Meet Rachel Burke, author of two electrifying contemporary novels creating a lot of wave in the book world. Check out the interview and learn more about Rachel as she unfolds the real story behind the pages.
1. When did you realize you wanted to become a writer?
When I was about 10. I used to read R.L. Stine young adult murder mystery novels when I was young, and I started writing my own when I was about 11-12. From then on, I couldn't see myself doing anything else.
2. Who are some of your biggest influences in literature?
White Oleander by Janet Fitch is by far my favorite book of all time. Her writing skills are incredible. My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult is a close second. Other than that, I tend to gravitate towards music-related books similar to Sound Bites. Chuck Klosterman has an extensive knowledge of music and a great sense of humor, and MTV's book line, Pocket Books, holds a lot of my favorites too.
3. What inspired you to write within the contemporary, romance, realistic genre?
I write the kind of books that I would read myself. I wrote Sound Bites because I love music-inspired romantic stories, but I also love books like White Oleander and My Sister's Keeper that are targeted for an older audience. I love Janet Fitch's eloquent writing style and the mother/daughter relationship in White Oleander, and I love the way Jodi Picoult conducts extensive medical research for her books to make them realistic. So I combined both those ideas for Finding Mia.
4. Finding Mia and Sound Bites both seem to depict a story about confronting the past and finding happiness but in your opinion, what is the real meaning behind the two?
When I started writing Sound Bites, I was experiencing a lot of the same issues as the main character. I had discovered an artist who was so incredibly talented that he made me fall in love with music all over again. I realized that everything I had loved growing up - music, writing, etc. - I had lost over the years. I had stopped playing music and stopped writing and was caught in a dead-end job I hated. I started writing for a few music columns, then decided to pursure my real passion - novel writing - and that's when I wrote Sound Bites. I can't say there is one specific meaning behind the story because it touches on a lot of issues involving romance, friendships and life in general, but the real reason behind the story, for me, is to always pursue your passions and do what you love. Never settle, never forget who you are, and never give up.
Finding Mia also has many issues it touches on - family relationships, romance, suicide - but for me, the underlying meaning is that everything that happens in life, even something tragic, has a purpose. Life is full of phases, and sometimes the bad phases are necessary in order to provide the good.
5. Both were released around the same time.Were you switching back and forth or did you focus on finishing one first?
I wrote Sound Bites first. I signed with an agent after I finished it, but unfortunately the publishing world is a tough market to break into. While my agent was trying to sell Sound Bites, I wrote Finding Mia. My agent primarily represented non-fiction, and after unsuccessfully trying to break into the fiction market with no luck, I decided to release the books on my own. To be honest, I never wanted to self-release because to me, it felt like failure. But the way the industry is now, with everything being digital, the Kindle store has been a huge success. I'm extremely thankful that my readers have been so receptive and believe in my stories as much as I do.
6. How difficult was it to create these intriguing characters?
It wasn't difficult at all - many of the characters are loosely based on my own friends and family. And my imagination is creative enough to invent the rest.
7. So they were developed based on actual people from your life?
Some of them, yes. I get most of my creative ideas either from my own experiences or from reading other stories.
8. Dystopia, steampunk, vampires, werewolves, supernatural, etc. seem to be really popular genres these days. Would you ever consider writing in any of those?
I'm not a big supernatural fan, although I do love the TV show "The Secret Circle" about witchcraft. But they're not subjects I'm particularly passionate about, and I believe you have to be passionate about your subject if you want to be successful.
9. Aside from the critics and what readers will think of your novels, what else would you say is your biggest fear when it comes to releasing your work?
Writing is a very personal thing, so letting your friends and family into the world of your imagination can be frightening because it makes you feel vulnerable. You never know how people are going to interpret your writing. I was afraid that some of my friends and famly would take my fiction literally, or they wouldn't understand it, but luckily, that wasn't the case.
I also was afraid that, if the books were unsuccessful, that I would have been spent years of my life working on something that had no positive result. Luckily, that wasn't the case either!
10. Let's sidetrack a bit and talk about yourself outside of writing. What do you do for fun?
I love seeing live music, but you probably guessed that. I also love outdoor activities - biking, jogging, yoga - and just spending time with friends and family.
11. If you could carry only three things with you to a secluded place, what would those three things be?
My iPod, a good book, and my laptop. Normally I'd say a notebook and pen to write, but I guess technically that would be 4 items :)
12. It was great having you on my blog. Please leave a message to your supporters and aspiring writers alike. Thank you.
To my supporters: thank you! Your support has helped me succeed in the career I've always wanted, and for that I'm eternally grateful.
To my aspiring writers: Keep writing! Writing is a competitive, tough industry that can make you question yourself and your abilities, but if you keep writing, editing, and marketing, you'll get there. Just believe in yourself.