SHSU Creates: Savannah Burnes: Novelist

SHSU freshman and theater major Savannah Burrus has been writing her entire life; from short stories and poems, to songs, but has recently decided to tackle a fantasy novel titled Genesis, based off J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan (a book she’s read at least ten times).

“It’s a prequel to J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan about how Peter, Captain Hook, Tink and everyone came to be, how they all met, and how everyone got to Neverland,” Burrus said.

Though there are many interpretations of Peter Pan’s and Neverland’s backstory, Burrus feels the narrator’s perspective makes all the difference.

“It’s unique because it’s told through not the perspective of Peter Pan, Wendy, or an outsider, but through the perspective of the crocodile,” Burrus said. “It’s significant because it’s the one character that doesn’t talk, so giving a voiceless creature a voice who’s observed how everyone came to be gives it a cool spin.”

Another unexpected, crucial aspect to Genesis is the transformation of characters.

“It’s funny because there are only four main characters, but each one shifts in the story to become who they are in J. M. Barrie’s version,” Burrus said. “There’s a moment where Peter turns from a normal boy to his iconic character, and everyone has their own transformative moment which creates eight characters.”

The character names, subject to change, include Smee to Mamba, James to Captain Hook, Peter to Peter Pan, and Lucy to Tinkerbell.

Burrus is compelled to write this novel to pay homage to all that Peter Pan has done for her, provide answers to her own questions, and let out the imaginative child in her.

“I’ve always been fascinated with Peter Pan and always wondered why no one addressed how everyone comes together,” Burrus said. “I think it’s because I’ve always been mature for my age, and Peter is all about not growing up, so I had a Wendy moment realizing I was growing up too fast and wanted to cling to my childhood.”

The idea for this novel sprung roughly three years ago, but Burrus only started officially working on it a year ago. Burrus feels this is the perfect time to give her two-cents as there seem   to be more Peter Pan interpretations now than ever before.

“I know there’ve been a lot of prequels done within the last few years, but I just felt that they lacked or I haven’t had access to them,” Burrus said. “I just want to get my ideas out there before all the good ideas get snatched up. Also, it’s something that’s been sitting on my mind a long time and its finally time to sit down and write it.”

Burrus found that coming up with the ideas is easier than the actual writing process, as hers is quite demanding.

“It’s a lot more important to me now to do a lot of research,” Burrus said. “It’s extensive and I don’t love it, but after research I sit down and develop my characters in-depth as to who they are, what they think about life, and their personal stories. After I do all that, there’s more plot brainstorming. Then the writing actually begins for the first draft.”

Despite doing thorough preparation, writing doesn’t end there for Burrus.

“People think you just write a story and send it to a publisher, but it’s not that easy,” Burrus said. “You have to write, and edit, and then edit more, and rewrite, and edit again. It’s a very extensive process.”

Self-proclaimed perfectionist Burrus admits she is her own biggest critic, and relies on her friends and family for support.

“I have a bunch of friends I bounce ideas off of…my parents have also always been supportive of my writing,” Burrus said. “Being without friends and family to talk through the process with would be hard because then you’d rely on yourself, and you can’t write a book by yourself, as funny as that sounds.”

Burrus hopes to finish her first draft by December. Burrus believes it will all be worth it, and that her determination and love of writing will only increase as she knows how a story can change a person’s life.

“I like telling stories; it’s part of why I am a theater major, because I love story telling,” Burrus said. “Stories have so much power, and can speak to different people different ways, and it’s one of the oldest art forms we’ve ever had.”

Burrus hopes her book provides solace to others just as reading has always done for her.

“Life is stressful and the imagination is important to me as an artist to live in a different world for a short moment before coming back to reality,” Burrus said. “It provides a nice change to mentally escape for a while, even though I know it’s not reality.”

Burrus believes that anyone can become a published writer, and wishes to leave advice for any aspiring writers.

“My advice is not to give up, which sounds cliché, but don’t,” Burrus said. “It’s a frustrating, drawn out process because it gets hard. Don’t be afraid to take criticism from people because you never know who will have a good impact. At the same time, don’t just absorb everyone’s ideas and mesh them together. While that’s cool, it kind of makes you lose your personal touch. Lastly, read. It’s why I’m rereading Peter Pan, East of Eden, the book of Genesis; because when you continuously read authors you enjoy, you start writing like them.”

Burrus’ creative outlet is writing, but if you, or someone you know, has another unique talent, or outlet you would like to share, please email

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