Darren Groth is a Vancouver author and has written books Are You Seeing Me?, Infinite Blue, and Munro vs. the Coyote. Here are some of the highlights from his interview with Ryan, a fellow Teen Ambassador.
What motivates you to write your books? I noticed all your books have quite similar themes.
I’ve always wanted to write, ever since I was in Grade 7. I had a fantastic teacher then, called Mr. Wade and… this was about a hundred years ago, of course, since I was in grade 7… and he was very big on creative writing. That’s where my love for writing began. And regarding ideas, you’re very right, there’s a thematic thread running through my stuff…Themes of disability, which is related to my son, who’s on the autism spectrum. My son is sort of in the middle of the spectrum, which is different from Perry in “Are You Seeing Me?” who is on the more, what we call, higher-functioning end with some intellectual disability. And our son is very different from that, which is interesting because some people think that folks on the spectrum are the same, which is certainly not the case. But, our son’s situation is very inspiring for me creatively. I can think in the perspective of a parent, a caregiver, and also in the perspective of my daughter who is the sibling—a twin—of somebody with a disability. I sort of took that to the nth degree.
So, I tend to grab things close to home. I use things that are close to home and things that I think about a lot. In fact, a lot of people seem to think these books are sort of documentaries… people have asked me: are these your twins? Well, no. They’re not, not at all. You take hold of a few things, and the characters sort of run with it. They become they’re people. It’s a little bit of magic, and a little bit of grabbing things that are close to home, which is where my ideas generally come from.
So, for the characters Justine and Perry, are they based on your children or are they from your imagination?
Yeah, going back to what I said, I thought about my twins and thought… what would happen if they were left on their own? And that was the starting point. But from there, and I think a lot of authors have a similar mindset, from where you’ll start with something small and start to ask a lot of other questions which is what brings about a story… Suddenly I’ve got a novel on my hands. And I tend to be, I don’t know if you’ve heard of this but authors get categorized as plotters or pantsers… and I tend to be more of a pantser. I’ll sort of start with these ideas and then I’ll start writing to see where things take me.
How are each of your books constructed differently or are they all constructed the same way?
Usually it tends to be where I have a general idea of the story from start to finish and during the writing process there may be some new ideas crafted along the way. But funnily enough I just finished writing the draft for a new book today and when writing this book I actually for the first time tried to be more of a plotter. I used a method I borrowed from my good friend Eileen Cook where I make a sort of timeline and plot everything out beforehand where it was talking about character and what was happening with the plot. I quite enjoyed it but I wouldn’t do that for every story. For stories that I did before the process of having a start and an end and then finding out as I go how I am going to fill it in has worked well for me.
How is it writing with other people?
Well, I wrote Infinite Blue with my brother Simon and the way it worked there was that I was kind of the project manager and oversaw the whole book and looked more at the big picture and then at times I would give Simon the wheel and let him work his magic with parts of the writing. Then I would go back to make sure it looked seamless as though one person had read this book. If the brothers Groth do another book in the future I think that Simon would take the role of manager because I know that he has an idea in the works of his own.
I noticed that in both “Are You Seeing Me?” and “Munro vs. the Coyote” The location, Fair Go is Used. What is the significance of Fair Go in both of these books?
Once I finished “Are You Seeing Me?” Our son was getting a little older and was starting towards the end of his high school career. I started thinking about what happens to mentaly challenged kids once they are out of high school? What is our son going to do after high school? Because high school works kind of like a security blanket and can set kids into thinking that it’s always going to be like this, of course it’s not. This led me to think about the place of Fair Go that I had created. I was thinking about what this place would be like, what would it look like, who would be there, what sort of values would they have there. With Fair Go I decided to make it a place where the residents would be taken care of but could also have agency and think for themselves. “Munro vs. the Coyote” all really started with me having the setting of Fair Go and me wanting to explore and figure out what this environment is all about.
You were talking about how in “Munro vs. the Coyote” the first scene you wrote was not the first scene in the book, it was kind of in the middle. Do you do stuff like this often?
Sometimes, it kind of varies from story to story. Sometimes I use a scene That I wrote for the middle of the story at
the start of the book which I return to later in order to kick the story off where the stakes are raised. But more often than not I start writing at the beginning of the story. Every time I start writing I am starting off fresh. I have books that I have done and stories that I have finished and should know what I am doing but the truth is I don’t know what I am doing. When you start a new story you might have more tricks and a little more faith in your ability compared to the last time you wrote but really each story is its own animal and you tame it to the best of your ability hoping that it’s going to come together in a way that makes sense to the idea that first brought it about.
We want to thank Mr. Groth for his time and lovely insights into the world of writing!