Mary Burns

Mary Burns

Mary Burns was born near Chicago, Illinois and moved to Canada during the Vietnam War protest years. A former journalist and documentary filmmaker, she turned to fiction and playwriting and eventually a teaching career as professor of Creative Writing, specialising in fiction, drama and personal narrative. She has two daughters, Elisabeth and Annie, and lives just north of Vancouver on the beautiful Sunshine Coast of British Columbia.

Mary turned from journalism to fiction writing in her thirties. Her first collection of short stories, Suburbs of the Arctic Circle, was awarded the Canadian Literary Press Group’s Writer’s Choice honour. Since then, she has published another collection of short stories, four novels and a non-fiction book about snow geese and perception. Her most recent novel, The Reason for Time, was selected as a ‘Must Read’ Chicago book, named as an Editor’s Choice in the Historical Novels Review, and was a finalist for the Foreword Reviews Indie award.


Q: If you could travel back in time, which of the great writers would you like to meet and why?

A: So many! I actually hiked to the village of John Berger the year he died. Although I was told he would be welcoming, I was too shy to request a meeting so I just hung around the hamlet trying to inhale inspiration. There are so many classic and contemporary authors I admire it would be hard to name them here.


Q: Do you have a favourite quote? (From a book, film, song, speech…)

A: Again, many, but this is one of the ones I keep by my desk, from the Canadian writer Douglas Glover: ‘To have read enough to feel the oceanic movement of events and ideas in history; to have experienced enough to escape the confines of a personal provincialism: to have distanced yourself enough from your hang-ups and pettiness to create words reflecting the emotional complexity of minds beyond your own; to have worked with language long enough to be able to wield it beautifully…’


Q: If you could teleport yourself anywhere, real or fictional, where would it be and why?

A: First thought was that I would like to go back to everywhere I have already been, but for longer. Greece, particularly Crete, in modern and ancient times. Sicily the same. I also hope to see the icebergs off Newfoundland and somehow get to the Faroe Islands. Again, too many places to name.