An Interview with Poet William Burns. He is the author of the Science Fiction Poem "Goddess and Training" currently published with Niteblade Fantasy and Horror Magazine.
What is the name of your latest book?
My latest publication is a single poem called “Goddess in Training” with Niteblade Fantasy and Horror Magazine http://www.niteblade.com/ Issue #11 The Marionette (March 2010). My latest book is called “The Thirteen Quixotic Temples of Light and Darkness”, a book length epic currently out for consideration.
And how did you come up with the title?
One of those challenges, “What is one of your favorite words?”. For me the word 'Quixotic' is just cool. Definition ~ foolishly impractical especially in the pursuit of ideals; especially : marked by rash lofty romantic ideas or extravagantly chivalrous action. Hey I'm an INFP, what can I say.
The rest of the titles comes form the challenge of my protagonist, Shalott , as in "The Lady of Shalott". She is on a journey that takes her to the thirteen far reaches of the 'Verse, some of the Light, other Dark.
What is this book about? And what genre is this book in?
Hmmmm, Shalott is on summer vacation, driving the Blue Ridge Parkway, when she stumbles across an old crone selling strange beads. Each of the beads is a type of portal key that opens cracks in the Universe, much like the cracks in her great aunt's mirror. You may have read something about her Aunt Alice's mirror (oblique Lewis Carroll reference). She has the assistance of one of my favorite character, Finton.
How Long Have You Written Poetry?
Apparently forever. My mom tells a story of when I was four and we were going past my favorite drive in restaurant, the Gold Dome, named such because of the Gold Dome of the capitol building in Charleston WV. Mom is driving our two tone Ford and I asked if we could stop for a hotdog. She said, “Not today, its the day before payday.” To which I apparently replied; “The day before payday / not a penny to spend / wait til tomorrow and we'll all eat again.” She tells me she had to pull off the road.
I've always had a knack for song lyrics and music was one of my windows on the world outside the hollow where I was raised (the other was Chiller theater on channel 13).
What is the best or hardest part about writing poetry?
Enduring the guff I get from non writers and non poetry types. “OH poetry huh? What? You poetry doesn't even rhyme . . .”
The worst part of the actual writing process is sweating the details. Mostly the meter and beat patterns. Findings the words that work for the effect I am trying to craft. The second worst is suddenly being caressed by the muse, and having to pull over in traffic because I have to get the words down before they escape.
Do you think it’s a skill one has to be born with?
Honest, I have no idea. I teach electrical engineering, have degrees in biomedical engineering and work with local theater groups like the Greer Children's Theater (see Robin, I got the plug in). There has been considerable speculation that my mother was abducted, but no real empirical evidence.
The driving force behind a career in poetry is passion for the spoken or written word, and a real fear of making any money at your craft.
Did you learn anything from writing your poem and what was it?I wrote that poem and several like it for my muse, a real flesh and blood woman. A woman who later said that she didn't want to receive anymore of my poetry. She cast me away like a stone.
I learned that poets need a muse and there is always a price to be paid for inspiration.
Why did you choose NiteBlade Magazine to publish your work?I found NiteBlade using the most excellent resource, Duotrope's Digest http://www.duotrope.com/index.aspx
In some of the instances when i have received payment for my work, I have passed it to this organization. Its pitiful but its the only thanks I can give them.
Do you have any favorite characters in your work? If so who and why?
Wow, yeah, a list of folk. In this, and other of my most recent works, I have been developing strong woman warrior type protagonists. Goddesses in training, Pocket Universe Architects, Strange Muses seem to keep showing up in my work. You also get Coyote Old Man and Grandmother Spider characters that are there to help and hinder out protagonists in true Joseph Campbell fashion. I just love the mythical stuff in the middle of mundane life at the moment.
Is this book part of a series? If so? What can we expect in future books? If not will you consider expanding it?
Never been asked to expand an Epic, so no, I don't expect there will be a call to expand it. Future work, yes, but new work.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I have learned Shalott, she has become a real person to me.
Do you have a publisher? And if so, why did you choose them?
I have this one on submission with a publisher, that shall remain nameless, so as not to jynx things. It was turned down by the first publisher I sent it out to and they shall also remain nameless.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
Marge Piercy is a Goddess of form and content in my poetical pantheon. Honest, the woman couldn't write a bad verse. I also must mention Roger Zelazny, who I had the great pleasure of offering one of my chapbook in person. To his ever lasting credit, he took it, smile and said, “OH, so you're a poet.” He was my favorite science fiction writer but I later learned he always wanted to be recognized as a poet.
What books are you reading now?
'The Graveyard Book' by Neil Gaiman, 'Planets for Sale' by A.E. VanVogt, and the score of 'Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat' (I'm Jacob).
What are the current writing projects that you are working on?
I am working on 'The Nine Strange Muses of Regwin' (alternate universe with a higher predisposition of magic), 'The Museum of Arcane Objects' (kinda Merlin and Nimue thing) and 'The Wholly Visible Man'. Honest I have lots of projects at any time, but there are always a few in the process of precipitating out.
Do you write full time? If not, do you hope to do so one day?
Naw, I like teaching and I love not having deadlines. I figure the quickest way to kill your love for a calling, a vocation, is do it for pay. Money always messes things up when it comes to creativity.
Second, I made about $100 last year on my writing. I would hate to try to support my family on what an honest person can expect to make off of poetry.
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
OK this is embarrassing. When I was in junior high school (we didn't call it middle school way back then) I tried to use poetry to impress junior high girls (said I am INFP). I am here to tell you, there is no group of people less disposed to the enjoyment of the poetry of junior high males like myself, then junior high school girls. They were often . . .unkind.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
For me or my readers?:) Yeah, I did a reading last month and the challenge was a lady who said that she wanted me to tell what each poem really meant. I told her it meant no more or less than it meant to her. She insisted that there was only one correct interpretation of any given poem and that I was being difficult because I wanted to be too cryptic in my work. I tried to explain that there was no purpose to my poetry other than the enjoyment of the audience. I don't believe that I convinced her.
Do you have any advice for other writers seeking to get published for the first time?
Hmmmm. Write right now. Don't wait for the lightning bolt of inspiration to strike you. To badly paraphrase Louis Pasteur, 'Inspiration favors the prepared pen and journal'. Get one of those Moleskine Notebooks or Journals, a good G4 Pilot Pen (no endorsements intended) and set aside at least an hour a day to use them.
Find your favorite author and read everything they ever wrote, but don't try to copy them. Don't try to be a Freudian, be the next Sigmund Freud.
Lastly, love what you do. If you hate it, then perhaps you are trying to force it to be something it isn't. Set aside quiet time for reflection.
Write right now, just write it, now.
Also do you have a website? what's the addy?
Actually, no. I figure a poet can mount any crap on their own website, but when editor selects your work for their website you know that it must be of some quality. I would suggest that if one of your readers might like to see my work, then Google "William C. Burns, Jr." (best if you use the quotes)
Thanks you for this, its been fun.
It was great hosting you William. Thanks for dropping by!