Frequently asked questions for press & fans.
Burning Wings Book synopsis:
Where did you get the idea for this book?
The book was honestly an accident! When I began to write Burning Wings, it wasn’t supposed to be a novel. It was supposed to be a non-fiction fluffy short story about my first year at Burning Man in 2007. I intended it to be a part of a collection of short stories centered around my adventures backpacking across the world in my twenties, and the spiritual evolution that went along with it. But as I wrote, the story intensified, and it became apparent it was too large for what it was initially planned. As I continued, the story seemed to write itself and continued to evolve naturally over the course of the next few years. Ultimately I had to surrender to the art, and allow it to carry me where it needed to.
What traits and other tidbits do you share with your main character?
Since the character is based on myself and my own experience, by default I share all the traits and experiences! But at this time of publishing, I am thirty-four and the book takes place when I was twenty-one, so there are innocence and naïveté in my character that I don’t feel as connected to anymore. Burning Wings began as a memoir, but morphed into fiction as I got deeper into the writing, and allowed the writing to naturally evolve beyond my own memory – so there are artistic liberties taken with my own character.
For tidbits, the book is a woven tapestry of experiences and conversations I’ve been privy to over what is now fifteen years of festivals and Burning Mans! There are many incidents, conversations, and art pieces that are a culmination of the other years I have spent immersed in Burning Man culture, woven into this story. The most important tidbit though, is my own broken heart, a central theme of the book, and of my life.
Do you consider your book to be feminist literature?
If by “feminist” you mean showcasing a woman’s experience on an equal platform to men, then yes. If you mean “feminist” as is it only accessible to a female audience, then no. Overall, there is a distinct lack of female voices (and music) in Burning Man, counter-culture writing, and EDM culture. Women are typically portrayed as sexual objects rather than the visionaries, artists, and change-makers they are. Burning Wings gives a voice to the female experience, without vanity or apology. I am an avid reader who has devoured counter-culture writing since high school, and this is the first book I know of that gives a truly female voice to this subject matter, in any generation, but especially contemporary writing.
Did any of your inspiration for this book originate in your real life experiences?
Yes! All of the inspiration for Burning Wings came from real-life experience. I grew up in liberal Northern California to parents that met on tour with The Grateful Dead. I was always entranced by the 1960s & 1970s counter-culture, and remember reading Tom Wolfe, Hunter S. Thompson, The Teachings of Don Juan, and more drug and spirituality fueled books in high school. After I graduated I moved to San Francisco where I spent my late teens and twenties around Haight Ashbury, yearning for that wild revolutionary but intentional energy that inspired me so much. I tapped into it at Burning Man. While the book takes place at Burning Man, it is as much inspired by my upbringing and adoration of counter-culture psychedelic literature, mixed in with spiritual philosophy. It would be my greatest dream for the book to join the ranks of these famous counter-culture genre-bending books, but to be the first written by a woman.
What is the significance of the title?
During my first year at Burning Man in 2007, the year that inspired this book, I created a pair of magical fairy wings made of homemade dreamcatchers. They served as a magical talisman throughout the week, and ultimately were sacrificed to burn in The Temple at Burning Man the last day of the event. The initial intent of the writing that turned into the book was centered around these wings, and how they served me throughout the week, but ultimately they needed to be released to the ethers. When I let them go, even though I had grown so attached to them, I was able to tap into a deeper connection, and in essence offer them to someone else who needed them more. But I won’t give away the book’s ending! You’ll have to find that out for yourself!
What did you learn while writing the book?
The most significant part of writing this book as far as personal growth and evolution was tapping into my darkness and broken heart. I didn’t fully realize how much pain and guilt I carried on my own shoulders until I began to release it onto the pages. I began to see how cathartic intentional shadow work can be. I also saw, and still see, very clearly, how I repeat patterns throughout my life. The book takes place when I was twenty-one, and recovering from my first real heartbreak. As I wrote the book over the course of multiple years, I went through more heartbreaks. I began to see the cycles repeating, and it was therapeutic to open my own book and discover lessons on how to heal written in my own hand. Burning Wings contains so much more than just party stories, it has infinite depth and wisdom as well, for those that are ready for it.
What made you decide to self-publish?
