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Philip Roy

Philip RoyPhilip Roy was born and raised in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. He studiedmusic and history before choosing a career in writing. Philip’s awardsand nominations include first prize in the Atlantic Writing Competition, the Silver Medal for Foreword’s Best Book of the Year, runner-up for the New England Book Festival Award, and the Green Book Award (San Francisco). He has been short-listed for the Red Maple, Diamond Willow, Rocky Mountain, Langley Boy, Hackmatack, and Brimer awards. His novels have been selected several times for Best Books for Kids and Teens. Philip’s love for the ocean, enjoyment of traveling, and fascination for submarines has led to the creation of the Submarine Outlaw Series (SOS). On the rare occasions that Philip is not traveling and visiting schools, he divides his time between Antigonish and Halifax, where he continues to write novels and compose music.

Q. How keen a reader were you as a child?

A. I was intensely keen for short bursts of reading, but very unlike the kids who read so voluminously. I didn’t read voluminously, but read with the kind of intensity one has when one discovers a secret cave inside a mountain. Sports and a deep love for the woods and outdoors kept me pretty occupied. I did, however, take a volume from the encyclopedia to bed with me every night, and would often fall asleep in the middle of a page.

Q. What were your favourite reads as a child?

A. It is easy to say: The Box Car Children. It really swept me away. So did a trilogy of books on archaeology my mother bought me one year. They were about ancient Egypt, the Vikings, and cave men. The lines between fiction and non-fiction were quite blurry to me as a kid. Once again, the World Book Encyclopedia came to bed with me every night. To this day, I still must resist starting sentences with, “Did you know that . . . ?”

Q. What made you a keen reader (or are you)?

A. Habits acquired in youth linger. I’m much the same as I was—I read non-fiction to write fiction, and the lines between the two are still blurry. When I observe friends and acquaintances who read an incredible amount, I cannot call myself a keen reader. And yet, my relationship to reading runs very deep. It has been profoundly affected by my becoming a professional writer, however. Perhaps a certain innocence has been lost. It isn’t often I can avoid the urge to reconstruct what I’m reading, and that can be distracting.

Q. When did you first decide that you wanted to be a writer?

A. In truth, I wanted to be a writer in junior high school, especially in grade 7. Then it left me until I was 31, and had finally recognized that I wasn’t going to make it as a classical pianist and composer. Now that my writing career is progressing well, I have recently returned to composing, so I’ve got the best of both worlds.

Q. What have you learned about reading to kids, and how did you learn it?

A. The experience of reading to my own kids was almost as profound as learning to read for the first time. With my own kids, I received a more thorough exposure to kids lit, especially at the elementary level. This had a direct effect on my becoming a children’s author. Reading to kids in schools and libraries became a confirmation that I had found my proper calling in life. This interaction with young readers and writers directly infuses my work and sense of community and purpose. I can honestly say it is the best job in the world.

Q. What’s your best advice to parents of teens or pre-teens to help their kids to read more?

A. I have long been a strong advocate of recognizing the uniqueness and individuality of our kids’ interests and processes. What works so wonderfully for our eldest child might fail utterly for the next. One reads all the time; another never does. My best advice is to appeal not only to the specific interests of each child, but also to the particular way that he or she enjoys reading, whether in large or small, or even tiny, doses. I know some parents who were so discouraged at their kids’ appetite for video games and aversion to reading, only to discover to their surprise how extensively their kids were reading in the course of playing the games. After a trip to the bookstore, they returned with a large volume concerning everything about video games, into which their kids delved like tadpoles dropped into the lake. I do subscribe to the view that any reading is good reading and will lead to greater and greater things if encouraged.

Q. What do you most enjoy when you’re not reading or writing?

A. Running and hiking in nature and composing music. My best ideas for stories always come from being in nature. At the same time, so many years of learning how to write have somehow opened up the world of music composition to me in a way I never imagined possible. Like many kids I meet, I always wanted to find myself on a kind of magic carpet in life, to really discover secret treasures and experience magic. Now, I can honestly say that that is exactly what I feel in this wonderful world of creating stories and music.

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