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Children's & Fantasy/Sci-Fi Books

Interview with ‘Star Wars Craft Book’ author Bonnie Burton @bonniegrrl

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Author of the books ‘The Star Wars Craft Book’ (Random House), ‘Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Planets In Peril’ (DK Readers), ‘Draw Star Wars: The Clone Wars’ (Klutz Books), ‘You Can Draw: Star Wars’ (DK Children), ‘Girls Against Girls: Why We Are Mean To Each Other And How We Can Change’ (Zest Books) and ‘Never Threaten To Eat Your Co-Workers: Best Of Blogs’ (Apress). She edited/wrote for comic book anthologies ‘Womanthology: Heroic and Womantholgy: Space’ (IDW Publishing). Bonnie also written for Wired, Star Wars Insider, Geek, Bust, Craft, and Organic Gardening, CNN.com, Huffington Post and has a column in SFX magazine. Hosts web shows “Geek DIY” for Stan Lee’s World of Heroes, “Vaginal Fantasy” Book Club on Geek & Sundry, & her vlog “Ask Bonnie.”

BurtonBonnie

For what age audience do you write?

Most of my books are for children of all ages and teens. Though I am branching out into YA fiction soon.

Tell us about your latest craft book.

I love making crafts ever since I was a small child. Puppets fascinated me, as did making my own toys. Later, I loved making original art for my room whether it be embroidery, watercolors, mobiles, string art — you name it. When I started working at Lucasfilm 10 years ago, I thought it would be nice to have a craft section on StarWars.com for kids to make things like pet toys, holiday decorations, art, puppets and other crafts but with a Star Wars touch. The section became so popular that parents asked for a book. I created ‘The Star Wars Craft Book’ for Random House from years of crafts that I had developed for the site, as well as new crafts that I thought would be fun. It became quite a hit with fans, so much so that I’m often asked to do craft tutorials at conventions like Emerald City Comicon, New York Comic Con, Geek Girl Con, Stan Lee’s Comikaze and San Diego Comic-Con International. It’s been so much fun to see fans send me photos of the crafts they’ve made from my book over Twitter and email.

What got you interested in crafts?

Growing up. My family didn’t have a ton of money to spend on toys, so I often found myself making my own puppets, or dolls, or furniture for my dollhouse. I was always interested in arts and crafts thanks to my parents who were rather crafty as well. My mom loved to macramé, knit and crochet. My dad loved to doodle and sketch while he was talking on the phone. I had my own craft room growing up so I would spend hours and hours in there drawing, sewing, scrapbooking, journaling, painting and making puppets. I was in my own little world full of felt scraps and glitter — it was glorious.

Henry: I glued and painted monstrous plastic models – Frankenstein, Wolfman, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Dracula. No Cthulhu or Rancor models were available at the time, however.

How did you become such a Star Wars fanatic?

My childhood was spent in Kansas in rather rural areas, so I spent a lot of my time daydreaming and writing stories. When I first saw Star Wars, I was a kid in the ’70s. So this is way before video games, the Internet, and the sorts of activities most kids are used to by now. We were expected to go outside and play, or stay indoors to read, play piano or craft. So after seeing Star Wars, I was obsessed with space, robots and of course saving the galaxy from the likes of Darth Vader. I was a big fan of sci-fi throughout my childhood thanks to Doctor Who (which was shown on our local PBS station) as well as the original Battlestar Galactica and Star Trek. But Star Wars resonated with me the most because I suppose I wanted my own Wookie best friend, I had a mad crush on Han Solo and I desperately wanted to be as sassy as Princess Leia. In fact, I demanded my mom put my hair up in those iconic buns for numerous holidays, school photos, church, ballet lessons and other special occasions. Star Wars was always a favorite movie for me, and still is. It’s message that even a farm boy can become something great is something that strongly resonated with me being a kid from Kansas.

Henry: Well, who hasn’t put their hair up in Princess Leia buns, or donned a shiny gold bikini. Oops, TMI.

What aspect of writing do you find most challenging, and why?

Honestly, just beginning is the worst. Starting a project is always difficult. Once I start writing, I’m fine. But just trying to get focused at the start is almost impossible. I’m the Queen of Procrastination. So it’s rather embarrassing to admit, but I try to do everything other than write. But once I start typing, I can’t stop and that’s worth it all.

Henry: Interesting. I find it easier to start than to stop, which makes me the Duke of Distraction.

What is a powerful lesson you’ve learned from being a writer?

Don’t try for perfection. Writers are notoriously hard on themselves. We try to be Hemingways and Kafkas right from the start and we don’t allow ourselves to make mistakes. We cross out more than we should. We yell at the computer. We hate ourselves for not being bestselling authors. And worst of all, we’re horrified at the thought of failing, of being thought of as talentless hacks, and just not adding up to the brilliant novelists we think we should be. Patience is something I still struggle with.

Henry: Let he who has not punched a monitor or keyboard cast the first stone.

What has been a memorable experience that you never would have had if you had not been a writer?

