Troon Harrison has written over a dozen children's books, including The Long Weekend, Goodbye to Atlantis, and Courage to Fly, which were selected as "Our Choice" by the Canadian Children's Book Centre. The Dream Collector won the Blue Spruce Award and A Bushel of Light was selected as an Honour Book for the Geoffrey Bilson Historical Fiction Award in 2001. Troon Harrison lives in Toronto.
Q: Why did you decide to write about the Kawarthas in the early part of the twentieth century?
TH: I was interested in the importance of locally built steamboats to the settlers and tourists in this part of Ontario. Steamboats tend to make me think of the Mississippi River, but they were a vital part of the Kawartha's lifestyle. I was interested in the idea of the water being used instead of roads and in how people used the boats for both work and pleasure. The steamboats brought the mail and the groceries, hauled cattle and timber, and would even give your canoe a trip up the lake if you didn't feel like paddling all the way!
Q: What kind of research did you do to find out about the world Millie lived in?
TH: I read books of local history, often written by people whose grandparents and great-grandparents had settled in the Kawarthas. I looked at old photographs to see what kind of clothes people wore, what the steamboats looked like, what the cottages on the lakeshores looked like, and so forth. I also looked at old maps. The materials I used were from several local libraries as well as from our local museum. I spent time at a special canoe museum, too, to learn from the displays how Native people built their canoes.
Q: What do you think was most different about life in that time?
TH: I think that the pace of life was slower. Now, in a motorboat, I can zip around the lakes very fast, and people water-ski or get dragged on tubes for fun. In those days, people had to canoe or sail. The lakes must have seemed bigger, as well as quieter, and it would have taken much longer to cross from one shore to another.
Q: Do you think that Millie would be a very different person if she were growing up today?
TH: I don't think that Millie's personality would be any different, but I think that she would have more freedom. Millie is a feisty, tomboy character, and being a girl is hard for her. Her mother expects her to play the piano, wear her hair in ringlets, and be quiet. Millie wants the same freedom that boys have to play outside and get dirty—nowadays, she'd have that freedom.
Q: Would you want to go back and live in that time yourself?
TH: No, I'm quite happy living when I do—if I went back in time, I'd have to give up my computer and my camera!