7: Interview with H. L. Burke



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[00:00:00] Heidi: I like to say that you can't really grow without inputs. It's, it's almost impossible who you get that input from matters.

[00:00:08] Kathrese: Welcome to the Writing Pursuits podcast, where authors like you discuss writing craft, author, life, and book marketing strategies. I'm your host, Kathrese McKee, I own Word Marker Edits, and write and produce the weekly newsletter, Word Marker Tips for Authors. In addition, I am a speculative fiction author.

Writing Pursuits is for authors who drink too much coffee, endure judgmental looks from their furry writing companions, and struggle for words. If you are a writer seeking encouragement, information, and inspiration, this podcast is for you.

Let's get to it.

Today, I'm thrilled to welcome a special guest H. L. Burke.

H. L. Burke is the author of multiple fantasy novels, including the Supervillain Rehabilitation Project series, and Spellsmith & Carver Steampunk series, and Ashen. She is an admirer of the whimsical, a follower of the light, and a believer in happily ever after.

You can find out more about her at her website, hlburkeauthor.com with an e. That will be in the show notes. Heidi, thank you for being here.

[00:01:17] Heidi: Thank you for having me.

[00:01:18] Kathrese: You're taking time out of your evening. I might mention again because I forgot to hit the record button, and so I really, really appreciate it.

It's wonderful to meet you online. You know, that's podcasts. Podcasting, you have to kind of roll with the flow and sometimes you forget to hit the record button. So I feel as though I know you a little bit since we're both members of Realm Makers, and I'm familiar with your Fellowship and Fantasy site and also the Facebook groups that go with it.

But today, I'd like to talk first about your book. It's called Power On, and what is that about? And who's it for?

[00:01:56] Heidi: So Power On is a superhero story. So it's kind of directed at teens. Um, probably 13 to 19. It involves the story of a group of young troubled teens in various ways. Uh, the main character is Jake.

He's the nephew of a supervillain family who he's been raised since he was about 12 to do supervillain stuff of his gang. And he gets caught on a mission and sent to reform camp. It's his story about how he's, he's trying to learn. How to fit in with normal kids for the first time, how to not be a supervillain. Um, he's, he's a little reluctant to, to reform.

[00:02:37] Kathrese: I bet I bet. And that's coming out October the ninth and that's in a series, right?

[00:02:42] Heidi: It's the first in the new series. So it's part of a connected universe. I've got the Supervillain and Rehabilitation series, which is the older version of that. They have some shared characters, and they take place in the same world, which is basically our world, but superheroes.

And this is a spinoff, so it can be read independently, but it is the same world in some cases.

[00:03:04] Kathrese: That's fantastic. And that's a great way to write a story, a series where you're not having to exactly read them in order, if you can't get ahold of them. Of course, all of these are available on Amazon. So you could do them in order without much problem, but still I intend to, to jump in with Power On and just get, you know, get my feet wet and then run back to the beginning of the ride. October 9th, that's coming out this Saturday. That's the launch date. And then this podcast episode will come out right after that. So it'll still be brand new. I hope everybody goes out and gets their copy.

[00:03:38] Heidi: Yeah.

[00:03:39] Kathrese: So what made you start writing about superheroes?

[00:03:43] Heidi: I watch a lot of Marvel movies. Honestly, the first time I got an idea to do a superhero series was when I was watching the Edward Norton Hulk movie. And apparently I was bored because I was rewriting it in my head. Um, oh. And the other Marvel movies, I mostly like all of them, but that one didn't do it for me.

And, uh, so I had this idea for like two lead characters. So I kind of carried with me for quite some time. I think that was like, whew. Gosh. How long ago was Edward Norton's Hulk? 15 years?

[00:04:12] Kathrese: It's been a bit.

[00:04:14] Heidi: So I was carrying that with me for some time. And then a little late last year, no, the year before last 2019, I started working on writing it, finally, and it kind of took off and took over.

And I know the tropes really well for this genre, just cause I've, I've been involved with it in one way or another since I was very young watching Batman.

[00:04:33] Kathrese: All right.

