Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Ten Questions with Sarah Felix Burns

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Ten Questions with Sarah Felix Burns

Sarah Felix Burns, author of Song Over Quiet Lake (Second Story Press), talks to Open Book about Canadian culture, CanLit and her new novel.

Open Book: Toronto:

Tell us about your latest book.

Sarah Felix Burns:

Song Over Quiet Lake is about a friendship between a Native Elder from the Yukon Territory and a young woman from Medicine Hat, Alberta. It is set in Vancouver in the mid 1990s; the story is told from multiple characters’ first person perspectives. It is a hopeful, good-humoured book. This is important to mention because my first book was such a teary-eyed downer.

OBT:

Did you have a specific readership in mind when you wrote your book?

SFB:

On a micro level, I very much write for the people I dedicate my books to - it’s my hand reaching out to them. But on a more macro level, I always write for a Canadian audience, even though I have been living in Colorado for the past eight years. However, a lot of Americans have told me they are captivated by my writing (and they have never heard of CanLit).

My only wish is that the reader come away with a tender, memorable experience. Maybe a few tears and a few laughs. I hope to make a connection with anyone who reads my writing.

OBT:

Describe your ideal writing environment.

SFB:

Have not really found one yet.... I wrote my first novel in the pantry/laundry room and my second novel in the dining room. Sometimes my son comes and sets up his Fisher Price computer beside my HP. It’s really cute.

OBT:

What was your first publication?

SFB:

Jackfish, The Vanishing Village (2007) – a novel about an abused woman from a now extinct village and a whole lot more emotionally raw subject matter. People have reported that it is a very riveting, haunting, traumatic read. (I’m sorry, my sales pitch is not very good… I’m too bashful and self-conscious.) But if you like being moved and greatly disturbed by a story, then you should read this book.

OBT:

Describe a recent Canadian cultural experience that influenced your writing.

SFB:

I’m actually incorporating the Port Coquitlam pig farm murders into my third novel. I have been working on it for a couple of years but had to put it aside until the trial of Willie Pickton was concluded. I have an emotional connection to that case – I was living in Vancouver when the murders took place. I remember marching with large pictures of the missing women at Take Back The Night rallies and screaming at the surrounding police officers to do something about it.

OBT:

If you had to choose three books as a “Welcome to Canada” gift, what would those books be?

SFB:

Me Funny or Me Sexy… anything by Drew Hayden Taylor. Never Cry Wolf by Farley Mowat (the movie is great too). And an old-time sentimental favorite: Anne of Green Gables.

OBT:

What are you reading right now?

SFB:

Guilty pleasure stuff (Patrick Swayze’s Memoir, Steven Cobert’s website, Cottage Living Magazine).

OBT:

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received as a writer?

SFB:

To use my writing expenses as a tax write-off.

OBT:

What advice do you have for writers who are trying to get published?

SFB:

Envision what your cover will look like. Also - this is not very nice to say - but I found it motivating to go on the internet and read about other struggling writer’s rejection experiences. It made me feel better about my abilities for some reason. I’m such a pessimist… I feed off other’s misery and dejection.

OBT:

What is your next project?

SFB:

I am working on novel number three… it will be a long time in the works (years probably) as I just had a baby and she keeps me really busy and really sleep-deprived, along with my very rambunctious four-year-old little boy.


Sarah Felix Burns has a degree in women’s studies and history from the University of British Columbia and a masters degree in social work from the University of Toronto. She was inspired to write Lydie’s character in Song Over Quiet Lake after meeting a Tlingit woman from the Yukon while studying at UBC in the 1990s. Her first novel, Jackfish, The Vanishing Village was published in late 2007 and won the 2009 Northern Lit Award. Originally from a village outside of Sault Ste. Marie in northern Ontario, Sarah now lives in Colorado but still considers Canada her home.

For more information about Song Over Quiet Lake please visit the Second Story Press website.


Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon

It's Second Story Press double-feature day! Once you've finished reading the Ten Questions with Sarah Felix Burns, click here to read a Ten Questions with Lori Ann Bloomfield, author of The Last River Child.

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