Kealanís stories have appeared in many publications, including Cemetery Dance, Corpse Blossoms, Horror World, Grave Tales, and a number of anthologies. His work also includes novels (KIN, Currency of Souls, Master of the Moors, The Hides), novellas (The Turtle Boy, Vessels, Midlisters, Thirty Miles South of Dry County), and collections (Ravenous Ghosts, Theater Macabre, The Number 121 to Pennsylvania).
The man truly is busy! Yet, when I asked Kealan to talk with us concerning his experiences, he kindly agreed to the following interview.
Weldon Burge (WB): Born in Ireland, coming to America--what was the hardest part, as a writer, of acclimating to the U.S.?
Kealan Patrick Burke (KPB): The hardest part of coming here, as a person, not solely as a writer, was leaving everything I knew behind: family, friends, the culture, and basically starting from scratch in a place Iíd never seen outside of TV. It was a daunting task, and pretty terrifying for a guy who had scarcely been outside of his own country for twenty one years. But that same task provided ample fodder for my writing, broadening my horizons and widening my perspective to an infinite degree. More importantly, relocating here afforded me the opportunity to write uninterrupted for two years, an opportunity I hadnít had up to that point, and in that space of time, I wrote and sold my fiction like a madman. So if I hadnít made the move, itís quite likely Iíd never have seen my work in print, or have ended up pursuing writing as a full-time career.
WB: Do you work from an outline, or do you pretty much improvise?
KPB: Generally I donít work from an outline because I like to be surprised by where a story takes me, and plotting out every detail, every twist and turn, seems to suck all the fun out of it and runs the risk of sapping my enthusiasm for the project. Instead Iíll keep a notebook by the computer into which Iíll scribble plot points, twists and revelations, character traits and phrases I like as they come to me. The current novel, Nemesis, for example, while not fully outlined, has roughly fifty pages of notes that wouldnít make much sense to anyone else if they looked at them. To me, those notes are like an extended movie trailer. Thereís just enough to know what the storyís about, but not enough to spoil it. If I ever tackle a book as big as Lonesome Dove, or The Stand, however, it may become necessary to outline just to keep things on track. Weíll see.
WB: What is your biggest challenge when writing a novel?
KPB: Overcoming doubt. No matter how many novels I write, there always comes a point in the process where I wonder why Iím bothering with it, when the story whispers insidiously that itís a pile of crap and we both know it, that Iím a fraud and should quit, that what I think is good will pale in comparison to the greats, that the idea has been written about before by better writers, that everyone will hate the book. It passes of course, usually a day or so afterward, because the compulsion to write is stronger than the doubt, but itís a bitch when it happens.
WB: Youíre a prolific writer. What isóand how do you maintainóyour working schedule?
KPB: My schedule is so all over the place, itís a wonder I get anything done at all. Life and all its intrusions (like moving house recently, which took the better part of two months) have left me with a schedule no more complicated than: Write when you can; mull over the story when you canít. It can be frustrating, but ultimately I find that by the time I do get to the computer, the words are ready and waiting like a dam about to break and I may end up putting in sixteen hour days for a few weeks. So even though itís not as organized as Iíd like, the work still gets done.
WB: What, in your opinion, is the best way to market your work?
KPB: If I had a definitive answer to that, Iíd be a lot better known. Obviously in this day and age of social networking, thatís probably the most viable way to raise awareness of your work, but that, and all marketing really, will only be effective if the work itself is good. Write a solid novel and worry about the marketing later. If the book has legs, itíll learn to walk eventually.
WB: In one sentence, what is the future of publishing?
WB: If you could start your writing career over, what would you do differently?
KPB: Iíd be a little less naÔve about the publishing industry. When I first started writing for publication, if a publisher showed interest in my work, that was enough for me. I didnít do any research into their track records, guidelines, reputation etc., and ended up being ripped off more than once. It was a good lesson to learn, but Iíd rather have learned it some other way.
WB: If you could collaborate with any writer, living or dead, who would it be and what would you write?
