Monday, July 14, 2014

An Interview with Author Sherry Burton: Her Plots Are Dependent on Strong Relationships

Sherry Burton is an award winning author of adult fiction and children's books. Both genres are dependent on strong relationships; something Sherry knows more than a little about. Sherry can attest first-hand to the fact that a whirlwind marriage can indeed last. Sherry credits her frequent moves and long separations to her ability to feel her characters' desire to find true happiness.

First of all Sherry, I have to tell you I really enjoyed your blog. Thank you for taking the time to talk with us today.

When did you start writing? As a child? Did you enter any contests or competitions? 

Unfortunately, as a child, I was never encouraged to write. To be honest I didn't apply myself in school. I was bullied up until about the eleventh grade, and more focused on getting through the day without getting beat up. I enjoyed writing rhyming poems but that was as far as it went. As a military wife I often found myself in a position where I had to write letters to my husband (long before the ships were equipped with e-mail.) Volunteering with the family support groups and being a Navy Ombudsman, I was often tasked with writing newsletters, which I enjoyed, but I still never saw it as a career. The change happened about thirteen years ago. I had a girlfriend who was going through a tough time. For reasons still unbeknownst to me, I told her I was going to write her a happy ending. I sat down with my red clipboard and pencils and started writing and writing. Somewhere early on the voices showed up and took over what I thought was going to be a simple short story. They-the voices- must have taken a liking to me as they've been hanging around in my head ever since, insisting I keep writing. 

I know you not only write adult fiction but also children’s books; where do you find your inspirations for your stories (adult and children)? 

Honestly I give all credit for my writing to the voices, as my brain does not work that way. When I first realized I had "help" writing it frightened me. It was with my first manuscript, Tears of Betrayal. I got to a part in the storyline where it was said that the in-laws knew what was going on with their son. Until that scene I thought I was in charge. But I had no idea they -the in-laws- knew what was going on. I remember putting my clipboard down and walking away. (*I wrote my first manuscript by hand) My husband, sensing something was wrong, asked if I was okay. I looked at him and said I'm not writing the story. To be honest, at the time, I think he thought I'd finally lost my mind. He kept saying what do you mean you're not writing it, I've been watching you write it. I just kept telling him that I had help, that someone else was writing the story. He never understood until the day he started reading my then finished (and published) book. He came to me and said, now I understand, you do not talk like this. You don't use words like this. Numerous discussions and four books later he believes in my voices just as much as I do. 

Do you have a favorite place to write or maybe a process you’d like to share? 

While I can get ideas anywhere, driving, working in the yard or near water (the voices really seem to love the water) I normally write in my home office. I often post that I'm in my writing chair, which is just an ordinary office chair. While I have a desk, I only use it to hold my desktop, which I rarely turn on, and all the tools needed for the day. My "tools of the trade" are generally a laptop, sharp #2 pencils, my red clipboard (yes I still use it), some sticky notes (to record changes to be made at a later date) and a binder full of bright white, lined paper. While I now prefer to write on my laptop, I am still old school in some respects. I have binders for all my manuscripts (even those which are merely ideas.) Each time I get an idea given to me that idea then goes into a specific binder. When a character is created he or she gets a page in the binder. That way all I have to do is turn to that page to see physical descriptions, street address, car make/model/color ect. Anything pertaining to that character goes into the binder so I can have everything I need right at my fingertips. Every character, no matter how insignificant, has a page in the manuscripts binder.

I normally do my actual writing on my laptop. I sit with my feet on a small stepstool and have a pillow in my lap, which helps to elevate the laptop to a comfortable height. Often times my legs are crossed, I'm sure my position is a chiropractors nightmare but it's the position I find most comfortable. I sit in a way that I can see out the window, which makes for a few distractions, but I love being able to see out while I write. I prefer to write in a quiet setting and am not a fan of outside noises, especially barking dogs, when I'm trying to concentrate. 

You refer to the characters you create as ‘friends’. Do they ever keep needling you to get busy because they have an idea? Do they sometimes lead you in your plot line or are you the one in control? 

