Lots of authors are discreetly prolific for lots of reasons.

Maybe they're shy, maybe they're naive. Or maybe they're nostalgic for the days when publishers were supposed to do the job of making a book public.

Or maybe they just prefer to stay home and become better writers by reading a lot of books -- like Tanya Lloyd Kyi, who read 65 books for pleasure in 2013, and raised that number to 75 in 2014.

These days writers are increasingly expected to be go-getters who enjoy Facebooking and Tweeting. There is no particular virtue in being unknown, so we can hardly blame those who opt to form power couples or write reviews that lavish praise on writers who are inclined to return the favour.

Self-merchandizing is the way of the world these days. But it's not the only game in town.

Tanya Lloyd Kyi got ahead the old fashioned way-by paying her dues.

--

Now, after 22 books with three Canadian publishers, and almost thirty years of gruntwork, Tanya Lloyd Kyi published a new YA novel with Simon & Schuster, Anywhere But Here, about sixteen-year-old Cole Owens who wants to escape his small-town life and pursue his passion for filmmaking.

Instead of spending time behind the lens, Cole finds himself cooking for his drunken dad, giving the local stripper a safe ride home, and acting as a dating service for his best friend. Then there's the wounded deer, the wacky ex-girlfriend, and the pushy school counsellor.

Everything seems to be conspiring to hold Cole in his hometown forever. He tries to decide if his relationships are a spider web, waiting to trap him, or a net, ready to save him. He might need saving sooner than he thinks.

BCBW: How much has Crawford Bay got to do with Anywhere But Here?

TLK: The town of Webster in Anywhere But Here is a thinly veiled stand-in for Creston, the town where I grew up. My book is about both the good and the bad that comes with small town life. I loved getting to re-experience all the warmth as well as the more embarrassing moments of my youth as I wrote. It's interesting that you mention Crawford Bay though, because the book I'm writing at this moment is set in the mountains near there. And for this new book, I get to re-experience all my bear encounters.

BCBW: How did the book get published in New York?

TLK: As I was preparing to send my youngest child to kindergarten a couple years ago, I knew I wanted to spend more time writing fiction. So, I shipped a draft of Anywhere But Here off to Patricia Ocampo at TLA in Toronto. She was my cross-my-fingers-and-pray-hard agent choice because she had great publishing know-how, experience in marketing and editing, and she just looked so darned friendly in her photo. She is as nice and brilliant as her profile promised, and she's the one who arranged to have Anywhere But Here published by Simon Pulse, which has been a thoroughly exciting experience.

BCBW: And how much has Colleen Macmillan of Whitecap and Annick Books had to do with your writing career?

TLK: Colleen's been a friend and mentor ever since she hired me as a co-op student in 1996. She's endlessly encouraging, and one of the few people in the world who laughs at my jokes.

BCBW: What kind of restaurant was it that your parents ran?

TLK: It was a family restaurant, similar to a White Spot. There was a big sign on the side of the building that said, "Ask the Locals. They'll say, eat here!" And that sign was true! My sister and I spent several years roller skating in the basement while my parents worked upstairs. Then we graduated to dishwashing, bussing, and eventually waitressing. It was excellent training for people watching and future character developing!

BCBW: Was it difficult to adopt the voice of a male narrator?

TLK: Cole's voice isn't necessarily unique because he's a guy, though he does talk in guy language and call his friends "bud" and thinks about sex fairly often. Instead of trying to make him "male," I tried to make him both loveable and flawed. He's a smart but self-centered guy who discovers that he needs his friends a lot more than he thinks.

BCBW: Have you lost touch with Whitecap Books, where you once worked, now that they have moved into CookBookLand and you're in TeenNovelLand?

TLK: Yes! Entirely! But working at Whitecap was a great introduction to the publishing world. Every writer who wants to learn about queries and proposals should be in charge of a publisher's slush pile for a while.

--

Born in Vancouver in 1973, Tanya Lloyd Kyi was raised mainly in Creston in eastern British Columbia after her parents opted to escape from the big city. They also lived in a nearby community on the eastern shore of Kootenay Lake called Crawford Bay (pop. 350).

