Authors, teachers, business-women, and so much more…
Our own Joan O’Callaghan presents a series of interviews with each of our Mesdames.
Our second, Jane Burfield, won the Bony Pete Short Story Award in 2001 for “Slow Death and Taxes”, the first short story she wrote.
Joan O’Callaghan interviews author Jane Burfield:
JO What have you written?
JB I have primarily written short stories, some of which have appeared in Blood on the Holly, Bloody Words, the Anthology and Thirteen.
JO When did you start writing ?
JB I started writing about 15 years ago, taking classes and learning the basics. I liked to read novels, the longer and juicier the better and so I was working on a novel at the time. I wrote a short story, my first, in 200I, to enter the Bony Pete contest at Bloody Words in order to cajole two writing friends to enter as well. My strategy was that one of them would win, and would be published, for in the writing world you really must be published to get published. To my absolute shock, I won. Since then, I’ve developed great respect for the short story format and the high wire balancing act it takes to craft a good story.
Writing is my fourth career. Journalism, teaching and business have all given me experience that helped to build skill and create ideas.
JO Why write mysteries?
JB Mysteries, often considered an inferior sub genre of literature, are a form of writing that gives the reader a chance to try to outwit the author. In writing mysteries, the writer must craft all the elements of ‘real’ literature and add unexpected twists on the narrative path. Not only must the author create good characters, style, setting, and plot, he must perform magic in obscuring the solution until the end. And at the end, the reader has a sense of logical progression and restored order.
I started reading mysteries with Nancy Drew and have found delight in reading the mystery genre all my life. Write what you like works for me.
JO Why do you think people like to read mysteries ?
JB See above
JO Is there a favorite place you like to write or a ritual you go through when writing ?
JB Someplace near water gets my mind working. I like to write at the cottage in the summer, and at my Florida condo in the winter. In a pinch, I find I get ideas in the shower when I am land locked.
I need a reason to write madly like a looming deadline. Otherwise, I can get lost in the planning stage of thinking, “what if ?”, or doing endless research, and take ages to get anything on paper. I like to write early in the morning when the world seems fresh and quiet and ideas flow.
JO How do you balance writing with the demands of a day job and/or family ?
JB In the last few years, job demands disappeared when I retired, and my family life became simpler. I now travel, perhaps too much, and enjoy family and friend time at home. Writing often is not a priority. I would like to change that.
JO What awards or other forms of recognition have you received for your writing ?
JB In 2001, I won the Bony Pete short story contest, and took home a delightful little articulated skeleton in his own coffin. In the next three years, I received more encouragement by placing 2nd, etc., in that contest. I’ve been published in several formats and had the fun of doing readings, and teaching creative writing.
JO What are you working on now?
JB Two short story ideas are demanding my creative attention. One may turn into a novella. I have a quarter cooked novel in my drawer which would have to be rewritten if I decide to work on it again.
JO As a writer, what is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
JB Don’t wait for the perfect plot or perfect time. Don’t wait to figure out every element of your story. Sit down, and write. Edit carefully later.
JO What do you like about being one of the Mesdames ?
JB I am honoured to be one of a group of amazing women who have accomplished so much in the writing world. Each member brings skills and knowledge. Writing can be lonely and filled with doubt. With the Mesdames a message or call away, I can ask for advice, and receive thoughtful critiquing and lots of encouragement. And they are fun at parties !
JO Is there anything you’d like to add ?
JB I am sad that Bloody Words will not happen after this year. We are losing too many bookstores, and mystery conferences, gathering spots for ideas and people who enjoy the same challenges and tastes. But I am heartened to be a small part of the mystery world in Canada that is blooming with great authors. Let’s see where this new age of writing and publishing takes us.
Joan O’Callaghan is the author of educational books and short stories, including Sugar ‘N’ Spice in the anthology THIRTEEN (Carrick Publishing, 2013). Her short story George is available for e-readers everywhere, including Amazon Kindle.