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Interview with Patrick Burdine   3 comments

Patrick BurdineThis week’s interview is with Patrick Burdine, author of The Monitor and co-author of The Vampire’s Last Lover. He’s also featured in The Actuator 1.5: Borderland’s Anthology.
Tell us something about yourself, Patrick.
I’m originally from New Mexico – born in a small town named Portales that nobody has heard of, but I graduated high school in a small town pretty much everyone has heard of – Roswell. These days I live in Burbank, CA with my lovely and incredibly patient wife, 3 daughters and a newborn son. My favorite place that I have lived though, has been up in your neck of the woods at Ft. Richardson Alaska a lifetime ago back when I was in the Army.
Richardson (now part of Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, or JBER) is sort of my neck of the woods. It’s in Anchorage, which is almost 400 miles away from Fairbanks, but by Alaskan standards that’s not that far.  About seven hours one-way. It’s all in the perspective. Alaskans have a long road-trip perspective. And Richardson is set in some lovely country. Do  you remember the first story you wrote? What was it about and how old were you?
I had a single mom and a sister and a couple of step dads along the way, but mostly it was my mom and sister with a ton of help from my grandparents and aunts and uncles. We moved around a lot when I was kid – I used to joke we were nomadic. I honestly can’t remember living in the same place for a year from the 3rd grade basically until I graduated. It wasn’t ever really particularly difficult for me to make new friends, but moving around that often, saying goodbye so much, you kind of hit a point where you don’t want to make friends. I’d always enjoyed reading, and I think I just dug into reading more. Comic books, sci-fi, fantasy, horror. Pretty much everything.
I’ve found that as it goes with reading, I started writing about that time. I think my mom still has some of that dreadful early stuff which was mostly poetry. I wrote a lot of short stories too. I wrote horror stories and science fiction and fantasy and it was all derivative but even at the time I knew I was ripping off the greats and that really frustrated me. It still does, to be honest. I’ll read something I wrote, and really like it, and then get super critical and think, “that sounds like something that Stephen King wrote, or might have written” and then delete it or tear it up. The idea of unique voice is such an insidious form of self sabotage for me sometimes. I’ll see something or hear something in the voice that no one else does and feel like a fraud. But at the same time, when someone reads something of mine and draws a comparison to one of those guys, like a King, or Michael Slade, or Anne Rice or whoever, these people are my idols and it is amazing. Wow, sorry about that I totally went off the rails there.

Not at all. I invite authors to say what they want here. What is your favorite genre? To read? To write? Are they the same?
I just love to read. I am constantly reading. For a while I got lazy about it and convinced myself I didn’t have time to read and then I read King’s book On Writing and it really resonated with me where he said if you don’t have time to read, you don’t have time to write. So I always make time to read. One of my writing rituals, in fact, is to read a couple of pages from whatever book I am reading before I write. It’s like priming the pump. Sometimes it backfires and I end up reading a chapter or an hour. But mostly it is good.
Definitely. I do it backwards, I read after I write to sort of give my brain a break … or sometimes I read if I’m bored with writing, to inspire me. Reading is the fuel to writing, I think. So what is your favorite genre?
As far as favorite genres, I like fantasy, science fiction, I love horror – though that is such a broad category, I’m not a fan of gore for its own sake, but I’m not super squeamish. I’ve just started really started reading thrillers – mostly because I want to understand how to to make some of  my own work in other genres more thrilling. Not so much actively studying, but more through osmosis. I like urban fantasy, Jim Butcher is a great example of someone I would say writes thrillers in another genre. His books are page turners. I’ve read some good romance. My family on my mom’s side is all a bunch of readers. My wife jokes that when we get together it is funny to watch everyone just sit around and pick up whatever books are handy and start reading when there is a lull in the conversation. I will really just pick up anything and read it. I can’t even bring myself to stop reading a “bad” book unless it is just extremely poorly written from a technical standpoint. I can deal with some grammar unless it is virtually unintelligible.
What is your writing process? Do you do a lot of research, start with the characters, plan the plot or …?
It usually starts with an idea for me. Kind of a situation and a character and a what if? sort of situation and then I like to explore it. I usually like to have an idea for an ending before I start writing. If I don’t have that kind of touchstone on where I am going, I find that it tends to ramble a lot with no real destination, as this interview may have clued you in to (winks). That might just be because of my screenwriting focus though. For that you almost always start at the end and then work back. That is a very tight form, with no real “fat”. I like writing prose much more, it lets you get into the characters so much more. So yeah, I start with the situation, an inciting incident if you will, and a character, and a question. Then I usually decide where I want to go, then I write a rough outline. I don’t usually end up sticking to the outline, I like to have room for the characters to decide their own fates, to end up meeting new people, and discovering things about themselves, and usually the ending changes. I just really like having somewhere to work toward in case I get stuck. It is nice on those “writer block” days to be able to say “fine, screw you, I don’t have to be creative today, I am just going do the manual labor on this road, laying bricks to get me from here to there.” It’s something that works well, and then in the editing I can take out that entire chapter or whatever but it keeps me going through the hard times, and eliminates the excuse of not knowing what to write. For me at least.
As for research, yes I do some research. It’s a form of procrastination for me sometimes, and I end up looking up a lot of things that don’t really matter, but I don’t want to include something that isn’t accurate. For instance, let’s say I am going to have a character use a gun in one of my stories, I am going to learn everything I can about that specific gun just because I don’t want a reader to call me out and tell me that a pivotal plot point of having the character using his left thumb to drop the clip for a reload and then come to find out I gave the character a revolver or something basic. I will obviously never have the same level of knowledge as a professional, but I want to be respectful of my readers and realize that something I write might stick in their heads, and then at some point come up in an unrelated conversation. I’d hate for them to have bad info because of me. Kind of ridiculous, I know, but anyway. I use Microsoft One Note, which is a pretty cool product that basically lets me create digital notebooks. I can just type up notes in there, drop pictures of places for reference. I get maps of places and put them there. I like having it all local on my hard drive when possible, because otherwise, as I mentioned above, I will end up using it as an excuse to procrastinate.

