Author Interview: Polyamory and Pregnancy

Today, Out of Control Characters hosts Jessica Burde, author of Polyamory and Pregnancy. First, a little bit about Jessica:

Jessica Burde is an author, freelance writer and poly activist. She has been in polamorous relationships for nearly 10 years and is a member of the Polyamory Leadership Network and Yahoo PolyResearchers group. Jessica is also the author of the PolyonPurpose blog, which covers topics such as STIs and safe sex, children in polyamory and religious views of polyamory. Much of her freelance writing has been for medical and parenting websites, including advice for new parents, the stages or pregnancy and more.

Jessica has several future books planned
for the Polyamory on Purpose Guides series, including Safer Sex for the
Non-Monogamous, The Poly Home and Raising Children in Polyamory. She plans to
publish one guide a year. Jessica also writes fiction, and has a novel-length
erotic fantasy that she hopes to release as a webserial in October 2013.
A mother of 3 children, all born into
polyamorous relationships, Jessica currently lives in western Tennessee with
her long-term partner and youngest son. She misses the Appalachian mountains
and hopes to move east in the next few years

Before we get into your interview, tell us about Polyamory. I've never heard of this before.
Polyamory can be defined as the practice of having or desire
to have more than on sexual/romatic/intimate relationship at one time, in an
honest and ethical manner. A person in a polyamorous relationship might be part
of a group marriage, a swinger, a single person with several SOs, dating a
person in a married couple, in an open marriage or any combination of the
above. The central focus of polyamory is that these relationships occur with
the full knowledge and consent of everyone involved.

Poly folk face some unique challenges in
a culture designed for monogamy. Polyamory on Purpose was started first as a
blog and now as a book series to discuss some of the daily-life challenges and
ways to navigate them.
Here's a synopsis of Polyamory and Pregnancy:

The first complete guide to pregnancy in polyamorous relationships, Polyamory and Pregnancy covers every step of welcoming a new life into your polycule. Whether you are planning ahead for future children or are on your way to the baby shower, you will find something here to help on your journey:

Unexpected pregnancies
Planning for pregnancy
Important decisions during and after

Poly-friendly prenatal care
Birth certificates and paternity
Custody and co-parenting
And more...
Can you tell us a little about Your Book?

Sure. It’s written for people in non-monogamous relationship who are dealing with a pregnancy in their relationships, or planning for a pregnancy. I’ve been involved in polyamory for nearly ten years, and have three kids. In a world build around heterosexual monogamy, having a child in a non-traditional family creates some unique challenges, and there isn’t much information publicly available on what those challenges are or ways to cope with them.

Is there a historical angle you can share with us?

The modern polyamory movement originated in the 1980s. I don’t actually know much about the development of polyamory as such, but there has been various forms of non-monogamy practiced throughout human history. Religious polygyny is the most well known in America, and has an understandably bad reputation given the infamous (and well publicized) actions of people like Warren Jeffs. However, non-monogamy has taken many different forms, and most of those forms have led to healthy relationships.

Prior to polyamory, the US saw swing culture and before that the free love of the 60s and 70s. While the free love movement died out, swinging continues to be popular in many parts of the country. During the Victorian era, the practice of a wealthy man keeping a wife and a mistress was a socially sanctioned but never acknowledged form of non-monogamy. In Tibet and Nepal sometimes a man will marry several men, which is known as polyandry. The Musuo culture is becoming widely known as a representative of a family style that breaks all of our assumptions. The badly named “walking marriages” they practice are nothing resembling marriage at all. Instead, women and men both live with their mother’s clan. At night men go to visit the women of their choice. The women can let them in, or shut the door in their face. These relationships aren’t formal arrangements – they last as long as both parties want it too. Sometimes for a single night, sometimes for decades. In the morning, the man returns to his mother’s clan, where he helps to raise and support his nieces and nephews. Any children of these relationships are raised by the mother and her family.

In ancient Persian culture, and some branches of modern Islam, there is the tradition of marriages “for a set period.” So you could get married with the intention of only being together for a few weeks or a few months.

I think that polyamory has learned and developed from all of these. The crucial idea of polyamory is that as long as everyone is honest and treats each other with respect, anything goes. This means that any of these forms of non-monogamy and many others can be found in poly circles. However, unlike stereotypical non-monogamy (which bears as much relation to reality as stereotypes ever do), with in polyamory everyone is involved in their form of non-monogamy by choice, with the honest and and enthusiastic agreement of everyone involved.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, but I think it was in high school that I decided writing was what I wanted to do with my life. I joined a creative writing class and had an amazing time. For the first time I had people who took my writing seriously and were willing to give the critiques and suggestions I needed to make my writing better.

Of course I always intended to write fiction or poetry. A decade ago, I never would have guessed my first book would be non-fiction.

What books have most influenced your life most?

Mercedes Lackey’s Bedlam’s Bard was my introduction in modern non-monogamy.

Jonathan Bach’s Jonathan Livingston Seagull was my inspiration for years.

Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet. I’ve gone through more copies of that book than any other. I just keep coming back to it.

Anne McCaffery’s short story “The Littlest Dragon-Boy” was my introduction to sci-fi/fantasy in seventh grade English. Never say that there is nothing good in English text books. You may find the story in there that shapes the rest of your life.

