Far Away Bird by Douglas A. Burton
1- Have you ever played "Civilization V Gods and Kings" (one of my favorite games) as Theodora, and, if so, did you win?
Uh, YES! I used to play Civilizations religiously, all the way back when the game came on floppy discs back in 1992. And yes, I remember when Civilizations added the Byzantine Empire as a competing option and I couldn’t get enough. I think I always played as Theodora with few departures. And yes, Theodora and I always made into the future to colony Alpha Centauri.
2- Would you please, in 160 characters or less, give a #WriteTip ?
Be specific. Write each thought in specific language that shows exactly what you mean, never generally what you mean.
3- What is the best piece of writing advice you've received?
Don’t be afraid to write long sentences. I listened to a Great Courses e-Book from http://Audible.com that zeroed in on writing better sentences. In it, the professor defended the excellence of the writers’ Bible, known as the ‘Elements of Style,’ but lamented an unintended and negative consequence. He believed that the wisdom imparted in that great book had the strange effect of influencing writers to all write concise and shallow sentences. And I decided that he was right. I learned instead about something called the cumulative sentence, which was a sentence structure that allowed for greater detail, and yet flowed rather poetically. The result was longer, stronger sentences that packed quite a punch. My writing changed overnight.
4- If an author is searching for a free site to listen to music while writing, what ones might you recommend?Well, YouTube has almost every song in the world on there for free. Type it in, and listen away. But you have to know the music you’re searching for and making a “playlist: is problematic, meaning you have to tend to YouTube to keep the music flowing. Pandora is a better option because the app’s algorithm seeks out the kind of music you’re looking for. Music in absolutely essential for me when I write. I’ve VERY meticulous. I hunt down an exact piece of music for every chapter I write. The spirit of the music helps create a certain spontaneity in my imagination whenever I brainstorm each chapter or scene.
5- Would you share a picture with us of your book with Wrigley and Duncan
Sure. Wrigley wasn’t in the mood to pose and resisted. But Duncan understood that the photo was important. He posed with the book.
6- Have you ever written a situation where a character had to overcome a situation that you yourself didn't know how to handle? Any tips to share on writing those scenes?
OMG! ‘Far Away Bird’ was an absolute clinic for that. While writing Theodora, situation arose on a regular basis that I had never encountered before. The solution for me was to channel Theodora. I had to meditate and ruminate. To be clear, it’s never about how YOU would handle each situation. You have to remove yourself in totality and focus solely on how your main character would handle that situation. The story is about her, not you. In other cases, where I’m actually unable to understand Theodora or what she’s going through, I had to ask for help and often, a lot of help. This proved to be a life-changing experience for me, because in order to understand Theodora better, I had to open myself up to the perspective, insight, opinions, and even personal stories of numerous women on a whole new level. Theodora exists in her own space on these pages and interiority is grounded in a lot of terrible reality that has nothing to do with me.
One major challenge was the ending. How does Theodora establish personal sovereignty in a world where no laws protected her and both the religious and secular traditions marginalized her to varying extents. How do you do it? In the second to last chapter, Theodora and her mentor had to have an answer for that. Their solution taught me a few things about personal power in the real world. Crazy, but true.
7- What's your Twitter handle, and do you have two or three writer friends on there to shout-out to for #WriterWednesday ?
My handle is @douglasaburton . I will admit that I’m still on a learning curve with Twitter. I’d like to shout out @maryanneyarde over that the Coffee Pot Book Club and Amy Bruno @HFVBT for their excellent service to historical fiction and historical fiction authors!
8- Do you have a favorite #bookstagram image or account/ profile?
Not yet. I’m mostly active on Facebook for now. I’ve only dabbled with Instagram and Twitter, and just this week, I made my first YouTube video. As time goes on, I’ll be more active across the spectrum.
9- What most motivates you to read a new book?
I read roughly one to two books a month. I’m looking for a compelling character and rich and vivid experience that entrenches me into an alternate reality. I want depth. I want to walk away thinking about the book and the characters long after I set the book down. I want to be haunted by the characters and moments. The best book literally haunt you, they follow you around and vivid in your imagination. If I think a book can do that, then I usually make every effort to queue it up and read it.
