I’d like to introduce you to the fifty-seventh interviewee in my ‘Meet the Author’ series. She is Phyllis Burton (shown here with her granddaughter).
Hi, Phyllis! Welcome to Susan Finlay Writes blog site. Can you tell us a bit about your background as a writer?
Thank you, Susan. I’m no spring chicken and have been writing for quite a few years now. I started writing little stories for my children when they were young and now they have children of their own and I have read some of my stories to them. I started really taking writing seriously as a result of attending a Creative Writing Course, and having made lots of friends locally, we decided to start up the Haslemere Writing Circle. After a few years, this group unfortunately folded, but we still meet up every few months to discuss what we have done or are doing. We are hoping to collect a few short stories to go into an Anthology which we could sell to raise money for a local MacMillan cancer charity.
I was on the Committee of The Grayshott (Hampshire, England) Writing Festival which was great fun and I met several quite well-known writers and poets, which also gave me the inspiration to write.
Your latest book is a collection of short stories, Fifteen Brushes With Love, and it was published in May, 2013. Can you tell us about the book?
I have always liked writing short stories: there is something quite satisfying about telling a story without too much padding. You can get to the centre of the story quite quickly and keep your reader guessing as to how it will end – twisted or otherwise. So, I had collected a number of stories (mostly with a love or lost love angle) and I decided I would try my luck with Smashwords and Kindle and put together a selection of fifteen very different stories. These range from the heat of Madrid in the early 1800s: the love life of a concert pianist: a dream-man in a portrait comes to life: the closure of a theatre, and the dreadful feud between a Santa-doll and a beautiful fairy as they try to gain supremacy on a Christmas tree! And, before I forget, a woman who tries to sell some sexy-underwear in a second-hand clothes shop! I hope any reader will enjoy these stories as much as I enjoyed writing them.
Your second novel, A Passing Storm, was self-published through Matador Publishing in August, 2012. Can you tell us about the book? What inspired you to write it? Is it related to your first book?
Strictly speaking, A PASSING STORM was my first published book. Having enjoyed writing short stories, I felt that I should move on to writing a full-length novel. I have to admit that it was not written in a hurry. In fact it probably took me about three years to complete, but I was determined to finish it. My original thoughts had centered on THE EMPTY-NEST SYNDROME and how women coped with their lives once their off-spring had left the nest and the novel blossomed from that point. I finished it in 2006 and sent it off to various Mainstream Publishers under the Romance genre and although some said they enjoyed it, it was not taken up by any of them. During this time self-publishing was trying to gain a foothold and I sent it to a company in Canada (Trafford Publishing Ltd.) to be published PRINT ON DEMAND. Everything seemed to go well and I sold several copies. However, once the company was taken over by a larger American company, everything seemed to go wrong: over-priced books didn’t sell very well and any royalties before the take-over were not paid. In the meantime, I had decided to publish my second book (PAPER DREAMS) with Matador. I was impressed with the company and so, in 2012 I decided to terminate my contract with TRAFFORD and re-publish A PASSING STORM through Matador as well. The two titles stand completely alone and are not related.
Your first novel, Paper Dreams, was self-published through Matador Publishing in December, 2011. Can you tell us about the book? What inspired you to write it?
Bearing in mind my answer to the last question, PAPER DREAMS is my second published book. I’ve always been fascinated by books, old and new and I hit on the idea of a librarian who had been sent to catalogue a vast number of books in an old crumbling mansion. Whilst searching through books in a creepy old attic, she finds a love-letter hidden in an old book. This set my mind rolling, or reeling as the case may be. And questions kept popping up all over the place about how or why the discovery of letters of this kind, could impact upon other people’s lives. Thus PAPER DREAMS was born. This, like A PASSING STORM, is basically a love-story, but it does contain some quite dark moments!
Are you working on a new book? How long does it usually take you to write a book?
Yes, I am writing another book, although it has stalled for a while because of the time it has taken to publish my book of short stories – FIFTEEN BRUSHES WITH LOVE!
The title of the book is ‘SWITCHING OFF’. A woman has to make one of the most harrowing and dreadful decisions of her life: her husband was dreadfully injured in an air accident and has been in a coma for over a year. There is no discernible brain stem-cell function and she has to decide whether to switch off the machine that is keeping her beloved Tom alive. In answer to your question about how long it takes me to write a book is difficult. How long is a piece of string? But I would probably say, too long! There are other external influences in my life, but I will finish it.
