The University of Saskatchewan’s Arts&Science alumni magazine interviewed Leona Theis about her latest book, If Sylvie Had Nine Lives.
A&S: What is the research process like for your books? For example, you collaborated with USask scientist and alumnus Dr. John Pomeroy (BSC’83, PHD’88) for part of your new book.
LT: For each of Sylvie’s lives, I wanted to connect with the spirit of the year it was set in—1974, 1979, 1984, etc. To do this I watched news clips, movie clips, and music videos. For example, the OJ Simpson chase plays a role, real and metaphorical, in one chapter. I watched and rewatched videos of the chase to remind me of the public mood that day and the way people were so caught up in the chase itself, in a bizarre, voyeuristic way. Another form of “research” consisted of sifting in a concentrated way through my own memories associated with specific years.
In some of her lives, Sylvie seems slow to grow into the responsibilities of adulthood. I wanted her, in later chapters, to take a more mature approach and to make connections between her own choices and the larger world. When we encounter her in the final chapter, she’s a grandparent concerned about environmental degradation and, wanting to play some part for the better, she returns to school as a grad student. She earns a place working on a research project modelled on Dr. Pomeroy’s work at Fisera Ridge in Kananaskis Country, a region that’s undergoing rapid climate warming and changes to snowfall patterns. I was somewhat familiar with the project, having seen a few articles and heard Dr. Pomeroy interviewed. It’s important research, and it seemed a good fit for Sylvie. Before I contacted Dr. Pomeroy I reviewed everything I could find online about the research stations in the mountains, and what it takes to get to those sites. I watched hikers’ films of the area taken in all seasons. That was a good beginning, but I wasn’t confident of the details.
You can read the full interview here.