Author #8 hardly needs an introduction. He’s the biggest name in YA in Canada. I have only known Kenneth Oppel from afar for a long time. But this year I had the chance to hang out with him a bit at two authors’ festivals, Calgary’s Wordfest and the Vancouver International Writers’ Festival.
I’m embarrassed to admit I felt a little nervous when I first met Kenneth. I mean, he’s kind of a big deal in this world. But yet again – and you’ll see there’s a common theme emerging in all of these stories – he was just the nicest, warmest, funniest guy – totally accessible and disarmingly charming. And I should reiterate the funny part – he had many of us in stitches much of the time.
He was also extremely generous in sharing insights, anecdotes and his own personal experiences in the world of YA. This sort of generosity, coming from someone of his stature, is invaluable (and also sometimes fascinating) to those of us looking on with admiration at his career. He is self-deprecating, too – and let me tell you, hearing from the J.K. Rowling of Canada (that is my new, secret nickname for him) that he, too, has had the odd, shall we say “humbling” bookstore appearance or other “humbling” experience – well, it gives a lot of reassurance to his fellow authors that sometimes sh-t can happen to anyone!
Then, of course, there’s his writing. There’s a reason why Kenneth is the J.K. Rowling of Canada. His writing is stellar, and crosses a lot of different genres. My new favorite is the truly excellent novel “The Nest.” I really think this is a crossover book, to be equally enjoyed by adults. It had me on the edge of my seat. Clean, spare writing, gripping and truly terrifying in spots, with some awesome and satisfying reveals along the way. I immediately gave it to my husband to read when I was done. I can also see why Mark Medley from the Globe and Mail picked it as one of his top 5 titles from 2015. Here’s the window Kidsbooks gave “The Nest” this fall. There is a theme emerging here, isn’t there? And that is that the community of children’s and YA authors in Canada is pretty freaking awesome. People are very supportive and kind and generous. I’ll only get to talk about 12 this time around, but really, I’ve yet to meet a dud. 🙂 I still feel reasonably new to the world, and I still pinch myself that I’ve had the opportunity to meet so many wonderful new friends.