Clark and Leah live in the high mountain valleys of the Rockies where they enjoy their ever-expanding blended family of ten children and six grandchildren. They enjoy travel, hiking, road and mountain biking, and serving in their community and church. Clark received a BS in Finance from the University of Utah and an MBA from the University of Southern California and spent 35 years traveling the world as an investment banker, banker, and Chief Financial Officer. Leah earned an Associate Degree from Ricks College and what arguably could be considered a doctoral-level experience in blended families. Clark and Leah treasure their blended wild ride of 14 years together, firmly believing that any challenge is manageable when you have someone you love to walk beside.Clark and Leah live in the high mountain valleys of the Rockies where they enjoy their ever-expanding blended family of ten children and six grandchildren. They enjoy travel, hiking, road and mountain biking, and serving in their community and church. Clark received a BS in Finance from the University of Utah and an MBA from the University of Southern California and spent 35 years traveling the world as an investment banker, banker, and Chief Financial Officer. Leah earned an Associate Degree from Ricks College and what arguably could be considered a doctoral-level experience in blended families. Clark and Leah treasure their blended wild ride of 14 years together, firmly believing that any challenge is manageable when you have someone you love to walk beside.
Q & A with the Burbidges
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer? Or what first inspired you to write?
Leah: I never really intended to write a book. But over the years of Clark’s writing I became familiar with the process. We discussed many times the lack of practical ‘How To’ instruction for Blended Families. These discussions evolved into a ‘Let’s write a book on the subject’ decision. So, we kind of fell into this book together out of a desire to pass on our insights and learning. We worked on the stories, examples and the principles extensively and reviewed and edited in general. Although most of the actual writing was done by Clark the development, review and editing were definitely a team effort.
Clark: I have always been a storyteller and enjoyed making up stories, poems and tall tales for my children growing up. I especially liked the bedtime stories I’d make up on the fly because it really challenged me to produce something that would keep a child’s attention. I had different ones for each child. I thought a lot about various stories for years and always had ideas. But it wasn’t until 2010 when I was in between jobs that I decided to try my hand at getting something published. The first year I completed a non-fiction book for 20 and 30 somethings and a Christmas/Holiday book. I also had a fictional fantasy short story prepared that has since become a three-book trilogy. One never knows when you step on the path, as Bilbo Baggins once said, where that will lead. I have had a wonderful experience writing and have loved doing a book together with my sweetheart, Leah. Our collaborative effort turned out to be way beyond our expectations. We are so excited to have this book available for blended families, those thinking about jumping into the blender and single parents. Even though it is focused on these types of families, every family will benefit from attempting to apply the principles we included in our book. This book with Leah marks my 9th book and the last 8 have all been Gold Medal award winners as best in their category.
Where/When do you best like to write?
Leah: If something is important you make time to get it done. Being a parent doesn’t really get easier or less time consuming just because your children are adults, out of the house or married. The questions and dilemmas change but the demands and responsibility do not.
Clark: I have a schedule where I rise early in the morning and prefer to write from about 7:00 am to about 10:00 am. But writing can happen at any time during the day or night when a thought, a new plot twist or idea strikes. Many nights I will sit up in bed knowing that sleep will not come again until I get it recorded. Writers see the world differently than other people. The wonder of a moment or a particular picture painted before your eyes by nature or humankind unexpectedly captures your imagination. One entire trilogy came from a moment when I walked into the house of one of our sons and his little family while they unboxed a tree-topper ornament and put it on the tree. I knew immediately it was a vision that would take me places I’d never been before…and so it did in the award winning StarPassage trilogy.
Do you have any interesting writing habits or superstitions?
Leah: Not for me, that would be a question for someone who has written a number of books.
Clark: Not really habits or superstitions but more of style. I do not prepare an extensive outline or flow for the book and there is no formula. I enjoy climbing into the story with the characters much like my readers do. I have no idea where the story is going to go next and get ideas along the way. I may round a corner and discover a new character. I need to determine if it is friend or foe and where that new character will move the story to next. Then I often discover the character’s back story and need to go back and write it in and deal with the impact it has on the story almost like real life. This means that I get as excited about getting back to writing after a break as a reader does when reading the story.
