Scoring a best seller

November 2017

“Very exciting”, that’s how locally raised writer Scott Colby describes his debut at number 2 on the Canadian hardcover non-fiction list.

“Like many writers, I had always wanted to write a book. It’s the ultimate challenge and achievement for people who like to write. I just didn’t know what topic I felt qualified to pursue or was a compelling enough idea to land a book deal. That all changed four years ago when I was writing a freelance parenting column for the Toronto Star”, said Colby.

“I received an email from a publicist asking if I was interested in interviewing NHL hockey dad Karl Subban, who was an ambassador for Hyundai Hockey Helpers, along with his son, Canadiens all-star P.K. Subban. The program helped underprivileged kids with the costs of playing hockey. I jumped at the opportunity because I had known Karl when I was a teenager growing up in Thunder Bay. Karl moved to Sudbury from Jamaica when he was 12 and later attended Lakehead University where he played basketball for the varsity team. I was an aspiring basketball player for Hillcrest High School and attended a summer basketball camp at Lakehead in 1980 when I was turning 15. Karl was an instructor. I was instantly drawn to Karl, as were all the kids, because Karl was such a dynamic leader who made us feel special and showed that he believed in us”, says Colby.

A few years later, Karl and Scott both worked together at the A&P grocery store on River Street.

“Karl sometimes asked me to punch his time card for him when had to leave early to catch the last bus on Saturday nights”, laughs Colby.

Twenty-nine years after Scott had spoken to Karl, they finally reconnected by phone for the interview for Scott’s parenting column. “When I got off the phone, it was apparent that Karl had led a fascinating and inspirational life and he needed to write a book. And I needed to be the one to help him”, said Colby.

After the interview, Scott called the publicist to have Karl call him back and when he did, Scott proposed the book idea. They met later for a coffee (tea actually) and he agreed to the proposal.

Subban had just retired after 30 years as a teacher and principal at some of Toronto’s toughest neighbourhoods and had been thinking about writing a book for the past few years.
That was the beginning of their partnership.

“When I interviewed Karl for the column I knew he was the dad of P.K. Subban. I didn’t know P.K. had won the Norris Trophy as the league’s top defenceman or that he had two younger sons who had both been drafted and signed by NHL teams (Malcolm with Boston and Jordan with Vancouver. Malcolm, a goalie, is now with the Vegas Golden Knights and Jordan is still with the Canuck’s AHL farm team). I also didn’t know he and his wife Maria had two older daughters who were both teachers and had other successes in life, one as a university basketball star and the other as a visual artist”, said Colby.
Thunder Bay has played an important role in Colby’s life and it has also played an important role in Karl’s as well, with one chapter in the book devoted to Thunder Bay called ‘Waking the Sleeping Giant’. Colby’s parents still live in Thunder Bay.

When asked what the best experience of writing the book was, Scott described it this way.

“I can honestly say, writing this book with Karl never felt like work. I always looked forward to it, the interviews, the research, the writing, the collaborating, working with our editor Pamela Murray at Random House Canada.

I did not take any time off my day job, I’m an editor at the Toronto Star, to work on the book. I scratched out hours early in the morning, often rising at 5 a.m., or staying up till midnight after finally getting my children to sleep and the kitchen cleaned up. The best part was feeling inspired and to have a vision for a book and then slowly seeing it created.
I always knew we would write a good book and we never stopped trying to make it better, but I had a difficult time imagining actually holding the finished copy. When it finally arrived in the mail, holding the finished hard-copy book with that great dust jacket, and seeing my name on it was a very special and deeply gratifying feeling”.

How We Did It by Scott Colby is available at all major bookstores and can be ordered online from Indigo/Chapters and Amazon or on his website:

Bill Wrightsell is a marketing consultant and regular contributor to Bayview Magazine. Email him at

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