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Monday, April 18, 2011

GUEST AUTHOR: Marcella Burnard

Marcella blames her father for her love of science fiction and fantasy. They watched many a late night science fiction movie together.

She grew up as an Air Force brat, moving often and traveling all over the US. When the tiny base library ran out of interesting books in the kids' section, and wouldn't allow her in the adult section, she began writing her own stories.

She lives with her husband and cats aboard a sailboat on Puget Sound. (How cool is that?!?)

She recently won a Romantic Times Readers' Choice Award in the Futuristic Romance section for her book ENEMY WITHIN. Congratulations!

Please welcome fellow SFRBrigader, Marcella Burnard to my blog.

Hi, Marcella, can you tell us a little about yourself?
I’m a geek, married to a geek, and living in one of the geek meccas.

I’m a cat person (I’d be a dog person, too, if I weren’t so allergic). I’m a tea snob and a secret foodie – meaning I love really good food, but I don’t talk about it much because I’m a tough audience. (We all like what we like, right? I figure we’re all tough audiences.)

Let’s see. I’m addicted to music. I think I support any number of record companies all on my own. We won’t discuss my book addiction. It’s…bad.

I think I'm a part of the same book club, Marcella! LOL

When did you start to write and how long did it take you to be published?
I’ve been writing to entertain myself since I was a kid. Maybe that represents part of my learning curve. Hard to say.

It wasn’t until after I was married that I began seriously trying to publish something. I began with short stories. My first rejection letter was from Marion Zimmer Bradley. I switched to novel length. Many, many more rejection letters followed.

Once I joined RWA and began learning the difference between internal and external conflict, it took me about ten years to go from rank beginner to rank published beginner.

Ahh, the winding road to publication - it's always encouraging (in a strange sort of way) to see someone else's journey and identify with them. Thanks for sharing this.

So, what sparks your creativity?
Boredom. Time alone in my own head. Walking around with no schedule just looking at stuff.

I love Port Townsend, WA – there’s a hotel there – the Palace Hotel. Seems it was an old Victorian brothel. There’s a room on the third floor that looks out over Water Street. A huge flock of starlings lives in the town. Every night at dusk, they pour out of their roosts and swoop and play between all of the buildings. It’s a great thing to watch.

Music will also spark all kinds of ideas. Car trips do the job, too, unless I’m driving.

Oh, I like car trips too - my subconscious has time to mull over problems while my conscious self dreams up more scenes in something I'm working on!

What do you think it is about your genre that readers find fascinating?
I cross two genres – romance and science fiction. Romance readers are fascinated by the interplay between two people that leads to love and commitment. Science fiction fans, I think, are interested in speculation – visions of the future whether good or bad.

Fact about Marcella: She's a member of the SFRB (that's Science Fiction Romance Brigade to the uninformed - and now that you are, any SFR junkies might like to hop on over and check out their website or blog! Yep, blatant promotion, I know...)

Are you a panster or plotter? Is it your characters or your plot that influence you most? What's your writing process from start to finish when writing a book?
Both. I’m mostly a pantser. If I know what’s going to happen, why should I write the book? 

However, I did take a workshop with Mary Buckham – she did a Break Into Fiction workshop locally. I use that system of templates to map out my character arcs, motivations, and emotional drives. From there, what happens takes care of itself.

Can you tell us about your new release (see also book blurb below)?
ENEMY GAMES is Jayleia and Damen’s story. They think they know the enemy – they’re wrong. 

What was the easiest and hardest parts about writing this book?
Easiest part was I already knew who these two people were – they appeared in the first book. The hardest part of this book was the deadline. I’d never written a book in nine months and it was one major anxiety attack trying to get the book done and into a form I liked.

What’s the worst writing mistake you ever made that taught you a valuable lesson?
Bickering doesn’t equal conflict. Wrote my entire first novel on the basis of nothing more than two people arguing. It frightens me that I managed to get 100,000 words of nothing but ‘Uh uh!’ ‘Uh huh!’

