News and Interviews

Debut picture book author Carolyn Huizinga Mills on Montgomery, Atwood, Mistry & More

Carolyn Huizinga Mills (reduced)

Who doesn't love a nice warm bath? Sally, the protagonist of Carolyn Huizinga Mills' The Little Boy Who Lived Down the Drain (Fitzhenry & Whiteside) certainly loves taking baths -- but as the title suggests, she has a rather unique reason. Bath time means more than just bubbles and getting clean; it means Sally has a chance to talk to her best friend, the little boy who lives down the drain. 

A heartfelt story of family, friendship, and the strange process of growing up, The Little Boy Who Lived Down the Drain is a compelling debut picture book. Dreamy, memorable illustrations from award-winning artist Brooke Kerrigan pair perfectly with Huizinga Mills' thoughtful story.

In her responses to our WAR (Writers as Readers) questionnaire, Carolyn proves as charming as her storybook, telling us about pinching a school book to read at home, sharing the Canadian classic that made her realize she wanted to write, and offering a very relatable title suggestion when asked what she would call her autobiography. 

The first book I remember reading on my own:

I’m not completely sure, but I do remember stealing Mr. Mugs books from the classroom shelf to take home and read on my own. I always returned them, though!

A book that made me cry:

Recently, The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. However, Rohinton Mistry’s A Fine Balance affected me for days after finishing it. It was over a decade ago that I read it, but I can still remember shutting the book and sitting there stunned. I wished that someone had warned me about the book, about how I would need time to recover from its emotional impact. I couldn’t pick up another book for almost a week.

The first adult book I read:

Emily of New Moon by L.M. Montgomery, if that counts as adult. At the time, it was the thickest book I’d ever encountered and I felt very grown-up reading it.

A book that made me laugh out loud:

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. I also kept reading sections out loud to my husband because they were so funny I had to share them.

The book I have re-read many times:

Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood. Any book by Atwood, really. When I’m craving a really good piece of fiction, I turn to her books on my shelf.

A book I feel like I should have read, but haven't:

War and Peace.

The book I would give my seventeen year old self, if I could:

Stephen King’s On Writing. It might have made me take myself seriously as a writer sooner.

A book I feel strongly influenced me as a writer and why:

I would have to return to Emily of New Moon because it made me realize that I wanted to write in the first place. I was fascinated by Emily’s compulsion to compose, hidden away in her aunt’s garret, using any scraps of paper she could find. I was also inspired by Montgomery’s magically descriptive prose – I wanted to (still want to) be able to transport people the way her writing transported me.

The best book I read in the past six months:

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.

The book I plan on reading next:

I have a stack right now to choose from, picked somewhat randomly from the library. They include: The Telling by Jo Baker, Night Train to Lisbon by Emily Grayson, and March by Geraldine Brooks. It will likely be one of those, unless someone hands me something in the meantime that looks even more tempting.

 A possible title for my autobiography:

“As soon as I’m done this chapter…” – something I find myself saying all the time, and can remember saying over and over as a child, probably much to my mother’s annoyance.

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Carolyn Huizinga Mills lives in Ontario. The Little Boy Who Lived Down the Drain is her first picture book.

Related reading

The Little Boy Who Lived Down the Drain

Sally loved taking baths. It wasn't because the water was full of bubbles — or because she had the bathroom all to herself — and it was not because she always came out squeaky clean — Sally loved taking baths because it was the only time she could talk to the Little Boy Who Lived Down the Drain.

Sally found out about him when her mother sang to Sally's baby brother about Baa Baa Black Sheep and his three bags of wool — one of which went to the Little Boy Who Lived Down the Drain. And thus a friendship was born.

Every bath that Sally took after that was devoted to discovering more about her new friend. But this charming picture book is about more than the Little Boy, it's about family and siblings, and friends — and about growing up.