A Good Home, Author Interviews, Author's Homes, Gardening, Hilary Custance Green, Sculptor

At Home with Hilary Custance Green

Hilary Custance Green has many roles. She’s a daughter, wife, mother, author, sculptor, blogger and gardener.

It’s the gardener role that first caught my eye.

More specifically, it was her Japanese maple seedlings that caught my interest.

Blog Photo - Hilary Maple Seedlings in Pots

Hilary had written a blog post about growing Japanese maples from seed. Being a gardener ( and having failed to grow Japanese maples from seed),  I was impressed.

Hilary Custance Green

Hilary loves gardening, of course.  She brings both art and science to the task. (Did I mention she also has a doctorate in brain science?) 

She even had a knot garden, which I know from experience is not an easy thing to create. 

Blog Photo - Hilary Knot Garden 2

“I love all the phases of project work, creation, engineering, labour, completion and peer review. I am never happier than working to exhaustion on a big 3D piece of work, or weeding for hours in the garden.”

“As a teenager I dreamt of becoming Rodin or Michelangelo. It was not to be, but I spent twenty (mostly happy) years making large semi abstract sculptures and also, to earn a penny or two, portrait heads.”

Blog Photo - Hilary Sculpture 2

“In both sculpture and writing, it is the crossfire of unrelated elements that makes the story.

Blog Photo - Hilary Sculpture 1

“So this sculpture developed out of The Song of Hiawatha (Longfellow) and the sad time in my twenties when my boyfriend was drowned.”

Blog Photo - Hilary Sculpture 3 boat

One of the recurring themes in all Hilary’s books is this question: What gives individuals strength in adversity?

By the time I met her through her blog, Hilary had already written three novels — Border Line, A Small Rain, Unseen Unsung — and was working on a special non-fiction book.

Each novel explores the question above, with themes of “love, grief, adventure, disability and both good and bad luck.”

Unseen Unsung by [Custance Green, Hilary]

“I hope to give readers something positive to take away as well as a hefty dash of the music and poetry I love so much.”

Blog Photo - Hilary workroom 2 and piano

Family and home are important parts of Hilary’s life.

“Home is where I have the wondrous fortune to be loved and feel safe,” she says.

“My husband Edwin and I both had parents with jobs that moved around. To give us a good education they sent us to boarding schools far from our homes.

“When we found this house, and had our two girls, we never wanted to move again and our children walked to school in the village.

Blog Photo - HCG Children

“When we outgrew the space, we built an extension (or two or three!).”

Blog Photo - Hilary Home

Hilary’s parents, Barry and Phyllis, went through great adversity during the second world war, and in  2016, she published a book about their experience. 

Surviving the Death Railway: A POW’s Memoirs and Letters from Home  is that book. Both acclaimed and very successful, it may well be her signature work so far.

Blog Photo - Hilary Book Cover Death Railway

“It includes the 68 men captured with Barry and their families back home in Britain, who kept in touch with Phyllis throughout the war. The real story is the amazing support these ordinary men and women gave each other in horrific and testing times.”


Today, Hilary and Edwin’s daughters — Eleanor and Amy — are grown up with partners and lives of their own in other cities.  

Blog Photo - Hilary two daughters

Hilary too has been busy.

She has done many author presentations for her latest book, and is working on yet another. The work-in-progress is about “a brilliant, crazy woman, her concert pianist mother, their young, troubled and disabled biographer and a prickly young jazz pianist.”

Blog Photo - Hilary Workroom 1 with window

She and Edwin are also redesigning the garden.

Blog Photo - Hilary Garden in progress1

Blog Photo - Hilary Garden in progress2

Like everything else Hilary creates, one senses the finished products — book and garden — will be intriguing, powerful and beautiful.

Brava, Hilary!








A Good Home, Author Interviews, Authors, Canadian Authors, Canadian Books, Canadian life, Newly Released Books

At Home With Author Paul Nicholas Mason

2015 isn’t even half-way through yet, but it’s already a big year for author-playwright Paul Nicholas Mason.

His third book, The Night Drummer, was launched to acclaim.

Blog Photo - Paul Nicholas Mason at book launch for The Night Drummer

He became a grandfather.

He retired from teaching.

He’s writing his fourth novel and his umpteenth play.



Paul lives north of Toronto. He writes in his study at home.

Blog Photo - Paul with TND book

“It looks out on conservation lands at the back of my property, so my view is of trees.  Trees are very important to me.”

Not surprising that one of his most favorite places is the Rotary Greenway Trail, near his home.

“During the summer I’m on the trail almost every day.  That trail, incidentally, is the setting for my first novel, Battered Soles.

The setting of an earlier home also provided inspiration — for the new book. The setting and some characters in The Night Drummer  are linked to Kingston, Ontario where he lived.

“Indeed, one of the characters – but only one – is based solidly on one of my high school classmates…  I don’t altogether understand my own creative process, but I can tell you that the character of Otis, the Aboriginal young man, came to me first.”

