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Book reviews by the Fab Four and our Fab Friends

Saturday, June 24, 2006

We interrupt this Sarcastic Post...

I realize I normally have a sarcastic post here on Saturdays, but my very good friend Claudia Mair Burney has agreed to a no-holds-barred interview. How could I pass that up? And seeing as this is my post, I can do what I want. LOL (return next week for my normal wit and sarcasm! LOL!)

Claudia has a wonderful book that comes out in July that all of you must go out and buy. I enjoyed every second of reading it. Murder, Mayhem, and a Fine Man.

HDT: Claudia, I have to ask-Bell has some really tough things in her past. How much of Bell’s character in Murder, Mayhem, and a Fine Man is autobiographical?

CMB: Awwwwww. See! You’re going deep already! The truth is I put a frightening amount of auto in that book. Her flashbacks were very much my own, though the details aren’t the same. They took weeks to write because it was so painful. People keep saying how much the ending surprised them. It’s awful, but how could she not feel what she did with all she’d been through. Still, it was hard to write. I cried all the way through it, and so did my editor. Not for Bell, either.

HDT: What was the hardest part about writing Murder? Why?

CMB: I had NO IDEA what I was doing. I wanted to write the book I wished I could read. I didn’t have a blueprint or a guide for that book, so in some ways I was flying blind. I got my first so-so review today. The reviewer didn’t appreciate the big, juicy romance in the middle of the mystery, but I liked it. Again, it was the book I wished I could read, and I can’t imagine a book of mine without somebody falling in love. The romance made Murder a genre hybrid though. It’s not all mystery, and it’s not all romance, and it’s not all chick lit, either. The heart breaking stuff was hard, too. But I already said that.

HDT: Your characterization in Murder is particularly good. Where did you learn this aspect of writing? What process do you use for discovering your characters?

CMB: Ha! I’m a nutjob. If the people seemed real it’s because they were real to me, in a very unhealthy way! I lived with those people, loved with them, hurt with them. That’s not technique. That’s letting them move into your head (and heart), with all their luggage and stuff. I’m like the method actor who stays in character the whole production time. I’m pretty impossible to live with when I write. Poor Ken! Poor kids!

HDT: Another of the strengths in Murder is the dialogue. Very fresh. Unpredictable. It pops. It just feels right. How did you learn the art of good dialogue?

CMB: Thanks for such kind words, but yikes! I’m terribly untrained. I don’t think it’s something you can learn. Well, maybe you can. I think good dialogue means you listen on a lot of levels. I cheated. Bell, Jazz, Rocky, Carly--they talk like the people around me talk. They sound like my friends and some of my family. And here’s another thing. I let them say what they wanted to say. They surprised me a lot with what came out of their mouths. Out of everything I’ve written, they were most unruly.

HDT: Now, I’ve heard the whole awesome story about your road to publication, but for the readers out there, tell us a little about the journey to publication for you.

CMB: Oh man. I made a mess out of my life. I’d been with the abusive narcissist. I’d married the raging drug addict. I lost my “voice” and got a beat down from bipolar depression with startling regularity. I never thought I’d write for the Lord. Then one day I saw a copy of Today’s Christian Woman in a hospital waiting room. My heart nearly exploded with longing. I stole the magazine. Lord, have mercy! I begged Jesus to let me write for Him and promised I would tell people who were a mess like me that He loved them. I didn’t hear any audible voices, and the magazine didn’t burst into flames, but I did start a blog very shortly after that was definitely no holds barred. Honestly, I showed my behind on that blog, but people responded to the honesty. Some found beauty there. A lot found Jesus. It got the attention of a very fine novelist, who told her very fine publisher about me.

Very fine publisher wrote a surprise email, and asked if I’d be willing to write a novel for their publishing house. Oh yea-ah! I started Murder a few days later. I think I got him a proposal within two weeks, and he called me the next day, bless his heart. I wrote the book, and two days after I turned it in he quit the company! Talk about somebody primal screaming. He went on to become a star literary agent. He took me as a client, and had my book positioned to get offers within three months. He just brokered my second deal with NavPress. All this from a desperate prayer, and a
blog. From blog to first book deal less than one year. From book deal one to book deal two and three all within one year of signing with him. I am under contract for seven books, and Murder hasn’t even hit the shelves. Jesus amazes me with his grace, and I am the chief of sinners. Truly.

HDT: Wow! I can say from experience that I found beauty at your blog. Why are you writing fiction for the Christian market?

CMB: I think it’s because I love Jesus. Remember, I never thought I was worthy to write for the Christian market, but my heart was here because it’s where Jesus is. I’ve read some AWFUL Christian books, just because I knew I’d find Jesus in the pages somewhere. I wanted to write about Him freely. I didn’t know there were all those rules when I started. Ha! And don’t think I don’t wonder if they won’t get a good whiff of me and throw me out. Someone told me my blog was a little stank--seasoned with stank, is what they said. I cracked up. But life is so stank sometimes.

