Hello and welcome to my blog, Author Interviews. My name is Fiona Mcvie.
Let’s get you introduced to everyone, shall we? Tell us your name. What is your age?
Debbie Burke, age 59. Oh and thank you for the interview 😊
Fiona: Where are you from?
I live in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. I was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY.
Fiona: A little about yourself (i.e., your education, family life, etc.).
I have a BA in Psychology from Brooklyn College and have built a career in publishing, printing, communications and journalism. I live with my husband Richard and two fantastic kids, Rachel and Tim. I was the editor of an award-winning business journal and am now the author of a local lifestyle magazine.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
A few things, I am happy to say! My first novel, Glissando: A Story of Love, Lust and Jazz was recently signed by Waldorf Publishing and it will be released in July 2018. I am also going to be writing a column for All About Jazz (online) covering the college music scene around the U.S.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I always had the aptitude and interest in it. When I really started writing a lot was, strangely enough, as a Probation Officer for the NYC Supreme Court system. I had to churn out a huge number of pre-sentence investigation reports. That meant interviewing defendants and family members, law enforcement personnel, etc. and then crafting it into a kind of story which ended with an assessment and summary for the sentencing judge. I realized that talking to all kinds of people was fascinating; and then to extract an accurate and succinct story from it was a real literary turn-on.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
My first published piece was an article on parenting. I had made a great connection with the editor of our local paper at the time and since I was at home raising two little kids, I pitched him on a story about some of the challenges of staying at home with children. Seeing my very first byline was one of the absolute top thrills of my life!
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
I had always wanted to learn the saxophone, so I joined a community band at the local university. I found out that this area has a lot of very talented jazz artists, some of them famous, international mega-stars (I had no idea!). I wanted to learn more about them and the scene here, so I looked for a book about it. Nobody had written anything on the subject. I figured since I would definitely read such a book, there were probably other people who felt that way too. I decided to write it!
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
That book is called The Poconos in B Flat. As a wannabe sax player, I love the note B flat because you can bend it easily and to me, it’s the definitive, sultryjazz sound. So I named it after my very favorite note.
Glissando(the novel is coming in July 2018) means a glide upward or downward in pitch, as made by a musical instrument. I use it meaningfully to also imply a person’s downward slip into questionable morality; where someone might be setting themselves up for an emotional decline.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
Mytone is easy-going and natural, and I feel that my dialogue is especially authentic. It’s the way people (friends, lovers) talk to each other.
I think I found it challenging to use jazz terms without sounding pretentious or inaccessible; I’ve had to be very careful of that.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
LOL! The book is about a divorced, middle-aged professional woman who has had it with guys and then meets the most incredibly hot (also middle-aged) trumpet player. He also happens to be married to a much younger woman.
Everything I write about is based on bits and pieces of humanity I’ve collected through the years. In particular, this book was, shall we say, “helped along” by all the drama I saw going on around me when I was in band. Of course, much of it is fictionalized. And it most definitely is not auto-biographical.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
No, but there’s a lot of research into places and, for me, into the scenes I write about, like the jazz world; how musicians speak, when and how they practice, what motivates them.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
My publisher helped with it and I have to say, it is precisely what I envisioned! I am psyched.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
The universality of lust and falling in love…how the two are often not in synch…and how by your behavior and actions you can completely change the track of your life, for better or for worse. Whatever we choose, we must own the consequences.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? Who is your favorite writer, and what is it about their work that really strikes you?
I just read Ten Dead Comedians by FredVan Lente which was inspired by Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Indians. He has a deadpan and sharp style and it was an excellent, fast read.
I don’t have a favorite work or writer per se…I dabble between non-fiction books on jazz and biographies, then contemporary women’s novels. I liked Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller very much, because it was a raw and honest account about his spiritual journeyand some very on-point observations about society. I like Philip Roth too.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
My best friends since forever, Diane and Vicky. They listened to all my self-doubts, upswings of confidence, and crazy story ideas and marketing ideas. They’ve always been extremely supportive. Very lucky to have them in my life for so many reasons!
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
For sure. I’m the editor of a regional lifestyle publication called Local Flair Magazine, I run a jazz blog where I do these cool Q&As with jazz artists and others in the music industry, and I write freelance for websites like Jamie AebersoldJazz Books and All About Jazz. Much more to come!
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
We are still deep in the editorial phase. I feel great about all of it, and no matter what my editor comes up with, I’m positive her suggestions will only improve and strengthen the story. So no, I wouldn’t change ANYTHING.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
Oh my God, how much time do you have? I have learned and am learning so much about marketing and self-promo, which is necessary for today’s authors even when they are in partnership with their publishers. I am actually enjoying every aspect of that (and here I thought I would dread it!). I learned that putting together the story – “quilting” the scenes together into a thoughtful, witty and captivatingmanner while keeping an eye on continuity – is the hardest thing for me to do, period. Not finding the time to write, not coming up with “what happens next?”, none of that. Since I tend not to write in the story’s own chronological order, it’s the re-assembling that takes the most time and effort.
I also learned that it takes me two-plus years from start to finish. I thought I would be done faster with my manuscript, but not so much.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
The protagonist I could see as Debra Winger or Mimi Rogers. The anti-hero as Gabriel Byrne or Richard Gere. I can dream, right?
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
Listen to your writing voice. Don’t be overly swayed by the tons of advice you see online or hear in your writers’ groups or conferences. Have faith in your unique way to tell your story. And for crying out loud, do NOT turn your back on adjectives. That’s just some arrogant stuff that had been going around for a while. Baloney!
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
Please be patient;Glissando comes out next July. If you love snarky and authentic middle-aged characters, and if you love music (especially jazz), this is worth waiting for!
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
Madison Avenue Manslaughter by Michael Farmer.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
The very first one I can recall is The How and Why Wonder Book of Weather. I loved the whole series; there was one on seashells, rocks and minerals, and dinosaurs.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Jazz – both. My kids – both (they’re in their early 20s).
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
I’m sure a million jazz fans have answered this the same way: John Coltrane. Because of how his music makes me feel…it’s indescribable.
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
Well, writing! My jazz blog is so much fun, I’m constantly meeting jazz artists who play all different instruments and all subgenres of jazz (big band, smooth, traditional, speakeasy, etc.). I try to post one Q&A every week. I meet them mostly on social media. They’re so generous with their time! It’s my hobby and my relaxation.
Also I love going for long walks in town, by a lake or anywhere else with my husband or kids; and I love, love, love dogs. I’m “between dogs” right now. Someday soon!
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
“VEEP” and “Insecure” on HBO, “The Affair” on Showtime, and “House of Cards” on Netflix, which is superb. I hope it never ends!
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
Pizza, deep (royal) blue, and of course…jazz. All different types.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
Great question! I’d pick up my sax again, find some musical buddies, and play.
Fiona: What do you want written on your headstone?
“She lived a jazzy life.”
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
The blog is www.debbieburkeauthor.com. WhenGlissando is released, I will definitely run special offers. Stay tuned!
Updates on Glissando and of course Q&As with jazz artists are on the blog.
Thank you for the opportunity, Fiona!Other social media info follows.
On Twitter: @jazzauthor
On FB: debbieburkejazzauthor
On Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B006ORQ5M0
On Jazzbooks (site of musician and educator Jamey Aebersold) https://www.jazzbooks.com/blog/author/dburke/
The Poconos in B Flat can be found on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Poconos-Flat-Incredible-Mountains-Pennsylvania/dp/1469134594/ref
Photo credit for author photo: William Cohea Photography