by Rel Mollet
Claudia Mair Burney Interview
"I'd be the biggest liar in Christian fiction if I didn't give my characters the struggles so familiar to me." --Claudia Mair Burney
Claudia is her first name, but she goes by Mair . . . and "Mair" rhymes with "fire." (She tries to keep her last name fairly uncomplicated.) Mair was the author of the popular Ragamuffin Diva blog — her personal journal exploring the challenges of broken believers. That blog led to Mair being discovered, and allowed her to contract the Amanda Bell Brown mystery series: Death, Deceit, and Some Smooth Jazz, Murder, Mayhem, and a Fine Man, and Deadly Charm. She’s also the author of Zora and Nicky: A Novel in Black and White, from David C. Cook.
Her work has also appeared in Discipleship Journal, The Handmaiden, Justice in the Burbs, and The One Year Life Verse Devotional Bible. Her young adult series, The Exorsistah, about a teenaged exorcist, released on July 22, from Pocket Books. Mair wants her fiction to feature the best of her blog: humor, unblinking honesty, and the courage to allow God's strength to be made perfect in one's personal weakness. But what she wants readers to know most is that God loves you, passionately.
Rel: If you could have chosen your own name, what would it be?
Claudia: 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 friend'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 have 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. No, 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.
Mariette in Ecstasy, a scrumptious novel about a stigmatic nun by Ron Hansen. Hey, did you read my novel Wounded?
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 mercy.
What is your favourite Bible verse (or "one" of your favourites) and what does it mean to you?
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 embarrassing 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 they 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 that 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 while 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 characters 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.
Rel Mollet is a lawyer, wife and mother of three young daughters and lives in Melbourne, Australia. Reading has been her passion since childhood. She is a Book Club Co-ordinator and has her own website ~ relzreviewz ~ dedicated to reviews and author interviews with the sole aim to support authors writing from a Christian worldview. She believes Sir Francis Bacon's (1561 - 1626) creed, "Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body".