I should say that Jesus is in ABA books, too. My frame of reference was Jesus books = CBA. Now, I’d go wherever Jesus leads. Writing the blog, and Murder broke open my heart and mind. I don’t want to put any limits on God. He can lead me to the world. He could lead me to stop writing altogether and open up a house to get prostitutes off the street. I hope I always write, but there are other adventures in Jesus. Writing is not everything, and I really thought it would be. That it isn’t genuinely surprised me.

HDT: What is the spiritual arc in Murder? How does the spiritual arc within your stories develop?

CMB: The what??? You don’t think I’m smart, do you? I have no idea. Bell loves Jesus but she’s a mess. Jazz is a mess. Most of the people in the book are a mess! Well, not Rocky. Rocky is great! If there’s a spiritual arc at all it’s just about continuing to follow Jesus no matter what kind of jam you get in, because what else would you do? My characters don’t want a life without God. That propels them and their stories. I didn’t think too much about it. Maybe you can tell me what the spiritual arcs are. For real!

HDT: Ha! I never once considered that you weren’t smart. I know you too well for that! You know I’m all about the journey, tell me a little about this journey you are on currently?

CMB: Wow. Great question. I think my journey right now is all about being authentic. One of my favorite scriptures is in the Beatitudes, “Blessed are the poor in spirit; theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.” In The Message it says, “You are blessed when you’re content to be just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourself proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.” I just love that, Heather. It took me all my life, and many painful situations, to begin to be myself, and that is a shame before God. So, right now, it’s all about being a God broad with everything. It’s about finding all the beauty and treasure God put inside me, and not being afraid to say, “God put beauty and treasures inside me, and I’m about getting them out!”

HDT: When you are writing, how does what is happening to you spiritually affect your writing?

CMB: I have to be the most transparent person ever. I can’t make myself opaque to save my life. It all goes in there. Auto is in everything I write. What happens to me, spiritually and other wise is going to make its way in the book somehow. On the other hand, writing changes me spiritually. I am more spiritual because I write. This is awful, but it’s true, sometimes writing is the only sacrament to tap me into God’s presence. Sometimes I find Him on the page in ways I don’t find Him in my own devotional life. I think He meets me in stories because He knows I live in them. I am very much in my head, on the regular. But Jesus is merciful. Sometimes I found more healing blogging than I ever did sitting in a church. But go to church y’all. I did the no-church thing, and church is better—that is when it’s healthy. If it’s not healthy and loving, why bother?

HDT: Who is the most influential person on your writing?

CMB: There are so many. The mystics let me know I can do Jesus big—bigger than I can imagine at any time. The artists like Ron Hansen show me I can do it beautifully, though I fall terribly short. Marilynn Griffith and Lisa Samson show me that I can do it with an attitude. Bethany Torode show me I can do it and be sexy, and still love Jesus. You, Heather, show me I can do it and be loved, despite my flaws.

Oh. You almost made me cry thinking of that!

HDT: Oh. You did make me tear up with that! Murder kind-of pushes the edge for most CBA books, how do you feel about that?

CMB: I love that. I love that they trusted me at NavPress. I said things that I thought, “They’ll never let me get away with that.” I think Jesus has a great sense of humor. I think Jesus likes my book.

HDT: I love your book! And I think Jesus does as well! What do you want the take away from Murder, Mayhem, and a Fine Man to be?

CMB: That you can really jack yourself up, and still find grace and love at the end of your journey. I also hope people are a little kinder to themselves because of it. I hope they make an effort to step away from hurt and let some people and love into their lives.

HDT: What do we have to look forward to in the future from you?

CMB: I just finished Bell’s second book, Death, Deceit, and Some Smooth Jazz. The romance between she and Jazz heats up, despite a terrible tragedy. It’s smokin’ y’all. That one comes out in February, I think. After that, one more Bell Brown Book, out in October, Saints, Suspicions, and a Ticking Clock, and then… drumroll please….
The Exorsistah. It’s the story of a reluctant teen exorcist, coming out in NavPress’s student imprint TH1NK. I call her my Jesus freak Buffy in diva boots. She is going to kick butt! Don’t miss her.

HDT: Y’all she isn’t lying when she says Death, Deceit and Some Smooth Jazz is smokin’! I’ve had the privilege of reading some of it. It’s great! And now, because I suck at interviews… Claudia, I'm giving you free reign to say anything you like.

CMB: I’m tempted to say something really naughty, and then laugh like a loon, just because you said I could say whatever I want, but instead I’m going to tell you that this was a great interview, you don’t suck at all, and it’s a pleasure to know you and to have your support. You know I love you, Pumpkin.

