Starting Points: Karen Autio discussing Sabotage

An ongoing series wherein CWILL BC writers and illustrators connect a picture or an item to one of their books.

Karen Autio at Nipigon railway bridge for CWILL

I grew up in Nipigon, near Thunder Bay in northwestern Ontario, and often saw passenger and freight trains cross this Canadian Pacific railway bridge. I was doubtful when I heard that German spies planned to blow it up during the First World War. Really?

Really! While researching my book, Saara’s Passage, I discovered this report in the March 19, 1915, Port Arthur Daily News.

Spies Arrested for CWILL

The arrested German agents confessed to spying and conspiring to destroy my railway bridge! They wanted to prevent Western Canadian soldiers from reaching Europe to fight. To see what the bridge looked like in 1885, click this link (but please come back—it’s easy to get distracted by all the fascinating historical photographs):

The saboteurs admitted to more. They were part of a gang that plotted against an armory and blew up a military uniform plant in southern Ontario. Finding out that tall tale was actually true inspired me to hunt for more information about wartime sabotage in Canada. What I learned astounded me. I turned my research into an adventure novel called Sabotage, which completes my trilogy about Saara Mäki and her family. When danger hits close to home, can Saara and her brother John stop their quarrelling and work together to save their family?

Karen Autio is the author of a trilogy of historical novels for young readers that began with Second Watch. She writes about events in Canada’s history that haven’t had much attention: the sinking of the Empress of Ireland, tuberculosis and living in a sanatorium; spies, sabotage and internment during the First World War. Karen also focuses on the value of family stories and heritage. When her Finnish-Canadian grandmother gave her a silver spoon and told her its tale, Karen had no idea it would lead her into three whole novels’ worth of words.

About Dan Bar-el

I am a children's writer. I write picture books, middle grade novels and graphic novels. Also angry tweets, once in a while.
This entry was posted in new publications, novels, Starting Points, writing process and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Starting Points: Karen Autio discussing Sabotage

  1. Very fascinating, Karen! Loved the pictures of the bridge. All this makes me want to read your books.

  2. Karen Autio says:

    Thanks, Suzanne, I’m delighted to hear that! Historical photographs so often draw me in and raise questions that get me researching to find the answers.

  3. Norma says:

    Sounds like an exciting adventure, Karen. I’m looking forward to reading it.

  4. Darlene says:

    What a wonderful idea for a series of books. I love history from a child’s point of view.

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