[00:04:34] Heidi: So it just kind of came naturally to me. It's taken on a life of its own, and I joked the superheroes have me captive and they won't let me go. Cause I've written nine books. I think so far in that universe.

[00:04:45] Kathrese: Yeah. And I know you've threatened steampunk and some other things.

[00:04:49] Heidi: I make a joke that I've made a career out of chasing "shinies" because I do switch genres quite a bit. I've gone from like romantic fairytale fantasy to steampunk, to epic, to more dramatic romantic fantasy to steam punk with magic to now heroes.

Kind of keep going after the exciting things.

[00:05:08] Kathrese: Well now, how do you learn the tropes, the expectations of each of those different, like flavors of fantasy fiction?

[00:05:16] Heidi: I said they're all something that I've read at some point. Um, some of them like Marvel, Ken's that a movies. I watched a lot of Marvel movies, but steam punk is very much just an aesthetic that you can put on top of a lot of things.

It's almost like a veneer, um, that can be applied to multiple different sub genres. So I do that kind of my own beats. And I feel like I've just absorbed a lot of fiction over my life. Um, for one way or another. I, I, I'm not as, as prolific a reader as I used to be. I, I joke that when my daughter learned to reach up and grab a book out of my hand, when she was breastfeeding was about the beginning of the end for me, but I still not trying to read.

Um, I think I aim for about 40 books a year, so.

[00:05:56] Kathrese: No, I don't get that many unless you count the ones I edit.

[00:06:00] Heidi: So I count the ones I beta read.

[00:06:04] Kathrese: Yeah. It's okay. Well, there, there you go. There you go. So I'm getting some credit for that. One of the things I also want to talk about was your Fellowship of Fantasy website. How did you get that started and why did you keep it?

[00:06:17] Heidi: So that's sprang out of a group called Clean Indie Fantasy, which in turns spring out of a group called Clean Indie Reads. Um, Clean Indie Reads was a, it's a really great group group of indie authors who they try to write flinch free of fiction that doesn't have a lot of like explicit content. And I was a member.

[00:06:32] Kathrese: I remember that group.

[00:06:33] Heidi: Unfortunately. Well, it's a great group. A lot of times, some of the advice people were getting was not very genre targeted, uh, especially in terms of covers. A lot of times fantasy authors would put covers up and they'd be getting, oh, this is so great. This is so beautiful.

And it would be a typical woman on the cover on a film background or a couple hugging, and I'm like, well, what genre is it? And it's like, oh, it's urban fantasy. I'm like, well, you can't tell that this looks like a romance, which is why the romance authors really love it. But if you write a reach this audience, And so I, I just felt that there was a need for a more focused, uh, group, as far as genre goes.

So I created Clean Indie Fantasy as a spinoff. And from there, we decided we wanted to have some reader outreach because Clean Indie Fantasy is about author outreach. It's about training tips. It's not about selling books, but you do need to meet your audience. Combining forces of other authors in the same niche as you niche, niche to niche.

One of those, one of those things, Nick, it's a good way to meet people, meet your readers. And like, so we, we started doing an author outreach. We started a Facebook page. We started a book club, and then we started the website, which has a directory and new release posts that readers can go and find out about fantasy books that are PG 13 or under.

[00:07:46] Kathrese: Okay. So that's fellowshipoffantasy.com for our listeners, and it's a great looking site. I really liked the idea of coopetition, if you will, of authors who write similar... They're not similar to each other, but they're similar in their values. They're similar in their audience. And I think that because you can't write 10 books in a year-- well, most people can't-- you can't write ten books in a year by yourself, but you can help someone else who's written a book while you're writing yours, you know? So I think that's a great way to, to operate.

[00:08:17] Heidi: Between also boughts, which are dependent on, you know, they sell people your book based on what your book has been read next to right.

Or things like author swaps and newsletters, because like you said, um, most, no author is ever going to be able to write enough books to keep up with the more aggressive readers, because you know, they're, they're a readers. So you go to good reads. There's some people are piling on a couple hundred books a year and yeah, I don't, I can't, but even if your agents are only reading a book a week or a book a month, it's going to be hard to keep up with them.

