Wouldn’t It Be Cool If…

Kids often ask me what inspired Perpetuum – the magical island in my new novel where time stands still.

It happened like this.

I was eleven. A boy scout. On a 3-day canoe trip somewhere in Haliburton county.

Blueberry Island (4)

It was the middle of July, and beautifully warm. My scout troop had paddled 15 kilometers that morning, passing through three lakes, and portaging over two dams. We pitched our tents on a beautiful campsite carpeted with soft pine needles.

After we cooked lunch, we were given free time. We swam, hunted for crayfish, made friends with a bunch of ducks.

Duck, dissatisfied with my misunderstanding of the food distribution rules

At some point I lay down on my sleeping bag inside my tent, and stared out through the tent flaps at the blue sky and the waving tree branches.

The air smelled of cedar and pine and wet rocks. The wind was silky, and deliciously warm.

I lay there in the tent, feeling happy. I didn’t have a care in the world. I was well-fed, my arm muscles were glowing from the paddling, and I was halfway between being awake and asleep.

That’s when I thought it for the very first time: I wish this moment would never end.

Shoreline view: May 2010

This moment. RIGHT NOW. With the warm wind, and the blue sky, and me lying on my sleeping bag. I don’t want it to end. Not EVER.

Clouds and lake

It ended, of course. You probably guessed that, eh? The sun went behind a cloud and I fell asleep.

A couple of hours later a terrible storm blew up, and one of our canoes was blown onto the rocks. One of my friends broke his ankle, and the next morning we had to pack our waterlogged tents and paddle home through the freezing rain.

A few weeks after that, I was back in school. That beautiful moment was gone. Forever.

30 years have passed since then. Some sad things have happened, but they’ve been outnumbered by the happy things. I travelled across Canada, I met my wife, I published novels, and I met lots of amazing kids.

But time kept going. It never stops.

Shoreline view: December 2011

Still, every now and again, I remember that day on the canoe trip, and I wish I was back there, lying in that tent, in that picture-perfect moment.

writing floating island story

One day a few years ago, after my first novel was published, I had another crazy idea. I thought: Wouldn’t it be cool if there really WAS a place where time stood still? …

If you ever find yourself muttering those words – Wouldn’t It Be Cool If – pay attention! Grab a pen and take notes. Some of our best ideas begin with those very words.

Wouldn’t it be cool, I thought to myself, if there really WAS a place where time stood still?

I kept thinking about that feeling I had, lying in that tent. Also: the view I had of a little island, out in the middle of the lake. It was tiny, and it seemed to float.

Morning at the lake

I wondered: what if time never passed on that island? It’d be great, right? You could beach your canoe, and then you’d go through some sort of time portal, and then you’d have all the time in the world. You’d never get old, and you’d live forever, and best of all, you’d never have to do any homework.

On the other hand, you might get bored on that island, since nothing would ever change.

I thought a lot about this stuff. And then, after a while, I started writing down my thoughts. Some time later, I wrote my novel “Sight Unseen.” And that’s how the magical land of Perpetuum was born.

(photos by my genius brother Andy)