Her parents taught her how to find her away around a vegetable garden and a restaurant that was opened when she was ten. "I can balance a lot of cokes on a tray," she says, "and translate 2 e s/s, wh into two eggs, sunny-side up, white toast."

The limitations of small town life led her to skedaddle to Vancouver where, by age 21, she became one of the province's bestselling authors by ghostwriting and assembling travel and photography books for Whitecap Books, "raving about the beauty of places that I had never actually visited." Her main uncredited accomplishment was Canada: A Visual Journey.

After a stint as a staff writer for the Commonwealth Games in 1994, she attended the University of Victoria. Her first book not dominated by photographs was an inspirational anthology entitled Canadian Girls Who Rocked the World (Whitecap, 2001), illustrated by Joanna Clark. It profiles more than 25 unusual, creative and courageous women born in Canada.

Promotional material notes she was an avid Ultimate player who married "the world's only Burmese occupational therapist." In the 21st century she bumped her surname Lloyd in favour of her Burmese married name when she published her first young adult novel, Truth (Orca, 2003), by Tanya Lloyd Kyi.

Her second young adult novel, My Time As Caz Hazard (Orca 2004), concerns guilt after a high school classmate's suicide. It follows the troubles of Caz, a girl who is suspended for punching out her cheating hockey player boyfriend. Kyi got the idea for the storyline from a real incident in Creston when a girl punched out a hockey player. Caz's parents are splitting up and she's being sent to a new "supportive" school where she's diagnosed as dyslexic. As a "sped" - special education student - she endures perky Ms. Samuels' morning classes with Psycho Boy, shoplifting Amanda, non-verbal Rob and Dodie Doorknob. Bored with reviewing "dge"; sounds, Caz pens a note, "Time to jump off a ledge." Dodie's suicide soon afterwards sends Caz reeling.

Her Fire: True Stories from the Edge (Annick 2004) offered ten stories of the most destructive fires in human history, from the 1666 fire in London that destroyed most of the city to the Great Chicago Fire of 1871; to Halifax Explosion of 1917 to the 1991 Kuwait oil well fires.

Burn: The Life Story of Fire (Annick 2007) later explored the role of fire in civilization, religious belief, industry, communications, emotions, war, and nature. Whereas Egyptians worshipped the immortality of a phoenix born out of flames, seventh-century Koreans developed a system of huge signal fires to help protect their border.

Increasingly combining humour with education, Kyi hit her stride with The Blue Jean Book: The Story Behind the Seams (Annick Press, 2005), winner of the Christie Harris Illustrated Children's Literature Prize in 2006. Written while Lloyd Kyi was in the advanced stages of pregnancy, the history of the blue jeans was a project suggested to her by Colleen MacMillan of Annick Press. This research resurfaced for The Lowdown on Denim (Annick 2011)

Rescues: True Stories from the Edge (Annick 2006) includes the Frank Slide of 1903 and an account of how German commandos stormed a plane hijacked by Palestinian terrorists to save 79 tourists in 1977. Following re-issued versions of picture books from Whitecap, Kyi's humorous collection called 50 Poisonous Questions: A Book With Bite (Annick, 2011) included cartoon drawings and questions such as, "Should you pee on a jelly-fish sting?" (No, douse it with vinegar.)

In a similar vein... Seeing Red: The True Story of Blood (Annick 2012) again showed how she could put herself in the background as a non-performance artist. Each chapter is introduced in a comic-book style by young Harker, a goth narrator with a worrisome relish for all things bloody. A new version has been published in Korean.

With her trademark humour, she's done a follow up in the Fifty Questions series on anatomy, 50 Body Questions: A Book That Spills Its Guts (Annick 2013), in which young readers can learn how people avoided epidemics in ancient Pakistan and why goldfish can see things that we can't.

Canadian Boys Who Rocked the World (Whitecap) outlines the lives of thirty young men who became famous prior to age twenty, such Louis Cyr bested the reigning Canadian strongman by lifting a 180 kg granite boulde0 at age 17; and Wayne Gretzky who was breaking NHL records by the time he was 18. It was followed by Canadian Girls Who Rocked the World (Whitecap) with 27 portraits that include singer Avril Lavigne and Marilyn Bell who became the first person to swim continuously across Lake Ontario.

