Saturday, June 27, 2009

Interview With Claudia Mair Burney

Meet my fabulous, funny, warm and intelligent friend, Claudia Mair Burney. She goes by Mair (rhymes with fire), is a wonderfully talented novelist and is here at Just a Thought to answer a few questions for us! Isn't that just so much FUN? As you know, I'm a HUGE fan of Ms. Burney's and am so excited to have this opportunity to get in her head for a quick peak! I've been looking forward to this for a LONG time, so let's jump right in, shall we?

Me:You were confirmed into the Catholic Church last year, is that correct? What was that like for you? And can you give us a brief look into your spiritual journey to that point.

Mair: What I did was come into full communion with the Catholic Church. My confirmation took place in the Eastern Orthodox Church. It’s complicated, girl, and I’m not about to get into that here. But, it was amazing, Rhonda. I was so hungry for that brand of spirituality. It’s totally simpatico with how I’m wired. The process was a comedy of errors at times, and in turn, tender and brutal at times. And the change came with a surprising amount of persecution, but I wouldn’t trade one moment of that journey.

Me: Is your journey reflected in your literary characters?

Mair: Oh sure. All my journeys, even if I move from one geographical location, are reflected in my fiction.

Me: Who do you write for?

Mair: You. LOL. And me. And anybody out there who can say, “Yeah, me, too,” to my character’s struggles.

Me: I have just finished Deadly Charm, and of course I loved it! In fact, I’m rereading Murder, Mayhem and a Fine Man and meeting Bell, Jazz and everyone else for a second time. I’m finding a lot of little hints and innuendos of things to come in the later novels. How far ahead do you plan when writing your novels?

Mair: I had to pitch the series knowing—roughly—what would happen in all three. A plot synopsis is required in most proposals before you make a sale. But the characters always manage to surprise me. That’s one of the more delightful aspects of writing series fiction.

Me: We know your inspiration for Bell was your great-grandmother Amanda Bell Brown. Let’s talk about Jazz. Who was your inspiration for Jazz?

Mair: Ha! Naughty Rhonda. I’ll be completely honest here. Jazz is based on my first… um…. yeah, him. He made an unexpected appearance back in my life the year I turned forty, which was the year I wrote that book. I was woefully smitten, hence, his guest appearance. I must admit, creating a fictional version of him was a really bad move. I was so glad to be done with those books! You just don’t know, girl.

Me: Deadly Charm introduces a new character, Ezekiel Thunder. Tell me about him.

Mair: I was “born again” in the early eighties, which was the height of the reign of the televangelist. He’s a composite of those poor souls caught up in excess, the mighty, whose empires fell before the world, causing more than a little disillusionment in me and many others.

Me: Rocky and Bell have an interesting friendship. What are you trying to show people through their relationship?

Mair: That wounded people, though Rocky doesn’t initially seem that wounded, are drawn to each other, and can be wonderful beacons for each other during dark nights of the soul. When Bell pieced her life back together, Rocky really was her rock. Their relationship is tender, complicated, and at times, hilarious. Her life would be impoverished without him.

Me: Several of your stories deal with interracial relationships. You’ve got Rocky and Bell’s history. You’ve got Jazz’s parents. Both of those relationships are presented in a nonchalant manner….no drama, really. (ok I know Bell and Rocky have dram but it’s not black and white drama.)Then you have Zora and Nicky…extreme opposite! Explosive drama! In your experience, which is more common in the church today?

Mair: I honestly think both are common. Some people seem to get the race stuff out of the way, early. And there was race drama (off scene) with both sets of Browns, and Rocky and Bell, but I don’t make a huge issue of it. The Amanda Bell Brown mysteries aren’t “race books” whatever that is. Zora and Nicky, on the other hand, was designed to give readers a look at how difficult race relations in America can be. When Don Pape asked me to write it he asked for a “race book.” Zora and Nicky is what came out of me.

Me: Speaking of Zora and Nicky…. you’ve been nominated for a Christy Award in the Contemporary Romance category!!!! (yay!! WOOOOO-HOOOOOOOO) What does this mean to you?

Mair: It means my peers, writers and readers of Christian fiction, have read my book and deemed it extraordinary. As far as I’m concerned, they’ve given me the prize already, whether or not I actually win. And I’m so nervous. Today I dreamed the executives at David C. Cook told me they were embarrassed by the things I wear! In the dream I got so mad I withdrew my Christy nomination. I think I’m just anxious about what I’ll wear and do with my hair!

Me: You know I voted for dreads.
Ok, last question. What do you think are the 5 greatest pieces of literature you’ve ever read. Not necessarily your favorite books.

Wow. That’s really hard to say. I read so many books, and many have moved me. Some have changed me. I suppose, off the top of my head, I’d say:

Mariette in Ecstasy, by Ron Hansen
Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston
Every Thing That Rises Must Converge, by Flannery O’Connor
The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
The Color Purple, by Alice Walker

And that says nothing of the non-fiction and poetry, but since I brought it up, don’t miss:
The Ragamuffin Gospel, by Brennan Manning
The Music of Silence, by David Stendl Rast
The Long Loneliness, by Dorothy Day
Traveling Mercies, by Anne Lamott, and finally
Life of the Beloved, by Henri Nouwen.

For poetry, try:
Walking to Martha’s Vineyard, by Franz Wright
Sinner’s Welcome, by Mary Karr
Rilke’s Book of Hours, translated by Barrows and Macy
Love Poems from God, by Daniel Ladinsky, and
Love: Selected Poems by E.E. Cummings, illustrated by Christopher Myers.

Okay. That was so way more than five! I’m done now. Thanks so much for having me, lovie. You rawk.

No, my dear, you rawk! Thanks for sharing with us. We cannot wait for what comes next from that brilliant, sassy pen of yours!

Keep your eyes open, friends, for more from Ms. Burney, this time in the non-fiction section! Ooooooooooh!!!

For more about Claudia Mair Burney, check her out at