The Night Drummer tells the story of two teenagers in small-town Ontario: Peter Ellis, a white boy and Otis James, who is Aboriginal.

Blog Photo - Paul N Mason Book Cover TND

An excerpt from the Publishers Weekly review:

“Ellis’s memories of first loves and jobs and an endearingly oddball assortment of friends, including Otis, a preternaturally wise and kind Ojibwe boy adopted by devout Caucasian parents, give this portrait a welcome sweetness that draws attention to the innocence, sheer possibility, and blithe lightheartedness of youth. ‘Small towns can be ugly places,’ Ellis remarks, ‘but they can be warm communities too.’  Nostalgic but not sanitized, this novel shows the interplay of the two, with captivating results.”

Blog Photo - Paul in study

Paul taught high school students for 32 years.

“I loved the young people I taught, and I loved my colleagues. Teaching is a noble profession, but it is, at times, stunningly stressful.  I knew that I needed to get out while I was still whole.”

Having retired from teaching, Paul plans to write, of course.  He’s blessed with a deep and melodious speaking voice, so he’ll also do some voice work.

He’ll spend more time with family. For Paul, family is the real ‘home’.

“I am, first and foremost, a family man:  father to two children and two step-children;  grandfather to an infant granddaughter;  son to Michael and Muriel;  brother to Robin and Angie;  uncle to a niece and two nephews;  and partner to Denise.” 

Blog Photo - Paul with first grandchild 2

Underpinning the different parts of his life is what Paul calls his “moral scaffolding”. He describes himself as a liberal Christian.

“I’m the furthest thing imaginable from a Bible-thumper, but I am, quietly, a believer.  I don’t think a reader would necessarily pick up on that from reading any of my books, but my faith provides a kind of moral scaffolding.”

And his hopes for The Night Drummer?

“I hope it will move many readers to laughter and, perhaps, to tears.  And I hope, beyond that, that it will encourage them to be a just a little kinder to each other.”

Bravo, Paul.

A Good Home, Author Interviews, Book Interviews, Books, Interview Shows, The Next Chapter


Pushing the limits is risky, even reckless.

But I learned early that pushing the limits was the only way to succeed.

Book launch Cynthia reads and smiles closeup

It took long-term injuries from a car accident for me to learn – angrily, grudgingly – that some mountains aren’t surmountable.

Along the way, I gave my doctors, therapists and family a helluva time.

Apologized sincerely each time.

And yet, here I was, pushing the limits again.


You have to hand it to chronic pain: it’s cruel, but consistent.

Post traumatic stress disorder lives in the shadows, striking unexpectedly.

It’s my own personal terrorist.

I’ve had therapy and medication. But just when I think I’m improving, the damned thing strikes again.

Book cynthia closeup reading at Evas

It gives me nightmares, and in the daylight, jumps out of memory bushes I didn’t even know were there. Then I become terrified, and if I speak at all, it’s a tortured stutter.

Can you imagine that happening on a radio or TV interview about my new book?

agoodhome_cynthiareyesThis was one limit not worth pushing.



Radio hosts Felicity Sidnell Reid and Gwynn Scheltema just wouldn’t quit.

Blog Photo - Felicity Sidnell Reid

Blog Photo - Interviewer Gwyn Scheltema

In late summer, they finally got me into their studio for their show,  Word On The Hills.

They’d agreed to accommodate my restrictions.

And I used every tool my therapist taught me – even making fun of myself.  

Listen to all or part of it here:



Then came the second interview.

I had foolishly said “Yes” a year earlier — then prayed it wouldn’t happen.

My family and friends were the ones pushing me this time.

Blog Photo - Shelagh Rogers and The Next chapter

“Shelagh Rogers is a wonderful interviewer,” they kept saying. “She’s skilled and compassionate. She won’t let you fall on your face.”

It wasn’t Shelagh’s skills or compassion that worried me.

It was the fact that she’s been so candid about her own struggles that I knew I had to open up about mine.

Worse, she’d be coming to the place where I am most myself: my home.

All of this meant that I was headed for disaster.


We walked around the garden, chatting pleasantly.

Flowers bloomed, birds sang, the sun shone.

Blog Photo - Afternoon Tea Shelagh and Cynthia in Garden

And then it was time.


Afterwards, my friend Marilyn arranged afternoon tea for all of us. I remembered most of that lovely event, but almost nothing of the interview that preceded it.

I know an interview took place.  I know I cried at times. And I remembered kindness from Shelagh and her team. 

I later heard the interview along with CBC Radio listeners across Canada. Listen here
Blog Photo - Cynthia Reyes on The Next Chapter

So, what did I learn?  

That laughter helps. (And tea.)

That pushing myself remains risky. 

But sometimes, I have to take the risk.


Thank you, Shelagh, Felicity, Gwyn and your teams.