Saturday, February 14, 2015

0 Sylvia McNicoll, author of BEST FRIENDS THROUGH ETERNITY, on relying on friends for cultural research

What was your inspiration for writing BEST FRIENDS THROUGH ETERNITY?

Many inspirations lead to a book like BEST FRIENDS THROUGH ETERNITY.
The major one had to be the popularity of Chinese adoption. At the time of writing, I was an editor of Today’s Parent Toronto and being approached to cover meetings of adoptive parents and their daughters. (Rarely are Chinese boys adopted out.) I watched how parents struggled to connect their children to their culture with Mandarin and Cantonese Classes as well as trips to China and wondered how the girls felt about not looking like their parents, how they felt about a country that made raising females such a burden.  Can you help not feeling somewhat rejected?  Wouldn’t you disconnect yourself because of the rejection?  Who would you blame or rebel against? Relationships between moms and daughters can be complicated at the best of times.  In BEST FRIENDS THROUGH ETERNITY I complicate them more.

While this documentary was not the inspiration, an editor only flagged it for me later, readers will be as amazed and moved by a similar story at on Twin Sisters as I was.  So many coincidences led to these sisters discovering each other and yet to have an identical twin on the other side of the world who doesn’t even speak your language must be such a heart break.

What scene was really hard for you to write and why, and is that the one of which you are most proud? Or is there another scene you particularly love?

A scene I had to be very careful with was the one in which Paige, Max and Cameron attend the engagement party of Jasmine’s cousin. I was writing about a culture I don’t know and didn’t want to “voice appropriate” or accidentally write cliché characters whose depiction could come across as racist so I needed to do close and accurate research.  I relied on the help of an Indian friend, Beena Patel. First we went to lunch at Beena’s favourite Indian restaurant and she suggested what to eat; her parents own a catering service.  Then I asked about her life and what it was like growing up in a North American school when she was strictly forbidden to be around boys on her own. I could really feel how desperate her situation became when she fell in love with a westerner and her parents sent her away to boarding school in India. She also related how typical Indian friends and relations might behave as opposed to the typical North American adult. The engagement party, I think, shows the joy and some of the humor of the Indian culture but in order to get the details right I passed it all by Beena several times. Writers depend on this kind of generosity of sharing.  A bonus was that her daughter Dharma picked up the manuscript and couldn’t stop reading it.

What do you hope readers will take away from BEST FRIENDS THROUGH ETERNITY?

What I hope readers take from my story is that families, in whatever shape or form they come in, are made up of imperfect people who love you.  Bask in that love and always remember it as you struggle and work through (and with) the imperfections.


Best Friends through Eternity
by Sylvia McNicoll
Tundra Books
Released 2/10/2015

Inspired by the true story of a teen who was killed at a railway crossing, the author weaves the tale of fourteen-year-old Paige, who, taking a shortcut alongside the tracks to avoid the school bullies, is tragically hit by a train and transported to a surreal world where she encounters Kim, who died seven years before. Convinced she is only dreaming, Paige must discover a way to return to her former life. Poignant, gripping, and full of unexpected twists and turns, Best Friends through Eternity will resonate with readers who have struggled with cultural identity, a sense of belonging, and the real meaning of home.

Purchase Best Friends through Eternity at Amazon
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Born in Ajax, Sylvia McNicoll (pseudonym Genna Dare ) grew up in Montreal, Quebec where she received her BA in English with a minor in Economics from Concordia University. She began her writing career with adult short stories and household tips that were published in women's magazines, and moved on to freelance articles for Burlington local newspapers. Her friend and published author, Gisela Sherman, convinced her to take a children's writing course by Paul Kropp at Sheridan College. It was under his guidance that she wrote her first book "Blueberries and Whipped Cream" as a class project. Nine published books later she returned to Sheridan College to teach creative writing for a decade. She also edited "Today's Parent Toronto" for eight years.

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