I’ve heard that you are also an artist and that you painted the photo you used for your first book cover. Did you create all of your book covers?
Some years ago I attended a wonderful Water-Colour Painting Class which really inspired me. It has been a purely personal achievement as I have never really tried to sell any of my paintings, but I do hang them on the wall at home and have given them away to friends and family. I did paint the picture on my book A PASSING STORM and I’m really proud of it. I enjoy painting landscapes and my other two books would not have been suitable, so I paid for a professional cover for them.
You produced a full length play and two of your own one-act plays. How did you get involved with that? What was it like? Will you be producing other plays?
Yes, I produced a full-length play (Bedroom Farce – a comedy). As a member of a local amateur dramatic society, I performed in many plays and pantomimes over the years and was asked to produce one. I found this a stimulating and wonderful experience, a little nerve-wracking in performance but well worth the effort. Bedroom Farce by Alan Aykebourne is quite a challenge as it involved three bedrooms on stage at the same time. But it worked brilliantly. Directing and producing my own one-act plays was also quite an experience, but I had to think of them as being someone else’s work at the time, because the temptation to change things was always there in the back of my mind. Unfortunately, in these cash-strapped times, the society had to close because of lack of actors and back-stage people.
You are a trained soprano and have sung solo roles with two Opera and Musical Societies in England. That’s fascinating. Tell us more, please.
I always loved singing and was often asked to sing in concerts at school. I started singing properly in pantomime and then moved on to musicals and operas. During this time I was encouraged to take singing lessons. My singing teacher often used to say to me that she didn’t believe that anyone was ‘tone-deaf’ and that everyone could sing if they breathed properly. I played quite a few small roles in an amateur Opera Group, but my first leading role was as one of The Queens in Gilbert & Sullivan’s operetta ‘The Gondoliers’. This was great fun. I am still singing, but I now belong to a Choral Society and we give about three performances each year. As a choral singer, I don’t now have to remember lines! We always have scores.
With so many creative talents—writing, play production, art, music–do you have a favourite?
Another difficult question to answer, but all the things I’ve achieved in my life so far, have not in my opinion been huge, but to me they have been really important and significant. There is quite a dichotomy in my make-up in that I can stand up and sing solo in front of 1,500 people in a theatre, and yet, although I’ve flown in aeroplanes many times in the past, I now find it difficult to climb into one: the thought of it terrifies me. I have loved all the things that I’ve done, but the most wonderful thing for me, was when I picked up my first published book! I felt I had arrived…
What is your favorite or least favorite part of writing?
I love writing down my thoughts and those of my characters on to paper, or the computer. As a writer you can take your character anywhere you fancy: even to the moon if necessary. My least favourite aspect of writing? Well, I’m sure that most writers will agree with me, that editing and editing…and still more editing is one of the most boring but extremely necessary aspects of the writing process.
If you could meet any book character, who would it be, and what would you do with them?
I would have loved to have met someone like Sherlock Holmes, or Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple. Both of these characters could show our modern police forces how to solve the most complicated of crimes and all without the aid of modern technology!
What books or authors have most influenced you in your own writing?
My reading list is completely variable. I can’t say which particular book or author has influenced my writing. I am drawn towards books containing strong characters, unique story lines that are well written and described and those which have a proper and a satisfying ending.
Do you have a writing routine, a special place where you go to do your writing, or a certain time of day? Do you listen to music while you write, and if so, what kind of music?
I would be pleased to say that I have a regular routine for writing, but I don’t. My writing routine is erratic to say the least, but as I write, my inspiration would not come from music, but the view of the ten miles or so of beautiful southern England I can see through my window, and the sound of the birds. I am a great lover of music of all kinds, especially opera, but not when I am writing, otherwise I would be closing my eyes and nothing would get done!
Please list any websites or social media links for yourself or your book. Thanks!
My website: http://www.phyllisburton.com
My Blog: http://www.burtonblogs.wordpress.com
Independent Author Network: http://www.independentauthornetwork.com/phyllis-burton.html
Amazon.com & amazon.co.uk
21st June 2013.