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Q&A with Alli Vail, Author of Brooklyn Thomas Isn’t Here

Q&A with Alli Vail, Author of Brooklyn Thomas Isn’t Here

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Alli Vail is the author of Brooklyn Thomas Isn’t Here, a novel that explores how women contort and minimize themselves to fit the roles society and family offer them.

Alli Vail is a former journalist for national and provincial award-winning community newspapers. She is a content writer and marketer for literary festivals and nonprofits, and has worked in tech, video games, and politics. She’s happy she’s no longer the only woman in work meetings. She studied creative writing at Simon Fraser University.

Alli lives in Vancouver, Canada with her anxious dog (who she wrote about for The Globe and Mail) and her partner.

Brooklyn Thomas Isn’t Here is an honest, compelling page-turner that is a clever take on the ways women change shape to fit into society. This thought-provoking story about a woman who exhibits key signs of being dead while she struggles to find whatever it is that makes life worth living is a twisted tale about fitting in, speaking up, grief, love and obsession. 

Through the life and experiences of the main character, Brooklyn, Alli aims to show readers that it is never too late for a second chance at life.

Let’s get to know Alli as she talks favorite novels, writing inspirations, her TBR list and more!

What are some of your favorite novels?

It’s really hard to pick a favourite. I read a lot, and across many genres, but books that have stuck in my head or I’ve re-read over the past couple of years include The Hating Game by Sally Thorne, The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry, We Meant Well by Erum Shazia Hasan, Two Nights in Lisbonby Chris Pavone, Vampires of El Norte by Isabel Cañas, and A Haunting in the Arctic by C.J. Cooke. I’m a mood reader and sometimes I find the perfect thing at the perfect time. 

When did you know you wanted to become an author?

I think on some level I’ve always known. I loved writing stories as a child and I remember laying on the floor writing in my duotang and creating this massive eight page story, which was way bigger than my fourth grade teacher was looking for, and having the best time. I grew up in a pretty small town though, and it wasn’t necessarily something people encouraged or thought was a good career path, so I did different things, but I knew in my gut I wanted to write a book. It just took me a while to get there. 

What inspired you to write Brooklyn Thomas Isn’t Here?

It came to me all at once. I could see the character and the setting in the doughnut shop, and I knew she didn’t have a heartbeat, and Brooklyn’s story just spooled out. But it comes from this collective experience I noticed happening among myself and women friends and co-workers. We were all in our late ‘20s or early ‘30s and starting to think that maybe the careers or the paths we were on weren’t necessarily what we really wanted or were excited about. We’d gotten there by accident, or we were having extreme burnout, or we weren’t progressing the way we expected to or deserved to be (thanks patriarchy!).

I was having the same conversation about it with so many different people, and there was this collective energy that even while we felt stuck, we knew we wanted something better from our jobs, lives and experiences. We were looking for a way to create a life that was more rewarding and meaningful to us. Brooklyn Thomas Isn’t Here is really rooted in that collective experience, and I think that’s why it’s relatable. 

What was your favorite chapter or part to write? 

Honestly, I loved coming up with the most absurd doughnut flavours I could think of. It was fun, and I made a point to never use the same flavour twice so I could come up with more combos. I also loved exploring the different types of friendships that Brooklyn has with the other women characters in the book. Friendships are always so varied and our friends play such different roles in our lives, so I enjoyed exploring the facets of Brooklyn’s personality through her relationships with her friends.

What are you currently reading and what’s on your TBR (to be read) list?

I live in fear of my Kindle, which has over 75 books on it at the moment. I’m currently reading Madam, by Phoebe Wynne, Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum, and The Women Could Fly by Megan Giddings. 

I’m very excited to read The Celestial Wife by Leslie Howard (I’m a sucker for any book that references a cult) and Chain-Gang All-Stars by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah so I think I’m going to read those two next.