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An Exclusive Interview with Alafair Burke
Contributor
Written by
She Writes
March 2019
Contributor
Written by
She Writes
March 2019

This month we've been featuring international bestseller Alafair Burke and her latest book The Better Sister. She Writes got the chance to sit down with this incredibly talented thriller author and get to know her process better. 

Describe your writing routine. 

I’m like that person who has to date around a little before she’s ready to commit.  I spend a lot of time (arguably too much) bouncing ideas around before I really feel comfortable choosing a concept for a book.  Once I feel a book in my gut, though, I’m all in.  I throw myself into it, trying to write every single day, and never skipping two days in a row.  Some days, I may only write a paragraph, but that keeps the characters, plot, voices, and setting fresh in my mind, allowing me to run freely the next day.  If I miss two days in a row, I’ve found that it will take me half a day to get back into the story again.  At the beginning of a book, 500 words is a decent day, 1,000 is great.  By the halfway point, 1,000 is pretty attainable, and I can much more than that on a good day.  I imagine that those good days feel like drugs I’ve never taken.

What was the first/worst job you ever had before becoming an author?

The worst job I ever had, hands down, was as a telemarketer.  You read from a script that has pre-determined responses for every conceivable question, you’re not allowed to hang up until someone says “no” three times, and an oily-haired entity impersonating a human monitors you from a fluorescent-lit room above the call center to make sure you don’t stray from the rules. I apologize to everyone for ever doing this job, but I did manage to cover my tuition as necessary.

When was the moment you started to feel like a writer?

To be honest, it still feels like a fleeting opportunity. Megan Abbott just wrote a great piece for The Cut about how unstable a writing career feels. When she got to the line, “I feel imposter syndrome constantly,” I know I was nodding and crying out, That’s right!  But I guess a few years ago, I started seeing my name mentioned along with some of my favorite, long-published authors and thought, “Wow, I guess some people think I belong there.”  As far as the craft of writing goes, I think I felt like a writer even before I was published.  You have to identify as a writer to get a book finished, in my view.

What is the number one piece of advice you'd give to aspiring authors?

Read.  You can’t be a writer without reading.  And then you’ve also got to think of yourself as a writer. Treat it like your job, even when no one else sees it that way. 

Who inspires you?

I find the work of a lot of writers inspiring, but lately, I’ve been feeling most inspired by my friends who always find the time to reach out and think about me and their other friends, even when they are busy with their own work and daily lives. It always makes me feel loved, and I try to be a good friend to others in return.

Why is it important for women to tell their stories?

Because no one else will. To quote a line from the Hamilton soundtrack, Who lives, who dies, who tells your story. Be like Eliza and put yourself back in the narrative.

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