiscent of ANNE OF GREEN GABLES. I honestly can’t say any one of the Anne books is my favourite, because I love them all. Each has a particular charm, I think. I love that Montgomery was able to introduce wonderful and unique characters – prickles and all – in each of those books. And I love her dry sense of humour. I think that’s an aspect of her writing that is often overlooked.
Do you visit Prince Edward Island (the setting for That Boy Red) very often? What is your favorite thing about PEI?
Yes, I visit P.E.I. annually. I actually lived there for fourteen years. Since my husband’s family is still on the Island, we go back every year. It’s wonderful to be there. My favourite thing, apart from seeing family and friends, is being by the ocean. I love the ocean. It’s the thing I miss the most about not living on the Island. The beaches are wonderful. There’s nowhere else that I feel so much at home. So grounded and free. The ocean is my landscape. In a perfect world, I’d live by the ocean and bookend all my writing time with walks on the beach. I also love the saner pace of the Island and the friendliness of Islanders.
Do you have any particular artists or music that you listen to when writing?
I don’t actually. I would find it distracting, because I’m listening so intently to the music of the words I’m writing. I want the cadence of the characters voices to ring true and to accurately echo the voices of that period in time.
Are there any plans for more Red books?
Oh, I have ideas galore for more Red stories. I could easily write more Red books. I don’t have plans to start one immediately, though, because I’m brewing and incubating another novel that must be written. But writing about Red, well, it’s like going home. It’s a wonderful way to spend virtual time on the Island and with characters that I love.
Thanks muchly to Rachna for stopping by!