Kyi's book launch for Anywhere But Here at Vancouver Kidsbooks was shared with Gabrielle Prendergast for her second novel, Capricious (Orca 2014), a follow-up to Audacious (Orca 2013), and was attended by author friends Rachelle Delany and Lori Sheritt-Fleming. Not exactly a billboard in Times Square perhaps, but another affirmation of progress.

A shipwreck on a remote island. A plane crash in the Peruvian jungle. Trapped deep in the earth with 33 others in a Chilean mine. When the Worst Happens: Extraordinary Tales of Survival (Annick 2014) is Tanya Lloyd Kyi's collection of true, action-packed stories about young people around the world who have had death-defying experiences. The accounts generally reveal how the youthful survivors used their unusual courage, skills and ingenuity to survive. Ilustrated by David Parkins.

Slowly, steadily, Tanya Lloyd Kyi from Creston has arrived at where she wants to be, living in Kitsilano, publishing from New York.

By Alan Twigg, BCBookLook, 2014

+++
Me and Banksy by Tanya Lloyd Kyi
(Puffin Canada $18.99) 2019

Dominica Rivers, or Dom as she's known to her eighth-grade schoolfriends, brunches with her grandmother Georgina and mother every Sunday.

Georgina treats them both at La Patisserie, a fancy cafe where Georgina enjoys flirting with the waiter.

It doesn't bother Dom, the heroine in a new YA novel, Me and Banksy.

At her grandmother's request, Dom calls her George, especially in public.

"She says the word grandma nullifies the hundreds of dollars per month she spends on salon coloring," Dom reveals in an interior monologue.

George owns a successful art gallery and brings Dom a new art book to read each week. She also begins paying for Dom to attend a private school for gifted children when she discovers her granddaughter has special artistic abilities.

Dom is being raised by a single mother -- her father died before she was born -- but they aren't struggling financially. Dom's family are well into the upper tiers of the middle class. Her mother runs her own business, a lucrative catering business, and drives a silver Lexus.

Dom is close to her mother and grandmother despite going through the difficult teen years when most young people prefer to be as far away from parents and guardians as possible.

When George enquires about Dom's new school project, her mother knows nothing about it and has to ask her daughter. "If she were a different type of mom, she'd already know the answer," Dom notes. "Our Sunday brunches are an update for her as much as for George. Which might be why George insists that she turn up every week."

As it turns out, Dom's project is for an ethics class (not the kind of course on your average high school curriculum) and it's about privacy and security technology that's changing the world, a topic that is about to become very real for Dom and her friends.

Dom's principal has installed an over-the-top security system that requires students to wear ID tags tracking their movements when they tap in and out of school every day. Cameras throughout the schoolrooms and hallways surveil activities with a closed-circuit television (CCTV) system.

Dom and her best friends, Holden -- a former child star recovering from being over-exposed and over-scheduled -- and Saanvi, a mathematical prodigy, abhor the surveillance system. Someone hacks into the CCTV system, gaining access to footage of students who have forgotten that they are on camera all the time. Images of one of the students picking her nose is shared via social media. A teacher's exposed thigh as her dress rides up when she leans against her desk, goes viral. Then Dom, who had realized one day that her shirt was inside out and quickly whipped it off to turn it right side before putting it back on, in what she thought was a quiet library corner, discovers a slowed-down video is making the rounds of her removing her shirt as if performing a striptease. Dom is horrified and endures unbearable teasing. It takes an emotional toll on her. But Dom is supported by her friends, Holden and Saanvi. The three decide to take on the job of hacking into their school's security system to find the culprit causing havoc in their lives. They also decide to initiate a social activist project to protest against the cameras in the classroom.

One of the art books George gives to Dom is about the mysterious street artist and political activist known as Banksy [a real-life character] whose spray paint stencil art appears to great acclaim on public spaces like walls, sidewalks and bridges. The social commentary conveyed by Banksy's stencils combines satire and dark humour with poignant images. It is not known if Banksy is a male, female or a group of artists but Dom is fascinated by the art. Banksy's graffiti first appeared in England and now these political stencils pop up in public places throughout the world.

