Serena Burdick interview with David Alan Binder

posted Jan 14, 2020, 10:12 AM by David Alan Binder

Serena Burdick interview with David Alan Binder


Her website:


About from her website:  Serena Burdick is the author of the novels GIRL IN THE AFTERNOON (St. Martin’s Press, 2016) and THE GIRLS WITH NO NAMES, forthcoming from Park Row Books in January 2020. She is the 2017 International Book Award Winner for Historical Fiction. She studied creative writing at Sarah Lawrence,

holds a Bachelors of Arts from Brooklyn College in English literature and an Associates of Arts from The American Academy of Dramatic Arts in theater.  She lives in Massachusetts with her family.

  1. How do you pronounce your name?


  2. Where are you currently?



  3. What is the most important thing that you have learned in your writing experience, so far?

    To have patience with myself. To understand that most of the work won’t be good, but that I can get it there no matter how impossible it seems in the moment. To be comfortable starting over, tossing out sixty pages, reworking an ending, but not to give up on it.

  4. What would you say is your most interesting writing, publishing, editing or illustrating quirk?

    My quirk may be that I have absolutely no writing system. With each new novel I think, “aha, this is my method,” only to find myself doing it entirely different the next time. My first novel I started with a scene and a character with no idea of a story, my second I started with plot, planning it out meticulously on a wall sized piece of paper, my third I muddled about in thinking I knew where it was going only to have it continuously change. Even my research process looks different. For Girl in the Afternoon, set in nineteenth century Paris, it didn’t feel crucial to go to Paris (plus I didn’t have the means, at the time) so I read Emile Zola and spent hours on google earth. But for my novel set in Cuba (Estelita, out next year), it was unthinkable not to go there and soak up the culture and environment. One only knows where my next book will take me. 

  5. Tell us your insights on self-publish or use a publisher?

    Self-publishing is a sound option and makes sense for certain writers, especially if they have a niche or genre they’re going for. It takes a lot of discipline, motivation, and business savvy. Having a publisher is a luxury if you don’t have all that knowhow and gumption. I commend writers who self-publish. I knew early in my writing career I wouldn’t have the drive it takes to promote and market myself. With a publisher I have a marketing and publicity team behind me, which is a privilege that allows me to focus solely on writing. I realize that not all writers have that option, or that it might not be the right one for them, which makes self publishing a way for everyone to get their work out there.

    1. Who is the name of your publisher and in what city are they located?


      Park Row Books located in New York City.


  6. Any insights eBooks vs. print books and alternative vs. conventional publishing?

    Personally, I read only print books. I need the feel of it in my hands and to be able to flip back through the pages, but the convenience of having multiple books on a tablet, especially when traveling or commuting is undeniable. Whatever gets books into people’s hands! I feel the same way about alternative vs. conventional publishing. It is a huge challenge to get your work published conventionally, and it’s not always the right fit for a writer. Having alternatives means more options for writers to get their work into the world.


    Do you have any secret tips for writers on getting a book published?  


    My advice, no matter what publishing route you’re going for, is to perfect the work before you put it out there. Edit and reedit and edit some more. Get others to read your work and take all the advice you’re offered until you believe you have something truly worthwhile. Agents and editors remember names so you want to make sure that first round of submissions is something you’re extremely proud of.


  7. How did you or would you suggest acquire an agent?  Any tips for new writers on getting one?

    I think there’s an illusion in our culture that if you “know someone” you’re in. This may pan out, but from my experience it’s not often to the writers benefit. Ultimately, the work needs to stand on its own, and if someone takes you on based on the merit of your work alone it’s a far more powerful relationship. I got my agent through submission. I found a database of agents on the internet, started at the A’s, and began sending out query letters with sample chapters and a synopsis of my manuscript. I only sent to agents in my genre who were accepting submissions. Don’t try and wow them. Stay simple and real and honest. I set a goal of sending to ten agents a week and figured if it took twenty years, so be it. In the meantime, I began another novel. Rejection is a huge part of it, but I was in the acting world for years so I was used to that. Stay positive and patient. Also, when an agent does request to view your entire manuscript, it is my recommendation to stop submitting to other agents and wait for them to reject or accept it. There’s no rule on this, but I think it’s a respectful gesture. 

