Books·Magic 8 Q&A

How love drives Tanya Talaga's work

The author of Seven Fallen Feathers answers eight questions from eight fellow writers.
Tanya Talaga is the author of Seven Fallen Feathers. (Steve Russell)

Tanya Talaga's Seven Fallen Feathers investigates the deaths of seven Indigenous students in Thunder Bay, Ont. The students were hundreds of kilometres away from home, forced to attend school in an unfamiliar city and ultimately found dead in the region. Talaga's book is a factual, comprehensive and emotional read about the injustices Indigenous communities face on a daily basis. 

Below, Tanya Talaga answers eight questions submitted by eight fellow writers in the CBC Books Magic 8 Q&A.

1. Trevor Cole asks, "What emotion do you find best fuels your writing — happiness, sadness, anger or something else?"

That is a soul-searching question. I write feeling a mixture of emotions. While my emotions depend on what I'm writing, I probably begin with a simmering anger and heartache, and then I come full circle with a deep feeling of hope and always, love. I hope to change minds, alter opinion and make people understand what it is that I see. 

2. Cherie Dimaline asks, "When do you feel the most confident and purposeful as a writer?"

When I'm in northern Ontario and when I'm writing what I know. My best writing seems to come from the strong, resilient Anishinaabe people I am grateful to have in my life and the stories I am privileged to hear. This gives me purpose. Then the journalist in me takes over and I gather all the facts, reports and research I can find. 

3. Vikki VanSickle asks, "Is there something outside your genre or wheelhouse that you dream about writing? What is it?" 

Poetry. I'd like to be able to create like Gregory Scofield or Leanne Betasamosake Simpson. But I'll probably never attempt it because I could petrify readers if they actually see what is inside my mind. 

4. Eric Walters asks, "What writer — living or dead, Canadian or other — would you like to share a meal with? A drink? A party? An adventure?"

I'd like to sit around a campfire with Richard Wagamese, nestled deep among the trees and rock of the Canadian Shield. We'd have fresh fish, tea and talk for hours.

5. Durga Chew-Bose asks, "What is your ideal writing snack?"

Terribly revealing question! Peanut butter and honey on rye toast with a massive cup of coffee.

6. Vivek Shraya asks, "What are your favourite songs or albums to listen to when you write? What songs or albums inspired your last book?" 

On constant loop as I wrote Seven Fallen Feathers:

  •  We Are the Halluci Nation, A Tribe Called Red
  • PowWowStep, DJ Shubb
  • Trouble Will Find Me, The National
  • Nation II Nation, A Tribe Called Red
  • High Violet, The National

7. Alice Kuipers asks, "What book did you read as a child that has stayed with you? Why do you think it still resonates?"

Corduroy by Don Freeman. The themes here are simple, universal. Corduroy is a bear sitting on a department store shelf who lost a button to his overalls. Once the store closes for the night, he goes on an epic adventure, looking for his button. He never finds it and he worries he will never be chosen by the customers the next day because he is different. He worries he'll never have a home. But he is chosen and he is loved for who he is.

8. Kate Taylor asks, "What was the last novel you read?"

Eden Robinson, Son of a Trickster.