Iain Lawrence Biography
young readers is almost like dipping into a fountain of youth; for hours a day,
I am a child again."Iain Lawrence
Iain Lawrence was born in Ontario, Canada. A former journalist, he now
writes full time. In addition to his magazine and newspaper articles, he is the author of numerous acclaimed novels, including The
Cannibals, The Convicts, Gemini Summer, B for Buster, The Lightkeeper's
Daughter, Lord of the Nutcracker Men, Ghost Boy
, and the High Seas Trilogy:
The Wreckers, The Smugglers,
and The Buccaneers
. He lives on
Gabriola Island, British Columbia.
Iain Lawrence Talks About Himself
When I was 12 or 13, I wrote picture books for my younger brother . . .
I started writing short stories after I graduated from high school and kept
it upthough sporadicallyduring my ten-year career as a newspaper reporter. But
journalism has a way of sponging creativity, so I went to work at a fish farm
instead, in the hope that I would have more time to do my own writing. Two years
later, when the farm went bankrupt and I found myself on employment insurance, I
started writing seriously. I thought I could produce a publishable book during
my one year of E.I. It was a naive idea; five years passed before I sold my
My favorite stories from my childhood are the ones that were read to me . . .
The first story that I remember reading for myself is Robinson Crusoe.
I would take it down to the river that flowed behind our house and lie in a
little grassy nest. But I never finished it; I didn't have the patience to read
books as thick as that. I remember reading Owls in the Family and Born
Free, skipping every second page and then every third in my hurry to reach
My favorite stories from my childhood are the ones that were read to me, a
chapter or two at bedtime. Strongest in my memory are beautiful stories like
Stuart Little and The Wind in the Willows, and others that gave me
nightmares like Treasure Island and Moonfleet.
Stories for young people are tremendously fun to write . . .
I love the shorter length, the quicker pacing, and the necessity of trying
to see everything through the eyes of a child. Writing for young readers is
almost like dipping into a fountain of youth; for hours a day, I am a
I don't think any story begins with just one idea . . .
. . . but from a connection of unrelated thoughts. I think all my stories
begin with this idea of reliving old favorites, and of trying to capture the
emotions that went along with themfear or wonder or magic. When I look for new
ideas, or decide what to tackle next, I think of what sort of story I would like
I write every day, starting in the morning and going on until mid-afternoon .
In winter and in rain, I go back to it in the evenings. But I find summer
days too tempting to keep me inside. I always write on a computer and always
play classical music, often the same CD over and over and over. In an annoying
ritual, I have to win a game of computer solitaire before I can actually begin
I begin every story with an outline, working forward and backward to fill in the
plot. The outlines include notes on characters and settings, and they tend to be
very chaotic, written almost as a dialogue with myself. They are full of
questions and answers, of diverging alternative plots. I revise as I go along,
replacing sentences and paragraphs with better ones, but keeping all the words
on the computer screen. The passages that I've changedand little notes that
I've made to myselfkeep piling up below the point that I'm working on. When I
reach the end, I've got many, many pages of disjointed phrases, sentences, and
paragraphs. It's like a junk pile that I like to pick through now and then, just
to see if there's anything useful among the things I've thrown away.
I hope most of all to create characters that readers will remember . . .
I think it's an amazing process that allows a reader to actually see what a
writer imagines, to actually feel what a writer feels. I love getting letters
from readers who say they felt as though they were inside the story. When I was
the same age as them, I read about Captain Bligh's amazing voyage in an open
boat. I remember being so enthralled by one scene, where the sailors were trying
to capture a seabird that had landed on the gunwale, that I almost shouted at my
sister, who came into the room just then, "Shut up! You'll scare the bird away."
That's the feeling I'd like to create for my readers: that the story is utterly
true at the time of its readingthat if you so much as move, you'll scare the
This biography was last updated on 07/20/2009.
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