KPB: King, definitely. And Iíd love to co-write a sequel to one of his classic works, like Salemís Lot.
WB: You do far more than write. For example, you won Best Actor at the PollyGrind Film Festival for your role in Slime City Massacre. Is this something you'd do again? How has acting improved your writing?
KPB: I think writing is acting. Essentially you spend your days in the minds of your characters assuming their roles, so to me, the only difference between that and acting on film is that other people are watching you do it on a film set. I did Slime City Massacre just for kicks and it was an amazing experience. And yes I would do it again. Iím actually signed up for another film project this summer, even though I donít consider myself a serious actor, and have no illusions of fame or fortune. I just find it hard to say no to creative pursuits, no matter how off the wall they might be.
WB: If I looked at your bookshelf at home, which authors would I find?
KPB: If I listed them here, the magazine would have to expand this issue to a three-volume hardcover set (I have more books than the public library), so instead Iíll just tell you the authors who take up the most space on my shelves here in the office: Stephen King, Larry McMurtry, Dean Koontz, Bentley Little, Robert R.. McCammon, John Connolly, Dennis Lehane, Peter Straub, Charles L. Grant, Cormac McCarthy, Norman Partridge, Dan Simmons, Graham Masterton, F. Paul Wilson, Jeffrey Deaver, Michael Marshall Smith, and Jack Ketchum.
WB: What are you reading now?
KPB: The Intruders by Michael Marshall Smith.
WB: Nemesis: The Death of Timmy Quinn is coming out soon. What can you tell us about that?
KPB: Nemesis is the fifth and final book in the Timmy Quinn series, which started eight years ago with the publication of The Turtle Boy (available for free as a digital download on Amazon, B&N etc.). The books were previously only available as expensive hardcover limited editions on the secondary market, so Iím thrilled that theyíre so widely available now.
In Nemesis, the veil that separates the realms of the living and the dead has come down and now the ghosts of murder victims are free to walk the earth without needing Timmy to facilitate their vengeance. With his girlfriend infected by something inhuman, and the world in chaos, Timmy must find the enigmatic and elusive Peregrine, the man responsible for the sundering of The Curtain, and destroy him before the revenants destroy us all.
WB: Whatís upcoming for Kealan Patrick Burke in the next year?
KPB: This year will see the release, in both hardcover (from Thunderstorm Books) and digital, of the aforementioned final volume in the Timmy Quinn saga, Nemesis. In addition, Cemetery Dance Publications will release my novella Jack & Jill, and I will be making it available digitally at the same time. Cemetery Dance will also be releasing a few anthologies featuring my work: Smoke & Mirrors, The Crane House, and Shocklines: Fresh Voice in Terror. And as always, there are deals in the pipeline I canít discuss just yet!
WB: One last question, just for fun: Who is your favorite superhero and why?
KPB: Iíve always liked Batmanís struggles with his inner demons, and the villains they gave him as reflections of those demons. And I absolutely love Christopher Nolanís treatment of the character in the two films so far (though I liked Tim Burtonís efforts too, for different reasons.) So, Batman. Or is it The Batman?
WB: The Batman is probably correctóbut The Batman and Robin sounds odd. Oh well Ö
Thanks for a great interview, Kealan. And we wish you all the best with your future work.
For more on Kealan Patrick Burke, visit his Web site, his blog, and his Amazon.com Author Page. To sign up for his newsletter, just send an e-mail to email@example.com with ďNewsletterĒ in the subject line.
(A version of this review was also published in the May 2012 issue of Suspense Magazine.)
Great Review for Zippered Flesh in Fangoria Magazine
Finally got the May issue of Fangoria and read the review of Zippered Flesh that folks had told me about. The reviewer, Christine Hadden, did a great job capturing the flavor of the anthology. She said "this compendium of depravity" has "something for everyone to be disturbed by," and that the stories "are hardcore studies of shocking monstrosities that will enthrall and entice even the most hardened horror fan." Doesn't get better than that!