Jean Marie Stine spoke recently with the talented and multi-published author Stephanie Burke, who in the earlier days of the company was one of our starring authors.
Sizzler Editions: Why do you write the type of book you are best known for?
Stephanie Burke: I cross a lot of genres to make my muse happy. I write everything from hard sci-fi horror to homoerotic paranormal fantasy and there always seems to be a bit of humor to break the tension when it gets too bad. I guess that is because no matter how bad life gets, there is always an end to the madness. Now that is not to say that my horror novel isn’t really horrifying or that my scenes of romantic and sexual excess won’t leave you panting in heat and reaching for the closest warm body or toy to relieve tension. But that after everything is said and done, and I mean everything, my characters may look back on the wreck of their rooms or the sated mess their bodies have become and chuckle because the earth moved...and then maybe the earth will really move as an earthquake takes them to an underground city of ant mutants that are plotting to occupy the earth! With me, you never really can tell. But you can be assured that whatever ride you take with me in one of the worlds I create, at the end you will return to reality emotionally drained, experienced in ways you never thought, more sated than you ever have been in your life... at lest that is my goal. And, I guess a hint of the comedy bug finds its way into whatever I am writing.
Sizzler Editions: Where do you get your ideas?
Stephanie Burke: I can honestly say that I have no idea. Story ideas are sometimes a challenge from my readers or friends, sometimes an issue that I feel needs to be addressed catches my eye, and sometimes they are dreams that demand to be written. Story ideas can come from anywhere with me; which is why I never leave the house without a pen and some paper. You have to get those plot bunnies herded on paper before they run away. But I think my very best story ideas come from my dreams. Sometimes its like a movie in my head at night and it depresses me to open my eyes and deal with the real world. But if I can get them on paper, get my characters behaving properly for me, and get my worlds just so I can visit them again and again.
Sizzler Editions: How and when do you write?
Stephanie Burke: I write all the time. I wake up in the middle of the night and have to get a story down. I sleep with my lap top by my bed just in case. I write several times during the day. When someone else is driving me around, when I am cooking lunch or dinner, when there is cleaning to be done...especially when there is cleaning to be done! I live by the adage ‘writers write’. There are sometimes when writing abandons me and leaves me scratching in the corner like a crack head wanting my next fix of words, but those times pass and then m obsession...I mean my job takes over once more. Lately I have been trying to keep to a two hour on one hour off schedule of writing, and sometimes that works. And sometimes I am the one up at two in the am just writing one more scene.
Sizzler Editions: What do you like most about being an author?
Stephanie Burke: What do I like most about being an author. Now that is a hard one to answer. I could say royalty checks, because no matter how much I love what I do, this is still a full time job on top of rearing a family and keeping my relationship and friendships stable. And I love paying bills... I have to. The credit companies know who I am. And I love research. You should see the tons of research that goes on when completing even a novella. It is fascinating, like solving a mystery only to be left with more questions that will need answers that only I can find. And then there is the creative outlet. Being a writer lets me take all sorts of liberties with myth and legend, with creating my own world and the people who for good or ill, terrorize each other and the places that I put them. But I have to say I really like going out and meeting people who enjoy my stories. Its like having a group of friends sitting where you can share something that has become a personal part of you and have them understand you.
Each story is like a baby and believe me the birth pains are rough. You spend countless hours thinking about your book-baby, building it up, adding the elements it needs to survive, nurturing it and loving it to within an inch of your life. And then you toss it out into the world for people to tear apart, to criticize, and hopefully to like enough to take home with them where you pray that they will love it enough to keep it around. So it is these people who I love to meet, the people who adopt my babies and nurture them and cherish them as much as I do. And if I am lucky, they will demand some little brother and sister stories as well. You know you’ve done well when people don’t want to let your worlds or your characters go. And I love meeting those people, whether they want to tell me I did a good job or want to tear me a new one because of something I missed. I couldn’t be an author without people to read and like my stories. Writer, yeah cause I will always write. Author when people want you to continue to write. And that is a heady feeling.
