Saturday, January 14, 2017

Author Interview Jennifer Burge, author of The Devil Wears Clogs

Happy New year Everyone. I really hope you have had a great time away from the hustle and bustle. Had time to rejuvenate and get started on those new plans for 2017.

I am continuing with the hugely popular interviews of authors across the globe and this week I invited Jennifer Burge for an interview on Killing Time Blog.

Jennifer Burge understands the challenges of life abroad. Having documented the pitfalls of taking her career from the United States to Europe in her first memoir, The Devil Wears Clogs, it’s hard to imagine she would be confounded by the complexity of another foreign culture—yet that is exactly the case. Her understanding of Asian tradition is a mirage appearing and disappearing with each new interaction.

Moving to Singapore when the rigidity of European life began to wear on her seemed to be the perfect solution. A sophisticated modern condo in the heart of a developing nation was the answer to her prayers—or so she thought. The entrance of the Global Financial Crisis compounded the already-challenging international job search to an unprecedented level. Living in her fourth country without her professional status or a peer network leaves Jennifer to question her identity. Solo travel across Asia allows her to create an authentic one.

Can you tell us a bit about you as an author?
I’ve always had an interest in writing, but for years that took second place to my number one addiction which is traveling. In order to finance my aspirations of world travel, I worked as an IT project manager and consultant for nearly 20 years. Assignments during that time took me to ten different countries with me taking up residence in five of them.

In 2012, I made the leap from corporate rat-racer to full-time author because I wanted to write about what it truly means to have an overseas career. It is rarely as glamorous as it sounds and it is NOT for the faint of hearts.

During the past few years, I have become an active member of the Queensland Writer’s Centre and the Australian Society of Authors which helped enormously in understanding an industry in which I was a complete foreigner. The Devil Wears Clogs, about life in Europe, was first published in 2014 and Singapore Salvation, on life in Asia, entered the world in late 2015.

What are the hardest part of being an author?
Sitting down and doing the work! As I mentioned, I am travel-obsessed, which means I have an aversion to sitting still. A quick look at my blog is proof positive. Other than that, I think writing memoir is a very tricky business. You have to be careful writing about the people and events in your life while being honest—sometimes brutally honest—and that is far from easy.

What do you enjoy most about being an author
When I sit down to write about a particular event, the telling of it rarely goes as I expect. The story takes me where it wants me to go and I am honestly just the channel. It might sound odd, but there is a certain sort of magic that shows up when I am in the flow. It is a feeling that cannot be duplicated.

What authors/books have had an influence on your writing?
Joan Didion, Mary Karr, Jeanette Walls, Caitlin Moran—all excellent female memoirists & non-fiction authors.

Do you ever get Writer’s Block? If so, how do you deal with it? Do you believe there is such a thing?Only when writing about something that bores me. If I’m excited by the story, it doesn’t happen to me.

Do you have a particular place that you like to write? My home office in a bushy suburb north of Brisbane is perfect. I watch the birds and my own personal rain forest. It’s the first place I’ve ever had where I can truly sit and think with zero distraction and for me, I require silence. Others can write with music blaring, but I’m not one of those people.

Do you have a favourite time of day to write?Afternoons. In the mornings, my mind is simmering on something and by the afternoon, it’s ready to be served.

How do you like to reach your readers?
Social media, author talks, blogs, book tours---you name it, I do it. I think it’s the only way to truly discover what works for you. There is so much “advice” out there that you have to find your method in the madness.

Can you tell us about your latest book? 
Singapore Salvation is the second in a set of three books about work and life abroad. It is the sequel to The Devil Wears Clogs. In 2017, the final installment about life in Australia will be published.

How long did it take you to write the book?Singapore Salvation took two years to write. The Devil Wears Clogs, my first book, took six. On average, I am only ready to write about what has happened about seven years after it happens. That’s how long it takes me to gain enough perspective on these situations to make sense of my part of the equation.

Do you have a favourite character/topic in your work?

I call these books my ‘How NOT to Live Abroad’ guides as I basically share all the mistakes I’ve made in not understanding other cultures. When I left the United States for work in Germany in 2001, we didn’t have all this information about other nations and cultures at our fingertips as we do today. We still had analog internet! When I was looking for any sort of book that would tell me what my life and career would look like in another country, I was unable to find it. That’s why I’m writing these now.

What was your process? Did you plot out the entire book, or just let the storyline flow? Do you write in chronological order?
Luckily, digital cameras DID come into the world not long after I began my global misadventures, so I have an incredible archive of photos. As they are arranged by date, this helps provide the outline for the story as well as the basis for a lot of my setting description.

Once I have outlined, including the story arc, then I fill in the content.

Do you have plans for further instalments? The Python in My Driveway is my working title for the book about Australia that I am currently working on. For an American, a five foot snake in the driveway on a trip to the mailbox is far from a “normal” occurrence!

Do you have a plan for your next book? Too many to count!

Ebooks vs Physical books? Do you have a preference when reading?
I read both. When traveling I tend to read ebooks and at home I often read physical books.

Self-publishing vs traditional publishing? What are your thoughts? Do you feel that the industry is changing?I started with a publisher and switched to self-publishing. I have never worked harder, but I have never had more fun at work. I think you have to truly evaluate how much time you are willing to put into activities that aren’t writing/editing. If you don’t have an entrepreneurial spirit—do not self- publish.

And finally, what advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Don’t give up. If you love it, stick with it no matter what. If you don’t love it, this game probably isn’t for you.

If you'd like to know more about Jennifer's work, you can find her here:

Facebook: (author Page)
      (book page)
      (book page)
Twitter: @jenniferburge
Instagram: @jen_burge 

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