1) Do you have a favourite memory of your time on campus?
Well, it has to be 1985 when I was on the cover of the Green & White! I’m the one in the Tweety-Bird-Yellow loooooooow V-neck sweater.
2) Like asking a parent what child do they like most … of all the books you have written, do you have a favourite? Or favourite character?
You’re right, it is impossible to choose. Because I – partially - use my own travels, relationships and experiences as inspiration, each book is tied to special memories. And like children, each book has its own character and unique development from birth (conceptualization) to adulthood (publishing and promoting). That being said, Amuse Bouche will always be special because it was the first and it spawned an eight-book series that took up the next 10 years of my life and cemented my career as a full-time writer. It was also an important book because at the time it was the first of its kind in Canada, presenting a LGTBQ main character in a mainstream mystery novel. Amuse Bouche was a book, and Russell Quant main character, whose time had come. I can’t begin to explain how wonderful it was to hear from readers from all over the world about what the Quant books meant to them. People still ask me whether I will ever write another one.
A close second would be my last book, Set Free, which was my first attempt at a stand-alone (non-series) book. I loved the experience of stretching my writing muscles a little and trying something new.
3) In your years on campus, is there one person you recall who provided you with inspiration?
In my second year, I enrolled in Ukrainian 101 taught by Prof. Roma Franko. I think I enrolled simply because I come from a Ukrainian background and knew it would make my parents happy. Not only did I meet one of my lifelong friends in that class (hi Pat!), but the experience turned into something much bigger than I ever expected. Prof. Franko encouraged me to sign up for an exchange program between USask and Chernivtsi University in Ukraine. There were only five spots and I never expected to get in. I did. After that, Professor Franko did everything she could to ensure the five of us were prepared and appropriately aware of the opportunity we were being given, not only to learn, but to grow as people and enthusiastically represent our university. She even invited us to her home for a Ukrainian meal and to begin the process of uniting us five as a cohesive group. It was my first time on an airplane, my first time out of Canada. It was a life-changing experience.
4) What draws you to this role with the alumni advisory board?
Eons ago, I think it was my first or second year of university, I was taking a psychology course and I believe it was a course requirement that students log a certain number of hours volunteering in the community. I became a volunteer on the pediatrics ward at the Royal University Hospital (in Saskatoon). As you can imagine, it was one of those experiences where I got way more out of it than I gave. It was a very powerful experience for me and became the impetus for my belief in being of service to your community.
Over the years I have tried my best to become involved in various community endeavors, locally, provincially, nationally and internationally, through volunteer work and roles on various boards and committees. Look around, identify a need, assess whether you have something to offer, whether you have an interest, then do it.
I have always known that the University of Saskatchewan is a vital part of our community and appreciated the doors it has opened for me. Afterall, I somehow, I ended up with three USask degrees! So, when I was approached about a role on the USask Alumni Advisory Board, I was very interested to see if I could be of service. Time will tell.
5) How can you inspire other USask alumni to get involved?
I expect the answer to that question will be a key part of the discussions we will be having around the USAAB table. Because the depth and breadth of the experiences offered by USask are so varied, as are our alumni, I imagine so will be the reasons why they might want to get involved. Our challenge will be to identify those reasons and find imaginative ways to create engagement opportunities that match this diversity in ways that make sense and are comfortable to our alumni.