Royally interviewed! Meet Niki Burnham, YA author (and baseball fan). She talks about her latest novel, “Do-Over”. Dynamic princesses and baseball fans, get ready!
Hi Niki! Nice to meet you there! Please introduce yourself to our readers…
Hi, Veronika! Thrilled to be here. I’m the author of five books for teenagers—so far. I’ve also written a short story called “Reality Check” that will be exclusively on Amazon in the very near future. I also have two books for teens scheduled for 2007 and am working on more.
You’re Gemini, aren’t you? They often are witty, lively but also a bit tense and inquisitive. Are you a typical Gemini?
Of course, anything said about Geminis that is complimentary fits me to a T and anything negative doesn’t. Okay…that’s not entirely true! It all fits. I’m a pretty typical Gemini. I love to travel, I love to write, and I love to people-watch. I admire anyone who likes to engage in witty banter or who’s intellectually curious. I like knowing what’s going on in the world. I do get stressed out sometimes, but I know that about myself so I try very hard to anticipate stressful situations and avoid them. I also have a tendency to trip on my own tongue and say things that are off-the-wall or embarrassing. I’ve gotten MUCH better about that as I’ve gotten older—thank goodness! As a teenager and even in college, I often spoke before I thought something through. I also get bored easily. I’m a dreamer (my brain never stops asking ‘what if’ questions) but despite that, I’m very much a pragmatist at my core.
If you could describe yourself with three words…
Practical. Curious. Resilient.
Now tell us everything about Do-Over (it will be released in September 2006)!
Thanks for asking! Do-Over is a comedy about the romance between Valerie Winslow—a fifteen year-old from Virginia who now lives in Europe—and her boyfriend, Georg. Georg is sixteen, gorgeous, and loves playing soccer, but he just happens to be the crown prince of a small country similar to Lichtenstein. His parents have a fabulous marriage, while Val’s parents are in the middle of a divorce, as Val’s mom has moved in with another woman. When Georg and Val go on a ski trip to Austria together (along with Val’s dad and a public relations person from the palace), all kinds of things go wrong. There’s even a subplot involving Val’s dad.I have an excerpt posted on my website for anyone who wants to get a feel for the book. Just go to http://www.nikiburnham.com/.
It’s the sequel to “Royally Jacked” and “Spin Control”. Please tell us more about these novels.
Royally Jacked opens with Valerie Winslow finding out that her parents are getting divorced. Her mom is moving in with another woman, and her father—who works for a very conservative President during election time—has to move away to take a new job. Valerie has to decide where to live. Though it sounds heavy, Valerie has a sense of humor about all of it and the book is a comedy—she decides to go with her dad and meets a guy who blows her doors off. In Spin Control, Valerie and her new boyfriend, Georg, are having difficulties, and decide to take a break. She gets the chance to go back home to Virginia for a while, and while she’s there, she gets asked out by a guy she’s had a crush on since kindergarten. How she handles it—at the same time she’s staying with her mom and mom’s new girlfriend—leads to a lot of laughs.
Will there be a sequel to “Do-Over”?
Yes! There’s a short story about Valerie’s friend Jules Jackson that’s exclusively on Amazon.com. It’s called Reality Check, and will be available for download for forty-nine cents. I’ve had a ton of readers ask me for a story about Jules, so I thought this would be fun to do. As far as a full-length sequel, I haven’t decided yet. I don’t want to write a sequel to any of my books just for the sake of writing a sequel. I need to have a story idea that makes readers say, “That was even better than the previous books!”, that’s different from the book(s) that preceded it, and that stands on its own. Otherwise, it’s not worth writing. But it’s certainly a possibility. I love writing about Valerie. When I know for sure whether or not I’m doing a full-length sequel, I’ll post the info to my website bulletin board and will put it in my newsletter (there’s a signup form on my website if anyone wants to subscribe…and I do not share my list, so there’s no spam.)
Tell us, why should we read “Do-Over” ?
For fun, of course!
How did you start writing?
