An Interview with Shan Jeniah Burton. [WUR 2015]

We are well overdue for an interview with May’s featured WUR author, Shan Jeniah Burton, considering that we’re already into May! Thanks a lot, computer and smelly crew room! We’ll be switching up the featured story soon, but you still have a few more days to read Shan’s story, “Monday Morning Coffee” before the new one sweeps in. And I’ve finally gotten a chance to put together the questions I’ve asked her back in May to share with my readers, so grab yourself a nice cup of coffee, settle in, and come meet a wonderfully warm and kind member of the World Unknown family. Finally!

We’ll start with the (perhaps not so) simple: Who is Shan Jeniah Burton?

Words only hint at my light and shadows, but here are a few you can play with: writer, mother, adventurer, wife, reader, seeker, learner, mentor, partner, intuitive, delver, playful spirit, ambassador, advocate, strewer of joy, singer, sensualist, awakening, passionate, faithful, spontaneous, strong, daring, caring. I’m still learning who I am when all the roles fall away, and I’m alone with myself…and that’s where most of my writing is born.

How did you discover the World Unknown Review, and what inspired you to submit your story, “Monday Morning Coffee”?

Through ROW80, an online community of writers supporting one another as we set and work toward our personal goals. I took a chance and submitted “A Splash of Red” to the 2014 inaugural edition of WUR and was accepted. It was a natural follow-up to submit “Monday Morning Coffee” in 2015.

And I’m super glad you did! I love how real and familiar the snowy train station platform that sets your tale feels. It’s a place I imagine most of us have been before. Was the story more inspired by actual events or flight of fancy?

It’s something of both. I’ve had a seed idea of a homeless man since I was a teenager. That blended with the coffee kiosks in my husband’s native Oregon and a family trip to Washington, D.C. I also enjoy watching people and the way they interact with one another, especially in crowded places like transit stations. Being native to upstate New York makes me very familiar with winter weather. These disparate threads wove together to create “Monday Morning Coffee.”

“Monday Morning Coffee” really stood out among the other submissions I received last year for its optimistic, humanitarian outlook. I’ll admit, though, a small cynical part of me felt it was like one of those “TOTALLY true stories” you see on the Internet, though you told it with a wonderful control of language and emotion. What would you say to cynics who might roll their eyes at Rose’s life-changing encounter?

Things are not always just as they seem. There’s more to both Rose and Jeremy than shows on the surface. They’re pretty cagy right now, but I’m good at waiting out my characters until they drop their guard, then poking around their lives to expose what’s beneath… *insert evil writer laugh*

I feel most people have the capacity for this type of change. It just takes the proper catalyst at the right time. This is Rose’s moment, with Jeremy the catalyst who shakes her awake. But, remember, there’s more to the story….

And maybe one day you’ll share those stories, too! Can you, personally, fold a newspaper like Jeremy can?

Umm….I used to be pretty good was good at folding dinner napkins… =) Origami and other paper art fascinate me. The imagery for Jeremy’s thorny rose has been with me for over a decade, waiting for its moment.

Who would play your main characters in a film version of “Monday Morning Coffee”?

Jeremy could only be Alan Alda, circa M*A*S*H. He has those piercing blue eyes, and the right manner. It’s possible I unknowingly had him in my head when I wrote Jeremy.

This story came from inside Rose’s head, and she’s not interested in her own looks, so she’s a little trickier. I’m thinking either China Beach era Dana Delaney, or Mare Winningham circa Turner and Hooch. They both portray the compassionate introversion that Rose requires.

Who are your biggest writing influences?

My tastes are rather eclectic. I love Kurt Vonnegut, Robert Jordan, and Robert Heinlein. I’ve spent a good deal of time with Taylor Caldwell, Colleen McCullough, and Ayn Rand‘s Atlas Shrugged. Sue Monk Kidd inspires me, fictionally and otherwise. The way Paul Simon writes music awes me with it’s lovely economy. There are many others, but I see you’ve got other questions here, so I’ll restrain myself. =)

It’s so funny, because I can really see all those influences in what I’ve read from you, both in fiction and on your blog. Tell us about the last book you read.

Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. I reread it every so often – it always offers nuggets of wisdom and insight, wherever I am in my life. It’s got the timeless quality of the ocean, swept clean of excess. It’s a little, lovely gift I give to myself again and again.

What’s next for Shan Jeniah Burton?

Another cup of coffee. Wait, that’s not really what you meant, is it?

No, but that’s still a great answer!

Spring is my creative season. I’ll be drafting two new novels in my Kifo Island Chronicles series-in-progress soon, revising other projects, and, hopefully, adding to Rose and Jeremy’s story. In less exciting news, this is also a paperwork intensive period for our homeschooling, so I’m glad I’ve got other, livelier projects to spice things up.

Where might we be able to find more of your work?

I’ve got short stories, poetry, and essays popping up at my brand new website, ShanJeniah’s Lovely Chaos. It’s a little bare still, like a freshly tilled garden, but things will be sprouting over the next few weeks. Of course, “A Splash of Red” is in World Unknown Review Volume I, and I will be exploring self-publication with that story later this year. I also expect to submit to WUR 2016 in the next months, so, if all goes well, you might be able to find me there, too.

I also indulge my passion for allegedly fictional people with green blood and pointed ears over at fanfiction.net. If you like that type of thing, check me out – it’s all free, and always will be!

I can’t wait to see what you bring to the table for Volume III, Shan! Anything else you’d like to add?

Only that I’m glad we had the chance to chat – this was fun! Thanks, L.S.!

~~~~

So there you have it! It’s always a delight to check in on Shan, so I hope you do the same, give her a follow, and see what other great stories of hope and unexpected beauty she delves out to us in the future.

Happy reading!

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