I thought it might be fun to do interview a fellow author and have her interview me. So I sat down on a Saturday afternoon for a Facebook chat with fellow writer Wendy Burke. Wendy is the author of 6 books including the recent Safe at Home.
Cyn: Ready to do this thing?
Wendy: Sure...I'm just looking up what an OHP hat is called...other than 'hat'.
Cyn: Let’s talk a little about ourselves. I'm a mystery writer and Wendy writes... What would you call your particular romance genre?
Cyn: Lady porn?
Wendy: Erotic romance. Mommy porn works too.
Cyn: I once had a male coworker complain that guys
can't sit in the lunchroom thumbing through Playboy,
but ladies can read romance novels and nobody
Wendy: With a novel -- the pictures are in your head...not in print! And for the most part, women paint a better mental picture than men do.
Cyn: Most romance novels are spicier than Playboy. Especially yours.
Wendy: True-- but mental pictures aren't interrupting the daily work flow.
And mostly go unnoticed ...especially since the invention of eReaders!
Cyn: We've known each other for like one million years.
Wendy: and a half, I think
Cyn: What's one question you've always wanted to ask me about my work?
Wendy: Are there people in your head that pretty much talk to you all day long?
Cyn: Oh yes. The inside of my head is like a Robin Williams routine.
Wendy: Less hairy, I would imagine!
Cyn: There's some hairy people in there, too.
Wendy: you keep them impeccably well-groomed from what I can see...
Cyn: I've always wanted to ask you when you wrote your first story.
Wendy: When I was old enough to realize there were people in my head more fun than those around me. I would imagine it was BEFORE I even knew what 'writing' was. As for concrete writing, most likely late grade school-- as for thinking I could make money off of it -- 10 years ago. I always 'wrote'...
Cyn: Me too. I distinctly remember drawing a little book about two brothers who lived in a windmill. I had confused a windmill with a lighthouse because they had boats.
Wendy: What author do you admire most?
Cyn: The first author I ever truly loved was Laura Ingalls Wilder. I wrote Michael Landon angry letters over the TV show Little House On The Prairie versus the book. Like a 7-page letter. Robert B. Parker is a huge influence on me as well. The way he writes dialogue, how prolific he was. How he keeled over while writing at this desk. Who inspires you?
Wendy: Poor guy...not the way I want to go.
I'm not really 'inspired' by any one writer -- as I don't read what my writing genre is.
I like the story like of a Brad Thor and James Rollins. I'm more inspired to 'write' by something that happens during the day. I like sad heroes.
Cyn: Me, too. I collect little bits of every single day to use in stories.
Wendy: you know how that works in my head!
Cyn: We've both worked in newsrooms and that's a great place for plots in general
Every single crime in any of my books has been inspired by a similar real-life crimes. Even the awful things that go down in What The Chat Dragged In
Wendy: Because a newsroom is also filled with 'characters.' All with have their own weird flaws
Cyn: More specifically what inspired what you're working on now?
Wendy: I"m going to have to plead the 5th on that one--as it stemmed from a real life conversation with a real life law enforcement officer -- some would say an 'inappropriate' conversation from an elected official! But 'he' probably didn't realize my reaction to it...just a simple innocent comment --which pushed the people in my head in to high gear! And just remember -- text me at 2 a.m, for no apparent reason -- you're in a book...
Cyn: The hazards of dealing with writer folks. For me it was tamer, a visit to the Cirque de Soliel. I was sitting in the audienc eand was impressed that the clown band was playing their own instruments and singing
Wendy: Ah---Killer Clowns From Out of State!'
Cyn: And I started thinking, wow these are super-talented people. I wondered what their lives were like when not performing. What do accordion playing clowns do in their off time?
By the end of the performance, I had most of the book.
Wendy: And our poor spouses wonder what's going on in our heads!
Cyn: That's the dual track running in a writer's life. Watching and liking the circus, writing a book, too. On the drive home, my husband said, "You're writing in your head, I can see the way your eyes are moving."
Wendy: Some would call that schizophrenia
Cyn: My friend the psych nurse tells me my eyes move exactly like a schizophrenic’s when I write
Wendy: Scary! I just blurt things out now...and the old man gets it. Like how looking over the treetops into Green Bay in WI's Door County -- I just said, I want to sit here and writer forever -- in my head I was doing just that -- could see the characters on the deck having a conversation...people just don't get that
Cyn: My husband gets it. He usually just brings me coffee when he sees it taking over
Knowing you in real life, you would be the person I would least likely peg as a romance writer
Cyn: You are super-duper practical. How did you find your genre? Crime, I'd buy in a minute.