Sizzler Editions: What is your advice to beginning writers?
Stephanie Burke: Beginning writers! Turn back! Abandon all hope, ye who enters here! Just kidding! The best advice I can give to new writers is to keep writing! When you finish a book and are riding the high of typing those fateful words ‘the end’, use that momentum and start writing something else. If you get a rejection letter, process it, pick it apart for any advice you were given, and write something else! When you sell a book, get a contract, get an agent or an editor appointment, celebrate...by writing something! Writing is like a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it gets! Never stop writing!
And remember, when you sell a book, you are not Stephen King! There is no place for ego in the writing world. Too much ego will get you in trouble just as fast as plagiarizing someone else’s work. Lets face it, a writer’s career is based on reputation. People recommend writers who they feel are good at their craft to other people. And they tell two friends and they tell two friends, and so on, and so on, and so on. So let it be something positive that gets passed around. A bad reputation is hard to overcome, so do not give yourself the trauma. Never speak ill of another writer or his/her work in public forums. Never trash anyone. If you get rejected, don’t take it personal and blast the publisher who dared turn you down. Your behavior can affect how your career goes, so try for a good long career by using tact and thinking before you speak. And remember to have fun! If you like what you are writing, then it will show in the finished project and others will like it too. Oh, and be yourself! Especially in public...It’s too hard to be someone else and you’ve had the most practice being you.
Sizzler Editions: Is there anything you would like to say to your fans?
Stephanie Burke: Hello fans! Please continue to buy my books and help me pay my bills. Otherwise I will have to get a nine to five and that will probably lead me to drinking and trash talking female Lucha Libre wrestlers...which will lead me to getting my butt kicked in ways most painful! You don’t want that, the wrestlers don’t want that, and believe I don’t want that. So please save me from pain and buy my books. If you bought one, buy another! They are portable and rarely leave a bad aftertaste in your mouth. So please buy my books. I’m an old skinny woman who would look horrible in wrestling silks...or bandages! LOL! And be honest, tell me what you like, what you didn’t like, what you outright hated, and what you would like to see more of. Trust me after I cry and go on a bender to help me process, I will appreciate what you have to say and will make changes. As a writer, we never stop learning. We can’t. And we won’t know what or how to change if you don’t help us. Besides, I like the fan mail. It counters bad reviews, not that I get many – cough-cough -- and it gives encouragement to write more.
So thank you for supporting my family and me and I will endeavor to do everything to uphold the writer reader contract. And what is that contract? I am glad you asked. I will humbly do my best to keep you entertained, to help you suspend disbelief and enter a world of pure imagination for the time it takes you to read my book and hopefully beyond. I will try to give you characters that you will love enough to take shoe shopping with you, or do housework with, or just have them hang around in your head and have you welcome them there. I will do my best to engage each of your senses, I get bonus points for finding any fifth or sixth sense, and touch on your every emotions...with my writing of course. I will make it my goal to give you new and interesting characters, enthralling plots and situations, to thoroughly amuse you until my characters and I before a fixed point of joy and enchantment in your life. And in return, you (the reader) will keep an open mind, will be prepared to be shocked and amazed in a good way, and will sit back, relax, and let me attempt to blow your mind.
See? Some contracts are fun!
Sizzler Editions: What can your readers look forward to from you in the future?
Stephanie Burke: I hope in the future I will be able to be a positive in the Sizzler Editions family. I hope to create many dynasties here with my characters. I hope to find new ways to scare my editors and engage my readers. I hope to appear in a few series and write some good old fashioned fun novellas as well. I would like to see you all...buy my books or face the wrath of the killer bunnies...I mean, I hope you all find something to like in my writing style and personality. Sizzler Editions was my first real publisher years ago under the late David Dyer and this is where I got my first start. I am happy to help add to the legacy of what he started and grateful beyond words that I have a chance and a new publisher to keep me pulling my hair out over plot lines and character development. And I hope to make friends with the many talented writers already here. Writers write, you know. And it is positively beautiful to have such a wonderful place to ply my craft.