With more than 20 books aimed at the teen market to her credit, Tanya Lloyd Kyi has tackled all manner of subjects. But her latest, Prince of Pot, tells a story that draws on her life experiences from the East Kootenays.
Kyi was born in Vancouver, but grew up in Creston, where her parents, Gord and Shirley Lloyd, ran the popular Rendezvous Restaurant (located were Creston Place now stands) for more than two decades.
“. I can balance a lot of drinks on a tray, and translate “2 e s/s, wh” into: ‘two eggs, sunny-side up, white toast.’ I can also roller skate, because the restaurant opened when I was 10 and my sister was 7, and there was a large expanse of concrete in the basement,” Kyi writes on her web site.
Prince of Pot, in many ways, is a coming of age story. Isaac is the son of marijuana growers who live off the grid on the mountainside above Kootenay Lake’s East Shore. Now, at 17, he begins to understand that he has a tough choice to face—become his family’s third generation of pot growers (his ailing grandfather started the enterprise) or move away from home and find a way to make a new life for himself.
Isaac’s dilemma is brought into sharp focus when he develops an interest in one of his PCSS classmates, Sam. As their relationship grows, Isaac struggles knowing he can’t take her home to meet his family, which would raise more questions for Sam and possibly betray their secret life.
Asked last month how she chose this particularly subject, Kyi said it started with a news story that grabbed the attention of provincial and even national media a few years ago.
“I was listening to the radio one day and heard a story about a police raid on an outdoor grow op near Grand Forks,” she said. “When the officers arrived, bears began to wander from the woods. In the end, about two dozen bears appeared. The police suggested the owners might have been feeding the bears so the animals would protect the grow.
“When I heard that story, my first thought was… ‘what if that was your dad?’”
In Prince of Pot, black bears, particularly one they call Hazel, play a similar role. Isaac’s family grows their plants in among the trees on Crown land, going to extraordinary lengths to blur any connection between their marijuana grow op and their cabin in the woods.
“Many of the small details in the book come from personal experiences,”Kyi said. ‘A group of cape-wearing men I once spotted near Salmo became the druid convention in Prince of Pot. A bear cub my uncle raised became the model for Hazel, Isaac’s pet bear. And the Twin Bays truth-or-dare game came straight from my high school days!”
In Prince of Pot, Kyi introduces a number of angles to the subject of marijuana use, using her considerable writing skills to create a nuanced and thoughtful plot that will appeal to adults readers as well as her target younger audience.
“I wanted to treat the pot-smoking theme casually, but I also wanted to ensure many viewpoints on the issues were represented. There are characters for and against pot-smoking, someone who smokes for medical reasons, someone who abstains, and someone who’s looking for answers to the meaning of life. The book also touches, very briefly, on things such as organized crime and legalization.”
This is the Kyi’s first novel that clearly acknowledges her long-time home.
“One of my previous young adult novels, Anywhere But Here, was set in an imaginary small town somewhat like Creston. This is the first book I’ve written with entirely real settings. (Well, with the exception of the fictional grow-op.)”
Tanya Kyi Lloyd is now a Vancouver resident. She is married to Min Kyi, who claims he is the only Burmese occupational therapist on the planet. They have two young children, a girl and a boy.
Prince of Pot can be bought or ordered at book stores, or purchase on line from Chapters Indigo or Amazon. For more information about Kyi’s writing and her life, go to her web site at http://www.tanyalloydkyi.com” www.tanyalloydkyi.com.