Now for something slightly off topic. What’s the most unusual place you have visited?
Lived in Iceland for two years when I was a kid. Experienced my first earthquake (that I remember). A volcano erupted while we were living there (Dad even got sent to help keep a town from being buried by ash). We got to explore some of the most interesting and dynamic geology on the planet. I was 9. I will grant that I didn’t realize what I was seeing at the time, but I sure do value everything I got to see. Geysers, blue whales migrating just off shore, huge waves crashing into tall stone cliffs and shaking us where we stood all the way at the top…

Oh, how cool! And what vivid memories for a 9y.o.!

After a stint in an alien prison torpedoes her military career, Captain Ari Idylle has to wonder why she even bothered to survive. Stripped of her command and banished to her father's scientific expedition to finish a PhD she doesn't want, Ari never planned to languish quietly behind a desk. But when pirates commandeer her father's ship, Ari once again becomes a prisoner.
Pirate leader Cullin Seaghdh may not be who he pretends to be but as far as Cullin is concerned, the same goes for Ari. Her past imprisonment puts her dead center in Cullin's sights and if she hasn't been brainwashed and returned as a spy, then he's convinced she must be part of a traitorous alliance endangering billions of lives. Cullin can't afford the desire she fires within him and he'll stop at nothing, including destroying her, to uncover the truth.

What's the most unusual book you've read that's made a lasting impression on you?
Hmm. I don’t know that THE WORLD WITHOUT US by Alan Weisman is all that unusual except that it isn’t fiction. I loved that book. I suppose every scifi geek has an empty-earth fantasy. Or maybe that’s only introverts.

As for fiction, the one foremost in my mind is LORD OF LIGHT by Roger Zelany. It’s a Hugo award winning novel that’s told almost entirely in dialog. Very interesting story telling. It’s about the crew of a starship that has conquered a planet, set themselves up as gods and turned the conquered peoples into their worshippers. Need it be mentioned that few of these gods are benevolent?

Do you have a pet that keeps you company when you write?  Have they taught you anything about writing?  If so, what?
I have four. Erie is our matriarch feline. Deaf, arthritic and wobbly with age, she nevertheless insists upon a lunch break so that I can take her for a  walk.

Autolycus is our only boy cat. He’s a terror. We’ve threatened to sell him into slavery at Microsoft as a computer tester. That cat has caused more blue screens by walking across keyboards than anything else we’ve ever done.

Don’t get me started on the time I’d shut my computer down for the day, gone to dinner and yet came home to find him laying on the keyboard. He’d restarted the machine and pressed F10 – running Windows through it’s set up program. The cat was trying to reformat my box. I caught it before lasting damage was done. That and the fact that he’s cute are the only reasons he’s still alive. Needless to say, he taught me to keep backups of my work.

Cuillean is next. She’s a sweet-talking, shy girl who comes to lay across my lap and keep me company while I work. She’s never more content than when I’m sitting, intent on my story while she purrs herself to sleep. She helps keep me focused.

The baby of the bunch is Hatshepsut. She is 100% my cat and believes she has special claim on me. When she approaches me while I’m working, it’s to interrupt. She will not allow me to divide my attention. No way. She requires and deserves my full attention. If I try to keep working, she climbs into my arms and tucks her head into the curve of my shoulder and neck. She has a purr that’s as much an assault as it is expression of pleasure. I call her Little Purr. (Dumb, really. It should be BIG Purr, but she’s a little cat…). She’s the model for the heroine for book four in this series.

Oh, how gorgeous - all four of them! I suspect there's a link between SFR authors and cats. Jess Granger, yourself, me...we all own cats...hmm...

If you weren't doing what you do today, what other job would you have?
I’d likely have been committed…writing is how I stay sane. If I weren’t writing…I shudder to think.

Are there any particular settings or sorts of characters you'd like to use in a future book?
I do want to play around with Steampunk. I love the gadgets.

