Inside the Literary Mind of E. E. Burke
April 23, 2017
I set out to write down one of the many stories in my head to prove I could do it, or decide, once and for all, that I couldn’t.
Warm, witty…a little wild. That’s what you’ll find when you pick up a book by bestselling author E.E. Burke. Her chosen setting is the American West, and her latest series, The Bride Train, features a cast of unusual characters thrown together through a misguided bride lottery. Maybe Baby is her first Contemporary Romance, and features, who else but a handsome modern-day cowboy!
Other series include Steam! Romance and Rails, which follows the lives of dangerous men and daring women caught up in a cutthroat competition as the railroads advance across the frontier. Her novella, Victoria, Bride of Kansas, part of the unprecedented American Mail-Order Brides series, is a Kindle Top 100 Bestseller and a semifinalist in the 2016 Kindle Best Book Awards.
E.E., also known as Elisabeth, has earned accolades in regional and national contests, including the RWA’s prestigious Golden Heart®. Over the years, she’s been a disc jockey, a journalist and an advertising executive, before finally getting around to living the dream–writing stories readers can get lost in.
Question: Tell me about your newest book and what was the inspiration behind your writing it?
From E. E. Burke: Tempting Prudence, Book 3 in my series, The Bride Train, is about a spinster who travels west to find decent husband, and is kidnapped to become the bride of a bootlegger.
This story came about as a result of my interest in genealogy. Over the past eight years, I’ve been researching my husband’s family tree. One branch reaches back to the Missouri Ozarks in the mid nineteenth century to a family of bootleggers, and those colorful characters inspired me to create an unlikely hero. Arch Childers is a bootlegger who aspires to greater things, if he can just get away from his meddling family.
Question: Why and when did you decide to become a writer?
From E. E. Burke: I’m a storyteller at heart. From the earliest age I can remember, I made up stories. I also read books, then took those stories, expanded on them and acted them out with friends.
As far as writing goes, during junior high and high school I wrote poetry and song lyrics. At the time, I was convinced my words were inspired. I still have the journal containing my work. I keep it so I can look back and remind myself why I should never write poetry and leave the songs up to truly inspired lyricists like Paul Simon.
I set off to college still telling stories, occasionally writing them down. My father advised pursuing a career that paid a steady salary. Translated: don’t even think about becoming a novelist. I became a journalist instead.
Somewhere along the way, I allowed fear to bind me. I continued to read stories and carted home bags filled with books, feeling personally responsible for keeping the local bookstore profitable. I talked about writing down my stories, but somehow never got around to it.
When my children came along, I made up bedtime stories. Still didn’t write, except for the writing I had to do as part of my advertising job. After I turned fifty, I mentioned to one of my grown daughters that I wanted to write a book, specifically a romance novel. This wasn’t the first time I’d talked about my dream of writing novels.
I’ll never forget her answer. “You’ve always encouraged us to pursue our dreams. What’s stopping you from pursuing yours?”
At that moment, I realized I had gotten in my own way long enough. I set out to write down one of the many stories in my head to prove I could do it, or decide, once and for all, that I couldn’t.
The first book I wrote wasn’t bad. Wasn’t good, either. My second book made the finals in a prestigious national writing contest for unpublished novels. The third book was good enough to publish.
This year, I published my ninth historical romance. I’ve never looked back.
Question: What book has been the greatest influence on you and your writing and why?
From E. E. Burke: That’s a tough question because it hasn’t been one book. Numerous books and different authors have had an influence on my writing at different times and for different reasons.
I’ve been most influenced as a storyteller by Mark Twain. I love the way he spins a tale. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a book I can read over and over.
For historical fiction: Michael Shaara, The Killer Angels. The author breathes life into historical figures and turns history into drama. His work inspired me to use actual history as a driving force in my stories.
As far as writing romance, the person who has had the biggest influence on my writing is one of my favorite authors, who later became a mentor, Jill Marie Landis. She is masterful at creating sumptuous settings and tapping into deep emotions. Her books Sunflower (A RITA Award winner) and Come Spring are my favorites. I turn to her books, and to books written by a gifted author who influenced Jill in her writing, LaVyrle Spencer, when I need a touchstone for writing emotion.
Question: Where do you find ideas for your books?
From E. E. Burke: History. In books, movies, museums, articles, diaries, family chronicles. You name it. I’m a history geek. In particular, fascinated by the history of the American West. Sometimes a character will grab my attention and I’ll start thinking, “What if…” Then a story will pop into my head. I never lack for stories. What I lack is enough time to write them all.
Question: Where do you find ideas for your characters?
From E. E. Burke: Same place I find ideas for books. Often my characters are amalgams of real people who went through the event that inspires my story. A few times, I’ve taken historical characters (or well-known fictional characters) and put them in a romance. Characters in books and movies also provide inspiration. I’ve been “pinning” vintage photographs on Pinterest. Even if I don’t know who they are, I find inspiration in their expressions and the setting.
Question: How would you describe your writing style?
From E. E. Burke: I have a hard time describing my own work, so I’ll share what some reviewers have said:
“An immaculate blend of history and storytelling.”
“A gripping tale that’s full of rich historical detail.”
“What I love about her writing is the details of her extensive research. But of course, that’s only one part. With amazing characters, sensitively depicted, doing the unthinkable, a combination of humor, laced with lots of spice and a satisfying and fulfilling ending.”
“Real and intense.”
“Charming and heartwarming.”
“Sparkles with witty dialogue, great analogies, a tender love story, and history.”
“Wonderful themes of healing, family, permanence, and trust.”
Question: What do you consider the most difficult part of writing a book?
From E. E. Burke: Writing the book.
Question: What are your current projects?
From E. E. Burke: Right now I’m working on the first of a Contemporary series, The Hardts of Texas, about five brothers who come together to save their family’s struggling ranch. This series is loosely tied to my historical series, The Bride Train, in that the brothers are descendants of one of the main characters, Ross Hardt.
This is my first foray into Contemporary Romance. I wasn’t sure I’d like it, considering my love affair with history. But I must say, I am enjoying spinning this tale.
Please click HERE to purchase Tempting Prudence.