A little about Bobbi Chukran: She's done a lot of different artistic things, as you'll see below. She lives in a cottage she and her husband recently purchased in Taylor, TX, and which they've made into a major project, converting it to their needs. She is very active in several online discussion groups and blogs about gardening, her cottage, and writing.
Her mysteries are written as B. A. Neal, everything else under Bobbi Chukran. Her website is http://bobbichukran.com and other links are at the end.
She has just set up a new venture to help out her fellow mystery authors. Check it out at http://a-murder-is-announced.
BOBBI: Hi Kaye! Thanks for having me here on your blog. It was an honor to meet you in real life, and I’m sorry you had to move away before we really got to know each other. I feel like we’re kindred spirits.
KAYE: It WAS bad timing on my part! You have had great success with your plays. What can you tell us about play writing? Or is it play wrighting? Feel free to mention the awards you've received and what they mean.
BOBBI: It’s play writing, but we call ourselves “playwrights.” Interesting, everybody tells me that I’ve had great success with my plays. If you count awards, I suppose you could say that I’ve been successful. Four of my plays have won awards since I started writing them five years ago. But I'm really just a beginner.
Since then, ANNIERELLA has been published by Brooklyn Publishers and subsequently has had a handful of productions at schools in New York, South Carolina, Missouri. (Nope, none in Texas yet, although I keep hoping!)
In general, a playwright’s goal is to get productions of the plays, to have people actually see them and to get paid for it. It’s the getting paid for it that’s the hard part.
I really went into play writing blind and have stumbled around, finding my way. It’s not an easy field for a writer. There are only so many theatres, and most of them understandably also want to make money. So they will look for proven moneymakers, and usually not an original play by an unknown.
The plays I write are pretty much “production ready” because I can see them acted out and directed in my head, with full-fledged costuming, lighting, props. I’m not sure where that skill came from. I’ve yet to actually direct any of my own plays although it’s always in the back of my mind.
KAYE: I notice that you write fantasy plays and mystery novels. Why the different genres for the different forms?
Most of my other writing merges the mystery and fantasy a bit more—leaning more towards fantasy. I’ve found that I don’t like writing about real people much, and I don’t like writing about school, or work, or contemporary relationships. So that leaves fantasy. To me, historical fiction is almost like writing fantasy, because it’s removed somehow from the concerns of everyday life. I think it would be great fun to write a steampunk story, which would combine the two.
I’m focusing on the stranger fiction/fantasy—some are calling it speculative fiction. I call it quirky fiction, leaning slightly toward dark humor.
To illustrate, my influences are the British comedies, Doctor Who, anything by Tim Burton, old sci-fi and horror movies, classic cartoon animation, Monty Python—things of that ilk. I’ve still trying to find the perfect novel that encompasses everything I want to do with my fiction. Some kid’s books come close---the Lemony Snicket books and the Spiderwick Chronicles are favorites. I LOVE movies, and they actually come closer to the kinds of stories I want to tell, but I’m not really into writing screenplays. I love writing dialogue, so have pondered writing some radio plays, though.
I recently made my first YouTube video book trailer, and a whole new world opened up to me. I’ve always loved multi-media, so I’m enjoying learning how to do those.
KAYE: I've read your play, ANNIERELLA and THE (VERY AWESOME) GOOD QUEEN FAIRY COWMOTHER, and can see that you have an absurdist sense of humor--very funny stuff! Were you the class clown growing up? Where do you think your talent for humor comes from?
BOBBI: Thanks! I like that description: absurdist sense of humor. I’ll have to use it. LOL! ANNIERELLA was great fun because I really played with language in it. Lots of alliteration, bouncy words, fun words—that’s really what I’m all about. I had a lot of fun naming the seven elves in PRINCESS PRIMROSE.
I do love to make people laugh, although I didn’t really realize I could do in my writing that until I started writing the plays. They allowed me to let loose and be crazy. I do have a stack of ideas and partial manuscripts for crazy kid’s picture books, sketchbooks filled with wild characters for stories, etc. and now that it’s much easier to publish e-books, I’m hard at work getting more of them out there.
