It’s my pleasure to welcome writer, K. S. R. Burns to The Writing Life.
K.S. R. Burns is the author of the new novel Rules for the Perpetual Diet (Booktrope 2015), as well as a non-fiction book, The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use (Running Press 2009). She has written for newspapers and magazines in the U.S. and abroad, and currently writes a weekly career advice column for The Seattle Times. She has never run away from home, like her character Amy, but she has lived in 22 cities—one of which was Paris, where she stayed three years. No longer a wanderer, Burns now happily resides in Seattle with her husband and cat.
What is your book’s genre/category?
I call it “book group fiction,” but a publisher would probably class it as “women’s fiction,” a term I am not crazy about, but there it is.
Please describe what the story/book is about.
Amy is 29, grieving the recent loss of her best friend, ticked off at her uptight husband, and sick and tired of her boring hometown of Phoenix. She’s also perpetually hungry, because she’s on a “perpetual diet.” Something’s gotta give so one day she picks up and runs away to Paris, her dream destination (though maybe not the best place to avoid carbs). Once in France, she not only finds that her numerous issues have come right along with her, she discovers a Paris few casual tourists see as she is robbed, stalked, arrested, and—almost—kidnapped.
How did you come up with the title?
Throughout the book, actual “rules for the perpetual diet” keep popping into Amy’s head. There are 33 rules in all. Some are fairly sensible; some are kind of odd. For example, rule number thirty is “only eat when you’re hungry” but rule number five is “put on something a little tight in the morning, when you are at your thinnest, and you will be less likely to overeat during the day.”
What is the reason you wrote this book?
I wrote it for my book group. I’ve been in the same group for nearly 20 years and in our meetings we often talk about what makes a good book group novel (e.g., characters that are not black and white, a surprise ending, an exotic location, and some humor). I thought about these discussions as I worked on my novel, and tried to write the kind of story a book group would enjoy.
What is your favorite part of writing?
Rewriting! First drafts are excruciating. But once I have some words down on the page? Let the games begin.
What is the most challenging aspect of writing?
That painful first draft, of course. Hemingway once said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” We have computers now but otherwise this is still absolutely true.
Who are some of your favorite authors?
E. B. White has always been one of my idols, in terms of the purity and elegance of his prose. Also Nabokov—he was an amazing writer, whatever you may think of his actual books. I also enjoy curling up with a cup of tea and a good Barbara Pym, or even Anthony Trollope.
What authors or person(s) have influenced you?
Well, E. B. White. I’ve read all of his essays and letters. He seems to me to have been the kind of quintessential writer’s writer who cares deeply about each word, and I admire him immensely.
Favorite place to write? Once I’m actually writing I am not conscious of my surroundings, so the ambiance is not that important. Any place where I can be alone and uninterrupted is fine. I did, however, get to go to Paris to do some “research” for the book, and hugely enjoyed being able to write my novel about Paris while in Paris. That was very cool.
Something personal about you people may be surprised to know?
Well, I have had 59 jobs. Not that I get fired all the time; I’ve just moved around a lot. The 59 jobs, actually, are the subject of my non-fiction book, The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, so I guess this isn’t exactly a big secret….
Any surprises or learning experiences with the publishing process?
I was surprised at the number of readers who write me. I myself have never written an author. But apparently a lot of people do, and I love hearing from all readers, whatever they have to say.
Looking back, what did you do right that helped you with this book?
I sought a lot of input and was willing to write and revise until I got it as good as it was going to get.
Any advice for writers looking to get published?
Grow a thick skin! Seriously, you will need to get used to rejection. A lot of rejection. Rejection in the morning, rejection in the evening, rejection at suppertime. That’s not very original advice, of course, but the amount of “no” that all writers hear (even well-published ones) is stunning.
My site is at www.ksrburns.com. On Facebook, my author page is KSR Burns.
Where can we find your book?
Oh, you can get it in digital or paper form from all the online vendors, or you can order it from any bookstore. If you come to my house, I will sell you a copy.
What’s next for you?
I’m working on the sequel to Rules for the Perpetual Diet. After I finished I realized I wasn’t, um, finished. Amy is not through with me yet, and I’m not through with her.
Thanks for a great interview, K.S.R. Burns! Best of luck with Rules for the Perpetual Diet.
About EleanorParker Sapia
Puerto Rican-born novelist, Eleanor Parker Sapia, was raised in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Europe. Eleanor’s work as a counselor, alternative health practitioner, a Spanish language social worker, and a refugee case worker inspire her stories. When Eleanor is not writing, she facilitates creativity groups, and is making plans to walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela a second time.
A Decent Woman is her debut historical novel. Eleanor is the mother of two adult children, and she currently lives in West Virginia.
A DECENT WOMAN available now on Amazon amazon.com/-/e/B00U05ZO9M