Bill Arnott’s Showcase Interviews: Anna Byrne

Welcome back Showcasers! Today we visit with author Anna Byrne, Whistler Independent Book Awards 2020 Finalist for her nonfiction work, Seven Year Summer. Anna’s story is a powerful one, as you’ll soon see.

Hi Anna. I’m so pleased you’ve joined the Showcase. Please introduce yourself with a bio:

A. I’ve been fortunate to have done a lot of different things in life so far. I was a teacher at a secure-custody facility for youth for a number of years, I have traveled to over 15 countries and I was the coordinator for a hospice society in coastal B.C. Currently, I am completing a Master of Theological Studies program and hold a combined degree in Psychology and Gerontology. I spent a good deal of my 30s in treatment for a rare and aggressive type of lymphoma. I recovered and went on to write about my experiences.

Q. (Experiences you share beautifully in Seven Year Summer.) What do you feel you’re best known for?

A. My writing explores how suffering can lead to transformation. Because of my hospice experience, illness and grief are often included in my stories. My friends and family know that I value nature, simplicity and spirituality.

Q. What do you feel brought you here?

A. I have been writing since a young age, but after my experience with cancer, I dedicated myself to writing Seven Year Summer. It was a way of processing my experiences. I think the book resonates with readers because it touches on the universal themes of illness, dying, hope and love. As you know, I recently attended your writing workshop Bill, which offered many meaningful suggestions for writing.

Q. (It was a privilege having you in our group Anna. And cheers for an unprompted pitch!) Who’s a role model to you?

A. My mother, who has been a creative force throughout her life, either in painting, baking or raising six children!

Q. (Six! I think your mom’s my role model now too!) And what’s your advice to others?

A. In terms of writing, I often think of the adage, “Pay yourself first.” I set aside time on most days to write, usually in the morning. I also try to break writing down into time slots (“I’m writing for 30 minutes today!”) in order to make it manageable. I keep a log of the time that I dedicate to writing or writing-related activities. It’s a great motivator to see it add up.

Q. (I think that’s brilliant.) And what are your currently working on?

A. I’m working on a book of short stories, featuring a diverse group of characters all facing some type of illness.

Q. (That’ll be a poignant follow-up to Seven Year Summer.) Now for the heavy, probing questions. What’s your favourite: book, album, movie, and food dish?

A. How about a favourite day? Mint tea, dark chocolate, good book. Repeat.

Q. (I love it!) And let’s follow that up with a (somewhat) Quirky Question. Dream destination: mountains or ocean?

A. Well, I live near both but am a Pisces and so would say the ocean.

(Bill.) A fine choice, and true to your sign! Thank you Anna. This has been fun.

A. Thanks Bill!

You can find Anna’s acclaimed book, Seven Year Summer here:

Bill Arnott is the bestselling author of A Season on Vancouver Island, the Gone Viking travelogues, and A Perfect Day for a Walk: The History, Cultures, and Communities of Vancouver, on Foot (Arsenal Pulp Press, Fall 2024). Recipient of a Fellowship at London’s Royal Geographical Society for his expeditions, Bill’s a frequent presenter and contributor to magazines, universities, podcasts, TV and radio. When not trekking with a small pack and journal, Bill can be found on Canada’s west coast, where he lives near the sea on Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh land.