HDT: The pleasure is all mine Claudia. I love you too. Claudia, thank you so much for coming to do this, it's been an honor.

CMB: Thanks so much. Watch out world, Heather Diane Tipton’s book is in the world. I’ve read it, and you’re gonna love it.

HDT: Okay, I have to say I’m greatly humbled by that Claudia. I have no idea how to respond to that except to say thank you.

There you go folks. Claudia Mair Burney. The newest name in Christian fiction. Watch her carefully she’s going places! To keep up with her check out her blog. Her blog is one of my favorite blogs to read! The post below this one has the back cover blurb and a bit of a review from me. Please leave some comments here, Claudia and I would love to hear from you.


At 11:58 PM, June 23, 2006, Blogger Pammer said...

This is AWESOME. Both of you did a great job.

I love learning about your journey, Claudia.

And I'm already standing in line to buy that book!!!

Hugs to you both!

At 8:03 AM, June 24, 2006, Blogger Robin Caroll said...

AWESOME interview!

At 8:11 AM, June 24, 2006, Blogger Ane Mulligan said...

Great interview! Thanks so much for sharing that. It would be so easy to say nope, none of me. Being transparent is hard. God bless you for it!

At 8:27 AM, June 24, 2006, Blogger eileen said...

Learning WHO we are in Christ...now that's a journey! I have a copy of MMFM and will dive in soon! Great interview.

At 8:42 AM, June 24, 2006, Blogger Kristin Billerbeck said...

I knew I loved Claudia's attitude, but even more after this interview. You are a spokeswoman for Jesus, and people need to hear from the real far more than the perfect -- it shows his grace. The only thing you can learn from "perfect" is how you don't measure up. I can't wait to read the book! Kristin

At 10:27 AM, June 24, 2006, Blogger ScrollSquirrel said...


Cheryl (Squirrel)

At 1:52 PM, June 24, 2006, Blogger Camy Tang said...

Mair, you ROCK!!! And you humble me. Thanks, sistah.


At 2:19 PM, June 24, 2006, Blogger Gina Holmes said...

HDT: great interview!
Mair: I'm getting ready to crack open Mayhem in the next few days and can't wait. If the way you write fiction is anything like the beauty when you write non, I know I'll love it. You're an amazing woman. Flaws and all. We need you in the CBA!

At 5:21 PM, June 24, 2006, Blogger Paula said...

Heather and Claudia Mair~
Love you both so much. I can't believe I'm so privileged as to have the two of you for friends. Heather-great interview.

Sistie - I'm so proud of you I could burst into tears or scream from the rooftop. God is moving mightily in and through you. I identified with much you said in this interview.

Just finished the book about 20 minutes ago. Wow. How can one book take me through so many emotions and seem light and chicky and fun and then make me dig so deep. Amazing.

At 6:15 PM, June 24, 2006, Blogger Jenny said...

First, I gotta say, Heather, that Claudia is right. You do a great interview!
Second, I kept coming back to one word over and over as I read. Authentic. Last May I got to go to Estes Park and meet Ted Dekker and the word I couldn't escape with him was "Fearless." But with you, Claudia, the honesty and transparency with which you present yourself screams "Authentic!" I can't wait to read Murder.
Abundant blessings,

Jenny Cary

At 3:16 PM, June 25, 2006, Blogger lisa said...

Great interview, Heather. Claudia, you just plain rock and I'm your biggest fan. I'm proclaiming it here first, right now, on this blog.

At 4:00 PM, June 25, 2006, Blogger ragamuffin diva said...

Thanks so much every one for reading. I appreciate your kind responses. I'm YOUR biggest fan.

Heather, you rock, all day, every day. I hope you do more interviews. I really enjoyed you.

At 6:01 PM, June 25, 2006, Blogger :-)Ronie said...

*sigh* What a great interview, Heather & Mair!! I just got back from out of town--and this is the first thing I did, I was so excited about this interview. :-D I've loved talking with Mair, and this interview helped me get to know here a little more. Thank you!


At 7:13 PM, June 25, 2006, Blogger upwords said...

Aw, Heather, this was great! Classic Claudia--funny and fabulous with some deep spiritual insight that comes when you least expect it. Her book is like that too. I do recommend that you don't read it while drinking liquids though. I sprayed quite a few times...when I wasn't crying. Again, great interview.

At 10:03 PM, June 29, 2006, Blogger Mirtika said...

I'm late checking in, but dang, that's one of the BEST BEST BEST interviews I've ever read on a blog.

But then, Claudia is PHENOMENAL. I wanther book BAD.

Heather, you do impress me, girl. Interview MORE PEOPLE. OK?



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