Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Q&A with Heather Dixon




Heather Dixon is the author of the new novel Burlington. Also a freelance writer, she lives in the Toronto area.


Q: What inspired you to write Burlington, and how did you create your character Mae Roberts? 


A: I was inspired to write Burlington when my kids were young, around the time my oldest daughter started kindergarten. School was new to both of us–and maybe it was my own hang up, but I immediately felt out of place.


While my daughter was making friends, I was noticing little groups of parents, and perhaps even some unwritten rules, and I was fascinated about this new world I didn’t quite know how to navigate. That was my starting point. And then, of course, the book changed and developed from there.


The main character, Mae, is a little bit of me and she’s also a reflection of a lot of people. She’s someone who feels out of place, someone who doesn't quite know who they are. She’s looking for belonging and friendship and looking to feel valued. I think those are universal feelings, and I wanted to bring that out in a character.


Q: What do you think the novel says about suburbia? 


A: When I was researching Burlington, I ended up discovering that there are something like 30 cities named Burlington in the United States and Canada. That was a moment for me where I thought–this city could be any one of those cities, these issues could be found in any one of these places. The problems, the cliques, the rich people behaving badly, they can be found anywhere and everywhere. 


And actually, not just in suburbia. I actually love the suburbs. I know they get a bad rap, but I live in them, and I love where I live. It’s quiet and beautiful and filled with lots of opportunities to explore nature.


However, I do think that the suburbs can come with certain expectations. I think that if you don’t fit a certain type, acceptance might not come easily. But I think that could be the case with many clubs or groups or organizations.


Q: Without giving anything away, did you know how the novel would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way? 


A: I had a basic idea of how I wanted it to end, but I definitely made changes along the way. I think I wrote and rewrote and revised this novel about a hundred times! Or, it feels that way, anyway. 


My favourite kind of endings are not ones with huge plot twists that make you think “What the heck did I just read?” but instead, the ones where you feel every emotion the character just felt. Where you sigh with satisfaction because you were just so deeply moved. Those are the kinds of endings I would love to create, and something I tried to do with Burlington as well.


Q: What do you hope readers take away from the story? 


A: I hope readers are entertained first and foremost. To me, there’s nothing better than picking up a book and being captivated by it and being unable to put it down. I love being entertained by characters and storylines so much that I can’t wait to get back to reading it.


I also hope that readers might feel something after reading this book. Maybe it’s sympathy or joy, or maybe they’ll see themselves in one of the characters. Maybe it’s simply just satisfaction they feel at the end. To me, having someone say they enjoyed or were entertained by something I created is still so surreal and wonderful.


Q: What are you working on now? 


A: I’m currently working on two women’s fiction books set in a small, cottage town. One features three sisters and is about family and secrets, love, loss and grief and forgiveness. It’s called Last Summer at the Lake House, and it’s coming out in October of this year. The other book has themes of identity, found family, motherhood, and again grief and forgiveness and will be out in early 2024.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: This is all new to me! I’m a debut author, so I’m not quite sure what else your readers might want to know. However, I love hearing from readers, so please feel free to find me at my website: https://www.heatherdixon.ca/ or on any of my social media channels and say hi!


Also, there are about three other authors named Heather Dixon with published books, and I used to get fan mail all the time meant for YA Author Heather Dixon who wrote Entwined. She’s lovely! But if you want to find me, I’m @heatherdixonwriter on most platforms and @hdixonwriter on Twitter.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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