Today I am interviewing H. L. Burke to celebrate the release of her novel, Nyssa Glass and the House of Mirrors.
Here’s a little bit about Heidi:
Born in a small town in north central Oregon, H. L. Burke spent most of her childhood around trees and farm animals and was always accompanied by a book. Growing up with epic heroes from Middle Earth and Narnia keeping her company, she also became an incurable romantic.
An addictive personality, she jumped from one fandom to another, being at times completely obsessed with various books, movies, or television series (Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and Star Trek all took their turns), but she has grown to be what she considers a well-rounded connoisseur of geek culture.
Married to her high school crush who is now a US Marine, she has moved multiple times in her adult life but believes that home is wherever her husband, two daughters, and pets are.
She is the author of a four part fantasy/romance series entitled "The Scholar and the Dragon," YA/Fantasy "Beggar Magic," and MG/Fantasy "Thaddeus Whiskers and the Dragon," among others . Her current projects are a young adult Steampunk fantasy and an epic fantasy trilogy.
When did you decide to become an author?
About the same time I realized it was a serious career option, so maybe when I was eleven or twelve. I had written things before that, but I didn't start thinking, “I want to write books for real” until middle school-ish. Other than a few small contests, I didn't really pursue it all that seriously, though. In my late teens I sent out some queries. Looking back, I know that the stuff I wrote then wasn't that good. Then marriage and kids happened, and while I still wrote, I focused more on blogging for several years.
The turn around point for me was NaNoWriMo 2012. I had a 4-year-old and a 10-month-old, but dangit, I was going to write a novel that year … so I did. Finding that I still had the time to create, when I'd been telling myself I didn't because of the kids, flipped a switch and I just kept going.
Tell us about your journey. How did you get your first book published?
While I've been writing for a long time, that NaNoWriMo manuscript was the first thing I'd written in a long while that made me think, “Other people might like to read this!” Everything prior that had sort of just been for my own enjoyment. Sure, I'd daydream about sharing it, but there wasn't the driving need. This novel, which would eventually be Dragon's Curse, the first in my four book Dragon and the Scholar Saga, really felt like a story that deserved to be shared.
At the same time, I had an older manuscript (which I'd eventually rewrite as An Ordinary Knight) posted on my blog in full. Two different friends read through it and said, “This is really good. Why isn't it published?”
I didn't think that one on my blog was marketable, especially since I'd “burned” the first publishing rights by making it available for free on my blog. So I just plopped it on Kindle for 99 cents, with a truly awful cover, telling my friends if they wanted to purchase it, it was there.
A light-bulb-moment came when someone who WASN'T a friend, a complete stranger, gave the book a four star review. I thought, I might be able to do this for real … so I took more time with Dragon's Curse, purchased a real cover, and basically treated it like the launch of a real book to the best of my ability.
I'm still kind of making it up as I go, but it has been about three years now (I published Dragon's Curse in 2013), and I've learned a lot. I get peer review through scribophile.com and Goodreads beta reader groups. I've found resources for covers and marketing, and I'm still having fun.
Was there ever a point when you felt like giving up?
No. Writing to me is very natural. It's not something I do for the approval of others. I do it for me. I do it because I love it. You don't give up on things that are important to you in that way. It would be like giving up on my kids. Sure, some days they frustrate me. Some days I wonder if I'm messing the whole parenting thing up, but I've never really been tempted to drive them to an orphanage and say, “Hasta la vista, babies!”
Other people liking what I do is a nice bonus, just like it is nice when someone tells me my kids are cute and well-behaved. Financial reward is a nice bonus, but giving up on writing would be kind of like giving up on thinking for me. Not really an option.
Now on individual projects, I've had moments of doubt where I think that maybe this particular story is too much of a mess to be redeemed or I doubt that it will be financially successful or that my readers will like it. Generally I push through and looking back realize it wasn't that bad. I was just tired/grouchy/hungry.
There are times where I've doubted that I could put the financial backing behind my work for fear I might not make it back. Every time I have to make a large expenditure, whether for cover art or marketing, there is always an inner hesitancy because that's money my husband worked for … that could go to more practical things, but writing itself isn't a cost for me. It's a joy. If it ceases to become a joy, chances are I'm focusing on the wrong thing.
The great thing about writing, especially in the self-publishing realm, is you don't need permission. You aren't promised anything … you aren't owed being popular or famous or financially successful, but writing is your right. If you love it enough not to care whether or not you're popular, famous, or financially successful, then you're in the right business. Just keep going.
Is there anything about being a published author that has surprised you?
When you openly admit you have no idea what you're doing everything is a surprise … but weirdly, at the same time, nothing is. It's like opening a box without any idea what's inside. You might have certain things that surprise you less, but since you have no expectations, whatever's in there won't be a shock. Just so long as it isn't a dead cat. That Schrodinger guy was messed up.
So I'm totally making this up as I go.
I wouldn't advise this method for everyone, but I've always been a “learn by do'er.” Don't give me a manual. Just let me jump in and start pushing buttons!
Any advice you would give to a writer just starting out?
As I said earlier (or sort of said) you don't need permission. Never ask permission to create art. Don't believe anyone when they tell you they have the one way that works for everyone. Give all ideas hearing, but be prepared to say, “That's nice. I'm glad that works for you” then go find the way that works for you, not for anyone else.
Is there anything else about you or your books you would like to tell us?
I write whimsical fantasy because that's what makes me happy. My latest book, Nyssa Glass and the House of Mirrors, was inspired by computer adventure games, the idea of giving my heroine a series of tasks and challenges to complete while she solved a mystery within a really atmospheric setting (in this case an abandoned mansion that might not be so abandoned after all). I really hope it gives readers a fun but satisfying experience.
Here’s a blurb about Nyssa Glass and the House of Mirrors: Nyssa Glass is a reformed cat burglar turned electrician's apprentice, settled into a life repairing videophones and radio-sets. However, when her past comes calling, she finds herself framed for murder and forced into one last job. No one has entered Professor Dalhart's secluded mansion in almost a decade, at least not that returned to tell the tale.
If Nyssa wants to ensure her freedom, she'll brave the booby-trapped halls and mechanized maids. Nyssa has skills, but this house has more than its share of secrets. As she steps into the cobwebbed halls lined with dusty mirrors, she has to wonder. Is the House of Mirrors really abandoned?
To win this book, you can participate in Heidi’s Rafflecopter Giveaway:a Rafflecopter giveaway