I definitely represent the notion of using research on the Internet as a means to procrastinate. I don’t think we’d be saving anytime with going to libraries, though. I write all over the place – wherever I can, whenever I can. How about you? Is there a special place that gets your creative juices flowing or are you a writing nomad like me?
Being in LA it is kind of cliche’ but I actually like writing at Starbucks. It’s nice and clean, I get to do a lot of people watching, for the most part it is fairly quiet. I do write anywhere though, we live right next door to a library (yay!) so I do a lot of writing there, I have a desk at home that I write at, just wherever. I like moving around if I get stuck, or if I feel like I am getting in a rut.
Clearly, you write horror, but with a human touch. Tell us about The Monitor.
I got the idea for The Monitor after my first daughter was born. I remember being exhausted and being up at 2 in the morning and hearing the static hiss of the monitor and seeing the green light and thinking about what I would do if I heard a voice come through it. That was kind of the original idea and it ended up changing a bit, but I am very happy with where it ended up. It started life as a very short flash fiction piece, under a thousand words and was actually a bit of an homage to Lovecraft – that was what started the first person narrative style and the idea of madness. It was kind of going to be an updated The Statement of Randolf Carter (I know, I know, I am totally shooting myself in the foot on that earlier statement) but then it really evolved. It ended up being a novella and the first thing that I was happy enough with to self publish, and I thought I would kind of see what people thought about it – the first thing I really put out there to the world at large that wasn’t in a writer’s group or an online forum with people I knew or whatever. I set a deadline for publishing for it, and I think it did suffer a bit from over-editing. At one point it was like 120 pages. I rewrote a draft once to be in a standard 3rd person draft since that is really where I am more comfortable. It didn’t work for this. This was actually the first, and I thought, the last time I was going to do first person. Going back and re-reading it now, I still love it, it still causes emotion in me, and I still want to rewrite it. That book taught me the importance of iron clad deadlines, even (especially?) self imposed ones. I am amazed at how well received it has been.You co-authored The Vampire’s Last Lover, which is Book 1 of the Dying of the Dark Vampires series. Vampire romance? Horror thriller? The blurb hints at both with a dash of Buffy in there. Tell us about it.This is a great setting. Sometimes you read something and think, man I wish I would have created this world. I have to credit my co-writer Aiden James with creating this one, and I was fortunate enough to be brought on by him. It’s a really cool take on the vampire mythos. We don’t get to dive into it as much in book 1 which is a lot of setting up of the things to come, but in short, there are some familiar vampire ideas there, the idea that it is a “germ” that infects people on death. There is the idea of the beautiful, powerful glamorous vampire who kind of rule the night. Our protagonist Txema (pronounced Chema) is just a regular human college freshman whose bloodline possesses a quality that keeps that germ from causing a de-evolution of the vampires from this ideal, down into a more primal, bestial version that is really just one step above animal who is ruled by a monstrous vampire king. This vampire king has been building an army of monsters for a while and is now making his move to overthrow the rulers by killing everyone in Txema’s bloodline, leaving her the last with the “special” blood. This makes her “The Vampires’ Last Lover” in a poetic sense, but in reality, she is their lifeline, and this poor girl is ripped out of her world and has what is effectively an entire nightmare nation chasing after her, and her protectors are really seeing her more as a resource than a person. And as it is all told from Txema’s point of view, we try very hard to keep it true from her point of view which is a challenge. We have this huge conflict and scope, but we kind of painted ourselves into a bit of a corner in how we decided to tell it from such a narrow viewpoint, especially with the history of the publication on it. I’ll talk a bit more about that in a bit. There are definitely some strengths in the style, connecting with her, feeling her being overwhelmed and everything, but there are times that we are writing something and have to stop and say “wait, this is a young woman, 19 years old, is that real?” And real is important to me, even in a fantasy. Sometimes we get it right, sometimes we don’t. The first book sets this up and introduces the characters, and we really get to explore the dynamics quite a bit more in The Vampire’s Birthright, which is coming out this Fall sometime.What is it like to co-write a piece of fiction?

