Friday, November 4, 2022

Serena Burdick

Serena Burdick graduated from The American Academy of Dramatic Arts in California before moving to New York City to pursue a degree in English Literature at Brooklyn College. The author of Girl in the Afternoon, Find Me in Havana, and The Girls with No Names, Burdick lives in Western Massachusetts with her husband and two sons.

Her new novel is The Stolen Book of Evelyn Aubrey.

My Q&A with the author:

How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

When I first wrote this book seventeen years ago, I titled it Evelyn. Since then, it’s gone through many title changes. At one point it was called An Educated Woman—the protagonist is a female writer trying to make it in alongside her famous writer husband, so this made sense—but in the end, The Stolen Book of Evelyn Aubrey, was more layered. Evelyn’s journal goes missing in 1910. In 2006, her great, great granddaughter, Abby, while searching for the father she never knew, learns about this lost journal and begins searching for it. She also learns about a literary scandal that went down when Evelyn disappeared the day her husband’s final book was published. The Stolen Book of Evelyn Aubrey is a book about a book, as well as a dual-timeline with Evelyn’s story told through her missing journal. Hence the multilayered title.

What's in a name?

My grandmother, Evelyn, died when I was ten years old. My mother did not give me a middle name when I was born so that I could choose my own when I was ready. On my grandmother’s deathbed, I told her I would take her name. The Stolen Book of Evelyn Aubrey is my fourth book published, but the first book I ever wrote, which makes Evelyn the first character I ever created. I choose the name to honor my grandmother, but also because the book is about ancestry, unearthing who we are and where we come from. Using the name that is both mine, and my grandmother’s, felt symbolic.

How surprised would your teenage reader self be by your novel?

My teen would roll her eyes and say, “this is so like you!” I was reading Pride and Prejudice at thirteen years old. I devoured any books that took place in England in old manor houses. Possession and The French Lieutenant’s Woman were among my favorites. No surprises here.

Do you find it harder to write beginnings or endings? Which do you change more?

I always know where to start, but I often have no idea how I will end a book. Originally, in keeping with a good Victorian novel, the ending of The Stolen Book of Evelyn Aubrey was utterly tragic. Then I thought, I can’t do that? Life is messy, so I definitely don’t like a perfectly wrapped up ending, but I do like to leave my readers satisfied, and with at least a glimmer of hope.

What non-literary inspirations have influenced your writing?

I collect stories around me all the time. Beware if you’re hanging out with me, I am always tucking away things people say about their experiences, family, relationships, to use later in my writing. The Stolen Book of Evelyn Aubrey was partly inspired by the fact that my sister and I have different fathers, and she never knew hers. The protagonist who goes in search of her father is very much based on this personal experience.
Visit Serena Burdick's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Girls with No Names.

The Page 69 Test: The Girls with No Names.

--Marshal Zeringue