So other authors really aren't competition. There are books. Don't prevent your book from being read. I agree. It's an abundance mindset, but I think it's a true to life mindset. So you're better off finding partnerships. Yeah. There's plenty of readers to go around. I don't think that you have to corner the market as it were.

That's also a great way to support indie authors and, um, indie authors actually have a really big place in my heart because I am one. And I know that you are too, although I believe you're an hybrid author too.

I have four books ofUncommon University Press, which is a small press. And then the majority of my other books, twenty-five plus at this point are, are self-published.

So I wanted to ask you, where did you get Theodore? The dragon?

So my daughter got him for me. So there is a small bookstore, independent bookstore in my hometown called cleanse. It's kind of claim to fame is that they're the oldest continuously operating bookstore in, um, at least the state, but I think they also claim west of the Mississippi. And they also have like novelty items. And when my daughter was like seven or eight, my mom took her birthday shopping for me because we were visiting at the time. I think between moves. Took her to the bookstore, probably assuming she was going to get me a, and Corrine was like, No, Mom wants this dragon. And Corrine of course was right.

And the dragon now goes with the on many adventures and poses for Instagram pics and, you know, meets celebrities when he can.

[00:10:09] Kathrese: So listeners, please go look for @BurkesDragons on Instagram, follow Heidi, and watch Theodore come up in the photos. Cause he's great. He always looks a little bit surprised and he also kind of looks judgmental.

[00:10:21] Heidi: He's a dragon. Dragons or the cats, the cats of the fantasy world.

[00:10:27] Kathrese: Right, right. I kind of wish they really well. They do. I'm not gonna say they don't, I'm a fantasy author. And now for a word from our sponsor,.

This episode of Writing Pursuits is brought to you by Word Marker Edits, trusted by fiction authors since 2014, to take their writing to a new level of excellence, from developmental edits and coaching to the finer points of line editing, copyediting, and proofreading. Help you prepare your story for the journey ahead. For more information, go to WordMarkerEdits.com. And now back to Writing Pursuits.

I was going to ask because you do anthologies and so forth, that are fantastic. And you also write fantasy and we kind of live in that world of speculative fiction. What would be your advice for new authors in this genre?

[00:11:22] Heidi: You can't really grow without inputs. It's, it's almost impossible who you get that input from matters. Like I mentioned, the community reads where you get some, maybe off-genre advice from people who are maybe very, very good at what they do, but they don't know what you're trying to do.

And they don't know what your audience expects. They don't know what your audience has tolerances for. So for instance, if you're writing a romance novel, if you have an unhappy ending, you basically failed. If the couple doesn't end in a marriage, that's a failure in a romance. That's not necessarily the case in all fantasy genres; they can have some pretty bittersweet endings.

[00:11:56] Kathrese: Right.

[00:11:57] Heidi: So there's a, that's a major difference. And so you have to know not just what the advice is, but if it's right for your book and for what you're trying to do. So getting advice from people who are familiar with your book's genre and who are familiar with your readers and maybe even are your readers. That's what you want to look for. You're getting started.

[00:12:14] Kathrese: So when you go to find, uh, beta readers, you're really looking for people that already read your kind of book. And when you're finding critique partners, perhaps you're looking for authors who also write your kind of book so that they know the, I hate to call them, but there are certainly expectations, and they expect certain tropes to appear. And we just come expecting a certain sort of flavor to the book. And also, like you say, you don't necessarily have to have that happy ending. It's not boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl in the end. You know, it's not a formula. I got simple.

[00:12:52] Heidi: Yeah. Fantasy is way more flexible than formula than say mystery or romance, even [inaudible] romance. There's some trope busters who will break those things. But overall, I feel that fantasy is a way more flexible genre rather than uh, than some of them are standard genres.

[00:13:08] Kathrese: So how did you get started with writing?

[00:13:10] Heidi: I was always the person who was, as a kid, even before I could write, I would bring my mom with a pen and say, here, would you write down this story about rabbits for me? And then I would draw the pictures beneath it. And I just kept that up, even before I knew it was a career option. I would write short stories for my friends and myself about the things that we would do.