When I was in eighth grade, everyone at my junior high school was assigned to write an essay in honor of Law Day. Then they were all judged and the winner got a hundred dollar savings bond. I won. (And yes, I was totally shocked…no one would have picked me to win.) Unfortunately, rather than making me see that I might have some writing talent, it got me wondering if I should be a lawyer. Eventually, I did become a lawyer, but I was bored out of my mind. I started writing for magazines, and eventually quit practicing law. Soon, I sold my first novel.
How do you see your reader? You know, when you say to yourself: “there’s somebody reading my book right now”… who do you picture?
I try very hard not to picture anyone reading my books—at least not while I’m writing them. If I did that, I’d be second-guessing every sentence, thinking, “What would a twenty year old college student think about this?” or “How would a thirteen year-old girl reading this during study hall react?” or “What would the mother of a teenager think if she read this?” And that might affect how I write the story. So I just try to concentrate on the characters and what’s important to them. But, that being said, one of the very best parts of my job is getting e-mails from readers and chatting with them on my bulletin boards. I like getting to know them and learning what they find funny, what cool discoveries they’re making (books, music, movies, you name it) and what’s important to them.
Do you take your ideas from your own life? Or do you prefer to make your characters discover new things by themselves?
I do both, actually. I get ideas from everywhere—things that have happened to me or my friends, things I see in the newspaper, snippets of conversations I’ve overheard. Then I take that beginning, throw in some twists and turns, then let my characters go from there.
A question I always want to ask but always forget Do you know how many copies of your book are printed?
Not really. I have an idea when the book first comes out, but as copies sell out in bookstores, publishers go back to print and don’t always tell the author. So I don’t really know for certain.
The usual “writing question”, how do you work ? What about the writer’s block ?
I’m not sure I believe in writer’s block. There are times when writing is more challenging than others, of course. In those instances, I’ll take a break and go for a walk or do some other activity, but I get right back to the computer and work. Putting words on paper—even if they stink—is the only way to finish a book. And once you get going, the words will come more easily again.
So my answer, I suppose, is that I just write through it.
If you had to choose between being a professional baseball player or a writer, you would choose…(baseball fan here!)
Tough question!! They’re both dream jobs, aren’t they? But if I could truly play baseball well, I’d have to say professional baseball player. I absolutely love the game. Of course, the problem with being a professional athlete is that players get injured, and players eventually age out of the game. Writing is something I can do forever, so I consider myself very lucky to be a writer. Also, players are public figures in a way that writers aren’t. (Do you think you’d be able to identify your five author if you saw her in the airport? What about your fave professional athlete?) I don’t think I’d be comfortable with being that recognizable.
And now the nothing-to-do-with-books question: You’ve just found $100 in your pocket, how will you use that money?
I’d like to think that I’d buy myself a pair of jeans so fabulous they’d make me feel like a supermodel. In reality, I’d probably buy groceries. Practical stuff like apples, milk, and bread. I might treat myself to some take-out sushi if I really felt like splurging, though. In the end, I’m sure I would realize that no jeans on Earth can make me feel like a supermodel. And that’s fine.
“Tea or Coffee?”
Saturday evening. Going out or reading a book ? Depends on my energy level. Probably book.
Holidays. Beach or Mountains ? Mountains (big time!!)
Country or City ? Both
Watching a movie. Comedy or Drama (or something else ?) ? Comedy
Shy or Easy-going ? Easy-going
Serious or Funny ? Both. Often at the same time.
Love to Travel or Hate to Move? Definitely a traveler
Sporty or Couch Potato? Sporty
Are you a Leader? No. Unless everyone is doing that thing where they say, “Oh, I don’t care. What do YOU want to do?” I hate that, because it can go on forever, so I usually say, “Let’s do X.”
(Caveat here: my favorites change all the time. Remember, I’m a Gemini!)
TV show: Right now, it’s Star Trek Voyager (I’ve been watching the complete series lately on DVD while I exercise. It’s well-written and well-acted.)
Movie: The Shawshank Redemption
Book : Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen
Music: Beck, Oscar Lopez, Shakira
Place to write: My one requirement is that no one talks to me or bothers me.
Motto: Do what you love.
Thank you, Niki!
You can visit Niki’s site http://www.nikiburnham.com/