Q&A Part 2

Book cover with title Wishbone showing a wishbone lying on painted boards, byline Elaine Burnes
2016 Goldie winner!

Several years ago, I did a Q&A with the wonderful Women and Words (sadly “on hiatus”). A lot of the answers are still good, and I’ve updated some others. Here’s Elaine! Part 2

Tell us about your biggest guilty pleasure. For example, do you sit naked in your pantry in the middle of the night and eat Nutella with your fingers?

Dark chocolate. Anytime. Anywhere.

Tell us one thing that you’re passionate about. For example, would you strap yourself to an oil rigging a la Lucy Lawless with a Greenpeace sign in your hands?

I would totally strap myself to an oil rig if Lucy Lawless was there.

There isn’t one thing. Animal welfare, child welfare, the environment are probably the big three.

There’s a lot of me in my character Meg [from Wishbone], though I could never do her job (or have her <ahem> sexual appetite). But what she says about our responsibility to domestic animals, that covenant we made, that when we break it, when we abuse animals—for that I have no rational response. My respect for those who work to protect animals is endless.

It’s weird that I was even able to write Wishbone because for so long I haven’t been able to watch news stories about animal abuse. They haunt me. I tried to write Meg’s work in a way that I (and hopefully readers) could handle (there was a lot I had to imagine that never made the page) and maybe it helped that it was fiction. Every time I thought to myself, you’ve gone too far, this is too much you are piling on (whether about children or animals), I’d hear about something so much worse.

I’m passionate about revealing things we as a society would rather not acknowledge. I often think, when pondering some shiny new toy to buy, is this worth a person’s life? Because everything we first-worlders buy—clothes, cosmetics, technology—means someone somewhere died. A farm worker, a sweatshop seamstress, animals being tested and experimented on. Ask yourself, Is it worth a life?

Now that I’ve depressed everyone…

What keeps me going is my passion for joy. I can take great delight in the smallest, most mundane things. I love anything that makes me laugh. I think those who are musical have a gift from god—or whatever hands out those talents. I love what music does to me. I love being in love. It does not grow old, and I feel so blessed to have found such a kindred soul. It blows me away.

Feel better now?

UPDATE: Hands down the best response I’ve received for Wishbone is via the ACO I interviewed. She loved the book and continues to lend it out, and one of her colleagues said that she ended up buying her own copy and loved how it touched several parts of her “world” and she’s read it several times. A writer lives for such feedback!

What’s your writing process? That is, do you have a particular place you write and/or time of day? Do you have any particular things you do before you write? (e.g. do you listen to music, drink coffee, take dance breaks…)

In an ideal situation, an altered universe, I get up early (5:30), have breakfast and sit down with my coffee and laptop, write till I have to pee, write some more, have more coffee and a snack, write more, then break for lunch and maybe do other things. Unfortunately that doesn’t often happen. I wrote Wishbone an hour a day before going to work and more hours on weekends. My wife forgot what I looked like.

The only music I can listen to can’t have words, or words I can understand (foreign languages can work well). I will sometimes blast music with headphones to block out all the other noise (literal and figurative). I once had a job where I wrote under deadline. I’d do all the reporting, but would delay the actual writing till about the day before it was due (not on purpose). Then I’d enter a screaming panic mode, put on the headphones, and tell myself it’s write or die. It worked, but it’s not a process I recommend.

UPDATE: For Endurance, the ideal situation pretty much came to pass. After several years of squeezing writing in between sleep and work, I was able to focus on it full time. The next one is going much faster!

Tell us something that most people don’t know about you (unless you’d have to kill us, in which case tell us something that some people don’t know).

There’s more people don’t know about me than know about me, so I’m not sure I can shock anyone. I’m not sure there’s anything about me readers need to know other than what’s in my stories.

To be continued…

For more about my books, click their dedicated pages on the menu at top. And thanks!

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