Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Getting to know Claudia Mair Burney

Claudia Mair Francis is a fascinating woman and brilliant author whose words flow with integrity and directness. With a large family, dealing with illness, writing that stems from her heart and deep faith, Claudia is an author well worth discovering. I was thrilled when asked by TitleTrakk to interview Mair and her response has been so gracious to my little ol' questions :)

Over to you, Mair:~

If you could have chosen your own name, what would it be?

I did choose some of my names. Mair Francis goes right between Claudia Burney. They are in honor of my patron saints, Mary of Egypt and Francis of Assisi.

Your first pet's name?

I think she was a mongrel named Princess. Don't quote me on that. I'm doing well to remember my current pet's name is Peter, affectionately called “Bun Bun.”

Your best fr
iend's name in primary (elementary) school?

Her name was Patricia Robinson. She was sweet, and funny, and told me I had to write, even then. She died 14 years ago of cancer. I still miss her.

Did you have a special toy that went everywhere with you when you were young? Please describe.

Yes, I did. She was an enormous doll named Tammy. She was taller than I was, so I drug her by the hair. Needless to say, she didn't h
ave much hair left. But I loved her, until I believed her to be possessed, at which time I dropped that heifer like a bad habit.

If you were stranded on a desert island what one object would you want with you? (Besides your Bible)

A pimped out, fully loaded Kindle! With solar power. N
o, make that an iPhone with the same.

What's your favourite ice cream flavour?

Peppermint, but it's seasonal. LOL. Remember that line from The Lovely Bones?


What did you want to be when you grew up?

A writer. An artist. God's been good to me.

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?

Italy with my BFF. That's a plan.

Favourite book?

Mariette in Ecstasy, a scrumptious novel abo
ut a stigmatic nun by Ron Hansen. Hey, did you read my novel Wounded?

Rel: Not yet but my friend just did and she loved she loves all your books :)

Favourite movie?

It's a Wonderful Life. I cry every time.

Blues, rock, jazz or classical music?

Jazz if I had to choose from your list, but I prefer rhythm and blues
or neo soul.

Scrapbooking, knitting, cooking or meditation?

Meditation. I'm heady that way.

Where is the most interesting place you have been?

Swaziland. Oh. My. Gosh
! It's incredible, and it felt like home.

Great Barrier Reef, Uluru (Ayers Rock) or Sydney Harbour Bridge?

Great Barrier Reef.

What's your most fervent prayer?

Lord, have m

What is your favourite Bible verse (or "one" of your favourites) and what does it mean to

Blessed are the poor in spirit. To me it means I'm completely reliant on Him for everything, and He's good
with that.

Besides God, who has influenced you the most?

A lot of people formed the woman I am. I'm a real mixed bag of investments people made into my soul.

What's the bravest thing you've ever done?

Stayed alive when I had no desire to.

What was your most em
barrassing moment in High School?

Freshman through senior year.

How did your husband propose?

He didn't. He made a joke about sneaking off and getting married, and I ran with it. I wish I'd have trusted him and his love, or myself, that I was worthy of love. That would have changed everything.

What is the best advice you have received about marriage?

Sometimes, you'll hate it. Sometimes you'll look at the person beside you in bed and wonder how you ever got into this mess. It's then that commitment kicks in. It's not about how you “feel” much of the time. They also told me that loving feeling would return, but I'm grateful they prepared me for the rough days.

You have 7 children (fabulous!) - how do you fit writing around all your other responsibilities?

Ken is kind enough to take on the “responsibilities” while I hole up in our bedroom with imaginary people. Part of this is because along with being a writer, I have a chronic pain disease, which diminishes me considerably. I'm always grateful when I open the door and everybody is still there, and the
y still love me.

You describe yourself as “the soul-child of many saints” - please share

Did I say that? Ha! It sounds like something I'd say.

