Geetanjali Mukherjee

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

How I Write: Authors on Their Writing Process - Coreena McBurnie

Today's interview is with Canadian author of Greek mythology, Coreena McBurnie

1.   When did you first start writing?
I've dabbled with writing poetry off and on for years, but I started writing novels about 7 years ago.

2.   What are your books about? Are you self / traditionally published or hybrid?
I have one novel out right now called Prophecy, and it is a young adult mythological retelling of Antigone, who is a character from ancient Greece. I really enjoy ancient myth and cultures and love looking at history from a different point of view. My book is self published.

3.   What led to your love for literature? Any favorite books / teachers / writing mentors?
I'm not sure exactly what drew me to literature. Maybe my mother, who also loves books and writing. I was also a pretty shy kid who loved to hang out in the library. I have lots of favorite books -- The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, The Odyssey by Homer, Graceling by Kristin Cashore, Harry Potter... I don't really have a specific writing mentor, I just try to follow the advice that feels right to me and when I read, I stop to appreciate beautiful sentences or scenes that move me. That happens in all sorts of books.

4.   What's your writing process like? Do you outline? Do you write by hand / type / dictate?
I'm not very structured when I write. I like to get an idea or character and just explore that and see where the ideas lead when I get my inner editor out of the way. I do my best not to judge my first draft until it is finished because that allows me to make interesting connections I wouldn't normally think of. I usually type, though sometimes I do write by hand.

5.   What did you find most / least useful in learning to write?
Probably the most useful thing is to turn off my inner editor and just write, at least for the first draft. I found I was always overthinking everything and was getting stuck before I barely started. When I decided to write first drafts without worrying about the quality, I actually got them written. The least useful is listening to people who talk about things like how hard writing is, how writers never make any money, or about the mistakes writers make. I know these people mean well, but I am learning to take the advice away from the judgment of that kind of advice and to trust myself. And this is far easier said than done -- I still find myself succumbing to doubts when I hear these things!

6.   Who or what inspires you? Where / how do you get your book ideas?
I absolutely love ancient Greek myth. My novels explore the ancient world and themes with my own twist. I find certain characters niggle away at me until I finally write about them.

7.   Do you listen to music while you write? What kind of music?
I actually like it to be quiet while I write, so I don't listen to music. Sometimes I like background noise so I go to a coffee shop.

8.   Do you ever get writers' block? What are some ways you get around it?
Sometimes I do get stuck. I force myself to keep writing and have the characters talk to each other until they drive each other crazy and do something in desperation. I usually have to take the rambly part out later, but it often leads to them doing something interesting in the end. And it keeps me writing.

9.   How do you make the time to write?
I use a baby step approach to writing. I set several small goals for myself every day -- these are achievable and add up to bigger things. For instance, I tell myself to write for fifteen minutes at a time. Often, I'll get on a roll and keep going. If not, at least I've done fifteen minutes of writing.

10.  How much research do you do? What kind?
I actually love research, so that can be dangerous because I can get caught up in that and avoid my writing. I have a BA and an MA in Classical Studies, so I have an understanding of ancient cultures that I think really adds to my writing. I do have to look up specific things as they arise, such as exactly what kind of food might be found at a feast, what are the steps to a sacrifice. The internet is usually good for finding these things out. I also re-read the original texts that pertain to the myth I'm writing about. For instance, I read the Oedipus trilogy by Sophocles for my writing of Prophecy.

11.  How much marketing do you do? Which platforms are you most active on? 
I am learning about marketing as I go. I try to do some marketing every week, which usually means finding a blog that would be interested in interviewing me or reviewing my book. I also have a blog, Facebook, and Twitter. I have found what I enjoy the most is forgetting about marketing and just work on connecting with other people who love books, whether they are interested in mine or not. I do author interviews on my blog, which I love because I get to meet other authors, learn from them, and discover new books.

12.  What project are you working on now?
I am currently working on Fate, book 2 in the Antigone series, as well as an adult book called Betrayed, which is about Clytemnestra, who was the wife of Agamemnon from the Trojan War.

13.  What books do you like to read? What are you reading now?

I enjoy all sorts of books, though I'm reading a lot of young adult fantasy right now. Currently I'm reading Sixty-Seven Salamanders by Jeff Joseph and it's a lot of fun. The last book I read was Rebel of the Sands, which I highly recommend.


Ever since grade 5 when I had to do a report on Theseus and the Minotaur, I have had a soft spot for Greek mythology. When I hit university, I was drawn to the Classical Studies department (earning both a BA & MA), where I explored the archaeology and culture of the ancient Greek and Roman worlds — and also where I managed to read Homer’s Odyssey, one of my absolute favourite books, in the original Greek, something which was thrilling for me (I know, sounds crazy, but the poetry and scope of the original text is amazing). After a lifetime of “what is that?”, “why did you study that?”, and “what can you do with a degree in Classical Studies?” I have decided to write novels based in ancient myth and to bring so many of the stories I love to life for a modern audience, with my own spin, of course.

Prophecy, Book 1 in the Antigone Series, is my first published novel. Currently I am working on Book 2 in the Antigone Series, called Fate. I am also in the middle of another novel about Clytemnestra who is notorious in Greek myth for killing her husband, Agamemnon, when he returned home from the Trojan War. I love exploring the motives of strong women in ancient myth.

I live in BC, Canada with my husband, our three kids, and our cat, in a beautiful part of the country, on two rivers, surrounded by ranches, near ski hills, and only a couple of hours drive to the ocean.


An ancient princess, hidden prophecies, impossible choices…

Sixteen year old Princess Antigone, daughter of the infamous ancient Greek King Oedipus, wants to lead a normal life and fulfill her duty to the gods, her city, and her family, but fate has other plans. The Olympian gods bless her, the snakes talk to her, her parents want her to marry a foreign prince, her embroidery looks like burial shrouds for dogs, and she has fallen in love with the wrong boy.

When the mysterious and devastating prophecies surrounding her family are revealed, Antigone must choose where her allegiance lies: With the gods who have betrayed her family but who she is obliged to serve? With her plague ridden city? With her family which lay in ruins? Or even with herself?

In Prophecy, Book One of the Antigone: The True Story series, Antigone steps out of the shadows of the past to tell her own story, a story where truth of history is stranger than the fiction of myth.

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