10- It's our tenth anniversary! How far has your writing come in the past ten years and where do you see your writing career ten years from now?
The past ten years has been incredible for my writing. I used to think writing was all about creativity and used to just write cool stuff. But over the last ten years, I focused more on the non-creative part of writing, such as grammar, sentence structure, story structure, word choice, specificity, archetypal design, and character development. This sounds crazy, but a lot of writing is almost mathematical. It’s not as fun, but its essential if you’re going to take yourself seriously. And for the past three years, I’ve focused on the infrastructure and entrepreneurial side of writing, which includes blogging, social media engagement, website design, publishing, contracts, video editing, and content creation. Yeah, also less fun than creative writing lol. My hopes are that the foundation I’m laying today will put me in a position ten years from now, to write better books at a faster pace and with a waiting audience. I want to become the best possible writer I can. I feel like I’m only just getting started.
11- What is your favorite book by someone else, what's the author's Twitter handle, and what do you love most about that book? #FridayReads book recommendation time!
Author name: Carrie Newberry @shifter979
Title: Pick Your Teeth with my Bones
Love because: Author Carrie Newberry gives us Urban Fantasy at its finest. You’ll find shape shifters in the modern era with complex relationships that last centuries!
12- What emotions do you hope your book will evoke for the reader?
Empowerment. Inspiration. Determination. Here’s a woman whose value is denied by the world. The crimes against her are unacknowledged. She’s wounded and doesn’t understand it. Theodora’s sexuality blinds the world to the brilliant mind inside and the innocent aspirations she harbors. And for years, she tries to be what the world wanted her to be and then some. But Theodora learns the devastating lessons of personal empowerment and the cost of your own sovereignty in life. I want readers to feel this journey and also believe it. Nothing is sugar-coated. The lessons are real. I used archetypal designs to help me capture the human experience that models growth, which should have staying power.
13- What kind of impact do you hope your book will have?
I hope that women identify with Theodora. Her story is the culmination of countless real life stories that occur to today. I tried in earnest to bring to bear the most powerful feminine archetypes and monomyths. She should be relatable despite the historical setting. I’ve had several women reach out to me and tell me that the book did have a big impact on them. I received an email a few days ago from a woman in te UK who said that she tried to confront the world in the masculine sense of empowerment. She said she’d never considered confronting the world with feminine power. I thought that was a huge perception. And for men, I hope the book creates a lasting impact regarding certain realities for women. Memoirs of a Geisha did that for me. Writing ‘Far Away Bird’ changed my world view and opened me up to realties that I hadn’t thought much about in the past. I guess I hope that if writing the book can change me, perhaps it can have a similar effect on others.
14- What is the best writing tool, program, or reference book you've ever bought?
The Elements of Style by Strunk and White. Stephen King’s ‘On Writing.’ ‘Building Better Sentences: Exploring the Writer’s Craft,’ which is a Great Courses eBook by Professor Brooks Landon. And finally, ‘Bird by Bird’ by Anne Lamont.
15- In what ways are the main characters in your book diverse? diversebooks.org #WeNeedDiverseBooks
Diversity is one of the best aspects of any culture. Diversity breaks conformity, social monopolies, adds dynamism and opens the marketplace of ideas. Diversity expands perspective and often leads to breakthroughs in our mutual understanding of the world. My book is diverse because it features not just a leading woman, but technically a leading woman of color. Secondly, I surround the lead character with other powerful women from Greece, Ethiopia, and Cyprus. Theodora goes on to influence a sweeping set of reforms designed to give women greater rights, an incredible fact that is somehow overlooked. The Corpus Juris Civilis, which came into existence during her reign, features women’s rights and the codex itself is considered to be among the foundational documents for the Western legal tradition. Pretty amazing! Therefore, ‘Far Away Bird’ introduces diversity of our understanding of the world…women’s rights were a battleground in Theodora’s time and I want people to discover a champion they may not have heard about in the classroom. Also, the book’s diversity comes from its setting. The Byzantine Empire was a multi-ethnic society divorced from Europe and populated by the peoples of the modern Middle-East. Think of a major film or book that takes place in the Byzantine Empire. There’s like a media blackout on the Byzantines, most likely due to a more Euro-centric view of history. But the Byzantines are an incredible society that set the table for the modern age.
