Profile: Gillian Chan

By Helen Kubiw, June 2018

Gillian Chan’s life is as varied as her authorship. In her childhood, she and her family travelled extensively throughout England (her birth place) and Europe, as required by her father’s job with the Royal Air Force. Throughout, Gillian Chan was guided by the books she read, while gaining fodder for her writing. 

After moving to Canada in 1990, Gillian Chan, who’d always enjoyed writing, took her first course in crafting short stories. This led to the publication of her first two books, both collections of short stories, Golden Girl and Other Stories (Kids Can Press, 1994) and Glory Days and Stories (Kids Can Press, 1996).

With the publication of her first novel, The Carved Box (Kids Can Press, 2001), Gillian Chan extended her writing into historical fantasy. The Carved Box is the story of fifteen-year-old Callum who buys an extraordinary dog accompanied by a mysterious box which the boy is warned never to open. Shortlisted for the Red Maple Award, The Carved Box blends the historical time of Upper Canada with some supernatural elements, something Gillian Chan revisits in her second coming-of-age fantasy, The Turning (Kids Can Press, 2005).

However, many young readers will recognize Gillian Chan’s contributions to Scholastic Canada’s wildly popular historical fiction series Dear Canada and I Am Canada with titles that include An Ocean Apart: The Gold Mountain Diary of Chin Mei-ling, Vancouver, British Columbia, 1922 (2004); A Call to Battle: The War of 1812, Alexander MacKay, Upper Canada, 1812 (2012) and Defend or Die: The Siege of Hong Kong, Jack Finnigan, Hong Kong, 1941 (2015). 

While Gillian Chan’s latest novel The Disappearance (Annick, 2017) has some supernatural and historical elements, it is a contemporary novel in setting and issues. Mike, a boy in foster care for assaulting his mother’s abusive boyfriend, becomes the protector of several younger boys including the enigmatic and reticent Jacob. The Disappearance, about brothers lost and found; born and made of circumstance, follows Mike’s attempts to help Jacob, thereby leading to his own redemption.

We are pleased to welcome Gillian Chan to this year’s YA Authors venue at the Eden Mills Writers’ Festival on September 9th, 2018, where she will read and participate in a panel discussion with authors Karen Bass and Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch.