From the suburbs of Toronto, to the vibrant, picturesque capital city of St. John’s, author Sharon Bala shares her
exquisite writing styles in the release of her new book
The Boat People is a book written in the face of a great humanitarian crisis that is extremely relevant. Bala uses her gripping and compassionate writing to pen a timely and moral drama following the story of Mahindan and five hundred other refugees making their way on a boat from Sri Lanka’s scarring civil war, to the welcoming shores of Canada.
The Newfoundland Herald spoke with writer Sharon Bala to discuss her journey into her writing career, and the magic behind The Boat People.
“I was born in Dubai, and then my family came to Canada when I was seven. I grew up outside of Toronto in a suburb called Pickering,” Bala began.
“I moved to Newfoundland in 2010. I wasn’t a writer when I moved to Newfoundland. I mean I wrote as a kid, I wrote a lot in high school, I wrote a little bit in first year university. Then I sort of put fiction writing aside and thought well, now I have to do a degree that’s gonna get me a job and a real career. So, I worked in communications. I moved here to St. John’s, and everyone here is a writer, and they don’t seem to think that it’s an audacious thing to do. It’s so common, and everyone acts as if it’s totally a legitimate career choice, which when I was growing up, it did not seem at all like a legitimate career choice.”
Newfoundland is filled with artists from writers, to musicians, to photographers. It’s a fantastic place to begin a career because nothing is far-fetched when pursuing dreams on The Rock.
“In 2011, I was working on a mat leave contract and it ended, so I thought alright, well I’m gonna continue to do communications on the side, but I’ll try this writing thing and sort of have a go at it. I never thought it would be my full-time career,” Bala explained.
“Long story short, I wrote a manuscript and had some success within the province which gave me the courage to try and find an agent. I won the Percy Janes First Novel award, that was in 2015, and it was winning that award that sort of started it. People would ask what’s happening with the novel? Is someone gonna publish it? Are you gonna send it out? At the time, the version that won the Percy Janes was the very first draft. There was a lot of interesting questions around the manuscript, and that really gave me the courage to start sending it out to agents.”
Not long after, Bala went on to win The Arts & Letters award for short fiction, the Fresh Fish award, presented by the WANL Newfoundland and Labrador Credit Union, The Journey Prize and most recently has been listed by Apple/iBooks among their favourite January reads.
Beginning with Rejection
“I was mostly writing quietly, in obscurity, and also with this little devil on my shoulder kind of whispering it’s never gonna happen, what’s the point of any of this, it’s such a long shot,” Bala admits.
“I was writing and submitting all of my stories and just getting a lot of rejection. It can sometimes seem on the outside like all of these good things are happening all at once, and that it just kind of happened very quickly. But, a lot of it was just a lot of work and rejection, and failure. There’s this other part you don’t see which is all that time where you put all that work in, where nothing is happening.”
As modest as she may be, there’s no shortage in things to brag about for Bala. With the world, and maybe a lucky pen, in her hands, there’s nothing stopping this incredible writer now.
“There are so many opportunities in this province, and in this city, for writers. Someone gave me really good advice a while back. I was sort of having some, I guess you can call it stage fright, after my work on the book was done and the publishing houses kind of took the lead and started working on the promotion. I started to worry about you know, how is the book gonna be received, and what’s gonna happen when it’s out in the world, and someone said to me, the best thing is to just get into the next project.”
To purchase your copy of The Boat People, visit the website for Chapters-Indigo, Amazon, or Kobo and check out her personal website www.sharonbala.com