Anyone who follows my blog knows how much I enjoy sharing my favorites. Today I’m tickled to have one of my favorite authors as my guest. Please show some “A Break From The Norm” love to Claudia Mair Burney (“Mair rhymes with “fire”).
Known to many as the Ragamuffin Diva, blogger, author, speaker and social justice activist Claudia Mair Burney speaks courage and grace to audiences all over the world.
A 2009 Christy Book Award Finalist and freelance writer, Burney longs to one day open a house of hospitality for sex workers and people afflicted with HIV/AIDS. Until then, she writes books, makes henna tattoos and packs light for the next step on her journey of faith.
So many things shape a writer’s voice and the stories we tell. What have been the biggest contributors in the development of your voice and writing style?
Good books shape good writers. It helps that some of my best friends are writers, too, notably Marilynn Griffith and Lisa Samson. They’ve taught me the power of a beautifully told story, and it’s unlikely I’d have ever been published without them.
I learned recently that you have been nominated for a Christy Award for your novel Zora and Nicky: A Novel in Black and White. What’s the book about?
It’s mainly a romance between two lost sheep—preacher’s kids—one black, the other white. Both are trying to forge their own faith. They meet at a Bible study neither one of them has any business being at, and learn to love each other beyond their limits. It’s really a love story between a “beloved community” of misfits. Great fun!
In an editorial review of Zora and Nicky by Publishers Weekly, the reviewer said “Burney pushes her prose to the edge of the edgiest in the ‘Christian Fiction’ genre, and then barrels right over.” Do you feel that is an accurate assessment?
I’ve heard it is. LOL
Did you set out to be edgy in your writing or did it grow organically?
I don’t have to work at being edgy one bit.
Where did the inspiration for Zora and Nicky come from?
Zora and Nicky was the brainchild of David C. Cook publisher, Don Pape. He was my former agent. On the heels of my first series being canceled by a very conservative publisher for being “too sexy”, Don asked me to write a lyrical “race book”. Zora and Nicky was my answer to him.
I enjoyed reading Murder, Mayhem and a Fine Man, book one in the Amanda Bell Brown Mysteries. How would you describe the target audience for that series versus Zora and Nicky?
Thanks so much, Sharon. I wrote Murder, Mayhem and a Fine Man the year I turned forty, and in the original version Bell turned forty. We share the same birthday. It’s the mystery I wished I had to read at that time, with characters much like my own friends. Bell is like a Christian Stephanie Plum, with a cast of lovable crazies. Since the main characters are older than Zora and Nicky, even though they don’t always act their age, I imagine the series appeals to thirty and forty somethings more.
The target audience for Zora and Nicky is twenty-something Christians who, like the main characters, are hungry for a deeper experience in God, and to trod the path of their own faith rather than live out the beliefs of their parents. I wanted to disturb, challenge, and inspire these youth, so they’ll do things better than I did twenty years ago.
In your novel The Exorsistah the main character, Emme Vaughn, is a modern day demon slayer. How much research did you have to do to provide a believable backdrop for the story?
Waaaaaaay too much, and it was all creepy, to say little of the fact that doing that type of research puts you in the line of fire. I came under attack every time I wrote one of the books. And of course, I’m writing the third now. Pray for me!
Mair, before you go I’d like to ask you to participate on a tradition that I’ve started on my storytelling blog. Can you tell us about a “blooper” that you experienced during your writing career or an instance of when you wanted to ask for a do-over?
Oh, honey. Most of my career has been a blooper. I’m shockingly ignorant about so much. For example, when I wrote Murder, Mayhem, and a Fine Man I had no idea what Catholic theology was all about. Jazz made some decidedly un-Catholic decisions. Same thing with the Catholic characters in Wounded and The Exorsistah. I should have done more research, but almost all of my books were written in a blaze. After they came out—and I became Catholic—I realized how little I knew about some matters. All of this is a learning curve. Most days I think I need to get hooked on phonics!
Thanks so much for having me, Sharon. You totally rawk!
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