Heather Dixon, a Laurier alum and established writer, published her first novel, Burlington, earlier this year. Dixon is also the mother of three.   

She started writing the story in 2020 based on her own experience as she took her daughter to kindergarten for the first time.   

“It was kind of new for both of us and I was I was not so sure about this new place,” Dixon said. 

“I noticed groups of parents and I was kind of fascinated by this new world that I didn’t know how to navigate,” she said.  

Dixon was surprised by the similarities of the parent groups to school life—there were the popular ones and the outsiders, as well.  

“I wanted to bring in the idea of, you know, a woman sort of feeling a little vulnerable, a little unsure of herself,” she said.   

Dixon began with the characters and developed the plot from there. While Mae is not based on Dixon, many of the passages about motherhood were drawn from her own experience.   

“A lot of us are sort of looking for our place in the world and sometimes feel a little unsure, and we’re looking for acceptance and belonging, and I think that’s a universal feeling,” she said.   

She did not begin writing Burlington with the intention of making it fit any one genre.  

However, it has been classified in many categories including mystery, thriller and women’s fiction.  

“I’ve heard you know, it called thriller and mystery and suspense, and I personally would consider it women’s fiction as well, because it’s about a woman protagonist,” she said. 

Dixon was inspired by authors such as Celeste Ng and Liane Moriarty who wrote Little Fires Everywhere and Big Little Lies, respectively. 

 Her storytelling is also on the quieter side, to the extent that she had to add another character going missing after an early version of the story.   

“It’s just another way to raise stakes,” Dixon said.   

“I think I always tend to be a little bit quieter in my plot and I try to focus a little bit more on character,” she said. 

Her writing group and editors were very helpful in the writing process. Dixon met her writing group on Twitter during the pandemic, and the community grew from there.  

That group, and other writing groups, meet regularly online.   

“I think the writing community in that sense is absolutely invaluable. To have people who can give you feedback because they understand sort of all the parts of the story that need to be told, but then also have people who are kind of in the same situation as,” Dixon said.   

Dixon offered advice for writers still working on being published.   

“Persistence and hard work is definitely key…I’ve heard someone say that the difference between a writer and a published author is that the published author stuck with it,” she said.