Sunday, February 7, 2016

Interview with Richard Burns

We have another author interview today. 
Lets give a warm welcome to Richard Burns! Thanks so much for stopping by today, Richard. It's great to have you here. Lets learn a little bit about you...


Richard Burns

1.      Tell us about your latest release.
My latest release was “Into Darkness Once More,” and is the third story in a trilogy, that started with a bet.  My Sister Mary Beth has been wanting to be a published writer now for years, and I called her one time and encouraged her to submit a story under an outstanding Halloween Call for Submission.  Now, I didn’t have a story, was already published so I didn’t feel the need to submit.
However, after talking to somebody for about 5 minutes, I suddenly had an the makings of a story.  So I called her back and challenged her to a bet.  I’ve always had a fascination with the “Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” ever since I was a kid.  The theme for the Call for Submission was, ‘Wild Darkness Calls.”
So I wrote the 21st Century addendum to the “Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” and I did my best to stay true to Washington Irving’s original tale.  Now my story was submitted several months before the Fox TV series, so an similarities are purely coincidental, and there are a few.  But as opposed to the Icabod Crane of Washington Irving, I made my characters very strong, and self-confident.  In fact, I made them both combat veterans, her a Military Police Sergeant and Investigator in Iraq and he an Infantry Sergeant from one of the Ranger Battalions in Afghanistan.
To top the matter and get them on location, since Sleepy Hollow is in Westchester County, New York, I decided to make them both West Point cadets, selected from the ranks to go attend the Academy Prep School and then to the Point.  And the story, “Into Darkness Eternal,” was born.
Now because of the West Point tie in, and the revolutionary war tie in with the Headless Horseman, I decided to write a second novella with the same characters.  This time, I made it a Revolutionary War Spy Thriller, “Into Darkness Again.”
It was then, that AMC TV came out with their Spy Thriller, “Turn,” so I really appear to be on the cutting edge!
Then I learned of a second Headless Horseman in West Virginia, from an officer killed during the Civil War at Murphreesboro, TN, so I felt compelled to write a third, “Into Darkness Once More,” finishes the series, and launched on November 20, 2015.

Into Darkness Series
I.                   Into Darkness Eternal  (21st Century Addendum to the Legend of Sleepy Hollow)
II.                Into Darkness Again  (A Revolutionary War Spy Thriller-The Real Story behind Benedict Arnold’s Betrayal of West Point)
III.             Into Darkness Once More   (Mike & Maggie encounter another headless Horseman from the American Civil War, in West Virginia!?)

What kind of research did you do?

Quite a bit actually, when I pick a scene setting, I’ll do a rather extensive background search of the area, it’s history, it’s relevance, etc.
Then typically, I’m going to try to bring that historical significance or relevance to the story out in some way.  That’s probably one of the reasons I like writing about New York so much, because there is such significant history.
For example, when I was working as a Federal Agent, I had a case that took me to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, which is not at all far from where my Irish family is from, in Waukon.  While I was working my case in Cedar Rapids, I found an old neighborhood called, Czech Village.
This last time I was overseas, I got roped in and dragged into a writing contest.  I mean, I wasn’t looking to get anything published, I already had several short novellas launching, and I had this paying job…  who needs the grief?  Well, to provide an example, guidance and assistance, as well as motivation for young aspiring writers, I got in.  At the end of the months, I was the only one still writing.  Yes, I have a full novel to submit now
The writing challenge was among five of us, and each of us picked one of the following: 
            I).  A Place/City/State/Country, etc. 
II).  A Date 
III).  An Event   
IV).  A Profession 
V).  Two Names.
I picked the date 1945, because I wanted to give my other writers the choice to make it if World War II was over, or not.  The place picked was Prague, the event picked was a wedding, the profession was an Ice Chest Repairman, and the two names were Moses Jones & Elijah Graves.
And from that, my novel “Castle Stand,” was born.  No, it’s not published yet.  This story turned out to be quite lengthy, in excess of 425 pages.  The Czech village became an anchor point for me in drafting the story, sort of a ground zero, as well as my hometown of Detroit.

 What process did you use to pick your characters’ names?