Dom becomes empowered when, influenced by Banksy, she starts creating stencils of squirrels and spray paints them on her school's walls where she knows there are surveillance camera blind spots. This playful graffiti is Dom's way of thumbing her nose at the lack of privacy in her school.

Eventually Dom convinces her expanding group of high school friends to use this graffiti art to subvert an upcoming public event at her school to publicize their plight. In the process more than just the identity of the social media bully is revealed.

Tanya Lloyd Kyi has created a sprawling YA novel with a large cast of characters. One of her strengths is believable teen dialogue including cell phone text conversations; not an easy feat for an adult to pull off. Over-arching themes in the book, in addition to art, include timely issues such as the use of cameras, social media bullying, privacy and the importance of friendship and social identity. Kyi makes it clear on which side she stands, dedicating her new book to her "anti-authoritarian" son. 97807352266919

+++

Armed conflicts between India and Pakistan have been stymied by the Siachen Glacier. Winter foiled Napolean's assault on Russia. Way back in 119 BCE, General Wei Qing took advantage of a sand storm for a surprise attack versus Xiongnu nomads. In order to engage middle age readers, Tanya Lloyd Kyi's 24th book, Extreme Battlefields: When War Meets the Forces of Nature (Annick 2016), looks at ten military campaigns complicated by nature.

In 2021, Kyi's Mya's Strategy to Save the World (Penguin Random House $18.99) was nominated for a Joan Betty Stuchner -- Oy Vey! -- Funniest Children's Book Award in the chapter book category.

BOOKS:

Truth (Whitecap, 2001)
Police Line: Do Not Cross (Orca, 2003) 1-55143-265-X
My Time as Caz Hazard (Orca, 2004) 1-55143-319-2
Fires: True Stories from the Edge (Annick 2004) $9.95 9781550378764
The Blue Jean Book: The Story Behind the Seams (Annick Press, 2005).
Rescues: True Stories from the Edge (Annick 2006) $9.95 9781554510337
Canada: A Visual Journey (Whitecap 2006)
The Okanagan (Whitecap 2006). 2nd edition. (3rd edition Whitecap 2014)
Banff National Park (Whitecap 2006)
Nova Scotia (Whitecap 2006)
The Canadian Rockies (Whitecap 2006)
Whistler (Whitecap 2006)
Canadian Boys Who Rocked the World (Whitecap 2006) $12.95
Burn: The Life Story of Fire (Whitecap 2007)
Fire (Annick 2007)
Canadian Girls Who Rocked the World (Whitecap 2009) $12.95 978-1-55285-986-5
50 Burning Questions (Annick 2010) $12.95 9781554512201
50 Poisonous Questions: A Book With Bite (Annick, 2011) 978-1-55451-281-2 $12.95
50 Underwear Questions (Annick 2011) $21.95 9781554513536
The Lowdown on Denim (Annick 2011) $12.95 9781554513543
Seeing Red: The True Story of Blood (Annick 2012) $14.95 978-1-55451-384-0
50 Body Questions: A Book That Spills Its Guts (Annick 2014) $14.95 9781554516124
Anywhere But Here (New York: Simon Pulse) $11.95 9781442480696
When the Worst Happens: Extraordinary Tales of Survival (Annick 2014) Softcover $14.95 978-1-55451-682-7 / Hardcover $24.95 978-1-55451-683-4 Illustrated by David Parkins
DNA Detective (Annick 2015). Illustrated by Lil Crump. $14.95 978-1-55451-773-2
Extreme Battlefields: When War Meets the Forces of Nature (Annick 2016) $16.95 978-1-55451-793-0 pb / $24.95 978-1-55451-794-7 hc
Eyes and Spies: How You're Tracked and Why You Should Know (Annick 2017) Illustrations by Belle Wuthrich $14.95 978-1-55451-910-1
Shadow Warrior (Annick 2017) Illustrations by Celia Krampien $14.95 978-1-55451-965-1
Mya's Strategy to Save the World (Penguin 2019) $18.99 978-0-7352-6525-7
Me and Banksy (Penguin 2020) $18.99 978-0-7352-6692-6

[Alan Twigg / BCBW 2021] "Kidlit" "Outdoors"