#TuesdayTalk with Diane Dakers, author of Bad Business, part of the Orca Currents series.
How do you get into the mind of your target audience?
I am considerably older than my 15-year-old character, and I don’t have children. So I have to search inside myself to find my inner 15-year-old when I write. It’s fun because I get to be a kid again! One of the biggest challenges is that the language I used when I was 15 is different than the language teens use today. I often eavesdrop on kids talking to each other, so I can hear the phrases of the day and how they talk to each other. I also spend a lot of time on urbandictionary.com!
Is there a story behind the creation of your story?
Bad Business was inspired, in part, by my Auntie J. She is 84, and she’s getting dotty as she ages. She forgets everything and has started doing strange things. One day last year, she invited some men into her home to install a very expensive water filter system, even though she already had a perfectly good one. That got me thinking about how younger people might take advantage of elderly people in the early stages of dementia. I created the character of Lindy, who takes advantage of a sweet neighbour she has known her whole life. The opening scene in the book is also based on a true story about an elderly woman who used to live across the hall from me in an apartment building. One day, she set off her fire alarm because she put a frozen dinner into her toaster oven—plastic packaging and all. I ran across the hall to help her. Her apartment was full of smoke, and the lady didn’t know what to do. She was confused and scared. It wasn’t the first time she’d set off the fire alarm or needed a neighbour’s help, but it was the incident that led me to speak to the apartment manager about her. I was concerned about her safety, and the safety of everyone in the building. Her family moved her into a care home shortly after that. Reporting the incident was the right thing to do, but I felt terrible that I had “ratted her out.” Just like Lindy in Bad Business.
Is there an important issue or theme in your book that you are passionate about?
I am passionate about Canada’s Arctic. I have been there three times! In Bad Business, Lindy is also passionate about the Arctic. She really, really, really wants to go there, but that desire leads her to make a questionable decision. Lindy has an opportunity to join a program called Students Up North. It’s based on a real educational program called Students on Ice. http://studentsonice.com/ It was important to me in writing this book, though, that readers discover that the Arctic isn’t just about snow and polar bears. The people who live there, the Inuit, experience difficulties that we in the South don’t face. For example, the teen suicide rate in Canada’s North is 11 times higher than it is in the rest of the country. Also, food is shockingly expensive. On my last trip there, I bought a carton of milk, a bottle of orange juice and four bananas. That cost more than $15, at least twice what it would cost at home. You might pay $9 for a box of cereal, $10 for a two-litre bottle of cranberry juice, or $23 for eight rolls of toilet paper!
Do you have any unique hobbies or pastimes?
One thing I love doing is felt-making. You might think that’s weird, but for me, it is most creative. You take wool, add soapy hot water. Then you rub and roll the wet wool for a while until … voila … it turns into felt! I have made felted wall hangings, a rug, a purse and a doggie blanket. Usually, you use wool, but I have even felted my cat’s long hair! I also love gardening. When I take a break from writing, I usually go outside and plant something or
What’s the least glamorous part about being a writer? And the most glamorous?
The least glamorous part of being a writer is sitting in your house all by yourself at your computer all day—although that means I can often stay in my pajamas for hours! The most glamorous is when you are interviewed in the media, or when you present your book at a book launch.
Diane Dakers is a freelance writer and journalist. She lives in Victoria, British Columbia. For information, visit www.dianedakers.com.