Petrea Burchard drew on her acting experience to write her first novel, Camelot & Vine. During a summer Shakespeare course at Oxford, she fell in love with the English countryside and the idea for Camelot & Vine began to take shape.
Petrea began her acting career on the Chicago stage, later moving to Los Angeles to work in television, film and voice-over. She's known as the original English voice of Ryoko, the sexy space pirate in the anime classic, Tenchi Muyo!.
Auditions, jobs and the people she met in Hollywood became fodder for her popular Act As If humor column at NowCasting.com, now a book of humorous essays about the life of a journeyman actor in Hollywood.
Other published works include book reviews, articles, essays and short fiction.
Act As If:
Headshot in Hand
Brief synopsis of your book:
Act As If: Stumbling Through Hollywood with Headshot in Hand, a collection of essays originally published in the ActorsInk ezine at Nowcasting.com, takes a humorous look at what it means to be a journeyman actor in Hollywood. (Journeyman, as in, not a star.) Is it tragic? Is it comic? Yes.
Current book or project you’re working on:
Right now I'm in the first draft stages of a new novel. At this point it's a paranormal romance. I know it's going to go through several drafts so who knows? It might end up as a war story or a cookbook.
What moment or event sparked the inspiration for your book?
Act As If was inspired by my twenty years of experience as a Hollywood actor. The episodes are based in truth, some more loosely than others.
Please share three interesting facts in your book.
Auditions are much like job interviews. Actors are constantly interviewing, sometimes several times a day if they're lucky.
Acting in Hollywood means interminable freeway driving. That's because "Hollywood" is a concept as well as a place, and the concept covers a lot of ground.
There are some very nice, very real people in Hollywood.
What did you learn that surprised you while working on this book?
I was surprised that not much has changed in the TV/film business since I stopped auditioning 6 years ago to concentrate on writing.
How do you think readers will benefit from your book?
Actors new to the business will get a taste of reality. We all come to Hollywood with big hopes. There's nothing wrong with dreams, but dreams aren't actions and you need actions to make your dreams come true.
Non-actors and people outside the TV/film industry have told me they found Act As If relates to their lives, especially in how they deal with their own business environments.
What makes your book different than other non fiction books addressing this issue?
I haven't found many books on the subject. There are plenty of books about "the business," about how to act, about casting directors and agents and auditions. But they're not funny. There are several funny books written by famous actors, but few by non-famous ones.
Have you accomplished or achieved anything successfully because of the knowledge you’ve shared in your book?
Just having worked in Hollywood is an accomplishment. It is so hard to do. You have to be an artist and a businessperson at the same time. I started out wanting to be famous, and through that endeavor I became an artist. Then I got to write about it. Those things feel like accomplishments to me.
What genre and age group does your book fall into?
The genre(s) are entertainment, essays and humor.
I recommend the book for college age and over. I think it would be particularly good for college MFA students to read before they head to Hollywood and the "big time." We all want to be artists but Hollywood is a business, and those who have their business skills in the bag will thrive.
What is the first book you remember reading, that affected how you thought or felt about something?
Jane Langton's "The Diamond in the Window" was the first "un-put-downable" book I ever read. "A book can do that?" I thought. There is a mystery in every novel, regardless of genre. A mystery is a question that must be answered.
Which three authors have inspired you the most, and why?
You know this question is incredibly hard to answer, right?
I must put William Shakespeare first. He inspires me both as an actor and a writer.
I love Daphne Du Maurier's novels. Spooky and smart. Her stories intrigue, with wise turns of phrase and strong characters.
Richard Russo. The guy is good.
Have you ever read a book you couldn’t finish reading?
Oh yes! Even some best-sellers and well-reviewed books. Sometimes the subject matter is something I don't want to read about. Sometimes the writing or editing is just too awful. I don't mind telling you I'm picky about books.
Do you read a book, while you are writing a book?
Always, though I try not to read books with the same subject matter I'm writing about at the time.
How many books have you written?
