Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Interview with Niki Burnham!
Niki Burnham is the wonderful author of several Simon Romantic Comedies, including Royally Jacked, Do-Over, and Spin Control. She has also written Goddess Games, and was one of the writers for the collection of short stories called Fireworks and Breaking Up Is Hard To Do. She is working on her next novel right now, and details should be released soon.
What is normal day for you like?
I wish I had a normal day! Each day is a little different for me, which is a good thing. I try to get to the computer by nine am, I
take a break for lunch (and to watch The Young and The Restless!) at 12:30, then get back to the computer at 1:30. I usually knock off around three-thirty. I usually get on the computer again at night, after dinner.
Sometimes I focus solely on writing new material, since that's my priority. However, at any given time I may be slogging through e-mail, creating presentations for library reading groups or other organizations, editing previous work, or writing articles. I also try to keep up-to-date with my blog, The Go-Ahead (at my website) and with my MySpace page.
What inspired you to write Royally Jacked?
I lived in Germany while I was in high school, and always thought it'd be fun to set a book in Europe. I had an idea for a character (Valerie Winslow), whose parents divorce when her mother falls in love with another woman. I thought Val would be the perfect chracter to throw into a foreign country, given the turmoil in her life. So I created a fictional country, Schwerinborg, and incorporated all the most humorous elements of life in Europe. Divorce is serious business, but I wanted this story to be a comedy. The setting and Val's snarky attitude did that.
Which of your characters was the eaisest to write, and why? Which was the hardest, and why?
Val's probably the easiest for me, because she has so much going on in her life and a group of fun, slightly dysfunctional friends. There's a lot to work with when I write about her.
The toughest character was probably Seneca Billeray, from Goddess Games. Seneca's the daughter of a very successful Oscar-winning actress. She grew up in L.A. with scads of money. She's been spoiled rotten her whole life and is shocked when things don't go her way. It's a challenge to make someone like Seneca likeable to the average person (really, who likes someone who thinks working for a living is beneath her?) Thankfully, Seneca has the ability to learn from the girls around her, and that's what redeems her. She learns to see the world from a different perspective.
Are you currently working on a book that's going to be published?
The paperback edition of Goddess Games comes out in May. And just today, I finished sending in the last tweaks on a new story that's also coming out in May. It's called "Last Stand" and it's in a collection called Breaking Up (Is Hard To Do.) Breaking Up will also feature stories from Ellen Hopkins (who wrote Crank), Lynda Sandoval (author of Who's Your Daddy?) and Terri Clark, whose first book, Sleepless, will be out this fall. "Last Stand" was fun for me to write because it's a romance told from a guy's perspective. I have more info about Breaking Up on my website for anyone who's curious.
When did you first know that you wanted to be a writer?
I've wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. However, I never thought it was practical (think about it...how many authors did you know while you were growing up?) I went to law school and even practiced law for awhile before I gave writing a shot. Luckily, things have turned out well!
How long does it typically take for you to write a book?
Once I have approval on a story from my editor, I can write a book in 3 - 4 months. However, that means I've already done a lot of up-front brainstorming and have a pretty good fix on the characters. My ideal schedule is to write 2-3 books a year.
What is your favorite part of being a writer?
I get to work from home, make my own hours, and drink my own kind of coffee. Plus, if I take a break to watch The Young and The Restless, no one cares. There aren't many jobs that allow you to do that.
What is your writing process like?
It varies with the book, but generally the characters come to me before the plot does. I scribble out some ideas, let them simmer while I work on something else, then go back and brainstorm some more until I have a very rough outline. I don't like to have anything too concrete before I start actually writing--I find that my best ideas and plot twists come as I'm about halfway through the book. If I was locked into a tight outline, I think I'd miss getting some of those magical scenes down on paper.
What is your favorite book? Author?
I always have a favorite of-the-moment book. However, my all-time favorite book is Isak Dinesen's Out of Africa.
What advice can you give to teens who want to be an author?
Read everything you can get your hands on, and take a heavier course load in English (it's important to know the rules, even if you then choose to break them in your writing), and in Literature, so you can learn from the greats. Then sit down and write. Don't make grand plans to write or dream about doing it "someday." Just write.
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