Rebecca Burns is an award-winning writer of short stories, over thirty of which have been published online or in print. She was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2011, winner of the Fowey Festival of Words and Music Short Story Competition in 2013 (and runner-up in 2014), and has been profiled as part of the University of Leicester’s “Grassroutes Project”—a project that showcases the 50 best transcultural writers in the county.
Rebecca, you’ve written two books about New Zealand history. What drew you to write about this country and period?
This is an area of history that I find fascinating and I return to it again and again in my stories. I have a PhD in New Zealand literature and part of my research was to look at the lives of settler women in the nineteenth century. Their courage and the obstacles they overcame in creating a home thousands of miles from all that was familiar is inspiring. They pushed for female suffrage and achieved it in 1893, twenty-five years before their sisters in the UK – their role in the creation of a fledging, settler society was a big part in their drive for emancipation.
Are your characters and settings are based upon your own life experiences?
Beyond the Bay follows the experiences of two sisters, Isobel and Esther. I have a sister, whom I’m close to, but as the book is set in the historical past, the actual events do not reflect my experiences. However, the portrayal of two sisters relying on each other is something I relate to, as is the experience of fracture from wider family.
What adventures can we expect your characters to take in future books?
Yes indeed! I’m plotting out another booking in this series, which will be set in New Zealand during the time of the Gallipoli campaign, which had a huge impact on the New Zealand psyche.
What is your biggest motivation for writing?
I just don’t think I can manage without it. It’s something I have to do to feel balanced.
How many books have you written?
I’ve had five books published so far, and another with the marvellous Odyssey Books, ready to be released next year. I’ve also written half of another novel and finished a novella. Plus short stories galore!
What would you say is your biggest accomplishment?
In writing – becoming published and sharing stories that mean something to me. And achieving my PhD.
In life – being a mum to my kids.
What advice would you give a writer trying to get published?
Be organised and fearless. Set yourself a target – how many stories you want to write in a year, how many journals or publishers you want to submit to. Do your research – check out each publisher’s requirements before submitting. And don’t be afraid to do it – believe in yourself and send your work out.
What inspires you when you hit writer’s block?
I go for a run or turn to Sarah Hall’s short stories.
Describe your writing style in three words.
Honest. Unfussy. Real.