Nightwood: Can you tell us a bit about Burr in your own words?
Brooke Lockyer: Burr explores the question: How do you continue a relationship with someone you love after they have died?
NW: Do you have any routines or rituals that help you write?
BL: I listen obsessively to French composer Colleen. I love all of her albums, whether she’s relying on music boxes for instrumentation or finger-picking a tuned-down treble viola da gamba. Her music is intimate and beguiling, and untethers me from reality.
NW: Is there a sense, memory or feeling that embodies your book?
BL: Burr was written out of grief-struck love for my father, who suffered a fatal heart attack when I was 23. Although Burr is a work of fiction, I sprinkled autobiographical details throughout. Like the protagonist’s father Henry, my dad was an amateur wrestler who competed in the World Championships.
NW: If your book were a meal, what would it be?
BL: There’s a lot of eating (and being eaten) in Burr. I was inspired by fairy tales, rituals like Communion and the natural world.
If Burr was food, it might be a pickle. A briny, slightly funky, transformed cucumber.
NW: What lives on your writing desk?
BL: The cat that’s not in my lap and a dandelion suspended in resin.
Burr: A ’90s-era Southern Ontario Gothic about holding on to the dead, voiced with plaintive urgency and macabre sensuality.
In the small town of Burr, Ontario, thirteen-year-old Jane yearns to reunite with her recently deceased father and fantasizes about tunnelling through the earth to his coffin. This leads her to bond with local eccentric Ernest, who is still reeling from the long-ago drowning of his little sister. Jane’s mother, Meredith, escapes into wildness, enacting the past on the abandoned bed that she finds in the middle of the forest, until her daughter’s disappearance spurs her into action.
The voice of the town conveys the suspicions and subliminal fears of a rural community—a chorus of whispers that reaches a fever pitch when Jane and Ernest disappear from Burr together. Throughout, the novel is haunted by Henry, a former wrestler who once stood on his bed in the middle of the night, holding up the weight of the ceiling in his sleeping hands.
Mixing realism and the fantastic, Brooke Lockyer’s debut novel investigates the nature of grief and longing that reach beyond the grave.
Brooke Lockyer holds a BA from Barnard College and an MA in English in the field of creative writing from the University of Toronto. She was the winner of the 2009 Hart House Literary Contest and a co-recipient of both the Peter S. Prescott and the Lenore Marshall Barnard prizes for prose. Her work has been published in Toronto Life, carte blanche, the Hart House Review, White Wall Review and Geist. She's lived in rural Japan, New York City, Bristol and the Mojave Desert. Lockyer currently resides with her family in Toronto, ON.