I've written two, one novel and one non-fiction. I'm starting on my third, another novel.
Which book is your favourite and why?
Of my own books, I have a soft spot for my novel, Camelot & Vine. It was the book I wanted to read, so I wrote it. I love Casey's adventure and her valiant heart. I read it again recently and I'm still drawn in by the build to the end. It's as though I don't know what's going to happen!
Act As If is my experience, my voice. The reader doesn't know the ending, but I do!
CAMELOT & VINE
What do you feel is the most difficult part of writing?
For me it's organizing my story into a form. It took me forever to write Camelot & Vine for this very reason. I wrote by the seat of my pants, and I outlined as well. Both! This time around I'm starting with an outline. I hope it will keep me organized.
What were three challenges you faced when writing this particular book?
Much of Act As If was already written because it's based on a column I wrote, so I didn't face that particular challenge. I did, however, have to update a few things. It's a good thing I have friends in Hollywood who answer my questions!
It was a challenge to choose which essays to use. I wanted to use the best ones, but some of my favorites were kind of snarky! I didn't want the book to have that tone so I didn't include them.
Phiz, the dog character in the book, is my own Boxer/Pit bull mix Boz, who died in 2013. I still miss Boz so revisiting the stories where he shows up was both sweet and sad at the same time.
What lessons have you learned as an aspiring author?
Everything takes longer than you think it will, so don't announce anything until you're sure!
Do you ever experience writer’s block? If so what helps you to ‘overcome’?
I don't think of it as writer's block. It's more a reluctance to simply sit down at the desk and write. It's procrastination, or an unwillingness to write crap. What helps me to overcome it is either a deadline or just giving myself a break and reminding myself I get to edit!
What is the most important thing you’ve learned, either in the self-publishing or traditional publisher, route?
I think neither is better than the other. I don't think we need to settle any arguments about that. Publishing is an industry any way you look at it, and an industry must create income. Sometimes it's hard to look at art with such a cold eye.
What part of the writing process do you enjoy the most?
I love to edit! It's part of my business and I really enjoy it. The first draft is hard for me, but once I have it I get to have fun.
What part of the process becomes the most critical for you?
It's probably when I'm getting close to the finish. By that time in the process, I'm tired of the book. I don't want to read it again, don't want to work on it any more, I'm sick of it and I want to publish it NOW. But that's when it's easy to mess things up. Getting feedback from beta readers and listening with an open heart can be critical.
Which book to movie conversion is your favourite?
To Kill a Mockingbird. Does everyone say that? A remarkable book and a remarkable movie that catches the book's tone perfectly.
Do movies ever inspire your writing?
They do, in a way. Partly because of my experience as an actor I understand how dialogue works. I'm also a visual person and I picture the story I'm telling, writing down everything I see.
Do you study science, the planets, history, or anything special to help you with your writing?
It depends on what I'm writing but whatever it is, it always sends me on a research quest. I do love history, and Camelot & Vine was particularly fun; I got to learn about the early 6th century and the King Arthur legends. For Act As If I got to talk to people and find out about their experiences in Hollywood. For the next one I'll be studying a peasant rebellion in the 16th century!
Do you think authors should write and read one genre or explore many options?
I think authors should write what they want to write. Oscar Peterson said, "If it moves you, it'll move me." I think that applies to all the arts.
As for what people should read, it's up to them. But personally, I'll read anything that's good. Good writing is good writing.
Drink – water
Food – avocados
Vacation – somewhere I've never been
TV show – I have a TV but I catch online videos and these days I'm loving Galavant.
Movie – Franco Zeferelli's Romeo & Juliet
Animal – dog
Sport – hiking
Book – Grendel by John Gardner (right now I'm reading his book, October Light)
Comedy – Galaxy Quest
Struggle - We are all trying to do what's best. Wouldn't it be lovely if we all agreed on what that is?
How can people connect with you?
Where can readers find your book?
Act As If
Camelot & Vine
Petrea Burchard's Amazon Author Page