You may recognize a few local faces on the covers of… not magazines, but children’s novels.
Side Trip and Time Rose are two series written by Kelowna author Renee Duke which features Okanagan locations and children on the covers.
“I asked the opinion of a lot of kids. A lot of covers don’t have people on them. And most of the children said they liked seeing children on the cover because they could relate better to the character,” she said.
Side Trip has characters travelling to the far reaches of the universe while the Time Rose novels have young characters leaping back to important historical time periods. The books are intended for ages nine and up.
“I live in the past and the future, but not in the present,” said Duke, who loves history and science fiction.
Her unique idea to use local children as models started when she switched publishers and began publishing hard copies of her books.
She used a total of 16 children, ranging in age from six to 16.
Local backgrounds include St. Michael & All Angels Anglican Cathedral Church for the Time Rose Book 1, Okanagan Lake forTime Rose Book 3 and the Gasthaus Pub in Peachland for Time Rose Book 4.
Each cover replays a scene in each book and the children loved portraying the characters. Model Gabriel L’Heureux even dyed his hair blond for the role.
A writer all her life, Duke remembers being drawn to writing at a young age.
“I’ve had a draw to writing ever since I was seven or eight years old. The teacher wrote on the blackboard a sentence and said to write a story about it and I think that was the first time I realized people actually wrote what I read.”
Captivated by writing and reading, Duke wrote stories and her mom would sew them together in books.
At one point, she wrote magazine articles, short stories and worked as a reporter for Capital News, but likes being able to delve into the depth of a story, and published her first children’s book in 2013.
“I like really getting into something and getting to know your characters.” she said, noting the characters in her books are also Canadian.
Duke attended school in both England and Canada and was the youngest and only girl in her family. Her family travelled back and forth across the Atlantic before finally settling in Kelowna in 1966.
Her favourite book as a child was The Secret Garden and she loves the old Doctor Who series.
Working in the Okanagan for more than 40 years, Duke had a trove of students at her disposal.
She was a preschool teacher at Tiny Tots Nursery at St. Michaels’ church, worked with students through Development andPeace, as well as the Clubhouse programs which had children learn history through interaction, drama and role playing.
The goal is to interest children in history in a fun way.
The 64-year-old’s writing process differs from day to day, but it usually starts with feeding her cats.
“Some days it’s really good, I can churn out a few thousand words, and some days you churn out 150,” she said.
Duke will be signing her books March 4, at Chapters in Orchard Park Mall. She hopes to have some of her characters available to sit with her as well.
The books are available at Chapters, as well as Amazon and Kobo.
To find out more about Duke and her books, visit her website.