For readers who aren't familiar with your graphic novel series, can you tell us in your own words what it’s about?
The series is about a time-traveling young girl named Echo. The original pitch for the book was “Echo is a girl with magical powers who can read things and they come alive” which is, of course, a magical power we all have.
The whole premise is that she starts reading history books about her people, Métis people, the Michif people, and then she is transported back into those times and gets to live out her life starting in 1816 and going all the way up to the present day.
You’ve written for all ages and in many styles and genres. Why did you decide to tell this story for teen readers, and why make it a graphic novel?
The book came about through something that happens very frequently in my life, which is I just put my foot in my mouth and end up talking myself into something I know nothing about.
I was at Highwater Press, who is the publisher of the book, for another meeting. And I was saying you should have more non-binary and woman graphic novelists. And also you should have more Métis history. And then they pointed at me and said, “You’re Métis and you're a woman. Maybe you can do something?” And I was like, "No, no, I can't possibly write a graphic novel." I had no idea how to write a graphic novel.
But I had a story idea of this time traveler...and I wanted to dive into [that] history. So it all fits. I ended up taking on the challenge, knowing absolutely nothing and learning as I went.
There is so much important Métis history covered in this series. What kind of research went into your writing?
I was incredibly daunted by the task of talking about this history. I was obsessed with getting it right. One thing with the project is each book originally was published a year apart. And I did that on purpose because I wanted to make sure to do my research for each era on its own.
The Pemmican Wars was difficult because there weren't a lot of eyewitness accounts. It was a little different with Red River Resistance and the Northwest Resistance because there were a lot of eyewitness accounts. There's so much academic work around those two movements.
So each had its own life of research that it took on, and in that way, it was unique for each book.
How did you balance keeping the history accurate and keeping the story engaging?
That part felt easy. And I'm completely biased here, but [Métis history] is really interesting. You know, armed insurrections led by Indigenous folks fighting for their rights against their imposing colonizers. It's all winning as far as engagement goes.
We were trying to put Echo right into the action while still keeping her safe. What she sees and how she sees it—it’s like chaos all the time, you know? There was a lot of action. Trying to root it down, trying to make sense of it ended up being the difficult part.
The art in this series is incredible. If you can think back to the beginning of the series, can you remember how it felt to first see your story come to life and to see Echo for the first time?
Imagine how they felt when TVs got Technicolor. Have you ever watched those videos of the moment they got Technicolor and it turned over? That's what it felt like to me. It felt like this amazing experience of watching something I thought of come alive.
So much of Echo’s world is found in the details—the patches on her jacket, the playlists on her phone, the book covers in the library. I’ve always wondered if those details came from you or the illustrator.
It was both. I had a couple of ideas of what books she would find in the library, and Scott came up with the rest. That's how we worked. I would have a small idea and Scott would make it very big.
I came up with the playlist. I obsessed over the playlist. The 90s music was something we kind of stumbled on because I knew she had to be playing music.
And then the patches just became this great way to communicate how she's feeling. There's an anarchy patch, which I think plays perfectly with all the resistors in the middle of the resistance.
Echo’s story, originally told in four volumes, started back in 2017. What are your thoughts now, six years later, as you see the entire story come together in this beautiful new omnibus edition?
It feels incredibly special to me. We were talking about it for months and we were putting everything together. I did very little. A designer and editor put everything together. It was the easiest book I ever wrote because everyone else did all the work.
When it was put together, I remember thinking: I didn't know I wanted this so bad. It's so special to be able to flip through from one story to another. And it's so thick. These omnibuses are beautiful, beautiful. They feel substantial...it feels very special.
As a writer and a storyteller, what are you taking away from this experience? What lessons did you learn from telling Echo’s story?
What I will take with me is the way art works in [graphic novels]. Art can do so much of the heavy lifting and makes my job easier as a writer. You can do different things. Echo, being a prose book, would have been completely different. Certain kinds of stories just work in graphic novels.
Plus there's the “cool factor,” right? Because the kids love graphic novels. So I am infinitely cooler post-Echo than I was before Echo.
Please share what you will be up to at Vancouver Writers Fest. What can attendees expect from your events?
I'm doing two panels: Tuesday, October 17 and Wednesday, October 18. I love the Vancouver Writers Fest and always highly, highly recommend it. Granville Island is such a great place to be. Everyone's wandering around. This little island comes alive and I have a great time whenever I'm out there. Please come on out!