A regular Jill of all trades, author Beth Burnett has a rich stake from which to mine her characters’ experiences.
After bouncing from job to job, Burnett began writing novels. She’s published “Man Enough,” “Andy’s Song” and “The Love Sucks Club” so far. She’s currently working on a non-fiction book about a life experiment she’s conducting that could land her in an Alaskan jail or on the New York Times Bestseller list.
How did you get started writing?
I used to write short stories on bar napkins for drunk tourists. Eventually, I realized I had a novel inside of me or two or three or fifty.
Prior to being an author (or concurrent with it), what did you do for a living? How has it informed your work?
I liked to tell people I was a self-employed astronaut. In truth, I’m a terrible employee because I don’t like being on someone else’s schedule. Consequently, I held a lot of jobs, from doing corporate payroll to beach bartender to personal assistant to directory assistance. Currently, I am writing and giving workshops on inner peace for women.
Having a myriad of (very) odd jobs has given rise to some amazing scenes in my writing. You can’t write about it unless you live it and I like having a pool of jobs that I can use for my characters.
What writers inspire you and why?
My two favorite authors are Neil Gaiman and Katherine Forrest. Neil Gaiman is a brilliant master of manipulating his characters into situations that in any other hands would be unbelievable. In his hands, the strange becomes normal and the bizarre seems perfectly natural.
Katherine Forrest is simply an icon of lesbian literature. She was a pioneer in giving lesbian women a voice, something that even today, we have to struggle to use.
What are your favorite books and why?
I love so many books. I love the fantasy world of J.R.R. Tolkien. Linda Kay Silva’s “Man Eaters” series, because it has tough lesbians and, in a setting of zombies, an all too realistic backdrop of people behaving badly. Anything by Kurt Vonnegut because of his sardonic wit and sense of the absurd.
If you could have a dinner party with anyone, living or dead, who would you invite?
Kurt Vonnegut, Issac Asimov, Maya Angelou, Margaret Sanger and Vincent Van Gogh. Then, I would just serve drinks and shut up. And I’d hire a caterer.
What’s your writing process like?
I have to have a plan and sit down to do it. If I let myself get distracted, I can spend hours doing other things when I should be writing. Yet, when I get into the zone, I am completely lost in my work to the point that my roommate can say something to me and elicit a response without me being aware that we had every spoken. I just try to make sure I sit down every single day and write something. Every day involves some kind of writing, some kind of marketing and some kind of school work. If I can do that, I’ve had a productive day. The only necessity to my work is coffee. If I am in a writing blitz, I have to have a cup of coffee on my desk, even in the middle of the night.
What’s next for you?
I’m working on a romantic comedy about a group of lesbian women and how their lives intertwine and affect each other though they are all so incredibly different from each other.
Concurrently, I’m working on a non-fiction book about an experiment I am running with my life right now. It’s an odd experiment that could make my life even more incredible or have me end up in a small-town jail in remotest Alaska. Who knows? I figure my loving publisher, Sapphire Books will bail me out if needed. I’ll let you know how it works out.
How has your writing evolved over time?
I feel more confident with every book. I’m more disciplined. I have so many ideas bouncing around in my head and sometimes, it can get overwhelming. I’ll be halfway into a book and suddenly another book is clamoring for attention. Recently, I’ve learned to just jot down some notes and maybe an outline, but stick with the current work in progress. Otherwise, I’ll end up with a bunch of half-finished novels.