Name Miriam Burden
Where are you from?
I was raised in a log cabin in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Now I reside in beautiful Glenwood Springs, Colorado. I miss the Black Hills all the time, however.
A little about your self `ie your education Family life etc
I majored in Sustainability, which is a cornerstone theme in my graphic novel Beanstalk. Although I left school early, because there was a lack of rational discourse in the Sustainability program, it only took me five years to get my two year degree. J An Associate’s degree in art. Like I can really do a lot with that…
I spend a lot of my time with my awesome boyfriend. We watch a lot of movies, and dissect them. Plot, structure…everything! I work a lot. While I’m serving people breakfast, I’m often wondering what my cat is up to. Undoubtedly sleeping, or swatting my roommate’s kitten. That little guy is pretty annoying, but cute. And when I’m working my other job, I’m aching to be drawing my characters.
My family is always inspiring me with their attitudes, and beliefs. They’re the greatest people in the world. The universe…
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
I have begun drawing the panels that will comprise my graphic novel, Beanstalk. I will be done with it by August 2016. Save the date!
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I’ve always wanted to be a story teller. I would have to say sixth grade was when I was certain. But I wanted to keep it a secret from everyone else. It felt like it wouldn’t be as precious if everyone knew my ambition. Now, I know that’s irrational, and kind of idiotic, really. I’m going to tell everyone and anyone who will listen!
My dad’s a song writer and musician. My grandfather was a wood carver. I guess growing up with such creative family members gave me the impression that an obsession with art and aspiring for perfection is normalcy.
I remember that I wrote a weird essay about a girl who was afraid of the dentist, which my high school English teacher read in front of the whole class. I was nonchalant, but secretly thrilled that she thought it was good enough to share with everyone. That was really cool, not to mention, encouraging.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Oh, I don’t know. When I get paid for it, perhaps I’ll consider myself a writer, although I’m writing regardless. Whatever. Not really a question I’ve contemplated, or even care about. I just do what I do.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
Sustainable development seeks to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. I’m always looking at the big picture, which is why Sustainability appealed to me in the beginning of my college career. But other people, even people in the program, are pretty close minded. It’s like everyone has identified a persona, and then they seek to embody those ideas, regardless if those ideas are really the best, or the most rational. Everyone’s spewing political propaganda and using ad hominem (and other logical fallacies) without looking at the numbers, which clearly state what we need to do. We need to change our systems.
A lot of Millennials will say that discrimination against minority figures is the biggest issue we need to confront. While that is important, it’s not nearly so pressing as soil degradation or loss of biodiversity. When our environment collapses, when our economy collapses, we won’t have the privilege to argue about, in the grand scheme of things, such inconsequential issues. We won’t argue, because we’ll all be dead. The human species will incur the sixth great extinction, if we don’t change how we farm.
I read Atina Diffley’s memoir, Turn Here, Sweet Corn, which is an account of her struggle to farm organically in the midst of a changing world. She battles a major corporation and the onslaught of suburban sprawl. This book was insightful, and the creation of Beanstalk wouldn’t exist without my being inspired by Atina’s beautiful writing.
Beanstalk is an Eco Sci-fi thriller, so it wouldn’t be written if the natural world wasn’t a great muse for me. I can’t really get into going on hikes for the sake of going on a hike and enjoying the scenery. I’m not really a live-in-the-moment kind of a chick. I’ll live in my dreams, in hypothetic situations, in my character’s thoughts and ideas, but never in the moment. However, it’s really the science of how things work which intrigues me. Hence, this is why the science of DNA and genetics plays in intricate role in the plot of Beanstalk.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
Well, it’s a graphic novel. So, I guess I could say, cartoon bubbles? Lol. It’s short and conversational. It moves the plot along. First, I began with the script. 144 pages of dialogue and short descriptions of each scene and the characters’ expressions/reactions. Now, I’m working on the actual illustrations, and it’s a blast.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
So, Helen is kind of like Loki. She exists to create trouble. In the beginning of the graphic novel, Helen is soliciting her secret boyfriend, Dennis. Dennis is a genetic engineer who has just obliterated the gene which moderates growth in a beanstalk. When Dennis tries to get Helen to leave her husband, Seth, and move in with him, Helen cites her familial responsibilities as her reason not to. When their argument escalates, she leaves, but not before taking several of the genetically altered seeds.
And this creates a whole slew of predicaments and problems, like the creation of swamp monsters, who are genetically similar to herself. Not only are they preternatural clones of Helen, but these creatures also want to eat her family. That’s always a damper on my day, when swamp monsters are trying to eat my congenial husband. And then there’s the fully animated scarecrow who steals Helen’s daughter, and takes her to the top of the beanstalk.
Everything revolves around that damn beanstalk. Hence the title, Beanstalk.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I really just want there to be more of a limelight on preservation efforts, and biodiversity. I want to start a dialogue on a bigger picture level.
But there’s something for everyone in this graphic novel. There are a lot of different character arcs.
Richie is a young guy. He’s a teenager who avoids responsibility when he can, but of course it’s thrust upon him, so he’s got to choose whether or not transformation is a viable option.
