An Indies Introduce Q&A With Sara Baume

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version

Sara Baume is the author of Spill Simmer Falter Wither (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), a  Winter/Spring 2016 Indies Introduce debut title and a March Indie Next List pick.

“Baume’s debut novel is a heartbreaking story of loneliness and friendship, depression and pure joy, as revealed through the relationship between a man and the dog he rescues,” said Mary Wolf of Collected Works Bookstore & Coffeehouse in Santa Fe, New Mexico. “Baume’s transcendent use of language and utterly original voice had me stopping to read whole sentences — even entire paragraphs — aloud. Spill Simmer Falter Wither is an amazing achievement by a writer who makes her work seem effortless.”

Baume studied fine art before earning a master’s degree in creative writing. Her short fiction has appeared in The Moth Magazine, the Stinging Fly, the Irish Independent, and other publications. She won the 2014 Davy Byrnes Short Story Award and the 2015 Hennessy New Irish Writing award. She lives in Cork with her two dogs.

What inspired you to write Spill Simmer Falter Wither?

Sara Baume: Early in 2011, I moved to a rural village on the edge of a bay after seven years in Dublin city. I was, at the time, a little bit lost and disillusioned. I adopted a one-eyed rescue dog and together we started to explore the surrounding coastline and countryside.

Spill Simmer Falter Wither tells the story of a deep human-animal connection. Why are stories about the relationships between humans and animals so enthralling to readers?

SB: The German philosopher Immanuel Kant said: “We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals.” I think most animal stories are essentially about human nature — about the animalism in each of us.

Spill Simmer Falter Wither is different from most contemporary novels as it is primarily written in the second person. Ray, the story’s main character and its narrator, addresses One Eye, his canine companion, as “you.” What was the inspiration behind that creative decision?

SB: I had originally tried to write the novel from the point of view of the dog, but this quickly failed. Then I tried it from the point of view of Ray, but this wasn’t quite right ether. Voice is really important to me, so in second person I was able to continue to speak as Ray, but with more direction and certainty. Around the time I was experimenting with perspectives, I read a wonderful novel written in the second person called The Sound of My Voice by a Scottish writer called Ron Butlin, which made it seem possible.

Convinced that he is to blame for his mother’s death and not “right-minded” enough to be deemed worthy of an education, Ray surrounds himself with books, but the only book mentioned by name is Silas Marner by George Eliot. What is the significance of that particular story to Ray and to you?

SB: Ray reads a lot of books, but always forgets the titles. Other novels, such as The Old Man and the Sea and Of Mice and Men, are alluded to by means of their covers, which he does remember. The title of Silas Marner stands out so starkly in Ray’s memory because he especially identifies with the old linen weaver.

Not only are you an author, but you are also a visual artist. What are the similarities and differences between the two career paths?

SB: To me, they are both the same career path. Words are just another material, like clay or wood or wire or fabric. The idea is always the driving force of whatever I happen to be working on, in whatever form.

Spill Simmer Falter Wither by Sara Baume (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Hardcover, 9780544716193) Publication Date: March 8, 2016.

Learn more about the author at

ABA member stores are invited to use this interview or any others in our series of Q&As With Indies Introduce debut authors in newsletters and social media and in online and in-store promotions. Please let us know if you do.