Interview: Bonnye Busbice Good

Bonnye Busbice Good has written about children’s television, historical biographies, dachshunds, travel and book reviews in addition to other interests. She also tutors, writes nonfiction book reviews (European history, women’s studies) for a major industry print publication and also provides fiction reviews for Newmysteryreader.com in addition to serving as an initial reviewer for a national fiction competition. In other words, just another incredibly talented and busy Suite101 writer!

Enjoy this interview.

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Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from and how long have you been writing?

I’m originally from Morgan City, Louisiana, which regularly shows up on network news’ hurricane maps as a potential ground zero for incoming storms. I now live in tornadic Southern Indiana and have been writing professionally for about nine years, although I have freelanced only since 2008.

I enjoyed your Suite101 Editor’s Choice article “Your Historic Home’s Interior Design Secrets,” and see that you’re a bit of a history buff as well. How does this influence your writing?

My original intention was to teach British history at the college level but moving to a small, nonacademic town made that more difficult. On the other side of that, being in a small town with lots of great people offered many other opportunities including serving as Director for the local Department of Public Works that I never expected to see on my resume.

Being trained as a historian and museum curator has instilled in me the acute desire to research my material well before I write, so it can take me a few days to write an article depending on permission to reprint photographs or answer specific questions. I’ve corresponded with professionals in major museums in the UK and the US and their expertise makes be both giddy (reminding me of why I love history so much) and grateful when they offer small clarifications that make my work stronger. My historical interests tend to beget new article topics so my main problem is working on all of my topic ideas, rather than running out.

Regarding the Historic Home article, that comes from being in a small town in which real estate is very affordable. We have a 3600 sq. ft. 1912 Arts and Crafts-inspired Four-Square that we are restoring, so articles on how to do that in a budget-friendly but preservation-minded fashion will continue to pop up on my article list.

You’re an avid book reviewer, which is a wonderful thing these days. Writers are always looking for reviews of their works, which is surprisingly difficult to obtain. What are some of the elements of a well-written book review?

I write for different publications and the requirements for reviews are very different for each. In one industry publication, conciseness and criticism are the key while in a very reader-friendly mystery site, reviews with lots of description are preferred. I try to include constructive (but not crushing) criticism in my reviews but also remember the author’s goals in the work. If I review a detailed biography of a British monarch, I will use a more formal approach and expect more than when I review the latest historical mystery or even a cozy, which is not my specialty. If I find historical, cultural, scientific or other errors, though, I will mention their appearance even if I really love the book but try to put them into context. As you can see, brevity remains my major problem as a reviewer.

Share some of your writing goals. What’s next for you?

Since I’m still pretty new to freelancing, I’m just trying to hone my writing skills and write about things that fascinate me. Most of my work has been in print media so I’m trying to improve my online work.

What’s the most interesting book you’ve ever read?

Wayne Busbice’s Uncovering the Secrets of a Southern Family, which does pertain to part of my family history but should be enjoyable for others as it tells the unexpected and unsentimental story of rural North Louisiana in the early 1900s better than any other book I’ve ever read. It’s especially insightful with the current recession because it covers the Great Depression, Huey Long, plus the journey of bluegrass musicians during that genre’s popularity.

Favorite authors?

Alexander McCall Smith’s Isabel Dalhousie books glow; Kate Chopin continues to surprise and in a more familiar way to me than Virginia Woolf; Reginald Hill’s characters are consistent and make a strong impression. Frances Osbourne’s The Bolter inspired me with the way that she connected with her own family’s skeletons and made it into a well-researched, readable story.

Book you’re currently reading?

I just finished Stephanie Barron’s White Garden, a wonderful mix of modern and historical about Virginia Woolf and a striking garden that I definitely recommend. For pleasure, I’m about to start Charlaine Harris’ first Sookie Stackhouse book, which makes me a little apprehensive since it’s about North Louisiana (where I went to school and where my extended family lives.) Reading interpretations of South or North Louisiana can be difficult since many writers try too hard or aren’t quite able to capture the nuances. But, the series True Blood did pretty well with much of that except for the glaring mispronunciation of the city of Monroe so I’m hopeful that the book will be great.

Any type of writing ritual you have?

I will write a couple of ideas and then a few short words on things that I want to include in the article. If I’m not in my home library, then I will write in my chicken scratch what I want to say instead of using the computer. As long as I start writing in sentences, I figure that I can always put them in order later. Sometimes I listen to Pandora.com for a nice mix of Fiona Apple and Puddle of Mudd grouping if I’m feeling spunky.

Do you believe in writer’s block? If so, how did you get past it? If not, why not?

When I find it difficult to write, then I just curl up with a book. Sometimes reading someone whose work features gloriously written sentences (Jane Austen is one) will do the trick and other times I just want a fast read so I stick with mysteries. I spent years reading only nonfiction so rediscovering fiction has been a real joy. Sometimes seeing a great sentence or uncommon word will spark an idea.

In your opinion, what’s the measure of a successful writer?

If you aren’t writing to support yourself, I’d say a successful writer is one whose work makes her happy, excited and fulfilled. Since those emotions don’t pay the bills, a well-rounded one would be the writer who can support herself financially while still feeling those emotions most of the time. It’s such a personal experience.

Advice for other writers?

Be open to new experiences—you don’t have to suffer from your art but be adventurous and fearless in at least a few aspects of your life. Even more importantly, read, read, read.

Where can we learn more about you?

My profile page on suite101.com gives a general idea of who I am. If I do my job well, my writing will be much more interesting than I am as a person.

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