What do you think makes a good story?
Leah: Something that engages and is interesting. That varies with each reader. I especially enjoy reading about real people and their life experiences.
Clark: The same things that makes any good story or movie. There is too much emphasis on special effects and wiz-bang flashiness in both. Readers are engaged by a good story, the development of solid, relatable characters and the interaction of characters, motives, paths and process as the story develops. This has been forgotten by much of the industry. The roller-coaster ride of adventure and danger must be present but cannot be all there is. This does not engage as well as having relatable characters, development and a great story. Then the reader is pulled in and stops reading but has an experience walking with the characters. Every reader deserves to be rewarded by such an experience. This is why gratuitous effects, violence, language, immorality, etc. are so negative for movies and books. These words, scenes and sights rip the reader or viewer out of the experience they are having by distracting them from the story and character development that is captivating them and taking them on a journey. Anything that makes you sit back and mentally say, what was that, pulls you out of the movie or book and detracts from the experience. Another thing is something I learned from reading Tolkien. It is that he had mastered the art of getting the reader to turn the page or jump into the next chapter. This is what I try to do especially with my teen and young adult fiction writing.
What inspired your story?
Leah: Our children and our real-life experiences. We recognized that there wasn’t a lot of information out there to help Blended Families and felt a need to provide a practical guide to fill the void.
Clark: This story is a true one which was forged in the furnace of experience over our combined 68 years of Blended Family experiences and especially our 14 years together. When we started this process, we found a near absence of hands-on experience that provided practical ‘How To’ advice for regular people. The souls of individuals and entire families are dying out there every day because they can’t find simple answers and guidance. Many of the family train wrecks we see break our hearts because they are so easily avoided by consistently applying a few simple standards and rules. If implemented from the beginning it works. But if delayed the burdens can spin quickly out of control into serious individual and family strife that tear at the seams of what might have been an otherwise beautiful story. Our burning desire to help others find peace, joy and true love in blended family life and our own experience with such beauty in the midst of a messy world both inspired and motivated us to write this combination autobiographical and ‘How To’ guide.
Is there a message/theme in your book that you want readers to grasp?
Leah & Clark: Absolutely. It is that single parents, blended families and any family are good enough to be successful. You have the knowledge and skills if you choose to use them. Anybody can create a happy and fulfilling environment of love, selflessness and compassion. Of course, it takes work and an absence of selfish pursuits, it takes firm commitment as a couple, standards and values and a consistent example to prove that what you are teaching your children works for everyone. You can do it. You really can.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
Leah & Clark: Interwoven in our ten principles is the dramatic need of the children involved. One great learning that we were reminded of is that we need to start from where each child is. Parents cannot start from where a child is supposed to be or expected to be or even where they were before the dislocating events swept them up and brought about single parenthood or blended family life. If you try to start where your children are not, then every day is a disappointment or failure. When you start from where your children actually are, then every day can be a step forward…a success. Children, both minors and adults, desperately need to feel success once again in their lives and they will glow and blossom as that experience becomes regular. Our book is about allowing each individual to become their best self…even when we feel we have fallen short.
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Blended family issues impact the vast majority of Americans. Yet, even so, society often sidesteps the topic, while literature leaves a bleak landscape nearly void of practical advice from those who have lived in the trenches.
With over 68 combined years of direct blended family experience, including 14 years with their own family of 10 children, authors Clark and Leah Burbidge are uniquely qualified to fill this void. Their combined ‘Autobiographical/How-To’ guidebook weaves a humorous, tender, uplifting, and critically insightful fabric of 10 foundational principles upon which any family may confidently build. Every blended family can have happier, more fulfilling lives where disruption, disorientation, and contention are replaced by teamwork, progress, and overcoming-oriented achievement.
Living in the Family Blender provides practical guidance upon which any family may build better relationships and a life filled with joy and purpose. Join them on their personal journey and discover glorious possibilities in your own family.