Oh, I'm never in control when it comes to my writing! I once read about storyboards (where an author can plot out an entire manuscript) and thought what a great idea. So I spent hours plotting and knew what was going to happen in each chapter. I was thrilled that I had a plan. The end result was nowhere near what I thought was going to happen. Silly me thinking I was in control. No, I learned long ago to just go with the flow and see where the story takes me. For me, I find that writing is much like reading, I do not know what is going to happen until I get to that page. It's exciting if you think about it, the not knowing. In some cases it is equally frustrating, as I cannot simply turn to the back of the book and see what happens. But then again what fun would it be if I had all the answers. I am not sure I've ever thought that the characters are the ones doing the talking, I've always felt that it is the "voices" in my head that does the dictating. Although, now that I'm answering this question, I do remember being woke in the middle of the night by a child's voice (in my head) asking one of the most innocently compelling questions I've ever heard. It was so chillingly sincere that I knew immediately that the person asking it was from one of my future storylines. I knew without question that the child was Devin, a child, who has Down Syndrome. I'm not sure why he decided to speak to me that night, but I recorded his question in the appropriate binder and went back to sleep. Someday, when the story is ready, I will share his question with the world. 

Do you have a favorite character you enjoy working with…er, writing about? 

Oh I'm not sure I like this question. It is kind of like asking a mom if you have a favorite child. While I do love all my characters the same, I must admit some pull at me more than others. Like I hated Jeff (Amber's husband in Tears of Betrayal) but if he was not an ass, and hadn't gotten himself killed, then Amber would never have ended up with Dalton. I love Robin, in Tears of Betrayal, as she reminds me of me. I love both Sylvia and Zachariah in Somewhere in my Dreams, as they are both straightforward and sincere, with enough quirk to keep you reading to see what they will say next. I love Sally in The King of my Heart. As she is not really as crazy as she seems. Sure she is naked in most of the book, but in the end you find out her motives for seeming a bit unhinged. Walter, the grumpy old man in my short story, Whispers of the Past, has a reason for being miserable. But since you asked, if I had to pick just one, it would probably be Kevin, the neighbor in my latest book, Surviving the Storm. Kevin makes me laugh. Personally, I think everyone needs a gay best friend.
· Your latest novel, Surviving the Storm, is the first book in a planned trilogy. Can you tell us a little about it and give us a glimpse into the future? The title is a metaphor for Abby's life. She marries the wrong guy (boy is that putting it lightly) and quickly realizes that her life is not her own. Not only that, but it has always been that way. Jacob, Abby's new husband has secrets he's keeping from her. Secrets she must uncover if there is any hope for survival. She gets help from two unlikely sources, her unconventional next door neighbor (Kevin) and A voodoo priestess (Perl) who has her own reason for seeing that Jacob gets what's coming to him. Surviving the Storm, is my first suspense. It is the first in The Storm trilogy and I also have a fourth book planned that will be a spinoff. At this time I do not know if the character will be introduced in book two or book three(the voices will tell me in due time.) However, the manuscript is speaking so loudly that it may be finished before her character is even introduced. Oh and I can also tell you that Kevin will be around for the duration, after all he is my favorite 'son'. 

I don’t know where or when this ‘list of 5’ question hit me but it has been fun to read some of the responses. How about sharing your list of 5 surprising wonders from your life?

1) That I was lucky enough to find the love of my life on my first try. I've been married to my best friend for going on thirty-four years. I still smile when I speak about him and feel a flutter in my heart when he arrives home for the day.

2) That I am a good mother and Gamma. I know that sounds like a given, women are supposed to be maternal, right? When I was young I remember thinking, I'm going to get married and have kids. It was what was expected from girls in my generation. Still, until you've done it, how do you know if you'll actually be good at it? Thankfully being a domestic goddess seems to have agreed with me. While I am not perfect, by any means, I am pretty darn good at the whole mom/wife thing.

3) That I can write; more importantly that I can tell a story. Okay I had some learning to do right out of the gate, heck I learn something new in regards to my craft every day. But I've grown so much with each and every manuscript. After years of searching, I have finally found what I was looking for. It is the first time that I have found a job that I would not quit if I ever won the lottery.

4) That the voices picked me. Seriously, out of all the people in the world they chose to hang out in my head. I do not take this "gift" lightly, I give thanks for what I've been given on a daily basis.

5) That the kid who once was a nobody now has fans. I have people e-mail me asking when my next release will be out. They tell me how much they enjoy my work and in many cases tell me I'm their favorite author. It is all very surreal. I have truly been blessed in this life.

Thanks for the awesome questions! It is exciting when the interview questions prove to be as quirky as I am.

Thanks for visiting with us Sherry!

You can connect with Sherry at her website and blog
Facebook:    Twitter: @SherryABurton 

Book Trailer for Tears of Betrayal

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