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Interview with Carrie Turansky

Carrie Turansky takes the gritty realism of yesterday and turns it into emotion-filled stories relatable to everyone today. Her stories are rich in detail, beautiful to read, and hard to put down.

Carrie, congratulations on the release of No Ocean Too Wide, Book 1 in The McAlister Family Novels. No Ocean Too Wide takes on the historic journey of what are called the British Home Children, most of them orphans and paupers, who were sent to Canada presumably for better living conditions.

What was it about the British Home Children that inspired No Ocean Too Wide?

I first learned about British Home Children through a Facebook post that took me to a group page run by descendants of people who had come from England to Canada as child migrants. As I scrolled through the posts I was very touched by the stories and experiences of these children. I jumped into the research and learned that more than 100,000 poor and orphaned children came to Canada between 1869 – 1939. Most were not adopted but taken in as indentured farm workers or domestic servants. Many were neglected and abused and most were scorned by peers and not accepted as equals. Those facts touched my heart and gave me a desire to write a story that would bring this part of history to life.

The cover of No Ocean Too Wide is striking, yet subtle. The colors draw me in, and the children are pulling me along to follow their journey. How do you get such fantastic artwork to represent your stories?
I’m very grateful for the artists and designers who have created my covers. Kristopher Orr at WaterBrook has overseen the creation on all my English historical novels. He invites me to give some input on the cover designs, and I’ve really enjoyed that. The cover for No Ocean Too Wide went through several major changes before we arrived at this final design. I recently blogged about all the steps in that process, and reading and writing friends might enjoy taking a look at that blog post:

Where did your research take you for this book? I know you’re a traveler and love research, so tell us where you looked for No Ocean Too Wide.
I did most of my research for No Ocean Too Wide online through the British Home Children Advocacy and Research Association website and the books and videos they recommended. Listening to interviews of a few home children who are now in their nineties and reading their original stories was very eye-opening. I’ve traveled to Ontario, Canada, in the past, and I’d love to go again, especially to see some of the museum exhibits about British Home Children.

Any interesting tidbits you’d like to share about this story’s research?
I was surprised to learn that once children were taken into a children’s home in Britain, the parents lost their parental rights, and most were not allowed to see their children. Those running the homes could send the children out of the country to Canada, Australia, New Zealand, or Africa without the parent’s knowledge or permission. All that was required was to send the parents a sailing notice after the children had left the country. Many children never saw their parents again, and many sibling groups were separated for life.

Do you research your family history? It’s always a surprise when I find an ancestor who lived in a British workhouse as a child, and then was sent over as a Home Child. But that’s only a few of the 100,00 children who came over. Have you discovered any Home Children in your tree?
My husband’s parents are from Windsor, Ontario, Canada. My mother-in-law’s grandparents came over from England, but we are not sure if they were British Home Children. We need to do some more research. They say that more than one in ten Canadians living today has a relative who came to Canada as a British Home Child.

The plight of the Home Children reminds me of the Orphan Trains which were occurring in the United States during the same time period. Do you think it was due to the pressures of society at the turn of the century, or human nature in general, which caused harm to these children?
Maria Rye, one of the first to send poor and orphaned British children to Canada, heard a lecture given in London by those who were running the Orphan Trains in the US. That gave her the idea of sending groups of children from the children’s homes in Britain to Canada. Those running the children’s homes in England were under great pressure to provide for the growing number of children who were poor, orphaned, or abandoned, and it became increasingly difficult to provide the needed care. I believe many people who sent the children to Canada had good intentions and hoped it would give the children a better life, but that was not always the case. I was sad to learn that there was very little screening of those who took in the children. They simply filled out a form and paid the equivalent of $3.00 and could take a child home. Often there was little or no follow up after the children were placed with a family.

Did you change your writing space to suit the emotional waves of No Ocean Too Wide? Different music? Visual images for inspiration?
I started working on my Pinterest board early in the brainstorming process to find images of the characters and the settings. While I write I keep the images of the main characters on my screen at the side of my document. Sometimes I’ll stop and look at them and try to imagine what they would say or how they would feel about events in the story. I have a writing desk in my dining room, but I usually move around my house with my laptop and sit in different rooms and chairs. When I’m facing a deadline I often head to my guest room recliner and turn off the Internet. I have a playlist of instrumental music that also helps me shut out the world and stay in the story.

What was your biggest challenge while writing No Ocean Too Wide?
I’d say my biggest challenge was to give an honest and balanced account of what happened to British Home Children yet still offer hope to the characters and the readers. Another challenge was that there was so much information I had a hard time deciding what to include and what to leave out.

Will the other books in The McAlister Family Novels involve Home Children?
Yes! I’m working on the second book with a working title, Follow Me Home. This story is set ten years later and tells what happened to the other two McAlister siblings, Garth and Grace McAlister.

Any parting words?
I hope readers will be touched by what happened to the McAlister children and realize it’s not just an issue from the past. We are foster adoptive parents, and we know firsthand that there are many orphaned and abandoned children who long for a forever family and a loving home. And I hope they will be motivated to reach out and help families and children who are in need.


Anita Mae Draper's historical romances are woven under the western skies of the Saskatchewan prairie where her love of research and genealogy yields fascinating truths that layer her stories with rich historical details. Anita's short story, Here We Come A-Wassailing, was a finalist for the Word Guild's 2015 Word Awards. Her novellas are included in Austen in Austin Volume 1, The American Heiress Brides Collection, and The Secret Admirer Romance Collection. Readers can check out Anita's Pinterest boards for a visual idea of her stories to enrich their reading experience. Discover more at and

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