A writer like you: Leslie Burton-Lopez
Countess Sparkle VonUnikkorn the 1st is a writer of things sometimes.
Just kidding, her name is Leslie Burton-Lopez. She likes to pretend.
She is currently working on a 1,000-piece puzzle called The Spirit of Flight which simultaneously calms and enrages her.
Her hobbies include working on unnecessarily complex jigsaw puzzles (see above), snuggling with her step-dog, browsing Reddit for inappropriate lengths of time, and daydreaming about adventures with her amazing partner.
Her all-time favorite books may not be considered classical works of art for those literary snobs among us, but she loves them: The Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland, and Gone with the Wind. She also reads a bunch of YA, and likes to keep it interesting by reading them in different languages. You haven’t lived until you’ve read Harry Potter in Italian. “Ma, sei strega, o no!?” Si. Lei é strega (e anche contessa).
She is published in When to Now: A Time Travel Anthology, an extremely entertaining and devastatingly cool short story anthology with a time travel theme (available on Amazon!)
You’ll love her passion for flipping houses, make-believe holidays, looped stories, and critique groups.
Let’s dive into the interview, shall we?
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I still don’t know what I want to be. If I had a bajillion dollars I would flip houses. There are a lot of old houses that have stories in them. Reviving them is how I envision the physical act of writing. Blood, sweat, and tears, baby.
I lived next door to a big ol’ house in Alameda, CA, for six months. It was condemned, but from my little apartment window I could see a gigantic, beautiful, warped stained glass window. The house consumed me. I would sit out front and draw it. I would think about renovating it, even going so far as to track down the real estate agent for the property (as if I could afford to buy a mansion in the California bay area, no matter how decrepit). I dreamt about the first occupants and how different life must have been for them. I could write hundreds of stories just from looking at the outside of this house. It was stunning in its decay.
Daydreams are the leading cause of stories. Don’t be a statistic!
What motivated you to choose your profession?
The Countess Sparkle runs her own marketing business – Every Page Marketing – which keeps her days full of banal, mildly persuasive writing that people actually pay her for. She likes to declare company holidays for important reasons: Not Feeling It Day, Don’t Want to Get out of Bed Day, and Taco Bell Break Day, are just a few that the company celebrates quarterly.
What have you learned about writing so far?
That I have a lot to learn. I learn from my writing group, the Fairfield Scribes. I learn from their scathing critiques, and their also sometimes-kind words about what taps out from my clumsy fingers. We also eat pizza at our meetings, which soothes the burns of the critiques (unless some dolt gets pizza with pineapple on it – then it’s just a sad night altogether).
How do you define writer success?
Success is getting one other person to read your story.
What are your tips for outlining a story?
Countess Sparkle VonUnikkorn the 1st and her advice for effective outlining: Zero. I have no tips for this because I never outline. I just start writing what is in my head and see where it goes. Most often, it leads to a story that I never intended. This lack of outlining might also be categorized as ‘procrastination’ or ‘laziness’ to the untrained eye.
On a 100% unrelated note: anyone else want a taco break?
Any tips for writing a powerful beginning or ending?
I like to loop my stories. The beginning and the end always match up. To see an example of this*, read the story “Baggage” in When to Now. It’s a page-turner. At the very least you can use the book as a convenient doorstop or paperweight.
“Baggage” begins from the point of view of one character answering the front door to a mysterious visitor, and ends at the same moment, but from the perspective of the mysterious visitor knocking on the front door. It’s time travel story, so the loop makes sense. I promise.
If not writing time travel, I like to end each story I write with something the reader recognizes from the first page. This could be anything from a particular phrase or word, or even a gesture, or a color. Now, I’m no professor of literature, but I like writing loops to give the reader some closure. I’m nice that way.
*Bonus points for the thorough reader if you can see how I sneakily looped this interview…
Describe your typical writing process or routine.
My writing process is usually a blind panic to create something suitable enough to not make the Fairfield Scribes vomit. I never outline, as mentioned above, and the stories are almost always a product of something that happened to me in my real life. I like to make them funny (possibly to distract from the poorly constructed plots) and I like to create stories where the good guys win at the end. Or at least learn something.
What writing advice would you give other writers like yourself?
Join a writing group if you value your work at all. They will guide you. Or at least take you down a peg or two.
My writing group, the Fairfield Scribes, was started years ago by someone who had written a novel and decided that he wanted to start a critique group so everyone could tell him how amazing his book was (his words, and a true story). His book was promptly torn apart by the sharp teeth of the group he himself had created. Oh, the irony! But there is a lesson there.
What are you currently working on?
Right now, I am working on a villain story, quite the departure from my normally sugary and silly writing style. Crossing fingers that it’s good enough to make it into the anthology the Fairfield Scribes will publish this year: Don’t Be a Hero: A Villainthology.
This anthology is also a contest open to writers around the world (check out this website for contest rules: www.fairfieldscribes.com/contest). The topic of villainy is surprisingly broad. Anyone can be a villain! Even a hero…
My villain story is about a swan that is a jerk. Can she be redeemed? Or will she remain a murderess for the rest of her feathered life? Your guess is as good as mine because I haven’t finished it yet. Message me with your thoughts.
What are your current writing goals, and how do you plan to achieve them?
My goal at the moment is to stay accountable to my writing group. If I am up for critique at the next meeting, I focus on giving them something that is at least semi-coherent.
What are your favorite writer resources?
My writing group holds me accountable and holds my hand through the worst of my work. They guide me and I love them. Plus, they feed me pizza, my favorite food. I continue to believe I am a 13-year-old … oh, and a Countess.
I like to pretend.
Where can we connect with you?
Find When to Now on Amazon: https://smile.amazon.com/When-Now-Time-Travel-Anthology-ebook
My FREE THE WRITER takeaway is to find a writer’s group. RIGHT NOW. They keep you accountable and often give you great ideas.
To free the writer this week, check out some of your local writing resources or schedule time with a writing buddy. Let me know how your experience goes in the comments below.