Why I Wrote This Book Issue #20

Featuring Alice Walsh and David Kingston Yeh

Why do your favourite Canadian authors write the books they write? Let’s find out in this exclusive feature here at The Miramichi Reader.

Alice Walsh, author of A Long Way From Home, (Second Story Press)

After terrorists flew planes into the World Trade Center in New York City, airspace over the U.S. was shut down. Thirty-eight planes, carrying 6,700 passengers, landed at a small airport in Gander, Newfoundland. Before the first plane had landed, the people of Gander and the surrounding communities came together to prepare food and set up shelters in schools and churches. They welcomed the passengers with open arms.

I had a friend living near Gander at the time who had volunteered at a school where many of the passengers were housed. She recalls how scared and traumatized they were. She had witnessed the shock on the faces of Americans as they watched on TV planes flying into the towers. Their dismay as the towers crumbled like sandcastles.

Years later, I wrote A Long Way From Home, a YA novel set in Gander on that fateful day. The story is told from the viewpoint of three young people, all from very different backgrounds. The main character, Rabia, is a thirteen-year-old girl, who along with her mother and younger brother is fleeing Afghanistan to embark on a new life in the United States. When she learns that the attacks took place from her own country, she worries about being sent back to Afghanistan. In Gander, she is given food, shelter, and comfort. There she meets Colin, an American boy and Leah, a resident of Gander. Despite their cultural differences, the three teens become fast friends.

I wanted to write a story, not only about the events of 9/11 but about the basic human goodness that took place on that dark day. Although the world had witnessed evil, it had also witnessed kindness and compassion as the people of Gander welcomed strangers into their community. As one stranded passenger stated, “The generosity of the Newfoundland people will be remembered forever.”

Alice Walsh writes fiction and non-fiction for adults and children. A number of her books have been shortlisted or won awards including the Hackmatack, and the Canadian Children’s Book Centre Choice award. Her juvenile novel, Pomiuk: Prince of the North (Dundurn) won the 2005 Ann Connor Brimer Award. A recent mystery novel, Death on Darby’s Island (Vagrant Press), was a finalist for The Howard Engel Award for best crime novel set in Canada. 

Alice has degrees in English and Criminology from St. Mary’s University and an MA in English from Acadia University. She has worked as a preschool teacher and creative writing instructor. 

Alice grew up in northern Newfoundland and now resides in Sackville, Nova Scotia.

David Kingston Yeh, author of THE B-SIDE OF DANIEL GARNEAU (Guernica Editions)

The B-Side of Daniel Garneau (2023) is the stand-alone third installment in the misadventures of boyfriends Daniel and David, their eccentric family and friends. It’s the concluding book in the Boy at the Edge Trilogy, following up on A Boy at the Edge of the World (2018) and Tales from the Bottom of My Sole (2020).  Daniel’s story is a celebration of queer identities and non-traditional families, as he discovers who he is and his path in the world.

I use a lot of humour to explore some serious issues surrounding sex, love, intimacy and relationships.  My writing is very much inspired by my work as an LGBTQ+ counsellor. Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of speaking with hundreds of young queer and trans men, from all walks of life. There’s already a wealth of YA literature addressing sexual and gender identity issues. Writing The B-Side of Daniel Garneau, I wanted to connect with a more mature, twenty-something readership.

I also wanted to celebrate Canadian culture specifically my hometown of Toronto. I’ve tried to capture the richness of Toronto’s diversity, its colourful neighbourhoods and beloved locales, and its tumultuous arts and cultural scene. I wanted to do for Toronto what Armistead Maupin did for San Francisco, or what John Hughes did for Chicago. Daniel’s story is my love letter to this city.  

In recent years, the banning of LGBTQ+ books has reached a fever pitch. There is already enough gay-themed literature that is grim, sardonic or tragic. Leonard Cohen writes: “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”  With Daniel’s story, I wanted to capture the adventure, levity and wonder of young adulthood. I wrote this novel to offer some affirmation and hope – and to let some light into the lives of my readers.

David Kingston Yeh holds his MA in cultural sociology from Queen’s University, is an alumnus of the George Brown Theatre School, and attended Post Graduate Studies in Expressive Arts in Saas Fee, Switzerland. He has worked as a counsellor and educator for twenty years in Toronto’s LGBTQ+ community. His short fiction has appeared in numerous magazines. He is the author of three novels.