I grew up in London, Ontario after the Second World War in a school teacher’s family. Now, as I think of it, we were more than a little touched by the war. My father was away in the Navy for three years and when he returned my parents were eager to expand their understanding of the world.
Some of my fondest memories are of long car trips I took as a boy with my family across Canada. I still remember my first glimpse of the Rocky Mountains gleaming off in the distance, the pounding of the surf at Peggy’s Cove in Nova Scotia and unending Saskatchewan wheat fields. Those images of Canada, and the emotional attachment I feel about the land, remain with me and shape the subjects I choose to write about.
But though I am rooted in the Canadian landscape, I am a man who has lived most of my life in cities. Today I live in Toronto, but I spent ten years as a young man living in Hamilton. The experience of working in a gritty town, spending my time with steelworkers and factory labourers, shaped my perspective. Four of my non-fiction books deal with some aspect of that fascinating city.
It was while I was in Hamilton, doing a PhD in Sociology at McMaster University, that I started writing the Bains series of books for young people. How people relate to the land, their struggles to earn a living and survive, and the diverse types of people that make up our country are built into every one of these books. As well, the books reflect the strength of ordinary people – the people I met in Hamilton and other parts of Canada.
I have traveled widely in this country and lived in many places. For three years I lived in the Maritimes, and attended Acadia University, in Nova Scotia, for ten years I lived in Montreal and as a young man I spent a cold, lonely winter as a road surveyor in the mountains of Alberta. All of these things have provided the broad landscape of my writings.
In my youth I was incredibly restless, but today I feel more settled than ever before. Today, I live on Toronto Island, a small community within the largest city of the country, with my partner Paulette. My extended family of children, grandchildren, sisters, cousins and more live not far away. Friends are everywhere.
Every day I get up and spend hours working in my office of our small house. Writing is still a struggle. To make the words “lift off the page,” as I like to express it, is the most challenging thing I do. That’s why I do it.