16- Who is your favorite book review blogger?
Mary Anne Yarde who founded the Coffee Pot Book Club. She is incredibly active and energetic in promoting great historical fiction and the authors who bring these worlds to life. I’d also like to give a shout out to the Bookish Bellee and Jyspy Lynn who put extra heart and perspective into their reviews!
17- What was the deciding factor in your publication route?
Well, I went the indie publishing route. In today’s world, the author is expected to pull the cart no matter what. They have to get out in front and promote the book, be active on social media, be public-facing, and engage the world. So, the job is the same whether a traditional publishing house picks you up or not. So, I just decided that I would have to back my own project and pull my own cart. I started Silent Music Press and hired professionals to help me at every turn. It took years.
18- Which author, past or present, do you feel most resembles your work?
Probably Arthur Golden. He wrote ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’ and was also a man writing about a woman in a different time and place.
19- Would you please ask our audience a question to answer in the comments?
Sure! Here’s a question for the women out there! One of the big discussions that came up time and time again while writing ‘Far Away Bird,’ was the role of mentors for women. Some women told me they had great mentors! But several women expressed a feelings or frustration at something I’m calling “unreliable mentors.” These included women mentors who behaved more like rivals and male mentors whose motives were shaky at best. This made reliable advice and guidance a major obstacle. I hadn’t ever considered the role of mentors for women before writing this book. So, I want to know your thoughts! Do women face a real problem with unreliable mentors and if so, how disruptive do you think this is toward long-term growth?
20- Anything else you would care to share about your book and yourself?
Sure! While writing ‘Far Away Bird,’ I began to theorize that many of the storytelling models, such as the hero’s journey, were based in part on male-oriented heroes. While studying heroines, I found that there were different recurrent themes. I put these themes together into a coherent storytelling structure that I call the heroine’s labyrinth. I’d like your input! Go to http://douglasaburton.com to check it out. The more feedback the better! You can also read some of my latest blogs and discussions regarding heroic women in fiction!
Cover artist: George Frei at http://treehousemachine.com
#EmpressTheodora #FarAwayBird #badasswomen #historicalfiction
The heroic and epic saga of Theodora, Byzantine Empress
The courageous girl who challenged the Roman-Byzantine aristocracy and ignited the women’s rights movement
“…elegantly written historical tale in which [Burton] effortlessly weaves sweeping emotion and fine detail…”— Kirkus Reviews (Recommended)
Inspired by true events (historical fiction), Far Away Bird delves into the complex mind of Byzantine Empress Theodora. This intimate account deftly follows her rise from actress-prostitute in Constantinople's red-light district to the throne of the Byzantine Empire.
Her salacious past has left historians blushing and uncomfortable. Tales of her shamelessness have survived for centuries, and yet her accomplishments as an empress are unparalleled. Theodora goes on to influence sweeping reforms that result in some of the first-ever Western laws granting women freedom and protection. More than a millennium before the women's rights movement, Theodora, alone, took on a world superpower and succeeded. Far Away Bird goes where history classrooms fear to tread in hopes that Theodora can finally take her seat among the greatest women in history.
Theodora seems impossible--yet her transcendence teaches us that society can't tell us who we are deep down. Before there was a legendary empress, there was a conflicted young woman from the lower classes.
Awards and Praise
Grand Prize for Historical Fiction - Writers’ League of Texas - 2019 Manuscript Contest
Gold Medal - Coffee Pot Book Club- Book of the Year - Historical Fiction
Bronze Medal - Coffee Pot Book Club- Best Debut Novel 2019
“This book is, in all ways, an absolute triumph.”— Mary Anne Yard, international best-selling author of The Du Lac Chronicles
Far Away Bird by Douglas A. Burton