Wendy: I had promised to write a cheesy baseball romance for a friend...
And so I did. I'm a romantic at heart -- people don't see that side of me. I still want to write a political thriller --- but with sex ....lots of sex...in it!
Cyn: People tend to think the opposite about me. They think I am chipper. So, the dark edge to some of my work surprises them. At least I think I am regarded as chipper.
Wendy: Knowing you-- didn't surprise me!
Cyn: I've yelled at you more than most people! All in the line of duty at work. Newsrooms are intense places.
Wendy: It's sometimes difficult to be 'nice' in a setting like that -- which is why I'm glad I don't have the responsibility I once did in a newsroom
Cyn: I wanted to ask if there was another genre you'd like to explore, but you already answered. So for you it's a political thriller?
Wendy: I wanna be Brad Thor or James Rollins when I grow up! But for now, I would rather just work in the realm of fantasies --- too much of that political crap right now.
Cyn: I'd really like to be able to write a good piece of sci-fi or fantasy. I love that genre, but I don't feel that I write it well. I have a half finished book called Araknj's Quantum that's a steampunk mystery about time-traveling murderous robot chefs. I let my friends pick my National Novel Writing Month project by naming random things and that's what happened.
Wendy: See...I can't write something that doesn't 'exist' or can't actually 'happen'...just the way my head works.
Cyn: You wouldn't believe the research I did for that book, the real world research to create a feasible alternate reality. In that world, India was part of the Holy Roman Empire because I expanded the Pourtugese influence that exist in part of India to most of India. I researched Catholic Indian names.
Wendy: And here I am looking for a hat. My brain doesn't work that way -- I can't relate to it.
Cyn: I was also researching how you resign from the Ohio National Guard today. When you can do it, what the procedures are.... That may be a spoiler for my next book.
Wendy: I got it figured out! Deputy Hottie?
Cyn: We’ll see. Speaking of books... I will ask an impossible question. Which of your books is your favorite?
Wendy: Probably The One He Chose, Haste Ye Back a close second. Of course, I like them all...but those two stick out to me for some reason. You? Which of yours?
Cyn: Probably What The Chat Dragged In. Because it was so hard to write, but I think I pulled it off.
Wendy: You did, very well.
Cyn: We need to promote ourselves a little
Wendy: You know how NOT good I am at that.
Cyn: So, talk about what you have out now and what you're working on
Wendy: Safe at Home has been out a couple of weeks -- a story I really enjoyed writing, because, although the 'seed' for it was much more baseball oriented - it still came out as the story I was looking for. Currently I'm now in love with two new characters ELI & ZOE -- he's a widowed sheriff and she's a newsroom 'jack of all trades' -- they've never met -- but OH they will...they SURE will!
Cyn: Right now, I'm finishing up the final edits on Killer Clowns From Out of State.
Wendy: Such a great title! Reminds me of the ICP incidents.
Cyn: It's about a small town female police chief that runs over a circus performer
who may or may not be connected to a murder. Did I mention that he's handsome?
Wendy: The circus performer?
Wendy: With or without clown make up?
Cyn: Without, he's only a fill-in clown. He's actually an assistant stage manager who knows how to play the accordion. I'm proud of how it all comes together and makes sense.
I'm finishing my edits on the sequel to American Goth: A Maze & Grace.
Do you remember a few years ago, me telling you before the morning news meeting about a dream I had about a guy who had a dream and woke up to find that things in real life were happening in the dream. I dreamed the whole story in one night as a dream?
Wendy: Yes...I read part of that one.
Cyn: It's a novella, and it’s going to be out soon as well.
Cyn: Oh yeah, that's helpful for promotion. The Girl of His Dreams, A little different for me.
Though there is a mystery, it's just not a murder mystery,
Hey, when are you ever going to write that book about NASCAR we talked about?
Wendy: Eventually maybe.
Cyn: So many ideas, so little time.
Wendy: I know.
Cyn: That's the hardest part of being a writer, don't you think?
For me, not what to write, but when to write.
Even if I had every hour of the day free to write, I don't know that I could get it all down.
On that note, we decided to end our conversation and actually get back to writing.