Are there any new authors that currently interest you? And which is your favorite author of all time?

Oh god...

Well, Patty Briggs isn’t “new” any more, but she was when I picked her up for the first time. Ryk Spoor isn’t as new as he used to be, but is still hitting his stride. I’m looking forward to seeing were he goes from here.

A.G. Carpenter, Balogun Ojetade and John Scalzi are authors I’ve discovered in the last year that I am looking forward to reading more of.

Do you have any little ‘things’ you do or traditions you follow when you write?

Nope. I squeeze in writing when I can, around a rambunctious two year old and keeping up with my paid work. When I get half an hour and inspiration, I sit my butt down and write.

Actually, yeah, there is one thing. When I get half an hour and no inspiration, I put on a YouTube playlist I called “Energize,” full of songs whose beat and lyrics both are designed to kick me in the ass and get me typing.

Do you have a dedicated space, a particular office or piece of machinery?

Well, there is my laptop. I’ve been through 3 in the last two years, so I’m not sure how ‘dedicated’ it is, but it’s what I got.

Do you ever write longhand? Do you ever use a tape-recorder?

Longhand is for poetry, the rare times I write it. Prose is almost always typed. I do use dictation software. I think better when I pace, so being able to walk around and talk at my computer sometimes is nice. Also was very helpful when the little guy was younger – I could hold him when he was teething or falling asleep and keep writing.

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your published works?

This is my first published work, so it’s a bit early to say. I do wish I’d been able to find other people will to share their stories of pregnancy and polyamory, but I didn’t think to look until late in the writing process, and many people are very private about that kind of thing. I’ve recently heard of a quad who had a child together and write an article about their experiences. It would have been nice to have a chance to talk with them and see if they’d be willing to share some stories for me to include. Many for the second edition.

What do you love most about writing?

Hard to say – I love the feeling of a sentence that fits perfectly – there are a few sentences in my current fiction project that I’ll go back and read over and over again. I love sharing my thoughts and experiences and the way my writing can help other people and help shape the world. I love words and the way they can have so many different meanings depending on how they fit together.

What kind of research did you do for this book?

Surprisingly little. Mostly it was the research of living this stuff for nearly a decade. I did some factual research for sections on contraceptives and infertility, since those aren’t areas I know much about. For the section on legal issues and DNA testing, I had to do some research into how things are handled in other countries. One of the major criticisms of a lot of poly books is that they are US centric, and I really wanted to make this as accessible as possible for an international audience.

What's a typical working day like for you? When and where do you write? Do you set a daily writing goal?

I don’t think I have a “typical” day. Every so often I’ll set a schedule for my day, and stick to it for maybe 2 or 3 weeks and then it flies out the window. I try and do my writing in the morning, I seem to be at my best then and get the most done with the least delays.

I do set writing goals, but not word counts. I break my writing into tasks: “I want to finish writing this scene, complete these two freelancing projects, and get two blog posts up.” If I don’t finish in the first go, then I’ll get up and do some dishes, play with the boy, run errands, and come back for a shorter stint in the afternoon, then again after the little guy goes to bed. But the bulk of my work is done in the morning – around 2 pm my brain switches to low gear and stays there. Afternoon is best for more active stuff.

What is the hardest part of writing for you?

Trusting myself. It’s not so bad with the non-fiction. But with fiction writing, I’ll get caught on a single sentence, not sure how to find the words to convey the image I want.

With the non-fiction, the biggest challenge is believing that I have something to say that people want to here. I don’t doubt my stories the way I doubt my non-fic. The support I’ve gotten from the poly community and my family and friends has made a big difference.

What’s the best thing about being an author?

Get back to me in 10 years and maybe I’ll have figured it out.

What are you working on now?

I have an erotic fantasy that I’m hoping to release as a webserial in the fall. It’s taken the backseat the past few months, so I’m looking forward to giving it some more attention now.  The main character is man who sells himself to a sadistic fae in order to save his sister – and ends up getting a lot more than he bargained for.

I’m also planning out the next few Polyamory on Purose Guides. I have several topics I want to write on (Raising Children in Polyamory, the Poly Home, Safer Sex in Non-Monogamy, etc), not sure yet which one to tackle next.

What advice would you give aspiring writers?

Take a couple of years to just write for fun – don’t worry about publishing or finding any agent or finishing a novel. Just write. You’ll get better without even realizing it.
Spend some time working as a freelance writer. It will give you practice for dealing with rejection and picky editors, and it’s a great way to learn about the business side of writing – marketing yourself, crafting proposals, etc.

Anything else you wish to share …

Polyamory isn’t for everyone, and if it’s a new idea to you, check out some of the great resources available for learning about poly before you go picking up a book specifically about polyamory and pregnancy. If you are dealing with the really fucked up situation of a person cheating in a supposedly monogamous marriage and someone getting pregnant, there may be some things in here that may apply to your situation, but this book is written with the assumption that readers all openly and freely choose to be non-monogamous.
Very Interesting. Now, the most important part. Where to find Jessica Burde.


Connie Barrett said…
I found your great blog through the WLC Blog Follows on the World Literary Cafe! Great to connect!