Interviews

Interview with Lorrimer Burford Author of "A Jamaican Storyteller’s Tale"

Written by P Pepper

Lorrimer Burford holds an MBA (Hons.) from the Keller Graduate School of Management at DeVry University. He has earned diplomas and degrees from the New York University and the University of the West Indies in fields of marketing and mathematics. A teacher, administrator and marketer, this father and husband enjoys writing the stories that were told to him as a child— remembering the good old days and colourful Jamaican culture.

P: What prompted you (a businessman and educator) to write this book?

LB: Long before I became a businessman or educator I wanted to write and indeed attempted to write. I remember when I was reading the Hardy Boys series, I though I could write something similar. That was over thirty years ago. Little did I know that it took specific knowledge and skill to write interesting reading and so, over the years, I made many futile attempts.

P: What, if any challenges did you face getting published?

LB: Although I have written many short stories, poems and indeed one book before, I never thought them publishable. Over the years I have been measuring my writing against novelists like Harold Robbins and James A. Michener and, in my opinion, to date I have not even come close. Therefore, I never felt my work was publishable…well, except a self published horse racing book.

As I was writing this book, my then thirteen year-old daughter found the stories interesting which gave me the courage to submit my manuscript to a publisher. I sent it to two publishers: Kingston Publishing and LMH Publishing. Ms. Carla Greenwood of Kingston publishing acknowledged that the work was publishable and said that she liked it but unfortunately, because Kingston Publishers do not publish fiction, recommended I send it to a LMH Publishing; soon after LMH accepted the manuscript.

P: Why did you choose this time period (circa 1950) to write this book?

LB: I was born in 1950. It’s in the 50’s, while I was a boy, that I heard some of the scariest ghost stories of my life and, of course, could swear about coming in contact with ghosts myself. For example, the night I saw a Duppy woman dancing in the moonlight along a dirt-road. Normally, I would run for my life but curiosity got the better of me, so I cautiously approached her only to find out that it was a broken banana tree leaf dancing in the gently country wind.

P: How did you research this book?

LB: The last ten years of my life have been occupied with research, working as a Director for Planning and Development for a non-profit and as the Grant Coordinator for a City. The Internet has therefore become an intricate part of my life, so when I need information of whatever sort, I merrily surf the net.

P: Many writers talk about writer’s block and taking even a few years to write a book. Did you experience any of this?

LB: It took about five months for me to write this book but I was writing partly from my own experience, remembering the days when I was a boy. By this time I had developed some skill in plotting, writing narrative, creating conflict and most of all, doing what many great writes suggest: “showing instead of telling” my story. During this time I had no problem telling my story but as the saying goes “Everyone has one book in them” so I might experience this “writer’s block” while writing another book.

Frankly, through the inexperience me keep saying: “Ah wha dem a talk bout? Once yuh ave a idea an plot it out yuh shudden ave no problem ‘riting de book. Like de wan mi a work pon now. No problem man. Bout writer’s block!” (Kiss teet.)

P: Do you identify with any of the characters of the book? Why?

LB: Absolutely! Since I am recounting some of my own experiences, sometimes I identify with Cecil, the main character and narrator but only sometimes. Then there are the times when I identify with his father. For example, on his trip to Jamaica he spoke of “the unchanged, unspoiled, rich green grass and trees dressing the mountainside and timeless river called the Wag Waters.” He spoke of the “rolling hills on the far side of the river with its light green grass blanket, its deep yellow, brown and green trees and the luscious, mouth watering mangoes, apples and plums hanging from laden trees.” This is me all over again, as I am forever in love with the arresting splendor and the mouthwatering fruits, presented by the Junction road leading from Highgate to Kingston.

P: Are any of the characters from your past?

LB: I have gotten calls from many, some of whom I do not know and mostly, they want to know if any of the characters are from my past. Most of the characters are from my past but I have taken great care not to link a character with the same name. So if I am talking about “Brutus” in real life, I call him another name.

P: Did your role as an educator play any role in how you write this book.

LB: No! I teach mathematics. I have always taught math as it is the subject I am most qualified to teach, one which I loved most in school and studied at UW. Writing has always been an “on the side thing” for me. It’s what I enjoy doing on my leisure time.

P: What are you reading right now? As an educator what do you think of the Harry Potter books?

LB: Just finished reading “Reggae Silver” by Horane Smith.

I have never read a Harry Potter book although I love reading fairy tales and ghost stories. I am sure if I choose to read one of the books I would find it very interesting and thrilling reading and might even learn from it. I have no doubt that the author is a skillful writer and a master storyteller.

P: Are you working on another book?

LB: Yes! My problem is I have to make a living as well (smile) and I am working on a real estate project that is taking a big chunk of my time. As a result I have to put the book on hold for a few more weeks.

Another problem is that the book I am working on is very involved and requires much research. This, plus the demand for a sequel of “A Jamaica Storyteller’s Tale” is forcing me to stop the current book and write the sequel.

P: Any advice for aspiring writers?

LB: Keep in mind that I am an amateur writer, hardly someone qualified to give advice. But let me suggest the “Writer’s Guide to Good Writing” –a writer’s digest book- as compulsory reading for all aspiring writers. Also, read and digest “The Elements of Style” by Spunk and White. Then, don’t be afraid, just write.

Meet Lorrimer Burford at his Florida Book Launch.
Tuesday, September 27th at 7PM
Devry University
2300 SW 145th Ave.
Miramar, FL 33027

Read the Book Review

Purchase the book online or purchase directly from Lorrimer Burford at [email protected].

About the author

P Pepper