An Interview with Donna Taylor Burgess
by Eric S. Brown © 2006
For those of you haven't heard of Donna Taylor Burgess, she is an extremely talented and widely published poet and author. Her fiction has appeared in a wide array of magazines such as Weird Tales, The Book of Dark Wisdom, and Dreams and Nightmares to name only a few. Her work has received honorable mention in The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror and she was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Donna is also an artist who does book covers and recently had her art appear as the cover of Blood Cookies e-zine. In addition, she runs her own publishing company called Naked Snake Press.
Donna, how did you get interested in writing?
I've always enjoyed writing. In the second grade, I would write stories about King Kong or Bigfoot and read them to my friends. When Star Wars came out, I would write stories for those characters. I suppose I was doing fan fic without realizing it!
In the sixth grade, I swiped a copy of Stephen King's Night Shift. (Just think--he's responsible for an entire generation of horror writers, both good and bad!) I would read it in class when I was supposed to be doing my science assignments. Long story short, I believe I benefited a lot more from reading ONE FOR THE ROAD and LAST RUNG ON THE LADDER and I KNOW WHAT YOU NEED, than from reading how dirt is made and what it is comprised of.
What is your greatest achievement as an author to you?
My first pro sale--to THE BRUTARIAN for a werewolf story called Twilight Poison. I just couldn't get over the fact I had actually gotten a check for writing a story--something I would have done anyway.
Tell us a bit about Naked Snake Press and how it came about:
I had done a 'zine called The Blue Lady from 1994 to 1997, but the cost of printing forced me to fold. I knew next to nothing about the Internet at that time, or else I could have gone electronic. (Oh, well!) Between '98 and '02, I had all but stopped writing as well, but by 2003, I found myself missing the rush of creating--both stories and 'zines. Again, I didn't know much about the Internet, but I created a blog page calling for submissions for a chapbook of Lewis Carroll inspired flash, poetry and art. It did pretty well and I fell back in love with both writing and publishing. Since December 2003, NSP has produced around 27 titles, with four out this month. Plus, I do POE LITTLE THING, the Digest of Horrific Poetry twice a year.
How is it that you manage to juggle being a Mom, a writer, a poet, and an artist while still finding the time to run your own company?
Well, I home school my 16 year-old daughter, but she's so responsible, she doesn't need me peering over her shoulder constantly. My four year-old is a pretty good little fellow--while sister studies, he works on his kindergarten material. They have school up in my office with me, so we're all just hard at work, every morning. Still, as much as I do with NSP, I sort of consider it a hobby because I have so much fun with it.
What are your long term plans for Naked Snake Press and Naked Snake Books?
My own writing is moving up my priority list, so I have to make more time for that. That means I will be cutting back on the number of chapbooks I do next year--8 or fewer. With NSP BOOKS, I plan on doing a novel or two, a couple of novellas or longer collections. With the Internet and POD technology, the possibilities for the small press is limitless.
Which writers still inspire and motivate you today?
Stephen King will always be my favorite. I think all writers wish they could have such a conversational tone to their writing. I also enjoy Richard Matheson, Poppy Brite's horror tales--I just loved her language in Exquisite Corpse. I like her non-horror work also and think it's very cool how she moved from one genre to a totally different one without missing a beat. I read as much Caitlin Kiernan as I can get my hands on. The late Larry Brown, author of Joe: A Novel, Dirty Work and a bunch more. All Southern writers should read his stuff. Kathe Koja. Angela Carter. Iris Murdoch. Patrick McGrath. Daphne Du Maurier. WIlliam Gibson. Gosh, I could go on and on!
And finally, if you do ever manage to get free time, how do you spend it when you aren't working?
When it's warm, I pretty much live on the beach. I took up surfing this past summer. My husband bought me a big ol' pink longboard. I'm not very good, but I sure have fun trying. I play golf once in a blue moon, but I wish I could play more often. My daughter and I watch lots of Monty Python, so we spend a great deal of time giggling together.