The greatest gift liturgical churches gave me was a connection to a vast network of God lovers who have gone on to glory before me. I'd always read th
at part of the Creed that said, “I believe in the communion of saints,” but I took that to mean other Christians. Living, breathing ones! On earth, not in heaven! Hanging out with Orthodox, Catholic, and Anglican Christians introduced me to saints like John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, Francis and Clare of Assisi, Mary of Egypt, and more. Their teaching and lives inspire me. Change me. That's what I mean when I say I'm their soul-child.

The Amanda Bell Brown Mysteries

What or whom was your inspiration for Bell?

My great-grandmother. I wanted her name to carry on in this world a little whi
le longer, and to loan her my success since she had so little opportunity.

Describe each of your main characters with one word

Amanda Bell Brown - Resilient

Jazz Brown - Fine!

Your characte
rs have “flaws galore”! Why is it important to you not to gloss over weaknesses?

I have too many to overcome myself. I'd be the biggest liar in Christian fiction if I didn't give my characters the struggles so familiar to me.
I serve the broken, people who can admit their woundedness. If you aren't Christ haunted and cracked, you probably won't like my books.

What do you hope readers take away from your stories about Bell and Jazz?

That God loves you even if you are a mess, and whatever fledgling love you have for the people in your life can go a long way. So love!

You are unflinchingly honest in your writing which I love ~ has that made it difficult to get published in the CBA?

Thanks, Rel. I appreciate your support.
It was ridiculously easy for me. God showed off! I got one grace after another. I think my voice was needed. God opened the doors; ready or not there I was. Now staying here is another matter. I think it's over for me here, especially now that I'm Catholic. But God knows. I would have never thought I'd be here in the first place.

What is in your writing pipeline? No pressure but a sneak peek would be lovely!

I just finished writing my first non-fiction book about one of those saints I love so much, Teresa of Avila. It's a fun pilgrimage through her amazing teachings on prayer. It's written especially for Protestants who would have had little exposure to her work, or to saints in general. It's a very fun, whimsical book. Paraclete Press is publishing it next Spring or Fall. Next to hit the bookstores is The Exorsistah 2: X Returns. Published
by Pocket Books it's due out in the Spring, also. Here's a peek:

Chapter One

I hate demons. A legion of them held my mama captive in her own body a while back. For a long time after that I felt there was nothing I could do. But that particular morning - the morning I turned eighteen - seemed so full of new mercies and possibilities. I, Emme Vaughn had no reason to hide anymore.

It took me two lumbering buses and an expensive cab--complete with ogling driver--to get to Saint Dymphna's Psychiatric Hospital. But I made it. I even dressed the part. Of a post-modern, urban-girl exorcist, that is. I wore all black: skinny jeans, a cute scarf-dress, and glorious stiletto Prada boots. An onyx rosary hung around my neck.

It was seventy-eight degrees outside. September sunshine warmed my shoulders like a kiss from God. All I had to do was strut into that hospital and kick some devil butt.

There was just one problem; my feet refused to cooperate. The imposing brown, brick building towered above me like Goliath over David, and I was terrified. In cases like this, I usually have one of three responses: I plow through with courage, I bolt away, or I blabber to buy myself time.

I chose courage. But I needed to get myself amped up first.

Got your word, Emme?

I looked down at my Bible wrapped in a pair of dark Levi's and tucked in the corner of my duffel bag.


The jeans would protect the good book from getting knocked around. Not that my bag held much, just everything I owned: a few articles of clothing Francis bought me; a Russian icon from his Godmother, Mother Nicole; my GED paperwork; my Michigan State ID card; a pair of black Timberland boots.

I fingered one of the shiny rosary beads around my neck to calm my nervousness. “Rosary in place,” I muttered, then trailed my fingers to the Saint Benedict Jubilee Cross medal across my chest.

This made me think of Francis, who gave me the medal after a nasty incubus tried to violate me. If I'm ever looking for a reason to pray, the memory of that a lust-crazed demon does it every time.