And then there’s Lyria. She’s a bit of a ditz. Lyria’s the most incompetent character who has ever been conceived. And I’ve seen a lot of horror films. She can’t do anything for herself, and she’s always leaning on her husband Jim. And Jim’s the organic farmer who’ll never compromise. As you can imagine, Jim and Helen butt heads constantly.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
Well, it’s all based on actual science. There’s no magic. There’s grounding in reality. However, I don’t think I’ve ever met someone as helpless as Lyria, or someone who is as grammatically incorrect as Jim; perhaps Huckleberry Finn is a close contestant.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
A lot of the characters are aspects of myself, I think. I’m the most like Helen. She lives her life according to logos, as opposed to Lyria or Jim who represent pathos and ethos, respectively. I kind of hate Lyria. She’s like this representation of my own insecurity. I kind of hate her, because I’m so dissatisfied with incompetency, especially if it’s my own.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
I’m really a fan of nonfiction. I’ll read the crap out of a Discover Magazine. Cadillac Desert. The Sixth Extinction. Books along those lines. Books with lots of theories and a timeline.
I really think movies have influence me more. I’m pretty sure that Braveheart is the most perfect movie ever, followed closely by Mad Max: Fury Road. My affinity for movies over books is probably why when I tried to write a novel, I failed. I’m much for attuned for writing a graphic novel.
As far as purely for pleasure reading, I really love Pride and Prejudice. In some respect, I know it’s an inconsequential romance. But it’s not as bombastic as Wuthering Heights. Pride and Prejudice isn’t about some boring girl who falls in love with a dangerous dude just because… That’s the same plot as Twilight. It’s the same plot as 50 Shades of Grey. It’s boring, and I’ve never been intrigued by that fantasy.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I’m reading The Fountain Head by Ayn Rand.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Are you crazy? I’m trying to catch up on all these old books! Lol. I do enjoy George R.R. Martin. But I don’t really consider him new, I guess.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
Working on Beanstalk. It’ll be done in August.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
My coworkers have been extremely supportive.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Yes, that’s the dream. I just gotta get there one panel at a time.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I’m working on it presently. I don’t think so. I don’t think I’d be able to continue if it wasn’t to my exact specifications. To quote J.D. Salinger, “An artist’s only concern is to shoot for some sort of perfection, and on his own terms, not on anyone else’s.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
Interestingly enough, it was because I read Catcher in the Rye in sixth grade. I do not like this book now, but when I was going through puberty, I thought it was pretty awesome.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
This is the first page of Beanstalk.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
I find it challenging to find time, especially because I work two jobs. But it could be more stressful. I could have kids.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
My favorite graphic novel writer is Brian K. Vaughn. That guy knows how to set up a story. I wish to write something as great as Y: The Last Man someday.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
No. I can find most things on the internet, whether I need facts or references for my pictures. I guess I do drive to my boyfriend’s job so that I can I can get pictures as a reference for my male characters.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
I will be designing the cover.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
It’s a lot of problem solving when it comes to writing. Everything has to be succinct, and congruent within the world I’m creating. My characters’ actions have to make sense, not merely for the sake of the plot, but also for them as individuals. Readers are really sensitive to this sort of thing, even if it’s just on an intuitive level and they can’t describe why it didn’t feel right. So in my head, I’m always thinking, is this something Lyria would say? If it’s something intelligent, probably not. Is this something Helen would do? If it’s emotional or full of compassion, hell no! Helen is the least agreeable person ever. Problem solving is also the part I enjoy the most, though. Because when you do figure out a solution, it’s magical. I love the deep sense of contentment upon solving an issue.
Otherwise, I’d say coloring my illustrations. It’s not particularly challenging, but it is time consuming. I just want to wave a magic wand, and say, you are done. If only…
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I’ve learned not everyone is like me. I always knew this, but when you’re following your dreams I think your natural abilities and quirks, which will eventually lead to your success, get amplified. I love deadlines, and I hate doing tasks that don’t have meaning. “No, I don’t want to hang out with you, not unless we are going to accomplish something together.” I’ve learned a great deal about creating boundaries in order to achieve my goals.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
No, not really. Keep at it. If you want to do something, don’t let the a-holes talk you out of it. That’s really just good advice for anyone.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Beanstalk It’s coming soon. August 2016. Keep your eyes open. And I’ll appreciate any feedback you can give me, whether is positive or negative. I’ve got a thick coat, and am not nearly as sensitive as I was when I was a pubescent girl who loved reading The Catcher in the Rye.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Probably Love You Forever. That’s the book where the mom keeps telling the baby that she’ll love him forever, and he’ll always be her baby, and then when she gets old, the son says it to her.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Probably that book, Love You Forever. Lol
Fiona: Is there one person pass or present you would meet and why?
I’d love to talk to Ayn Rand, and ask her how environmentalism would fit within her ideas of Objectivism. If she was truly rational, like she thought she was, she’d have to make this one exception.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why ?
Eh, I don’t care. I’ll be dead.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?
Not really, to be honest. Work and writing. Arguing and debating. Watching movies.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I love A Game of Thrones. Recently, I’ve been very much into Silicon Valley. I feel like I am akin to the engineers. If I was good at complex math, I’d be just like them.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
I like earthy tones. I’ll eat pork chops like nobody’s business. I like a lot of different types of music, even if it’s stupid music. But I do like Americana quite a bit.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
If I was more comfortable around people, I’d be a politician. Or a movie director.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?