Like I'd take our, our imaginative play and I'd put it to words. And I was always kind of the writer in my group. I didn't start writing professionally until I was in my late twenties. And we just moved from Japan to Pensacola. My husband was in the Marines at the time and, uh, we had a four year old and nine months old, a new puppy and we just moved internationally.

And I thought, well, I know I'm going to do NaNoWriMo, which is national novel writing month, which is where you try to write a novel in one month. Because before that I had taken a break and was just mommy blogging and you know, that kind of stuff, but I wasn't trying to write books. Book-length material.

[00:14:01] Kathrese: Uh, NaNoWriMo is a great place to start. There's, I hate to say, there's kind of a low bar in one place and a high bar and the other. The high bar is a 50,000 words, and the low bar is you can write anything, and that's fine.

[00:14:15] Heidi: You can literally just fill it up with like "writefight scene here" later, if you're in a hurry-- and I may have done that before-- this, because you don't want anything to stop you. It's like if there's a roadblock, it teaches you to not get hung up on those little things that might have stopped you dead. It's like, it's okay to skip over that part and come back to it later. Just as long as you keep moving, and I feel that's the best lesson you get from it. It's just how to keep moving.

[00:14:39] Kathrese: You know, I talk about that in the episode six called the popcorn method. I learned it from Janice Thompson and, and it's like, you kind of have these scenes that you want in the book. And she said, basically, when you hit a roadblock in one place, don't stop, go to the next one and just write there. And then eventually you're going to be able to connect them and use your imagination to get them together. I really believe that "insert fight scene here" is actually a really great strategy.

[00:15:05] Heidi: As long as you keep moving. I mean, What a lot of people do is they, they get to a place where they can't imagine the next scene and they can't, and they'll stop for weeks and weeks at a time when maybe they don't need to.

[00:15:16] Kathrese: That was one of my biggest problems when I was a beginning writer was I would churn. So I would go back to that chapter I wrote yesterday and I would basically rewrite it. And then the next day, and I might read, write a little bit more, but it was very slow progress because I wanted the last chapter to be perfect before I moved on.

And I learned that. You cannot do that. If you're going to get to the end, you have got to move on. Yeah, it was, I think it was Michael Crighton. He was saying: "Books aren't written, they're rewritten." I think it was him that said it.

[00:15:49] Heidi: Yeah. As Shannon Hills is the, uh, remember you're shoveling sand and build castles later.

[00:15:54] Kathrese: That's a really good one. That's a really good one. So NaNoWriMo. And then you went on and which book was your first book?

[00:16:00] Heidi: The first book was, uh, The Dragon and the Scholar, Book One, which is Dragon's curse. It's the story of a kingdom where the king has gotten to a tussle. His, his brother was killed with dragon,by a dragon. So he's desperate to avenge him by killing all dragons, but he ends up getting mauled by dragons when he tries to do that. Um, so he's recovering from his wounds, and he sends for a healer who is a scholar named Shannon, and she comes to heal him. And while she's there trying to get him to recover from his wounds, this dragon settles down on the hill. Like right in spitting distance from the castle, almost like taunting the king, and the king wants that dragon dead. And so this Knight says, well, you can't fight the dragon cause you're crippled right now, but I can fight the dragon if I can marry her. And then Shannon's like, " Uh, no." And she decides - -

[00:16:47] Kathrese: I didn't get consulted.

[00:16:48] Heidi: Yeah. She's so she's like decides to sneak around the Kings back and consult with the dragon and try to negotiate it. So maybe at first, try to get it to just leave, but then she ends up befriending the dragon and trying to stop it from getting killed because she one doesn't want to marry the knight. And on the other hand, she also. Just wants to keep her new friend alive.

[00:17:08] Kathrese: I like that premise. It's a, it's a different twist on the damsel in distress. She finds her own way. I love that she works herself out of a corner. And you can't pick the guy for me. Thanks.

[00:17:20] Heidi: Nah, it doesn't work usually.

[00:17:22] Kathrese: So did that have a romantic element in it somewhere somehow? Or was it the anti romance?