Well, it’s actually kind of interesting how I came into this. Aiden originally self published the first three a while back as a solo deal, he got picked up by Curiosity Quills and they wanted to push the series forward, but also wanted to republish the previous three. I ended up getting selected to cowrite book four (with an eye to five and six) with Aiden, and CQ wanted to take the opportunity to clean up some of the rough edges to the first three, work on some character development, as well as plant some seeds for the next sequence, so this is far from the normal path, since the series already had a fairly large following, I couldn’t just scrap major plot points outright. That being said, I have been given a pretty long leash, and with the success of book one, and the feedback we have received from fans who were rightly skeptical has been nothing but positive so I have even more freedom on book two and three.

This is the first time I have cowritten, and it is an unusual situation, but it’s been a dream. Aiden and I just kind of click. We have a shared vision as to where we want this to go, and our faith in the series and a genuine love for the characters, and I think that is really important in a collaboration. There is a strong level of trust. As to the actual mechanics, most of times, it’s just talking back and forth online, either through email or IMs, or through using the comment features on the .doc file. If we really need to hash something out we just talk on the phone. I’m on the West coast, he lives in middle of the country so we just kind of work it out.
Talk about the Borderlands Anthology.
Aiden co-wrote this really cool book with James Wymore called The Actuator: Fractured Earth which was this absolutely insane idea about this machine that transformed the world based on the whims of these people called Machine Monks because of their work with this “machine” that warped the world in a small area. Something happened and instead of it being in a limited area it happened to the world. Different areas became individual pockets of reality shaped by the imagination of the monks. Some were horror, some were fantasy, some were cyberpunk, some were western, etc. Before the second book, our publisher, Curiosity Quills, decided to do an anthology of short stories set in that world. They opened it up to entries and I had this idea about one of the monks having a lousy childhood and how he viewed his hometown as a orphaned child trapped up in a faceless bureaucracy  and when the machine malfunctioned it made that happen. The story follows a group of children trapped in a world (really just their town) where all the mothers disappeared and all the fathers became, literally, these giant faceless creatures in suits trying to suck the souls out of all the children in town. I like doing stories with multiple levels. On the face of it, no pun intended, it’s just a straight up monster movie inspired by things like Guillermo Del Toro and Phantasm, but then there is that deeper level of mistrust of adults and being swallowed up by any bureaucratic system. I’m not a message writer by any stretch of the imagination and given a choice between doing something awesome and fun to push the story forward or slowing it down to make a point I will always choose fun. I just know that I love rereading a book and finding new things, so when I rewrite a book, I work hard to craft things for my readers to discover. Not sure if I always succeed, but I do work hard at it.
So where can people find you?
My website is and is recently switched over to be a wordpress site and I am still in the process of making it pretty and adding content, I hear good things about how that is to update, so there isn’t much there yet, but look for more coming soon, as well as a regular blog. I am fairly active on twitter but am not terribly focused – I am a bit of a nerd, so while there is writing stuff there, there is also table top gaming stuff, computer stuff, some current events commentary – though not a lot because really it is mostly depressing and polarizing. I love talking with people 140 characters at a time about pretty much anything though, and that is @somnicidal – Thanks for your time and support Lela, I really appreciate it!
You’re most welcome, Patrick. Definitely drop back by as you come out with new books. Readers can find Patrick’s books at the following links:
The Monitor – – Patrick-Burdine-ebook/dp/B00E1YN2CO
The Vampires’ Last Lover
The Actuator 1.5: Borderlands Anthology

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This week’s interview is with horror author, Patrick Burdine.baa10-bluetypewriter-whitepinkflowers

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