Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Q & A with Karen Burns

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1.    Did you always dream of being a writer?

Yes, I’m afraid so. When I was a little girl I used to write and hand-make my own tiny books. And I was always reading, reading, reading….

2.    How did your writing career develop?

I started out in the corporate world, writing newsletters, press releases, speeches, brochures—that sort of thing. When I lived in France I did all that and also some journalism. By the time I moved back to the States I’d worked at so many different jobs that I published a memoir about them (The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl), and still write a weekly career advice column for my local newspaper, The Seattle Times. Now I’m trying my hand at novels. It’s the hardest writing I’ve ever done! But also the most satisfying and fulfilling.

3.    Your newest novel is called Paris Ever After, what is 
       it about?

It’s about a decision. Amy is living in Paris, loving it, and feeling she’s finally starting to get her life together. Then 
two unexpected visitors arrive. One is her estranged husband, who just shows up out of the blue after months of ignoring 
all Amy’s attempts to get in touch. The other visitor 
threatens to destroy everything Amy has built in Paris—her friendships, her home. Is the answer to return to the U.S. 
and to her husband? The choice is complicated by the fact that Amy is pregnant (something she didn’t know about when she fled to Paris six months earlier).

4.    What was your inspiration for the book?

Paris Ever After is the follow-on to my first novel, The Paris Effect, which is the story of how Amy ended up in Paris in the first place. When The Paris Effect was published I was fortunate enough to be the guest author at numerous book clubs. Everyone wanted to know what happens to Amy in Paris. And so, it seemed, did I! (Note: The two books stand on their own. You don’t need to have read one to enjoy the other. But you might want to.)

5.    Can you tell us more about the main character(s)?

Amy is a Parisaholic, a romantic who loves all things French, as well as books, fashion, and food. She’s very smart and well read, maybe because her childhood was rather lonely (she spent much of it caring for her invalid father), and she can be self-critical. Most of all, Amy is loyal. She stands by the people she loves, even when it’s not always in her best interests.

6.    The book is part of a series. Can you tell us about the first book The Paris Effect?

The Paris Effect begins just after Amy’s best friend, Kat, dies of breast cancer. Amy misses Kat desperately and, worse, Amy’s husband (William) doesn’t even seem to care. In fact, he almost sounds a little glad about it. Then a series of events (a fight with William, a posthumous note from Kat) leads her to get on an airplane to Paris. There, Amy has many adventures, some of them wonderful, some of them not. But they all help Amy to work through her grief and to come to a conclusion about what she wants the rest of her life to be like.

7.    Where and when do you write your stories?

I write at the kitchen counter, in the afternoons mostly. Sometimes I set up my computer on a little platform so I can stand while I work. The trouble with writing is you have to sit so much!

8.    What do you do and enjoy when you’re not writing?

I paint, knit, read a lot (am in two book clubs), and I like to travel. My husband and I try to get back to Paris every year, though we don’t always succeed.

9.    If you could switch places with a characters from a book, who would it be and why?

Hmm, this is a tough one. Permanently? Or just for one day? My problem is that I’m too darn happy with the way my life is right now. Characters in books are usually in some kind of “trouble” (conflict being the main source of drama). I’m pretty happy just reading about them, not being in them!

10.    What books have influenced your life most?

“The Collected Letters of E. B. White” (he’s one of my favorite authors) made a big impression on me. They are “just” letters, but they are beautifully written. I feel similarly about “The Age of Grief” by Jane Smiley. Deep feeling, fabulous writing, and funny too. I also admire the works of Barbara Pym and Muriel Spark. Their prose is so clean and sharp.

11.    What are you working on at the moment?

Ha-ha. I’m working on book promotion. It takes a tremendous amount of time and energy! But in my spare moments I’m noodling around some ideas for a third novel. I don’t have anything definite yet. Just move along, folks, nothing to see here. . . .

12.    What do you enjoy most about writing?

Finding the perfect word. Nailing a sentence. Molding a paragraph into the exact right shape and length. And creating plots—that is wonderful fun. In fact, my husband helps me a lot with plotting. We can spend hours imagining what will happen next.

13.    Pick three authors you want to have dinner with and tell us why.

Assuming someone else will provide the food—unlike my character, Amy, I am not a great cook—I’d love to spend a long evening with Anthony Trollope (because his novels show so much humanity), George Saunders (his writing is smart and funny so I’m betting he is too), and Rumer Godden (an out-and-out genius who is largely forgotten today). I do hope the fact that two of these authors are dead is not going to be a problem…..!

14.     Imagine Paris Ever After would be turned into a movie, who would you cast for the main characters?

It’s funny you should mention this because my first novel (The Paris Effect) has just been optioned for film and TV. So you’d assume I’d have already thought a LOT about which actors would play my characters. But not really. I don’t want to jinx it. However, I will say that while writing about Amy I often imagined people like Jennifer Lawrence and Ellen Page. It helps to have a picture in your head and I admire the intelligence and humor these actresses convey.

15.     How do your own experiences influence your writing?

Well, I did used to live in Phoenix, Arizona, and I did move to and live in Paris. I didn’t “run away,” as Amy did, of course, and very little of what happens to her happened to me. But I think all writers put in little bits and pieces from their real lives—things we’ve seen, done, overheard. Everything is grist for the mill.

16.     Coffee or tea?

Tea with milk every morning after breakfast but—on Saturdays—a single tall latte at our local coffee shop. After all, I live in Seattle. We drink coffee! It may be a law…..

17.     Paperback or e-reader?

People might be shocked, but I love my e-reader! You can adjust the print size, hold it in one hand, easily look up words you don’t know, and carry around as many books as you want. But if I’m trying to study or understand something, I prefer a paper book because e-readers don’t make it very easy to flip back and forth. So there will always be a place in my world for both. It doesn’t have to be one or the other.

18.    Mountains or the sea?

Mountains. I’ve always liked being up high.

19.     Summer or winter?

Winter! Unlike many people, I actually like the cool, gray, misty winter in Seattle. So soothing.

20.     Sweet or salty?

Oh, salty, definitely. If you put two bowls in front of me, one filled with potato chips and one with candy, I will go for the chips every time!

Author bio:

K. S. R. Burns is the author of Amazon best-seller The Paris Effect (optioned for film and TV by Papazian-Hirsch Entertainment), its standalone sequel Paris Ever After, and The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-life Career Advice You Can Actually Use. Burns has lived and worked in four countries and 22 cities, including Paris. No longer a wanderer, Burns now resides in the Pacific Northwest, where in addition to novels she writes a weekly career advice column for The Seattle Times. She can also be found online at

Author website:

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the wonderful questions! Your blog is so pretty.....
    Karen Burns