Queen’s Grad Holds Successful Book Launch For Debut Thriller At Indigo Kingston

*This article was originally published on Kingstonist.*

Editorial Note: Brianne Sommerville, a graduate of Queen’s University, held a book launch event here in Kingston on Saturday, Mar. 9, 2024. Ahead of this event, she provided an advanced reader copy of her debut novel, If I Lose Her, to me to facilitate this article.

If I Lose Her is a thriller, centred on first-time mom Joanna Baker as she navigates a brand new life to care for, and the extreme feelings caused by postpartum depression.

As a mom, I immediately identified with new mom Jo — always tired, overreacting to everything, and not feeling like she could have a moment to herself, or for herself. Sommerville did an excellent job depicting early life with a new baby and turned that into a fantastic page-turner.

The reader is immediately drawn into Jo’s life. Her relationships with her husband, her sisters, and her in-laws are beautifully depicted, and the suspense builds naturally as Jo suffers what seem to be blackout periods.

Sometimes she can’t remember moving the baby from cot to crib, or why the stroller isn’t where she left it. Sometimes she thinks someone else is in her house. And at one point, she makes a near-fatal mistake as a tired, distracted mom.

She fights hard to keep her daughter after Children’s Services is called by an anonymous source, but now she’s suspicious of everyone.

I fairly flew through the reading of this book. The further in I got, the harder it was to put down. Being a mom who also struggled in the early days with a tiny baby, I simply had to know what was causing what felt like an overload of problems — despite her postpartum depression diagnosis — for Jo.

Brianne Sommerville sold out her debut novel, ‘If I Lose Her’ at Indigo Kingston on Saturday, Mar. 9, 2024. Submitted photo.

In an interview, Sommerville shared that she, too, struggled in the early days with her first child.

“I began writing If I Lose Her on maternity leave with my first daughter as a way to cope with my postpartum anxiety. I’ve struggled with anxiety throughout my adolescence and adulthood, and this was amplified when I became a mother,” she said.

“I was incredibly worried about my daughter’s health, her weight, and whether she was developing at the ‘right’ pace. I began to document my fears and anxieties in a journal during nap times and bouts of insomnia, and some of these entries inspired the novel. I hope readers will find Jo’s experiences – both the highs and lows of motherhood – raw and authentic.”

Sommerville credits her time here in Kingston, studying English literature and theatre at Queen’s University, for really bringing out her passion for creative writing.

“In my first year, I joined a group of creatives called Mindfire and we would meet weekly to write and perform poetry. I actually had the opportunity to work with dub poet Lillian Allen in 2006 while she was the Writer-in-Residence for Queen’s University’s English department,” Sommerville highlighted.

“In addition to literature, theatre has always been a passion of mine, and Queen’s allowed me to pursue that in full force. I wrote, directed, and performed in quite a few plays during my time at Queen’s, and often visited the Thousand Islands Playhouse in Gananoque with my theatre program. I was also a part of the sketch comedy charitable organization Queen’s Players, directing and performing throughout my time at Queen’s.”

All of those experiences helped shape Sommerville into the full-fledged writer she’s become, though she did note that she’s been interested in storytelling as long as she can remember.

“My sister and I used to make up plays with the children at my mom’s at-home daycare business and I started writing a YA [young adult] novel in grade twelve after a high school creative writing class sparked my interest,” she shared.

After graduating from Queen’s, Sommerville put her writing dreams on pause as she pursued a career in public relations. It wasn’t until she was on her first maternity leave, six years later, that she began work on her debut novel.

“It was a couple of months into my first maternity leave that I was feverishly scribbling in my notebook, confiding in its pages about my fears as a new mother. It was the infinite days and sleepless nights fraught with anxiety that ended up laying the groundwork for If I Lose Her, evolving it into a universal story of a new mother whose mind may or may not be unravelling,” she shared.

“I believe readers will find the main character Joanna Baker’s story relatable, while thriller fans will enjoy the twisty ride as they turn the pages to get to the truth.”

Sommerville’s book launch event at Indigo Kingston at the Cataraqui Centre was a great success, she shared.

“It went really well! We sold out our copies (Kingston Indigo is restocking). I even had a couple who came specifically to meet me as they read your article in the Kingstonist! I had a blast chatting with shoppers and employees and was really happy with the response,” she expressed to me after the event.

Submitted image.

I asked her why she hosted this event at Indigo, as opposed to a local book store like Novel Idea.

“This is a great question and I love to support local indies,” she responded. “The reality is, I’m a debut author from a smaller publishing house and, in my experience, it can be harder for indie stores to take a risk on a newer author, ordering copies for a launch.”

Besides the excitement of a mini book launch tour (she is also holding events in Toronto and Ottawa), Sommerville said (ahead of her visit) that she and her husband were greatly looking forward to bringing their kids to Kingston, to see the school their parents attended.

“We actually visited Kingston with our firstborn when she was about six months old on my 30th birthday. If the weather suits, we’ll be bringing the skates to skate at Springer Market Square,” she said excitedly, ahead of her book launch event.

If I Lose Her was released on Monday, Mar. 5, 2024. Learn more about Brianne Sommerville, and her book, on her website.

Jessica Foley is a freelance writer and content editor, the Assistant Editor and Lead Content Writer at Kingstonist, and is a passionate reader. When time allows, she reads books written by local authors and offers readers her own take on a book review, with an overview of the storyline, some insights from the local authors, and her thoughts on what she’s just read. To submit ideas on local books/authors for Jessica to consider, email her at jessica.foley@kingstonist.com.

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