[00:17:27] Heidi: It does have a romantic element, but it's a huge spoiler who love her love interest is. Um,

[00:17:33] Kathrese: Okay, so we'll just walk away. And you have to read it. And you have to read it. Well, speaking of that, I want to read power on just as soon as I can get my hands on it. I hope it's a great jumping off place for your series. I really know it will be.


And, uh, it's just my speed. I really like superhero fiction. I like you, I've watched all the Marvel movies. Some are much better than others. Or they're very uneven, in my opinion.

[00:18:01] Heidi: Everyone has a different one that they think is better than the others. It's it's, it's so personal. It's like my husband likes Iron Man 3, and I like Captain Marvel and we both were like, that one? Really?

I have trouble just saying which one's my favorite. Cause every time I think of one, I think of another. They made so many, really so prolific. How did they do it? It was just like one after the other, I guess.

Billions of dollars of resources.

There you go. I know. That's true. I know that. It's true. So if money were no object, what, how would you spend your days?

I would still writes. I would have a lot more cats. There would be a huge cat palace in my house and I would just go visit them daily.

[00:18:50] Kathrese: So how many do you have?

[00:18:52] Heidi: I just have the one, his name is Brownie Bite. He's very small. Um...,

[00:18:56] Kathrese: Oh.

[00:18:57] Heidi: Yeah. And I had Bruce, Bruce Wayne before Brownie Bite, and he was kind of my, my best friend ever. Back when we were in military house and you can only have two pets.

So I had Bruce and my husband had a German shepherd. We still have the German shepherd. We've added on a border Collie at my daughter's request. And, uh, Bruce passed away from feline leukemia a couple of years ago. So we have Brownie Bite instead now.

[00:19:20] Kathrese: And so what does Brownie Bite look like?

[00:19:22] Heidi: He's a brown Tabby.

[00:19:23] Kathrese: He's the one in the picture, right? On Instagram.

[00:19:25] Heidi: Yeah, you'll see him from there. He's, he's very small and slinky, and he's got this amazing cinnamon roll type markings on his coat, so.

[00:19:33] Kathrese: Okay. Yeah. Then I've seen him. He's kind of like orange, isn't he? Or is he brown?

[00:19:38] Heidi: He's brown, but he's got kind of like these golden umber highlights.

[00:19:42] Kathrese: I'm a sucker for that.

[00:19:43] Heidi: Yeah. The vet asked me if he was part Bengal, which is like a designer breed cat. No, he is, uh, probably inbred. I'm sorry. Cause that's where we picked him up from my uncle's barn, and I'm like, there's, there's no way there was a thousand dollar Bengal cat prancing around, out there making babies. And it just, as

[00:20:04] Kathrese: There was no involvement, there. Their often the best cats. I, we, havecthree rescue dogs in our house. My husband, unfortunately, is allergic to cats. So I had to give it cats for my marriage. But he's worth it so. But he's letting me have rescue dogs, instead.

[00:20:25] Heidi: I like my border Collie. I do prefer the cats, but the border Collie is a nice, nice touch.

[00:20:30] Kathrese: So active.

[00:20:32] Heidi: They're just needy. He's he's neurotic. If you don't give him full attention, he'll be like sneaking right up to your face. Like, hi.

[00:20:39] Kathrese: Hello?

[00:20:41] Heidi: Yes, exactly. You pop up. There's whoop. There he is.

[00:20:44] Kathrese: So, um, I think that's it for today. I just want to thank you so much because I know this is interview two. Find Heidi at HLBurkeAuthor.com.

Also check out fellowshipoffantasy.com to find a lot of great books to read. I look forward to reading your book and also seeing many more of your books in the future. Thank you and have a great evening, Heidi. I appreciate it.

[00:21:07] Heidi: See you too.

[00:21:11] Kathrese: Thank you for joining us today. If you enjoyed this episode, please leave a comment and follow the podcast. If you're new around here, I hope you will join the Writing Pursuits Author Community for more content and to receive Word Marker Tips for Authors. That link and all the links mentioned in today's episode are in the show notes at writingpursuits.com. Please join us on Wednesdays for new episodes and keep writing, my friends. Keep writing.

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