What's next for you? What are you working on?
Book 3 in the Enemy series. I can’t say much more without introducing spoilers.

ENEMY WITHIN is the first book. All of the subsequent books are about people you met in that first story. ENEMY GAMES (out in May, 2011) follows Jayleia and Damen.

Kidnapped while combating a devastating plague, Jayleia Durante fights to resist the attractive Major Damen Sindrivik, an officer from a rival government’s spy corps. But with her spymaster father missing, and mercenaries hot on her trail, Jayleia must join forces with the magnetic, charming and manipulative spy. She must see past her desire and remember that his single-minded agenda is for the protection of the empire - not her or her people.
Damen knows a shadowy network of traitors has allied with the violent Chekydran, and that Jayleia’s father holds the key to dismantling that web. She becomes his only lead in a circuitous round of hide and seek and despite their opposing sides, he can’t resist her. Too bad his instincts tell him Jayleia is lying to him.
Now Jayleia and Damen must find the love to match their passion and end the war or they’ll become the prey of the traitors they stalk, and one species’ civil war will consume the galaxy.

Do you have any advice/handy tips/craft skills you'd like to share with unpublished authors?
The same trite thing we’ve all heard. Never give up, never surrend…oh…wait…movie.

Uhm. The never give up part. That was good. Really. Persist. Learn everything you can. Most of it won’t work for you. Fine. But go find that out. The few things that do work for you will push you over the edge. Trust yourself, trust your story, trust your readers. 

Thanks, Marcella, for visiting. It's been great having you here!

To find out more about Marcella or her books, check out her website. She can also be found on Facebook and chatting on her blog.


  1. Fabulous interview, ladies. Marcella, I'm going to have to add another series of books to my TBR pile! Your stories sound fantastic.

    And maybe you're onto something with that cat connection, Kylie:-)

  2. Helene, I've read the first in Marcella's series and loved it! When ENEMY GAMES comes out I'm going to be slipping it to the top of my TBR pile! Shh, don't tell the other books that!!!

  3. I really enjoyed this interview. Marcella your books sound great & will definitely adding to my own hoard (which is seriously out of control). Lovely hearing about your childhood experiences - fascinating. Marcella all the best with your series - I hope it goes well for you. Thanks Kylie for another great post.

  4. Hi Marcella and Kylie!
    Loved your post, and living in Iceland,watching those blue whales *sigh* sounds wonderful!
    And I'm with you on the cat thing. Have four of my own too =)
    Your books sound fantastic, do you write on your boat? (I imagine a boat constantly rocking lol!)

  5. Enemy within is a fantastic book! I loved it! Great interview. I really can't wait for Enemy Games to come out. Good luck with book 3 Marcella.
    I think Mary Buckam should be worshiped as a goddess.
    I remember the sound of those starlings swooping in to town. Great visual.
    Fingers crossed for the RITA.

  6. Fantastic interview -your books sound great Marcella. As a writer and reader of SF Romance I can really relate to much fo what you say - and your cats sound like wonderful companions, even the pc wrecker! LOL. My own 'little helper' is a rescued Jack Russell who has a tendency to demand a 'loving' session just as I'm about to master a tricky scene!

    Congratulations on the Reader Award!

  7. Funny interview and the books sound great. I'd love to meet Autolycus. Sounds like the perfect geek cat. Keyboard covers?

  8. Mary Buckam. Ice Land (saw a house hunters ep there and now want to live there! LOL) Great interview! HUGE congrats on the RT win!

  9. I second Pauline's congrats on the RT win - what a great milestone.

    Looks like your book has some avid fans already, too! All good news! Word of mouth is incredibly powerful.

    And, Marcella, the exotic locale ad your cats are a hit! LOL

  10. Thank you very much, Kylie! And thank you all for stopping in! I *do* write while aboard the boat, though not while we're underway - only once we've stopped for the night. It's a catamaran, so it is more stable than other boats, but while we're moving, I really have to keep watch.