I don’t think I was the class clown—I’ll have to ask some of my Facebook friends that knew me back then. I was very depressed as a kid, lived inside books, and even did a lot of writing back then, but I really didn’t find my voice until my early 50’s.
I’m not sure where it comes from. It’s just a skewed way of looking at things, and being a keen observer. Some of my kinfolks have had a really great sense of humor, although they didn’t let it show much. I think it’s just that I see things differently than most people and I’m just now willing to let some of that out on paper.
My most recent stories and plays are all comedy spoofs or satire inspired by classic stories turned on their heads mixed with cultural references. My DOT Christmas play mixes references to the Wizard of Oz, Lost in Space and Monty Python—all in one. PRINCESS PRIMROSE is a mixture of at least three fairy tales.
KAYE: How on earth did the idea of a Fairy Cowmother come to you?
BOBBI: LOL. Well, ANNIERELLA was based on the idea of having a Texas cowgirl version of the classic Cinderella story. And I thought, what’s the least likely critter that could be a fairy godmother? I had an image in my head of a cow, standing on her hind legs, udders-a-danglin’, waving a wand all around, wearing a tiara—with an attitude the size of Texas. So the Very Awesome Good Queen Fairy Cowmother was born.
KAYE: I've also read and enjoyed your historical mystery novel, LONE STAR DEATH. There are distinct flashes of humor there, too. In addition, you write short stories. What do you do, mentally, to switch from one to the other--to the other?
BOBBI: Thanks, glad you enjoyed it! I have a really hard time switching from one to the other, although there is always some element of mystery in them all. One of my goals is to merge all of my interests so that I don’t feel so scattered half the time. And that means letting some of the things go. That’s why I’m glad that LONE STAR DEATH is out now in e-book and print, so I can move on to other projects. I found that I really love writing shorter things, and that works well with the kid’s projects and short stories I’ve written.
KAYE: Do you plan a sequel to LONE STAR DEATH?
KAYE: Do you have any recurring characters in your other works?
BOBBI: I did write a second Annierella play. My PRINCESS PRIMROSE play features S. White and R. Rapunzel as noirish sleuths “in service to Her Majesty, the Queen” with seven little operatives that assist them. I’m about to publish the novelization of that one, targeted towards middle grade or ‘tween-agers, as they call them now. It’s definitely the first in a series, with at least two more planned. I fell in love with the crazy characters and couldn’t leave them behind. I’m attempting to do the illustrations for it, too, based on the strange characters in my sketch book. Yes, I’m nuts! LOL
KAYE: Gardening, fiber arts, home remodeling, photography, painting--is there an artistic endeavor you're not interested in?
BOBBI: I am interested in a crazy amount of things. A lot of those were things I’ve done in the past, though. I don’t like to be bored, and have always had some sort of hobby. For years, I tried making a living with artwork, and my first non-fiction book was on the fiber arts. But in general, other than house stuff, I’ve left that behind. The remodeling project is mostly over. I take pleasure in working in the garden—it’s my therapy—and taking photos of it and sharing them with others is part of that. It’s something I’ll never grow tired of.
KAYE: You've written non-fiction also. That's something I've never done (except I consider this interview non-fiction). How does that differ from fiction writing?
BOBBI: Ah! I think it differs because non-fiction comes from other places and is based on real-life whereas fiction comes directly from inside me. There are areas where it mixes, of course—like memoir—but in general, I have so many stories inside me that I want to get out, I made a conscious decision to focus on those right now. I call it “authentic writing”—stories that only I can tell. Some of them are based on real life, but fictionalized. For example, there was the time we lived in a bait shop….LOL.
I do a lot of blogging, and for the most part, that’s non-fiction. It’s a way to reach out to potential readers.
KAYE: Thanks for being with us today! Good luck with all of your many varied projects!
BOBBI: Thank you so much! It was a pleasure. Your questions really made me THINK. And that’s a good thing.