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Saturday, September 18, 2010
Author Interview: Stephanie Burkhart
The Long and the Short of It is pleased to welcome Stephanie Burkhart, whose latest book The Hungarian was released this past May. A short story, "Shadows and Light," in the Borealis II Anthology will be available December 2010 and several other novels are scheduled to be released next year from Desert Breeze Publishing.
Stephanie is an interesting mix of Polish, Ukrainian, and French. Her mother's family was Polish and Ukrainian.
"I can remember as a young girl, listening to tales from my material grandmother, who was Ukrainian, how her parents escaped from under barbed wire fences to get out of their country. They made their way to Italy and got on a boat to Ellis island. They ultimately settled near the NH/Massachusetts border," she said. "Interestingly, my grandmother married my grandfather, whose parents where Polish and had a similar story about how they came to America. My grandparents were first generation Americans and met in Massachusetts. My grandmother embraced Polish traditions. She loved cooking Polish foods and we even called her Bopshie, Polish for grandmother, despite her Ukrainian roots. My paternal grandfather was from Montreal, Canada. He fought in the European theatre in World War II. My parents met in Manchester, NH, the second largest French speaking city in the United States."
Stephanie told me that the paranormal genre is an outgrowth of gothic literature, including the classic VC Andrews and Victoria Holt she read growing up. These stories still resonate with her today and have greatly influenced her own writing.
"There's a great gothic story by Diane Setterfield called "The 13th Tale," that I read recently and it embodied the stories I really enjoyed growing up."
"What inspired you to write your first book?" I wondered.
"Destination: Berlin was inspired by my own trip to Berlin. In July 1988, I was a young soldier in the Army, and I won a trip to the Berlin Orientation Tour. I caught the Berlin Duty Train in Bremerhaven, Germany, and took it to Berlin. While I waited at the Bahnhof for the train to arrive in Bremerhaven, I went to a local café for brotchen and a drink. The idea hit me – what would happen if the duty train derailed in the middle of East Germany? I started scribbling down notes on napkins which turned into the basic plot for Destination: Berlin."
Stephanie's latest book, The Hungarian, takes place in 1901. The first half is set in England, the second half in Budapest. Count Matthias Duma is a werewolf who thinks, because of his condition, he doesn't have a right to fall in love, but that's exactly what happens when he meets a young British noblewoman, Katherine Archibald. He risks his whole world to win her love. Steph picked the title The Hungarian because Matthias is central to the plot. Being Hungarian is what he is, more so than being a wolf. She wanted the title to put the emphasis on the man, not on the wolf.
She also has to have the plot down, or an idea of where to take the story and what she wants to do with it first. Once that's taken care of, she crafts her characters.
"What's your writing space like?" I asked.
"I'm downstairs on the dining room table so I can be near my kids and keep my ear out for them. I've got paper and binders thrown about in some type of organized mess," she answered with a smile.
A few things you might not know about Stephanie:
~the strangest thing she's ever eaten is squid. "And I never would have guessed it!" she said.
~her favorite animal is kitties. "Especially American shorthairs. Their fur is so soft!"
~her favorite pizza—shrimp and salami. "I used to eat it all the time when I was stationed in Germany while in the Army."
~She's definitely a morning person. "Even out of the Army, I still do more before nine a.m. than the average person," she said with a grin.
~She loves thunderstorms. "Thunderstorms are rare where I'm at now, southern California, but growing up in New England, you could count on them --violent, yet passionate."
~She is the Queen of Multitasking. "I work for LAPD as a 911 Dispatcher. Getting help to those who call require I multitask quickly and efficiently. It's a job that's not for everyone."
Finally, I asked her what advice she would give a new writer just starting out.
"Have patience is the first thing that comes to mind. In today's world, we're so used to instant gratification, but when it comes to writing and crafting a good story, submitting to agents and publishers, you need patience. Patience will pay off, but it's something I wished I had more of when I was first starting out. Second, be 'approachable' and 'net friendly.' If you're going to use the Internet for marketing, you need to develop a net friendly personality. Be pleasant. No one likes to work with an abrasive personality."
You can keep up with Stephanie on her blog, http://sgcardin.blogspot.com,