Richard T. Burke is the author of two full length books, The Rage and Decimation: The Girl Who Survived. He was also a contributor to the Bloodhound Books charity Christmas anthology, Dark Minds, with a story called A Christmas Killing. He is currently working on his third book, provisionally titled The Colour of The Soul. You can read about forthcoming books on his blog at www.rjne.uk and find him on Twitter and Facebook. When he’s not writing, he can often be found walking his dog in the woods around his home in North Hampshire, UK.
Q: Who is the real Richard Burke?
A: Richard Burke likes a good story, so for the purposes of this question he is a suave, sophisticated, best-selling author with a loyal worldwide fan base. Sadly, the facts haven’t yet caught up with the fiction, but I live in hope that one day they might.
Q: You have said that because you work full time at present you still don’t consider yourself to be a writer. However, when you had an informal book discussion with a group of people who were interested in your first book, you said you finally felt that you were a writer. What do you currently feel, and why?
A: When I wrote my first book, The Rage, I did so more to prove to myself that I could write a novel than for any other reason. I really enjoyed the experience and discovered a friendly and supportive community amongst other writers. Now that I have a second book out Decimation and a short story in the Bloodhound Books charity Christmas anthology, Dark Minds, I think I can safely say that I now consider myself to be a serious writer.
Q: What is it like sharing your name with another author? Do people often mistake you for your namesake and how did it come about that you made contact with one another?
A: You are referring to Richard Burke-Ward. I tell the full story on my blog page at www.rjne.uk but here are the highlights. Thirteen years ago, my wife spotted a book by another Richard Burke in a local bookshop. She bought it for me and inscribed it with the words “Famous at last!” I read the book (Frozen) and kept it on our lounge bookshelf. When I received my first printed copy of The Rage, it ended up on the same bookshelf. I decided to check out what my namesake had been up to in the intervening years and came across his website. I left a short note telling him how I still had a copy of his book and he was good enough to write back and return the favour by buying a copy of The Rage. The other Richard is now a multi-award-winning script editor, screenwriter and author. As far as I know we have never been mistaken for each other, but that’s the main reason for the T (for Thomas) in my author name. Maybe one day I will follow his example again and write some screenplays!
Q: Your Labrador Max was the inspiration for your first book, The Rage. Tell us briefly about the book, without any spoilers.
A: The original inspiration for The Rage came from an experience when my wife and I were walking our dog, Max, through the local woodland. He ran on ahead and we rounded a bend in the path to discover he had vanished. The story is set in a quiet, rural village where there is a sudden outbreak of unexplained violence. At first, the police are called in but events soon escalate leaving the residents fighting for their lives. In one of the opening scenes, a black Labrador disappears while walking with his owner in the woods. As it happens, in the real world Max had rushed along the path to play with another dog. The explanation in the book is far scarier.
Q: When you first brought out The Rage you had a different cover that evoked a sense of foreboding and managed to set the tone for the book, which I really liked. However, you changed that to its present cover, which I don’t like as much. What made you change the cover?
A: Book covers are very subjective and I find it very hard to judge my own covers. What prompted me to change it was when I submitted the original to Joel Friedlander’s website at www.thebookdesigner.com. He came back with the following harsh assessment: “Um, I don’t see any red kites, and frankly this cover looks way too amateurish to do your book much good.” Joel is an industry leading expert on cover design (but evidently not on birds!) I did a lot of research and put together the new cover. Looking back, there are elements I like about the old version, but on the whole I prefer the new one. In hindsight I should perhaps have used a professional book cover designer in the first place.
Q: Would you say that your books are primarily Thrillers with a large dose of Science Fiction, or vice versa?
A: I don’t really like to make the distinction. I try to write the sort of stories I would like to read and those often includes elements of both Thrillers and Science Fiction (I do also read a lot of other genres). When I pick up a book, I want it to make me think, Wow, that’s a great concept. In my view, the story should always come first. The genre is how other people categorise it.
Q: What comes first for you? The plot or the characters? Do you write by the seat of your pants or do you plan the novel?
A: I think in both my books the plot has come first. I plan the main story elements and flesh out the characters before starting, but I often find their personalities change as I develop the story. The process of writing is not an exact science and by the time I finish a book, the final product is often very different to what I first envisaged.
Q: Your second book, Decimation: The Girl Who Survived is a well-written book that I thoroughly enjoyed reading, even though Science Fiction is not a genre I normally enjoy. How differently did you prepare for the launch of this book to that of your first book?
A: I was very naive for the launch of my first book. The things I did well I discovered totally by accident. I found to my cost that writing a book is the easy part. Marketing and promoting it is far harder, especially when like a lot of people, it makes me uncomfortable pushing my own work. Luckily I discovered a very supportive community of fellow authors on Facebook and was far better prepared for the second. That said, I still have a lot to learn!
Q: Tell us more about your main character, Antimone Lessing. She isn’t your usual archetypal heroine being wheelchair-bound.
A: For those of you who haven’t read the blurb, Antimone is a Paralympic medal prospect. At the early planning stage she was a runner, but putting her in a wheelchair opened up several other plot ideas. For example, it allowed me to introduce the conversation with her mother about whether she should undergo experimental surgery to regain the use of her legs. I introduce the idea that in 2032, equal rights legislation means that anybody can enter wheelchair events. Antimone is adamant that she doesn’t want to be considered a “fake Olympian”. I think the wheelchair makes Antimone a more interesting character. I have a sequel in mind and still need to decide whether she has opted to have the surgery.
Q: You are currently writing a third novel, The Colour of The Soul. Love the title by the way! Can you give us a peek into what this book will be about and when can we expect its release?
A: I’m glad you like the title. The core idea is that a girl wakes up after spending over a year in a coma with a new gift – the ability to see a person’s aura, or put another way, the colour of their soul. Of course this new ability doesn’t work quite the way she expects. For example, the girl’s mother is surrounded by dark colours. The book is just over half written and I’m aiming for a release some time around Christmas.