Bill Arnott’s Showcase: Caroll Simpson and the Great Unknown

Hi Showcasers! A real adventure this time as we go off-grid, in a way, to visit bestseller Caroll Simpson. In prep for out chat I felt I was tracking down someone, or something, elusive, as Caroll lived for many years at a remote cabin in northwestern British Columbia, running a successful fishing lodge. These days, however, finding this author and illustrator is a whole lot easier, as she’s living with her husband, Helmut, on Vancouver Island.

(Bill) Hi Caroll, and welcome. Let’s jump right in. What inspired you to start writing?

(Caroll) I lived alone, running the fishing lodge off the grid (with water access only) for ten years on the shores of Babine Lake, BC. I had no one beside me to share the adventures of each day. So, I placed my experiences of supreme joy given to me by Mother Nature and the agonizing encounters with industrial greed into a mountain of colourfully covered journals.

(B) What prompted you to create your book, Alone in the Great Unknown?

(C) I suffered from a deep depression. I tried to recover from the consequences of leaving the wilderness and started to write this book. I found comfort by reliving my life inside the covers of these journals.

(B) What was that process like?

(C) Day after day I found myself returning to the box with the colourful journals, taking notes and writing down full stories. Chapter after chapter, I relived my adventures and the deep ache eased. My memories brought tranquillity and shed light into my future. It was like an elixir and I became obsessed with every day of my first ten years in the wilderness.

(B) Where were you when you wrote Alone in the Great Unknown?

(C) Truly, this book was written each day for ten years in the BC wilderness and placed within the pages of my journals. After selling the lodge, we moved to Vancouver Island where I put my stories together and mailed off the manuscript.

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(B) Are there any specific messages or additional stories you’d like to convey to readers?

(C) Selling my fishing lodge proved to be one of the most difficult decisions I have ever lived through. The wilderness I called home had become a powerful devotion woven into, around and through my very soul. When I piloted my small craft over the surface of the lake, twenty miles back to civilization, for the last time … I could feel a wretched pull ripping part of me away. When it was gone, the only thing left was a dark empty space, void of the challenges and passion that had consumed my entire being for twenty-five years. I fell into a quagmire of depression.

I had never experienced desolation before. I had never woken to an empty day. Weeks then months went by. Although I filled a studio with canvas and paint, I could not find my space of creativity. The paintbrushes grew dusty. I stumbled upon my box of colourfully covered journals and opened it up. I flipped through the pages as daylight passed and the shadows filled the room. I pulled my old body up from the dusty box to flip on the light before I realized day was done. A year flew by and when I got to the bottom of the box, I found my book, Alone In The Great Unknown. It’s strange to have the public read about my private life but it also brings my life’s greatest adventure alive! Every time I give an author-presentation it gives me the chance to step into that beloved chapter of my life over and over again.

(B) Thank you Caroll. A remarkable journey. Cathartic. And a privilege to experience it with you through your book.


Bill Arnott is the bestselling author of A Season on Vancouver Island, the Gone Viking travelogues, and A Perfect Day for a Walk: The History, Cultures, and Communities of Vancouver, on Foot (Arsenal Pulp Press, Fall 2024). Recipient of a Fellowship at London’s Royal Geographical Society for his expeditions, Bill’s a frequent presenter and contributor to magazines, universities, podcasts, TV and radio. When not trekking with a small pack and journal, Bill can be found on Canada’s west coast, where he lives near the sea on Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh land.