Part of being an artist (and an accidental one at that!) is a commitment to truth and purity. As I said before, I didn’t mean to write this book, but once I did I wanted to keep it wild, weird, and pure. Initially, I wanted a publisher to validate my art so that I could be confident when I released this very personal piece of myself to the masses.
When I sat down with myself, I realized I had to believe in my own art, and not rely on anyone else to validate it. After that, the decision was clear that I wanted to maintain creative control, even if it meant more work. I’d be open to working with a publisher that respected me for future editions, but for my first book, I want to establish myself as myself before I let anyone else attempt to.
Are there any specific authors whose writing styles or subject matter inspired your book?
So many! Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and all things Gonzo. Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist. Lewis Carrol’s Alice in Wonderland. Cheryl Strayed’s Wild. Jame’s St. Jame’s Party Monster. Patti Smith’s Just Kids. Tom Wolfe’s Electric Koolaid Acid Test. Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love. Ann Rice’s Interview with a Vampire.
This might seem like a mismatched collection of literature! And they do range from weird and wild to spiritual and sweet, but ultimately but binds these inspirational works is their unapologetic commitment to truth and showing the darkness that is necessary to find the light.
You collaborated with EDM Tunes for a feature – can you explain how your book ties in with EDM and dance culture, even as it centers around spirituality and Burning Man?
EDM culture is more than big-name DJs, bright lights, giant speakers, and crowds of patrons dancing in unison (but Burning Man certainly has all of that)- EDM culture is just that, culture. Unlike a typical concert, in which the performer is apart from the community, EDM grew from the experimental and experiential underground, where an entire generation was given a safe place to connect and celebrate.
Although EDM is now stadiums and modern pop-culture on one end, at its core it is still a feeling, a sense of belonging, and a rebellion against the paradigm of mainstream culture. EDM culture born in dark urban warehouses and isolated forests, where communities came together to simply create and dance; has now inspired international transformational festivals, and overtaken places like Burning Man, once an anarchist experiment devoid of music.
Although many Burners will lament the changes that EDM has brought to the playa, and the media frenzy that has followed big names playing in a non-commerce and radical participation setting, Burning Man’s music magic to me will always be the unknown that you can’t replicate at large scale commercialized events. Burning Man’s music to me is chasing art cars across the dust during dark nights, hoping to catch a surprise Bassnectar set, finding Tipper at sunrise with a crowd of twenty people, or Diplo playing reggaeton to a handful of unknowing dancers.
Burning Man is so much more than EDM music, it’s EDM’s roots. It’s a creation of an experience by participants. It’s huge name DJ’s playing secret sets with no promotion just because they love the music. It’s the way that people rise to support one another to challenge each other to dream bigger, to think bigger, and to act with more intention and less habit.
Burning Wings encompasses the intense awakening that can occur when a community rises together to create together, where there are no barriers, and everyone is free to be no one but themselves.
Do you have another project in the works? If so, what is it?
I don’t officially have another book in the works, although I have a fiction project I’ve been playing with, it’s so rough at the moment that I don’t want to give anything away, I will say that its fiction, deals with similar themes as Burning Wings such as darkness, drugs, spirituality, and love, but it is presented in a much more grown-up way, and has a lot of racy bedroom scenes in it! If I end up launching, it would be my first piece of writing not based on me as the lead character. Generally, I’m booked solid with my personal chef business, my yoga teaching, and a few months a year are reserved for Burning Man camp production, but who knows what this pandemic will bring!
When you self publish, do you do it all yourself?
No! I have the most amazing team of individuals helping me. Launching this book honestly feels like a real Burning Man art project, it has the same highs and lows, intense late nights, and ultimately it wouldn’t be possible without a tribe supporting me. Marie Poliak has been worked tirelessly on the perfect cover art. Nathan Nugent has been a tough but loving copy and content editor for this edition, while Naia Nadine Newlight edited the playa edition. Eli Morgan is turning my words into magic on paper as my formatter. And Alicia Baron has been my marketing and PR mama bear goddess. Burning Man Org has been supportive and views the book as “fan art” something I’m so grateful of! My Burning Man camps and friends, Janky Barge, Hybcozo, Robot Heart, Distikt, Opulent Temple, and of course Frozen Oasis & the Black Rock Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra have all been insanely supportive. Not to mention all the people who inspired the book itself, who helped support the playa edition launch, and who are rallying behind me now. This book is so much larger than just myself.