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Check out my science fiction series - The Fall of the Altairan Empire

Monday, March 5, 2012

Author Interview - Sue Burke

Please welcome Sue Burke to the Far Edge of Normal. In her own words: I was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and lived briefly in Austin, Texas, y'all, before moving to Madrid, Spain, in December 1999. Much of my work has been in journalism as a reporter and editor, covering everything from dog shows to politics to crime. I began writing fiction 20 years ago and have published short stories in various magazines and anthologies, as well as poetry and non-fiction.

How can we find you? Website, Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc. - please share your public links.

The website for my most recent book:
Facebook page for the book:
Facebook for me:
My professional writing website:

Tell us about your writing - What genre do you prefer to write? What books, stories, other publications that you've written are your personal favorites? Anything new coming up?

Science fiction is my favorite, and I like it because I think it's the most difficult genre to pull off well. On top of everything else that you have to do to make a story work, you have to understand science and use it in a way that creates the story – if you took out the science element, the story wouldn't exist.

I also write and enjoy fantasy, horror, and mainstream, and I write poetry, non-fiction, and translations.

My most recent project is Amadis of Gaul Book I. It's a translation of a medieval Spanish novel of chivalry that became the Renaissance's first best-seller and left a deep mark on history and literature – the original source of sword and sorcery. In spite of that, there was no good translation of it into English. So I began translating it chapter by chapter as a blog, and now I've collected and published the posts for Book I, available through Amazon as a paperback and Kindle.

The novel is divided into four books, and Book I is the oldest. It tells the story of Amadis's birth and his early years proving himself as the greatest knight who ever lived, fighting evil knights and sorcerers and protecting all people in need. His deeds are interwoven with those of his friends and his brother, who is both a fine knight and a comic character. When Amadis rescues a damsel in distress, she thanks him eloquently, but when his brother rescues a damsel, she thanks him in bed.

I also have an article in the February 2012 issue of Broadsheet, the magazine of Broad Universe, about contemporary Spanish fantasy writers and their challenges:

What about you as a person? What do you do to relax? Favorite movies or tv shows? Hobbies?

I love to write, so writing is relaxing. I also love to read, travel, and hike. In my day job, I teach English to Spanish teenagers, which is not relaxing but which has taught me a lot about Spanish teens and about English grammar that native speakers know but are not aware of, like the difference in meaning between "going to" and "will."

As for TV, there's Dr. Who – always Dr. Who. When my husband and I first started going out and we learned we both liked that show, we knew that our relationship might stand the test of time and space. I'm also hooked on a Spanish series, Toledo, cruce de destinos (Toledo, crossed destinies). It's set in the city of Toledo in the late 1200s when it was a center of Christian, Moorish, and Jewish translation, and it held the court of King Alfonso X. The series tries to be historically accurate and at time it succeeds, and it is filmed in a perfectly preserved medieval town near Toledo, which is now a modern city, so it has an authentic look.

And I like to cook. Drop in sometime for a paella or fabada (Asturian bean soup).

Want to have a recipe guest spot? I love new recipes and soups are always a hit.

What gets your creative juices going? Do you write to a music, and do you want to share your playlist?

The clock gets my creative juices going. I teach in the late afternoon and evening, so in the morning, after breakfast, I sit down to write. I've been writing professionally for forty years, so the work habit is now deeply ingrained.

But I don't write to music. I think that multi-tasking means doing two (or more) things badly rather than one thing well. In my case, it would mean ignoring the music as persistent noise – or letting the writing get interrupted again and again when I stop to listen.

However, on occasions I do listen to music or even sound effect recordings: when they're what the character I'm writing about would be hearing. That is, it would be the character's favorite music, which might not be mine. For the science fiction novel Transplants, which EDGE will publish later this year, I played a CD of sounds from the Guatemala jungle to help me write as nervously as the explorers of another planet confronted with an ecology both amazing and deadly.

"All writers must have cats, especially if they write fantasy or speculative fiction." Do you have a stand on this one? Any cute pictures of your kitty or other pet?

Alas, my husband is allergic to cats, so while I had them when I was single, we can't have them. (Or dogs.)

However, I do have a lot of houseplants. They're not as cute, but plants play a big role in Transplants. In fact, that novel was inspired when one house plant attacked another one. I did some research, and I found out that plants are horrible and sneaky. I now keep a close eye on my indoor domestic horticultural companions.

Scary to think that plants might be vindictive. When I consider how many houseplants have died at my hands...
What organizations do you recommend for those wanting to become writers? Any advice you'd like to share about writing?

Organizations exist aplenty to learn to write: courses, workshops, websites, associations and in-person or internet critique groups. They're all good, though some may be more to your taste than others. If the first one isn't quite right, the next one might be. But do connect with other writers. If you write in a vacuum as empty as deep space, no one can hear you scream.

Above all, keep trying new things to improve: new genres, new styles, new ideas. Poetry, for example. It can teach you to pay close attention to every word and the relationships between words, both in meaning and in rhythm and sound, so even if you write bad poetry, your prose will improve.

Good thought about poetry. Mine is abyssimally horrid, so it gives me hope for my writing. What writers inspired you to become an author?

I wanted to become a writer before I learned to read, so Dr. Seuss, as read to me by Mom, played a big role. While young, I read widely – Nancy Drew, Isaac Asimov, Willa Cather, Aristophanes – and I still do. I remember the amazement I felt reading William Faulkner and seeing how far he could stretch the language to tell a story; or the silly fantasies of James Thurber and understanding that with a little twist he could make daily life hilarious; or the emotional and intellectual adventure of Paol Anderson and enjoying how taking possibilities seriously creates new realities.

Any special appearances or events coming up that you want to mention?

I'm planning to come to WorldCon in Chicago this summer.

Thanks so much for stopping by, Sue. It's been a pleasure to meet you.


  1. Thank you, Jaleta. Interesting questions -- and how about the recipe for Valencian paella?

  2. I would love to spotlight your recipe sometime. Just let me know when.


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