Most of the time, I use real people and sometimes their names as well.  It’s been my experience that you really just can’t make up stuff as good as reality. 
I wrote a fictionalized account of my 2009 tour of duty as a Special Forces Military Intelligence Operator, on the ground in Afghanistan, assigned to the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force – Afghanistan, entitled “Say Goodnight”.  Now thatThat is a very exciting tale!  I was told by one person who was in the Army, “my pulse is pounding, I’m breathing heavy, I can barely see for all the gun-smoke…” pretty high praise, indeed!
Since most of them are still in the military, and naturally you don’t want any smoke coming back on them, I’ll change their names.  In that case, I asked everybody, “What do you want your name to be?  So you can recognize yourself in the book, or tell your kids?”
Now, I’ve recently been in touch with another Special Forces Warrant Officer, who I met on my first tour in 2003, and in 2009 commanded an Operational Detachment-Alpha (ODA:  this is the basic 12 man team in the US Army Special Forces-Green Berets), and he was sent into a huge gun battle with eight others (his team was light a few men), slugged it out with almost 200 Taliban for the next five days and won!
He wants me to write the story of that fight.  No, I’m not feeling any immense pressure…  why do you ask?

Are your characters based on anyone you know?
Very nearly all of them, but not all of them.
Where ever and whenever possible, I am going to use a person’s real name.  Because I want that person to live forever in the pages!  This is my way of giving a person immortality.  Yeah, you’re right;  when you only have three readers, it’s not such a great gift, but it’s the best I can do, at this point.

Did any of your characters sometime take over and write the book themselves? Who?

Actually, sometimes!  I try to make each of my characters strong enough and real enough so that I could write a book about any one of them if asked to.  I’m told that’s how Stephen King wrote “The Stand,” and I’m guessing he may know a little something about writing, here and there.
In my first publication, a short story, “Sweet Chocolate’s First Taste,” the main character & love interest, Trisha.  This story is an Erotic Romance and Trisha is a hooker.  I know, there’s a lot people out there rolling their eyes again!  But this story is the one that made me a writer.  And, if you don’t mind, I’ll expand on this a little.
I belong to the Erotic Readers & Writers Association (ERWA), you can join for free, go to:  http://www.erotica-readers.com/  and I got a call for submissions once in my E-mail that wanted Hot Spicy stories about your first time, and I said to myself, “Hey!  I had a first time…” and the very next day, I got another call for submissions seeking Hot Spicy stories featuring strong black women, and I said to myself, “Hey, my first time was with a strong black woman…”
But the second call had very specific requirements, 4,000 words, NO MORE, 4,001 and they weren’t going to read it, no ‘wham-bam-thank-you-ma’ams,’ it had to have scene setting, character development, they wanted to love the characters, it had to have a beginning, a middle and an end.  Which is an awful lot for 4K words!
But I was confident that I could do it.  So, I wrote the story and sent it to both publishers.  Zane, the famous and most renowned publisher and editor of black erotica sent me an E-mail later saying “We love this story!  We want to publish it!”
So, the rest is serendipity.  Yes, it is the story of my first time and I had the best first time of anybody I know!  Zane published it in her anthology, “Chocolate Flava 3,” and if you ask me, my stories is far and away, the best!  It now sells individually in a single story for $1.99.
But Trisha, was such an amazing woman.  So perfect in every way.  I was just 17 years old at the time and now that I am 54, I still think about her often.  Especially now that I wrote the story and she now has a certain level of immortality.

What do you prefer: e-book or print? Why?

To Read:  Print books.  Why?  Because I am an old dog and don’t like new tricks.  All change is EVIL therefore we must resist it, and scream at the tide.
To Write:  E-books, because they are typically faster to come to launch, far less overhead and therefore a greater profit margin.

How long have you been writing? When did you decide to become an author?

