Crystal M M Burton: Imagine and create
Meeting the Rising Writer No. 8
I hope everyone had a wonderful—and safe—Halloween! It’s Tale Tuesday again, and today I am proud to introduce you to someone I’ve been able to get to know for a while now, Crystal Burton.
Crystal has agreed to a virtual interview with me today, and she has a lot to share! She is a writer with a fantastic imagination, and she has a lot to tell us to show it. She has been with Authors’ Tale for three months now, and she is one of our most active members. It’s been great having her, and I can’t wait for you to meet her!
Thank you, Crystal, for agreeing to an interview.
When did you start writing?
My first real attempt at writing was when I was 12 years old. I began writing a novel about a girl and her friend who discover a terrifying monster, only to learn that he was friendly and just as afraid as they were. I had over fifteen pages written up, front and back, when my notebook went missing. I never found it and was so discouraged by my loss that I quit writing until high school, and even then only committed to small poems and songs out of fear of losing my work again. In 2012, I picked up a brand new laptop with the sole intent of writing, although it wasn’t until just recently in August 2015 that I finally reclaimed my title of “writer,” and I have no intention of putting it down again.
What inspires your writing?
Most of my inspiration comes from my dreams. I have a dream journal online where I record them, but the intensity and emotion that I experience just can’t be expressed in a simple blog post, especially when my main goal is to record it before it fades from my mind. Some of my best characters came from my dreams. The remainder of my inspiration just sort of pops into my head as I perform mundane tasks. My mind likes to wander so I keep a pen close at hand to record any absent-minded adventures. I also draw inspiration from the people around me, usually just a single character trait or habit that I find intriguing.
What are you currently working on? How did you begin working on it?
I have a multiplicity of works-in-progress, including a collaborative zombie fiction, a fantasy novel being written simultaneously as a companion to another author’s novel, a non-fiction memoir focusing on my difficulties with bipolar disorder, a general fiction about unrequited love, a horror/gore novel focusing on facing your worst fear, an anthology of drabble stories (each one with a word count of 100 or less) and a children’s story. I know, it seems like a lot. I love to explore different genres, not only to find my place among them but also to try new things and branch out my creativity.
My main focus, however, is on Aspect, an epic fantasy trilogy I’ve been developing in my mind for a few years. When I first began writing the story, I thought I could just write what was in my head in chronological order; with all the inspiration I had, this book would practically write itself. Unfortunately, I only got one chapter in before I hit a mental roadblock. I set it down for three years, revisiting it last month. This time, I was more prepared. I wrote up a plot outline for the main story, then another for the primary subplot, and one more for the love story underneath it all. I’m revising and reworking, and the outlining definitely helps.
How do you handle so many projects? What is most difficult, for you, with writing?
Handling this many projects is a lot simpler than it sounds—I just let my mind wander. If it wants to focus on something, I let it go there. If it travels back to something else, I follow willingly. The only time I force myself to focus on something specifically is when I have a deadline. I’ve discovered—somewhat sadly—that I’m a very good procrastinator and the rush of the hourglass spilling out those last grains of sand works wonders for the creative gears in my mind. The most difficult part of writing, for me, is doing it with the OCD of a perfectionist. I have a terrible time trying to get the base idea on the page without editing and revising what I already have written. I’m slowly learning to remedy that process through NaNoWriMo, which is teaching me to loosen up a bit.
What would you do if you couldn’t write at all?
I’d find myself talking to the voices in my head and creating the worlds and characters that deserve to be on a page. I’ve been doing that for as long as I can remember. My mom always said I had a great imagination, and as much of a good thing as that is, it’s also a curse. If I don’t keep my mind moving and my hands busy, my imagination runs wild and I lose all track of time in my daydreaming!
Give us insight to your main character. Who is she? What is her purpose?
My main character is Corrine Caldwell. She believes herself to be a typical, boring girl. Her day-to-day life is mundane at best, and she feels out of place. As much as she tells herself that she was meant for more, she has a hard time believing it. Her purpose becomes clear when she is whisked away to a land of magic and intrigue, and told that she is to become the next Aspect of Time. That title comes with a million years of ruling the flow of Time and guiding the other elemental Aspects to keep them in balance. It also means she will be responsible for ensuring that Chaos does not break free from his eternal prison.
Would you like to tell us more about your book?
The story follows Corrine as she learns her destiny and what acceptance really means. She has to fight against her insecurity and low self-esteem to find the confidence required to take her place among the Aspects. The elemental Aspects do not accept her and are unwilling to submit to such a young, inexperienced girl, so they put her through intense trials to earn her place among them. On top of it all, she is tricked into releasing Chaos from his prison, and he wreaks havoc across the land. If she can’t contain Chaos, he will manipulate her until he holds sway over her mind and rules Alondria through her. It’s still in the early stages, but here’s the summary from my main plot outline:
Corrine Caldwell is a young woman who is chosen by a mysterious serpentine dragon to take his place as the Aspect of Time. She must gain the trust and approval of the other five elemental Aspects and take on their abilities. But it won’t be easy; Chaos haunts her dreams and tricks her into releasing him from his eternal prison. With Chaos free and betrayal around every corner, Time is running out. Corrine must find her confidence and face her fears to banish Chao and save the land of Alondria from certain destruction.
Do you research your book?