I think the rush of adrenaline one gets as a writer when you finish writing a book, an article, an essay or a short story. It’s a weird energy that keeps you going ’til the next project pops up. I can’t really explain it, but you feel like you accomplished something. Even if no other soul reads it, you know you finished writing something and that means a lot. I suppose it’s not just one experience but also a combination of them. I’ve become close friends with other writers, and that kinship is also something very special to me. It’s like belonging to an elite club of talented people who make you want to strive for greatness.

Henry: I get a rush when I’m holding my book proof in my hands. An idea that’s come to tangible fruition.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Don’t give up. No matter how many people tell you your dream is impossible. No matter how many rejection slips you get from publishers. No matter how many times you must edit and rewrite a piece over and over again. DO NOT GIVE UP. A lot of becoming a successful writer is about persistence. Keep with it. Write EVERY DAY. Even if one day it’s a poem about your dog. And the next day it’s a short story about an elephant that wants to time travel. And the next day is a grocery list written as a sonnet. Just do it. Challenge yourself to write different styles and genres. But always, ALWAYS be writing.

Also read read read. Read a book outside your normal comfort zone. Read biographies, memoirs, mysteries, romances, horror, dramas, young adult novels, comics, and anything else you’ve never tried reading. Read a page from the dictionary once a week. Read foreign best-sellers. Read the newspaper. The more you read, the more styles of writing you’ll be exposed to. The more you read, the better the writer you will become. I promise you.

Henry: Grocery list as a sonnet!? How do I love thee, Boston Creme Pie, let me count the ways.

Do you have any favorite quotes?

I think my favorite quotes are all summed up in author Neil Gaiman’s commencement speech that he recently gave at a college. It was called “Make Good Art” and it’s brilliant for any writer or artist to listen to.

My favorite quote is the ending: “Make interesting mistakes, make amazing mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes. Break rules. Leave the world more interesting for your being here. Make good art.”

Henry: We would be remiss if we did not also mention: “Do. Or do not. There is no try.”

Do you have any strange rituals that you observe when you write?

I love having music on. But frankly I do warn against having the TV on as background noise. I get caught up in shows too easily and end up using it as a procrastination tool instead of a driving force to get any writing done. I also prefer to write when there are no distractions, usually very late at night.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

To be able to put anyone to sleep instantly, not out of boredom mind you, but just put them into a very deep sleep so they stop yelling at bus stops, or drunkenly making a ruckus at 3am on my street, or fight with their boyfriends and girlfriends. I want to just say “sleep” and have them collapse where they stand into a deep, peaceful 8-hour snooze. I’d be like Sandman! Of course, I’d like to be able to give myself a good night’s rest as well. I tend to suffer from insomnia quite a bit, which probably explains why I write so much late at night.

Henry: Very innovative, and it offers a way to stop war.

If you could have three movie stars over for dinner, who would it be?

I could just pick movie stars I have crushes on, but then I suppose I would be too nervous to eat so why have dinner at all. But here goes! Sir Christopher Lee because he’s got so many amazing stories to tell that usually begin with “I remember when Errol Flynn and I…” I’d love to chat with Tom Baker because he was always my favorite Time Lord in Doctor Who, and he has such an inviting laugh that I know he must have some rather interesting tidbits to share from his acting days. And if she were still alive today, I would be honored to chat with Dorothy Parker. She’s eat me alive with her wit, but I imagine she would be quite the dinner party attendee just from her legacy of the Algonquin Round Table.

What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?

Unicorn! I’ve always been fascinated with them and what they represent. But who’s to say they were ever fictional. They’re mentioned in the Hebrew and Christian Bible numerous times, as well as present in various Chinese legends. I’d like to think they just became extinct from overzealous hunters looking to gain some kind of medieval powers. Two of my favorite movies – Blade Runner and Legend use the same unicorn film footage, and it’s always stayed with me.

Henry: Wait, there was no unicorn reference in “And the Lord did grin and people did feast upon the lambs and sloths and carp and anchovies and orang-utans and breakfast cereals and fruit bats and…”

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Craft! Procrastinate! Play with my dog! Procrastinate some more! Watch British TV mysteries like Sherlock and Marple! Procrastinate again!

What would you like it to say on your tombstone?

“I told you I was sick!” hahahaha… no. Actually, maybe I would use that. I’m a bit of a hypochondriac. Or maybe “See you on the flipside” — that way I cover both bases. I don’t want to assume I’m headed to one destination over the other.

Where can readers find your work?

I write a monthly column for the British entertainment magazine SFX. You can find all my books on Amazon, and I’m redesigning my website – so check back there soon!

As always, I can be found hourly if not more on my Twitter.
Also, I’ll be at San Diego Comic-Con, and have quite a few panels on writing, so be sure to say hello if you see me!

Henry: We’ll be wandering the Exhibit Hall on Sunday, proudly wearing our Nimpentoad t-shirts. We hope to see you there.

This article is also posted to the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.

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Author: Henry Herz

Children's book author

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