Why did you want to be a writer?
When I was very little, I used to daydream about being an inventor. But I didn’t think much about the specifics of exactly what I would invent. I just liked the idea of making new things. Maybe writing is my way of being an inventor, whether I’m writing fiction or fact, because it’s something that I can shape and mould and bring into existence.
Where do you live?
I live in a small town in the mountains of British Columbia. Long before I moved here, many different peoples lived or used or regularly traveled through this area. And they still do. This area is the territory of the Sinixt, the Sylix to the west, the Ktunaxa to the east, and the Métis. Their territories are unceded, meaning the people never signed them away to the settlers or Canadian government. It’s a beautiful part of the world and I feel lucky to live here.
I live with my husband and two daughters and a cat who has way too much fur.
And now, another cat, who belongs to my daughter. So far, old cat and new cat don’t get along at all. But we hope they will one day.
What do you do when you’re not writing?
I work for a book publisher. I read for fun and to find out new things. I go outdoors with my kids. We ride bikes and cross-country ski and swim and hike in the mountains. In the summer, we go camping because there are so many beautiful lakes and mountains and rivers nearby. I do a lot of cooking, but not enough cleaning.
Where were you born?
I was born in South Africa during apartheid, a time when people were segregated according to their skin colour. Everyone was classified as either White, Indian, Coloured, or Black. My family lived in an undesignated neighbourhood, so our neighbours were from all the different groups. People have lived in that area since 100,000 BC (wow! that’s so long ago, it’s hard to imagine), such as the abaMbo and more recently, the Zulu.
When I was two, we moved back to my grandfather’s farm in Zambia (in central Africa), where the Batonga people live. Two years after that, we immigrated to Canada.
We arrived in January, which is not a smart thing to do when you’re from Africa. I’d never seen snow before. We didn’t own winter boots or jackets. We bought one pair of boots and my mother and older sisters shared them. They were too big for me, so I wore my sister’s old school shoes, which had perfectly smooth soles. I had to crawl up the snowy hills to get home from school. Since then, I’ve learned how to dress for the weather, though I’m still not good at skating.
Five random facts
- I can’t tell my right hand from my left, which is why I don’t go to aerobics classes. I keep bumping into the person next to me.
- My older sisters really, really wanted me to be a boy…
- …but if I had been a boy, my father would have named me Digby. When I was a kid, I watched a movie re-run about a huge hairy dog called Digby. That’s just one reason why I’m glad to be a girl.
- I had a Zambian accent until high school, but I got teased a lot, so I learned to speak Canadian instead.
- In high school, I played the trombone.