Scotiabank Giller Prize Spotlight: Brian Thomas Isaac
Brian Thomas Isaac’s novel All the Quiet Places has been longlisted for the 2022 Scotiabank Giller Prize.
Brian Thomas Isaac was born in 1950 on the Okanagan Indian Reserve, situated in south central British Columbia. As a teenager he rode bulls in rodeos, then went on to work in the Northern Alberta oil fields and retired as a bricklayer. Writing is something he has done all of his life. A lover of sports, Brian has coached minor hockey and slow-pitch teams, and when he’s not spending time with his three grandchildren you can find him on the golf course. He lives with his wife in Falkland, BC. All the Quiet Places is Brian’s first book.
What/who inspires you to write?
The process of writing is what inspires me. Sitting down at my desk and turning on my computer is something I look forward to doing every morning so I can see where the characters will take me.
Do you have a favourite passage/quote from a book?
“The widow gripped her knees in apprehension, stared down at the dreaming surface of the river, and held her breath. Would she see figures there? She hummed a short hymn to stave them off. Rocked back and forth. A small breeze rose. The booming subsided slowly. In the end, the river did nothing.” From Gil Adamson’s book The Outlander. Every paragraph from the book feels like a poem, or story. Genius.
Where is your favourite place to write?
I live a mile up a mountain and I sit at my desk and look out the window at Mount Ida in Salmon Arm, 25 miles away.
Is there an activity you do to help inspire your writing?
I read and read and read.
Do you have a tradition for every time you finish a book?
Years ago I was given a paper doll with no eyes by a professor from Japan. He told me when I finished my book to fill in the eyes. Many years later when I finished this book, I drew in the eyes, and let him know. He was very pleased to hear about it.
What are you reading now?
I am reading Suttree by Cormac McCarthy.
What is your favourite CanLit book?
I read and re-read The Outlander by Gil Adamson followed closely by Medicine Walk by Richard Wagamese.
What would your job be if you weren’t an author?
If I wasn’t a writer I would spend more time with my grandbabies.
What is your favourite book from childhood?
As a young lad, I was captivated by a comic series called Turok: Son of Stone. It was the only book about First Nations I could find.
Is there a book that you find yourself reading over and over again?
I have read The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck many times. The journey felt similar to mine. But it was so dark that I had to put it down several times and catch my breath.
How did you know you wanted to be an author?
I had always felt that I wanted to write, but the day I actually sat down with a blank piece of paper and began, I knew.
What do you hope readers take away from your book
When I wrote All the Quiet Places I really wanted the reader to feel and experience, even just for a moment, what it was like to be a First Nations boy growing up in the 50s and 60s. I wanted them to listen to his story but also to feel the wind, to hear the river, and to look out in wonder at the Range.
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