Welcome, dear readers, to our Issue 047 author interviews! Strap in, because it’s going to be a long ride! Rebecca Burton is here to start us off with answers to our questions about her story “No Place Like Home“.
LSQ: I love a good found family trope, so I greatly appreciated that Saffi, Horse, and Augie treated each other like family. Do you find yourself gravitating toward this dynamic often in your writing? What, in your opinion, makes it a good trope?
Rebecca: Yes, definitely. Looking back through my writing over the last four years, almost everything I have written has been about belonging – finding a place or a purpose or people you belong to/with – and often that is expressed through building a found family.
I think it’s a very human thing to seek belonging and acceptance. But it is especially strong in those of us who have always known we were “different” (even if it took us decades to work out why). I suppose the hope is that, if we can find someone, or several someones, who can accept and love us how we really are, maybe we can learn to do the same. (Although, sadly I’m not sure it’s as simple as that – we still have to do the work to clear out all the crud we’ve picked up and carry around in our own minds.)
Building a found family can be hard – my own is scattered across the globe, and some of them I’ve never even met in person – but fiction gives us the chance to explore and remember what we’re searching for and that, however impossible it might sometimes seem, we can find our people if we keep looking.
LSQ: You utilize flashbacks several times throughout this story. What are the pros of telling the story this way instead of in a linear fashion? Are there any cons?
Rebecca: Ooh, interesting question. I’m not the best person to ask about craft – I tend to bulldoze my way through on instinct and hope, rather than technical knowledge! But let me see if I can dredge some rationale out of the soup that is my mind.
I tend to struggle with doing much of anything in a linear fashion (thanks ADHD…) – writing,
conversations, life – everything goes off on a tangent as one thing reminds me of another and next thing you know you’re talking about pterosaurs, or the etymology of Korean words, or obscure UK VAT cases. (No? Just me?)
A pro of using this kind of interleaved past-present structure, for me, it that is sets limits. Each section needs to feed off the one before and inform the next, as well as have its own point and purpose. It could feel constricting but, instead, it gives my brain a challenge it can get its teeth into and helps me focus.
The con is, of course, that you do have to make sure that each section does all of that and, if it doesn’t, there may be a lot of rewriting in your future until you get it right…
I also think, psychologically, this type of structure is useful way to tell a story. We are all a product of our pasts and our experiences, and this structure allows us to explore how that can influence our actions in the present in a different way to having shorter flashbacks imbedded within a narrative. The past has more space to breathe and, sometimes, we need to return to it and spend time with it in order to be able to move forward, like Saffi learns to do.
LSQ: Why was it important for you to tell a story where the main character chooses her own path rather than try and salvage her relationship? I feel like we don’t often see characters make that choice, even when it’s clear the relationship isn’t working.
Rebecca: The short, but not necessarily helpful, answer is that it was what Saffi needed.
I love all my characters, even the “villains”, and as much as I have to put them in difficult situations (because there is no story if everyone gets along) I still always, always want them to find a way to be happy, or at least to grow as people. Saffi had spent most of her adult life following Di’s whims or doing what she was “supposed” to do. She needed to learn to choose for herself.
The longer answer – why did I chose to write this character who needed to learn this lesson – would probably involve me going back to therapy and spending several weeks digging to find the answer buried in my sub-conscious! (And the answer is probably that I need to learn this lesson too.)
LSQ: Are there any other projects you’re currently working on? If so, could you tell us a bit about them?
Rebecca: Always too many!
Novel-wise, I’m looking for an agent for my YA fantasy about a cursed girl who lives in a circus full of ghosts, who is looking for a place she belongs and almost finds it in the wrong person. (This is the book I wrote for 16 year old me, who didn’t understand why she never fit in, and looked for belonging in all the wrong places. I hope one day I get to share it with other kids like me who need to know they are okay and they are not alone.)
I’m also editing an Adult SF novel about a former alcoholic star-ship captain with PTSD, about to lose his ship and his crew, who discovers that his estranged father is trying to take over the galaxy. Then his ex-wife turns up and demands he helps her rescue the daughter he hasn’t seen in fifteen years, who just so happens to be a scientist on the space station his father is using as a base… He has three days to stop a galactic civil war, save his daughter and keep his crew. It’s about blood family and found family, and learning to navigate childhood trauma and relationship issues – but in space, with explosions!
Short fiction-wise, I am currently working on a novelette about music idols being replaced by virtual replicas and what happens when those replicas spontaneously achieve sentience, and short fiction about a demiro-ace forest witch, her pansexual axe-wife and the baby swamp monster they adopt. (It’s just found families all the way down…)
Hopefully some or all of these will eventually make it out into the world for your reading