Interview with David Burnett, Author of House Beside the River

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What’s the story behind the story? What inspired you to write House Beside the River?

The story is intended to illustrate the effects of the choices we make. Nicole draws a distinction between banging out the tune of Chopsticks on a piano and the rendition of Mozart’s Piano Concerto she once heard at Carnegie Hall. The pianist at Carnegie Hall lost herself, becoming one with her music, earning the ovation that followed. The two performances are metaphors for our lives. Do we choose to “go through the motions” of life, routinely playing a memorized set of notes, reacting to events, or do we jump in, headfirst, consumed by our life and our work.

If you had to pick theme songs for the main characters of House Beside the River, what would they be?

I Will Always Love You – Once Nicole commits, her love is forever, and, throughout the book, Nicole loves two guys.

What’s your favorite genre to read? Is it the same as your favorite genre to write?

If you look at ‘Titles to Be Read” below, you find three light romances, one fantasy, and a thriller. The list is pretty typical of the books I enjoy.

What books are on your TBR pile right now?

On my Kindle bookshelf, I find these titles: Finding Libbie, The Druid, The Seat Filler, Shoulder Season, and  The Man Bound by Winter.

What scene in your book was your favorite to write?

Were I to describe my favorite scene, I would need to stamp SPOILER ALERT across the description.

One of my favorite scenes consumes most of the second chapter of House Beside the River. Nicole and Chris are playing in the woods near Nicole’s family’s farm on a warm, later summer afternoon. Both are thirteen years old, on the cusp of adolescence. They pretend to be pirates, playing like children, and they hold hands, giving expression to their budding adolescent interest in the opposite sex. The back-and-forth was fun to write and, I hope, fun to read. The reader can tell their lives and their relationships are about to change. And change, they do!

Do you have any quirky writing habits? (lucky mugs, cats on laps, etc.)

My favorite place to write is the pier at Folly Beach, South Carolina, where we live. Sitting in the shade on the west side, a latte from Center Street Coffee beside me, and my Surface laptop on the table before me. I listen as the ocean crashes onto the beach and the gulls soar overhead, and I write.

Do you have a motto, quote, or philosophy you live by?

A character in the Tudors quoted what he said was an old French proverb: Praise the Lord of all. Drink the Wine. Let the world be the world. Another way of saying much the same thing is found in Psalm 115, verse 1: “Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name be the glory.”

If you could choose one thing for readers to remember after reading your book, what would it be?

One theme that runs through the book is that the choices we make are important. Important choices, day-to-day decisions, trivial, on-the-spur-of-the-moment elections, all are important, and all are potentially life changing.

In the last chapter of House Beside the River, Nicole looks back over her life to that point and ponders the choices she and the others have made.

“I had shaken my head, not for the first time, puzzling over the twists and turns our lives had taken. Had the afternoon Chris and I spent playing in the woods and splashing in the pond set in motion the ruin of so many lives? That one decision of mine to shed my clothes? Or my choice to dive from the limb of the Great Oak? Does the course of one’s life truly hinge on a single decision made on the spur of a single moment? What if I had cooled off by walking home and chugging a glass of iced lemonade instead of skinny dipping in the pond?…”

Such “what if” questions were pointless. We never truly know all the events that conspire to produce an outcome, nor can we know the ultimate effect of a different decision. Then, too, perhaps, as some believe, there is a divine plan for our lives. Perhaps our specific decisions matter very little, and our lives simply are what they are. It’s a mystery.

 

David Burnett is the author of the new book House Beside the River

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