Interview with Debbie Burke

piano editDebbie Burke is one of the authors I’ve met since joining the community at Kindle Press. Her thriller, Instrument of the Devil, was selected by Kindle Scout’s crowd-sourcing program in October. I’ve asked her to tell us about her book and her writing process.

 

When did you start writing? When did you decide to pursue publication?

I wrote stories starting in third grade through college. Then career turned my focus to business writing. About thirty years ago, my husband and I moved to Montana where I found a wonderful writing community and I restarted with fiction. Sold my first short story for $5…and…the check bounced, a great lesson in the vagaries of publication. I also wrote magazine articles while working on numerous novels. The novels won contests and earned rave rejections from agents and editors but no publishing contracts. Finally, last year, my tenth book, Instrument of the Devil, won the Kindle Scout contest and was published. A thirty-year long haul but worth it.

Are you a ‘plotter’ or ‘pantser’? Do you outline a story before writing or make it up as you go?

Basically I’m a pantser. I have a starting point and an ending point but not many clues about the middle. The first draft is the skeleton to figure out the plot. Succeeding drafts, I add the flesh, muscle, sinew, layering on more with each rewrite. Sometimes characters appear and force their way into the story, changing the direction. Because I trust the power of the subconscious, I go with the flow. Usually it works out. Also my critique group helps when I get stuck, offering fresh ideas.

Do you read a lot of the mystery/thriller genre? Who are your favorite authors?

Because I do a lot of editing and beta-reading, I don’t have time to read as many books as I’d like. Probably my all-time favorite author is Raymond Chandler. I also admire Sue Grafton because she maintained high quality for decades until, sadly, the alphabet ended in “Y” when she recently passed.

InstrumentoftheDevil_KPress_Cover_FinalTalk about Instrument of the Devil.
Instrument of the Devil is about a terrorist who targets Tawny Lindholm, a technophobic widow, setting her up as a scapegoat in his plot to bring down the electrical grid. It takes place in Montana at the Hungry Horse Dam, a major power generating station for the Northwest US. The inspiration came from two sources: five years ago, I bought my first smartphone when they really took off in popularity. It confounded me with its antics–strange tones, inexplicable messages, a screen that spontaneously went black, etc. I assumed the problems were operator error, but it also made me wonder, what if a bad guy used a rigged smartphone to manipulate an innocent person to take the fall for a crime? At the same time, I was researching the vulnerability of the power grid and learned that a smartphone has the capability to access computers that control the grid’s inner workings. Those two components came together and the story was born. Then in 2016, the FBI thwarted a cyberattack by smartphone on a dam in New York, so I knew I was onto something that could really happen. A rigged smartphone is the Instrument of the Devil. Ironic postscript: after numerous trips to the phone store, it turned out my phone was defective so not all its antics were operator error.

What are you working on next?

Stalking Midas is a proposed title for the second book in the series. Tawny is working for the lawyer who helped her in Instrument of the Devil. He suspects his estranged father is a victim of elder fraud and sends Tawny to investigate. The plot involves a lucrative annuity scam that takes cruel advantage of senior citizens’ devotion to their pets. The third book in the series (proposed title The Suicide Gene) deals with teenage suicide.

Check out Debbie’s website at debbieburkewriter.com

Debbie is giving away three FREE signed copies of her book! Three winners will be chosen at random from all entries received by April 30. Enter by answering this question in the comments section:

Who are your favorite authors?

 

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Interview with author Sam Boush

Sam Boush PhotoSam Boush has just had his first novel published – a sci-fi, techno-thriller called All Systems Down about an imagined catastrophe in the not so distant future. We first connected on Twitter when I asked him to explain the genre. He explains it again below and answers several more of my nosy questions.

Your book came out last week. What has been the most fun part about getting published? What has been the most challenging?

Well, last week my fifth grade teacher reconnected with me and ordered a copy of my book. I just thought about how eleven-year-old me would have reacted if he’d known a special teacher would, twenty-five years later, be reading his book. I got a little teary, which doesn’t happen often.

The most challenging part has been reining in my expectations. I keep telling myself this is a great start, but building up a fan base takes time and years more work. So even though we had strong sales and stellar reviews last week at launch, I know the road to real success is still a long way off.

When did you start calling yourself a writer?

I only started calling myself a writer (and changing my LinkedIn profile) a few months ago, in conjunction with the cover reveal for my book. Most people didn’t know I’d gotten anything published before that.

I don’t really think writers do themselves any favors by announcing themselves too early. It can add pressure and expectations that aren’t easy to meet. The process of publishing a book for debut novelists can take a year or more, even after it’s written. Why invite questions and stress too early?

Talk a bit about your journey toward publication. How did you find your publisher?

Like most of us, I didn’t enjoy the querying process. A lot of rejection. A lot of unanswered emails. But after a few months of working diligently, I had two publishers interested in my manuscript. It was a good place to be since it allowed me to select the one that fit me best. But it was also difficult because the other publisher I didn’t select, Owl Hollow Press, has a talented staff. (I recommend your readers query directly if it’s a fit. I have only good things to say about how they handled the process.)

Ultimately, I chose Lakewater Press, and have been thrilled with the team. They publish more than just sci-fi thrillers like ALL SYSTEMS DOWN, so your readers might find they’re a fit depending on genre. Pretty much all my success should be attributed to Kate, Jodi, Rebecca, Emma, Samantha, and the rest of the team over there. They’re all ladies, and they’re incredible.

asdWhat is your book about? Who is your audience?

ALL SYSTEMS DOWN is a thriller set in present day. Brendan Chogan is an out-of-work parking attendant, unsuccessfully interviewing for jobs when a series of computer viruses from North Korea begin to wreak havoc on the country. Banks close. Bridges are raised. The electric grid falters. Satellites fall from the sky.

From there it only gets worse. I won’t spoil too much.

The audience is broad. I’d say if you liked Jurassic Park, it’s similar in style and pacing. A fun read, I hope.

How does All Systems Down fit into the sci-fi genre as well as thriller? Do you plan to write other books in this genre?

I suppose it’s more of a thriller or technothriller. Broadly I believe it fits under science fiction, so “sci-fi thriller” is as good a descriptor as any.

All Systems Down is the first in a planned series. I’m working on the second book now, with potentially a third. So, yes, I’ll definitely keep writing sci-fi thrillers!

If you’d like to find out more about Sam Boush, check out his website.