I am actually in the process of researching for my Aspect trilogy. I’ve had a few people ask me why I’m doing research for a fantasy series, in which anything can happen. Personally, I think the best part is finding the similarities between fantasy and reality. When you can tie in a little bit of real life, it helps the readers feel like maybe, just maybe, it’s all possible. In my books, the concept of the Aspects reads a lot like a pantheon. They are essentially elemental gods and goddesses. I’ve seen enough correlations between separate pantheons (Greek, Roman, Norse, Egyptian, etc.) to know that there are parallels in spirituality and religion. Things like colors, numbers, celestial bodies, seasons, and even personalities that correspond to specific deities. I want my Aspects to conform in the same manners. I’ve joined up with an online pagan school to take courses on correspondences, various deities, basic elements, elementals, and many other things that I will need to give my Aspects accurate and well-rounded personas. It is fascinating research and I’m really loving the Earth-based, welcoming feel of Paganism. I’ve learned that there are a lot of misconceptions tied to the religious path, and it’s interesting to learn where each myth came from.
When do you usually write? How often?
I tend to write throughout the day, in any spare moments I may have. Most of the more lengthy sessions are first thing in the morning or just before bed. I don’t typically have a word goal or page goal, but if I can get through with a specific scene or a complete thought, I’m usually satisfied. Participating in NaNoWriMo this year is my first experience with a daily word count goal, and it’s proving to be quite the challenge!
What are your favorite or most reliable support groups?
My favorite writing group is Authors’ Tale on Facebook. The weekly writing prompts help hone my skills, and the other weekly events allow me to share in support and critique among other writers. I love getting to know other authors and learn the different processes that people go through to gather inspiration and get creativity flowing. I also have a few groups I’m a part of that were put together for collaborative works, and it’s been fantastic getting to know the amazing people I write with. Knowing other writers has been a huge motivational boost for me, and keeps me writing.
Which authors inspire you?
There are so many authors that have helped inspire me to become a writer myself, especially in the fantasy genre. My main four are Robert Jordan, who wrote the Wheel of Time series; Sara Douglass, who wrote The Troy Game series and The Wayfarer Redemption series (which leads into The Darkglass Mountain series); JRR Tolkien, who wrote The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings series; and JK Rowling, who wrote the Harry Potter series. Their incredible ability to build long-withstanding worlds is one of the best motivational tools I have.
Have you ever worked with a writer on a project?
I have, actually. Twice. They both started completely on accident, too. I didn’t expect to like it at first, but the projects I’ve collaborated on have turned out to be some of the most fun and rewarding.
The first one is a collaborative novel called Bit, a unique work of zombie fiction with original twists: a quarantine spanning three states, and nanotechnology. Six of us came together to expand on one author’s flash fiction piece, and the story has grown wonderfully. You can visit the dedicated webpage here to find out more about the writers, as well as check out our Facebook page. It’s been incredible working with the other writers and getting to know them, as well as seeing what twists and turns our story took as we alternated writing chapters.
The second project is actually this year’s NaNoWriMo submission. I am collaborating with my friend and fellow author, MW King, to produce two separate companion novels. The main storyline focuses on a man and a woman fighting for control over the world of Dreams. My novel will detail the woman’s perspective as she battles to gain control over the Kingdom of Light, and MW King will show the man’s perspective as he battles to control the Kingdom of Shadows. We will each be describing the main storyline from opposite ends of the spectrum between good and evil. It promises to be an adventure worth taking, a learning experience, and a lot of fun.
What do you do when you’re not writing?
When I’m not writing, I’m a stay at home wife and mother. My day is filled with taking care of my three kids. Having two boys and a girl—all under the age of seven—really keeps me on my toes! I also babysit my niece and nephew during the week, so I stay pretty busy. We also have a wide variety of farm animals, which love to spend time with us. In spring and summer, I spend hours each day working in my garden, and in fall and winter I spend most of my time with crochet hooks and yarn. Birthdays and holidays mean lots of baking, since I run a local cake-decorating business out of my kitchen. My biggest hobby (aside from writing) is probably learning. I love doing a little bit of everything, including canning/preserving, painting, gaming, cover art, plastic canvas, cooking, and so much more. If there’s something new to learn, I’m all over it!
Do you have any advice you’d like to give other writers?
My message to writers is this:
Write. Just write. Don’t be shy; don’t be afraid to press buttons. Writers were made to step on toes, cross the line, and dance along the border. Write the intense sex scene. Write the horrific murder. Write the euphoric romance. Write the gods, and the magic, and the fantasies. Use your muses and your demons. Just write. Don’t let anything stop you. If you’re afraid of what someone will think, then you are telling yourself that you are afraid to incite emotion. Even if you think that emotion will be unease, awkwardness, or skepticism … write it anyways. Don’t be embarrassed. You might also be inciting fear, love, sympathy, joy, sadness, loss, or inspiration. You won’t know until you put yourself out there. So cross the line, draw a new one, and cross that one, too. You are a writer; do what you do best—write.
How can readers and fellow writers discover more about you and your work?
BONUS QUESTION: If you could be in any one of your worlds, which would it be and why?
I love a lot of my worlds, especially the one from my companion novel; it would be perfect if I had my protagonist’s ability to create the world around me in the Dream. But if I could be in any one of my worlds, it would have to be Alondria, from Aspect. Aside from the magic and wonder of being able to work with the elements to learn their lessons and abilities, the Time Palace is gorgeous. It’s set high up in the mountains overlooking the western coast, and a glacier lake as dark as the night sky sits to the south, bordered by a glass forest that chimes in the wind. Living there would be the closest thing to Heaven I could ever ask for.
Thank you again, Crystal, and thank all of you who took the time to get to know one of our rising writers! She has a lot to say, don’t you think? 🙂 That’s one thing that I love about these interviews—it gives writers a chance to share their story, and it gives me (and y’all, of course) a chance to experience it.
Y’all have a wonderful day, and if you’re a part of Authors’ Tale, check out her excerpt!