I continued down my mental checklist, hoping to summon more courage.

Prayed up?


Kick butt diva boots for whooping devil head, while still looking fly?

My gaze fell to my feet and beheld the butter-soft Puh-rah-dah on my feet.


Francis gave me those as a birthday present. A group of demons projectile vomited all over the last pair he bought me.

I took a long, deep breath and made sure all the hell-busting gadgets I needed were accounted for. Now it was time to move, only fear paralyzed me.

Time to get your act together, sistah. You're a grown woman now. What happened to your 'tude? These boots aren't made for walking!

The kicks brought Francis to mind yet again.

I should have asked him to come. It would have only taken us an hour to get here in his Camry. We could have listened to music on his iPhone. Chilled. Maybe I'd have let the brotha hold my hand.

I smiled to think of that.

I might have let him smooch me again, too.

That thought made me blush.

Warm feelings aside, my thoughts of Francis were a distraction and did nothing to propel me forward. There I was, standing alone in front of a psychiatric hospital with a million thoughts running through my head. You'd think I'd have sense enough to go in, but no.

I shuffled my feet and glanced at my boots again. The next step was getting harder and harder to take. I glanced around to see if anyone was watching me. An old man sitting on a bench in front of the hospital looked up from his sandwich and smiled at me.

I smiled a small, friendly smile back at him and knew I couldn't stand there any longer. I was beginning to look like someone who needed to be admitted.

There was just one last thing to do before I walked in. I needed to pray.

According to my mama, the Lord's Prayer takes care of everything. It's worship, petition, confession, and even has an exorcism built into it.

“Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name,” I whispered. “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done. On earth as it is in heaven.”

I took a step towards the hospital.

“Give us this day our daily bread.”

I took another step.

And forgive us--”

I couldn't go on. What kind of daughter was I? I hadn't shown my face in three years. The fear of getting caught was only part of the reason I hadn't visited mama more often. I also didn't want to see her looking like she did last time. Standing there, my heart beat wildly as the memories came flooding back. I remembered when the orderly opened the door and I saw an emaciated figure on the bed. Her skin was the color of caramel, just like Mama's--a color I knew so well because I used to envy it. I'm dark-skinned. Kids can be brutal.

I was about tell the orderly he'd brought me into the wrong room when the sickly woman turned her head and looked at me. Her skin looked like it'd tear it was stretched so taut across the bones in her face. But it was the unmistakable mole beneath her left eyelid that led to my undoing. Mama had always called it her beauty mark.

A scream stuck in my throat.

My mama was always beautiful and had long, black curls that fell down her back. But this person - bound by restraints, smelling of urine, and smiling at me with broken teeth - looked like an old, discarded doll.

Mama's glassy eyes fixed on mine, and something vile and haunting inside of her seemed to stare back at me. I knew she was in this condition because of me.

Now just feet from the hospital's entrance, I was doing my best to take another step forward. I shook my head. Tears slipped down my cheek I hadn't realize I'd shed.

I'm sorry, Lord. I'm ready for this. Not at all.

The old man from the bench walked past me, up the steps and through the automatic doors.

I don't know if it was love or guilt urging me on, but I followed the old man in. I had to. Sometimes false bravado and a promise is all a sistah has.

Thanks for having me, Rel. May God grant you peace.

It has been a pleasure and privilege, Mair :) Anytime at all!

Relz Reviewz Extras

Reviews of Murder, Mayhem and a Fine Man & Deadly Charm
Character spotlight on Jazz & Bell Brown
Visit Mair's website and blog
Buy Mair's books at Amazon or Koorong


Tracy said...

Fascinating, fabulous interview. Thanks to you both!

Nicole said...

Mair, you're somethin' else.

Loved Wounded and Zora and Nicky. Fabulous writer, this one.

CeeCee said...

Great interview. Read Wounded and loved it. I have to read the others too.

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