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    Lesbian Supernatural Thriller Sodom Road Exit Poses Thought-Provoking Question

    By Michele Karlsberg–

    Michele Karlsberg: For this issue of the San Francisco Bay Times I spoke with Amber Dawn, a Canadian writer who has already won multiple awards, such as the 2010 Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Debut Fiction. Her newest novel is the lesbian thriller Sodom Road Exit.

    Michele Karlsberg: Can you tell us about the title of the book?

    Amber Dawn: Growing up, I was well aware of the big Sodom Road Exit sign off the QEW highway. To get to Crystal Beach you follow Sodom Road all the way to the shores of Lake Erie. I remember the literal Sodom Road Exit sign inspiring jokes and tittering among locals and visitors, but it wasn’t until I moved away and came out as a particularly outspoken and salacious queer femme that the sign took on a figurative meaning. It’s become an ironic delight to exit on Sodom whenever I return to my hometown. I wanted my protagonist, Starla, to feel a similar irony as she returns home.

    Michele Karlsberg: The book is written from two points of view: Starla’s first-person voice, set in the 90s, as well as a voice we learn is that of Etta’s, who died in the early 40s. Can you talk about how you came to use this structure? Did you always know the story would be told in first person from more than one perspective?

    Amber Dawn: My first novel, Sub Rosa, was written in first person, and I’ve been very forthcoming about using that point of view because Sub Rosa’s protagonist was based on my own experiences. Again, I’ve drawn upon the personal in writing Sodom Road Exit and the first-person voice came easily to me. Because much of Starla’s journey is traversed through her inner thoughts and personal “ah-ha” moments, I needed to stay fixed inside her head.

    But Starla is in her early 20s and in a rather narcissistic phase of her personal growth and healing. Starla’s character is limited in what she can understand and act upon. I needed to employ a second speaker. Etta, the ghost, is a different kind of speaker and knowledge holder. She lived during a pivotal historic time for Crystal Beach, and I decided she deserved to share her knowledge, first-hand, with the reader. Beyond her historic perspective, Etta is a villain, and who doesn’t want to read a villain’s character from the first person?

    Michele Karlsberg: This book explores trauma and survival in many layers and configurations—at the level of individual characters, their relationships to each other and their relationships to place and the past. Crystal Beach itself is a site of class trauma as well as colonial violence. What kind of conversations do you hope that the book will start and create space for?

    Amber Dawn: The book is disguised as a horror thriller, but ultimately, it’s an exploration of how different survivors—of both individual and systemic trauma—cope and strategize together, and also how they fail one another. The characters in Sodom Road Exit are initially brought together because of their shared location and their working class/poor economic backgrounds. Proximity brings them together, not a sense of community or shared skills and values.

    What happens when a group of very different people are put into crisis together? This is the question that most interested and informed me as I wrote. I hope my readers reflect on this question too. How do we function—and perhaps even thrive—together during times of crisis?

    Amber Dawn is a writer and creative facilitator living on unceded Coast Salish Territories of Vancouver, Canada. She is the author of four books and the editor of two anthologies. For more information:

    Michele Karlsberg Marketing and Management specializes in publicity for the LGBT community. This year, Karlsberg celebrates thirty years of successful book campaigns.