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Updated: Apr 1, 2021

H. L. Burke



Heidi writes under H. L. Burke because initials are cool. She's a mother, military spouse (married to a now retired Marine), and cat keeper. A fantasy author, Heidi writes everything from Fairy Tales to Superhero fiction. Though she's always chasing shiny things (and what's shiny to her can differ a great deal from week to week!) all her books are infused with with humor, feelz, and just enough wonder to make you feel like you’ve found a world worth hanging out in.

Let's get the important stuff out of the way! Describe your perfect book boyfriend:

K, so he’s tall and intelligent, kind of sarcastic … oozes confidence, maybe to the point where sometimes it’s a little irritating and I’m like, “Could you stop being right for a little bit or at least a little less sure that you ARE right all the time?” … I like brown eyes. If he could reasonably pass as Ranger from Lord of the Rings, that’s nice … did I mention tall? … take charge and tough but with a soft and respectful side.

I don’t mind being teased. I feel a good relationship should have a lot of back and forth banter where neither side feels like they have to kid glove the other person, but within limits.

… also tall. More a thinker, but with an adventurous streak.

Oh, and tall. So tall … also, I may just be describing my husband, but it’s okay because I’ve written him into at least four books so far, and it totally counts.

Why do you write? Like, give us the deep down reason that drives you.

I like to talk. Writing is basically long range talking. Like I have never felt I’ve had some sort of compelling calling to write or that it’s somehow feeding a deep need. It’s just one way that I learned I had a knack for expressing myself, and I keep coming up with ideas that feel like they really should have an outlet.

Also, there are very few other jobs you can do while drinking wine and having a cat on your lap, and I’m not letting go of that.

What is this week’s featured book about? Tell us a little about it!

Ashen is a wistful but also grounded Cinderella inspired tale about finding your place and self-acceptance … with a fire kraken, a creepy kid, and a LOT of really delicious cooking.

[It tells the tale of] a young woman in an isolated fishing village with a strange and uncontrollable ability to draw heat from pretty much anything, including other people. She can’t make her own body heat and therefore must constantly pull from other sources. When she touches a person, that person will probably become her source. Because of this she has chosen to hide herself away in the kitchen of the inn she calls home. She has a deep but complicated friendship with the son of the town’s mayor and his sickly but kind of creepy little sister, but fears letting either of them get too close due to her secret and horrible heat drawing abilities. When her adopted mother dies, however, she finds herself at the mercy of a community that is swiftly growing to distrust her.

What characters are the hardest for you to write/identify with, and why?

Highly physical characters, especially ones who aren’t thinkers. Like writing athletes and warriors who deal with physicality as their primary way of interacting with the world and solving problems. For one thing, I find action sequences harder to write than other things, so if a character’s first response to dealing with a problem is to punch their way out of it, run for it, overcome it with physical action (be that climbing a wall or swinging a sword), it’s less interesting to me than someone who is trying to talk, think, or feel their way through a problem.

"Writing is basically long range talking... Also, there are very few other jobs you can do while drinking wine..."

What’s your craziest, off-brand story idea?

I may have written a cat-themed romcom short story collection. It’s just a little too weird for the romance market (because it is mostly narrated by cats) but a little too “romance” for my fantasy readers. I kind of did it as an exercise to see if I could write contemporary romance, but of course I couldn’t behave and write a normal contemporary romance. The cats took over … I have no regrets.

What are your all-time favorite tropes? What are your least favorite ones?

Favorite: I like sacrificial gestures as an endgame play (pun sort of intended #RIPTony). I like tough, stoic dudes who are protective and supportive of love interests. I like dragons.

My least favorite is any plot point that involves people keeping secrets from each other when just a conversation could resolve everything. I think that’s why I have a hard time with the romance genre, because that’s a lot of the conflict there. I get that people can be stubborn or proud or secretive, so it’s not like it’s a huge stretch, and I don’t mind it for short sections of a book, but if characters keep digging themselves deeper into holes just because they don’t want to talk about something, I get frustrated REALLY quick.

"I like to joke that my superpower is buoyant overconfidence. I don’t spend a lot of time on self-doubt because it’s simply not productive.

What’s the book that made you “a reader”? And what’s the book that made you want to become a writer?

1. The Yellow House Mystery. It’s a Boxcar Children book, but it was the first time I remember just laughing uncontrollably about something in a book.

2. I feel bad because my answer is a negative example. I think the writer was actually Lawhead, and I have a lot of friends who really like Lawhead, but there was this epic fantasy a friend loaned me by him and I just stewed over … so much of it. There were so many missed opportunities, and I just knew I could do better. At the time, I was totally wrong. I’m not sure I’m not still wrong, but I definitely write stuff I like better than I liked that Lawhead book.

What are some personal boundaries in storylines that you’ll never-or-almost-never cross when it comes to writing?

NO UNICORNS. Those irritating land Narwhals are just so floofy and sparkly and ...ugh … (I may have broken this rule at least once … but it was only so I could get in a “unicorns are vicious monsters” joke).

More seriously, I like to talk about sex and intimacy in my books because I think the healthy treatment of it is important, but I’ll probably never write an explicit sex scene mainly because I feel like my husband would worry that I was using him for research, and he’s kind of a private guy.

"...imagination is more a state of being than a tool."

As an author, which thing do you tend to prioritize or feel more confident about: storytelling or prose?

Neither, really. I mean, I’m not unconfident about either. I like to joke that my superpower is buoyant overconfidence. I don’t spend a lot of time on self-doubt because it’s simply not productive.

I tend to start with characters and build those up in my head. If you have strong characters, story tends to flow naturally from that. I personally believe prose should be a workhorse. It should carry the story and the characters but I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it. My thoughts with my prose are generally, “what is the clearest and most efficient way I can get across what the reader needs to know to understand what is going on?”