Two Kids Riding Bikes
My defining moment happened on a summer day on Mayne Island nine years ago. If the neighbor’s grandchildren hadn’t been out riding their bikes I might never have written my first book. As I watched from my front porch, it was like a switch had been turned on and I was back on my bike, pant legs rolled up, pedaling down the road. I was strong, free, and independent, just enjoying life as a kid, like those two. I was eleven again, riding my bike, thinking my thoughts, feeling the same feelings. I had to write my book. That day, my own childhood, the children I had known, the books I’d enjoyed and the world of my imagination came together and spilled out onto the pages. I could not stop writing.
I had grown up in a Saskatchewan village — nestled among wheat fields and grain elevators. Like any village, ours was rife with gossip and legends. My imagination was haunted by the secrets and hidden mysteries I overheard while listening silently and invisibly to grown-up conversations. When I wasn’t skating or riding my bike, you could find me curled up reading. By the age of eleven I was writing the kinds of stories I enjoyed, and though I completed very few of them, I started many. I continued writing secretly while raising my family and working, but, always shy, I kept this part of my identity hidden.
But in 2005 I retired and had uninterrupted time. The first week of my retirement I saw those two kids and I started writing my first novel. My heroine, Magda, enjoys the same freedom I had. On her island where deer roam, fences are few, and farms and meadows lie on fertile land between hills and ridges, she rides her bike along quiet country roads lined with salal bushes, blackberries and wild roses, with her friends. They swim in the ocean and build rafts and shelters from driftwood. But all is not as idyllic as it seems on the surface. Magda, whose father and brother drowned in a sudden storm, learns that friendly people who have potluck dinners and bake blackberry pies for their neighbours, have dark secrets, both gruesome and terrifying. Magda’s adventures and her unbridled curiosity challenge the adults in her life.
I owe my three books and one “on the way” to the two kids riding bikes down a dusty road one sunny day nine years ago. Without that sudden coming together of everything I wanted to express, in one jolt, Magda and her friends would not exist
From my entry in CBC’s Writers Write: “Defining Moments”