  8. Do you have any suggestions or helps for new writers (please be so specific that this most likely will not have been seen elsewhere)?

    Complete the work. Finish it. Get to the end no matter how hard and no matter how terrible you think it is. There is immense satisfaction in finishing a project. At that point you can be objective and critical without the self-judgment that makes it hard to keep going, and you now have something to work with, to edit and improve upon. You might end up throwing it out, but you’ll know you did it and can do it again.

  9. What was one of the most surprising things you learned with your creative process with your books, editing, publishing or illustrating?

    Since what I love is creating story, it is surprising how resistant I am to beginnings. A blank page, whether the start of the book or the start of a chapter, feels impossibly hard. Editing, on the other hand I find totally satisfying. I love going back, combing through, adding detail. Also I’d say that the idea of “creative process” sounds glorious and exciting, but mostly it’s just hard work. There are moments of inspiration, where a sentence flows or comes out perfectly, but writing, like any task in life, can feel tedious, uninspired, messy and tiring. Only after I’ve put in the time can I step back and see that the hard work has lead to something beautiful.

    10. How many books have you written?

    Four: two published, a third coming out next year, and one to be determined.

    11. Do you have any tricks or tips to help others become a better writer (please be so specific that this most likely will not have been seen elsewhere)?

    I am speaking as a writer of prose, but it is my belief that poetry is the secret to a good writer. Writers of any genre should read and write poetry even if it’s not their thing. Write it for yourself and no one else. It allows a writer to play with words in a way that is freeing and adds richness to any prose. Also, read. Read everything. Expand your variety and reach for books you may not naturally gravitate towards. All of it will inform your own work.


    12.Do you have any suggestions for providing twists in a good story?

    Starting with a plot or characters that appear conventional, but veer drastically into the unconventional always adds a good element of surprise.

    13. What makes your or any book stand out from the crowd?

    It is my aspiration to write books that marry page-turning plot with stunning prose. We are often given gripping plotlines with mediocre writing, or gorgeous prose with mediocre plots. If you can write a book that sucks in the reader, but also has sentences so compelling and beautiful that the reader can’t help but stop and reread them, you’ve done it.

    14. What is one unusual way in which you promote your work?

    With my first book I took my family on a cross-country road trip from Massachusetts to California, dragging children and husband to as many bookstores as I could to do readings. Since the wintery release of The Girls with No Names, I am less inclined to drive out West, but I will find anyway of working travel plans into book promotion if I can.


    15.  What is the one thing you would do differently now (concerning writing or editing or publishing or illustrating) and why?

    I would think differently about a book going straight to paperback. With my debut novel, Girl in the Afternoon, it felt crucial that it come out in hardcover, as if somehow this made it more valid or reputable, but when I was told the publisher wouldn’t be putting out a paperback edition, I was devastated, and honestly didn’t even know this happened. I somehow assumed all books went to paperback. When my new publisher suggested The Girls with No Names go straight to paperback, I wholeheartedly agreed. Building readership is what it’s all about, and if the price point gets it into people’s hands, I’m all for it.


    16. What saying or mantra do you live by?

    “The universe is unfolding perfectly.” Covers the gamut, as far as I can tell.


    17. Anything else you would like to say?

    If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my forties, it is that success takes time. In my twenties my friends and I all expected things to happen for us immediately, or at least by twenty-five, or six, or seven. It didn’t, but those of us who kept at it, who have put fifteen, twenty years into the thing we are passionate about, are finally coming into our own and it is a beautiful thing to witness. Actor friends are getting work, director friends are getting movies made, writer friends are getting published and painter friends are in galleries. For most of us it’s a long road, just stay on it, keep your head down, perfect your craft, trust your work and know that wherever it lands it has value.