Since 2010, when I heard back from Simon & Schuster Publishing & Zane, when I realized that there may be something to this Erotica thing!  Now, just doing some anecdotal research, I will ask nearly every black woman I meet, if they read Zane.  Surprisingly, nearly all of them do!  Probably in upwards of 98%!!!  That’s a huge audience!
And my readers that I know are black women, who have read my stories, are without a doubt, the most fanatically loyal readers that any author has a right to ask for!  If I write a story tonight, tell them, they will look for it immediately! 
Yes!  Felicia, Angelique, and Jazma, I’m talking about you!  I love you guys!!!
Now, to be honest, I could write that stuff full-time.  I have so many ideas, and it really comes so easy to me, but it’s not going to pay the mortgage.

What did you do when you received your first Acceptance Letter?
Well, had it come by snail mail, written on paper, I suppose I would’ve put it under glass and on the wall.  But since it came by E-mail, it’s stored in one of my folders.

All writers suffer from writer’s block at least once in their career. What’s your go-to cure?
I do have trouble transitioning from one scene to another sometimes, and typically what I wind up doing is writing another scene in-between the two, in order to better bridge the scenes.
I also use “springboards for writing,” and what these are, are simple one or two line scenarios that are meant to get the imagination flowing.  Such as:  You are standing in line at the grocery store and an attractive woman is standing in line also, directly in front of you.  She then turns to you and says…..
That’s where you pick up the story and run with it.  You can now take that simple scenario in any direction you want
In fact, I am writing one now, based on another similar situation.  Two people standing on a train platform hear some music from a nearby restaurant and begin tapping their feet and swaying to the music.  They are the only two people on the platform and then they both notice that they are both not-dancing, and they are both not-together.  So they decide to not-dance, not-together.
Its set in Chicago, an area I know extremely well, and the man is a Homicide Detective and then finds himself called to the scene of a murder, to find her, his dance partner in the kitchen and her husband dead on the floor in the living room.
“Strangers on a Train,” was already taken so “Strangers at a Stop,” seems like a good title.

Any advice for the aspiring authors out there? Particularly those who are feeling a little discouraged.

Yes, there are so many options for authors coming of age today!  Not to mention the Self-Publishing route.  And don’t knock Self-Publishing, Vince Flynn, who wrote 14 or 15 of the best Political/Espionage Thrillers had to Self-Publish his first, “Term Limits.”
The Publishing House I am with now, I think is the best starting place, Muse It Up Publishing of Montreal, Quebec.  Go to the webpage;  www.MuseItUpPublishing.com/ and look for the option on the top menu bar, “Write for Us,” and click on that.  You’ll see a list of the outstanding calls for submissions and just pick one!
PLUS!!!  I am always ready, willing and able to help!  Please send me an E-mail at Richard_Burns325@yahoo.ca   I’m always looking to help the next generation of authors.  And trust me, you will LOVE Life at the Muse!  It’s a small, entirely female run publishing house and they really go well above and beyond for their authors.  Give this one serious consideration!

What is your favorite book and author?

That’s easy;  Henry V, by William Shakespeare.  Because if you’re not aware, I am retired from the US Army, with 30 years of service and while I admit, that I did not understand all of Shakespeare’s work when it was required reading in High School, I certainly see it for what it is now.  I just don’t think my brain was ready to accept all those heavy points and topics, not to mention the vernacular of 16th Century England.
Now as an adult, I can see just how deep his stories and scenes are, and how they are so intricate that you really cannot over-analyze them.  And in High School, I could never grasp it, but Henry V, is the quint-essential book on leadership, and when I’ve had to press soldiers under the most arduous of circumstances, and encourage them to ‘soldier-on,’ in the face of overwhelming, vastly superior odds, like my Warrant Officer friend Eric, your men’s performance will almost always be a mirror image of the leadership that they receive!
When you look at Hamlet, it’s a tough act to pull off, because it is all inner-turmoil and self-doubt, which makes for a ton of one-man dialog and that is very hard to pull off and make believable.  But everybody always has doubts, and that’s one of the things I try to bring out in my book, Say Goodnight, about my 2009 tour in Afghanistan.
  
Where can we find your books?

All of my books can be found at my webpage:  http://www.RichardBurnsBooks.com/ and I’m also on Amazon.com, or B&N.com

Awesome interview. 
Thanks so much, Richard. Hope you had fun.