Sara Baume talks dogs, art and Spill Simmer Falter Wither



Before she was a writer, Sara Baume set out to be a visual artist.

“First and foremost I see; I see the world and then I describe it …” she says. “I don’t know another way to write. I always anchor everything in an image.”

Baume’s process works — a review in The Irish Times called her debut novel a “stunning and wonderful achievement by a writer touched by greatness.”

Baume loves words, and she loves fitting words together so they flow like poetry.

“I can hear in my head the way a sentence should sound,” she explains. “It even has a number of different beats, so I’ll end up adding words that aren’t even fully necessary because in my head the rhythm of the sentence has to have an extra ba-dum, ba-dum at the end.”

Baume’s debut novel, Spill Simmer Falter Wither is divided into four sections, each one a different season, with names she made up to reflect what her main character Ray is going through; spring becomes spill, simmer is summer, falter is fall, and wither, winter.

Ray is a 57-year-old man who Baume describes as “too old for starting over, too young for giving up.” He is a misfit who has lived an isolated life in a small Irish village by the sea. Baume wrote the book while living in a village very much like the one in her novel.

Throughout the book Ray talks to his dog, One Eye, releasing long bottled up feelings and sharing buried secrets. One Eye is a shelter dog with a difficult past, very much like the dog Baume adopted five year ago.

“No one else wanted him …” Baume says. “He’s a troubled soul, he’s aggressive. So I ended up adopting him, me and my boyfriend, but he came at a strange phase of life in which I sort of needed to save something. This dog came along and gave purpose to my life. And that was eventually how the book came about.

Listen to the interview here.

Listen to Sara’s interview with Mitch Teich on Milwaukee Public Radio here.