Part One of a Two-Part Interview with Multi-Published Author Stephanie Burkhart
Today and tomorrow of this week, it is my pleasure to welcome Stephanie Burkhart to my blog. A multi-published author, Stephanie speaks today about her novel, "Destination:Berlin".
REGINA: Hi, Stephanie, could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
STEPH: I was born and raised in Manchester, NH. I joined the US Army fresh out of high school in 1986 and became an MP. I spent 7 years total in Germany and loved every minute of it. In fact, my first trip to Berlin was in 1988, a year before the wall fell. I went to Berlin to attend the Berlin Orientation Tour, a trip I won for being selected my battalion’s soldier of the quarter. My last time in Berlin was 1996. The changes that occurred between those years were amazing.
Now, I work for LAPD as a 911 dispatcher. I’m married with two young sons.
REGINA: How long have you been writing? What’s the most rewarding aspect of it?
STEPH: I actually plotted out the story to Destination: Berlin in the late 1980’s, but I didn’t start seriously writing for publication until the late 1990’s. For me, the most rewarding aspect is bringing characters to life, infusing them with personality, and watching them grow.
REGINA: For those who haven’t read “Destination: Berlin” yet, can you tell us a little about it?
STEPH: I’d call it a “sweet” romance between Sharon and Dimitri. The novel opens with American Corporal Sharon Cates and Soviet Jr. Sergeant Dimitri Nagory meeting on the dining car of the Berlin Duty Train. The two share some lively banter and decide to be friends for the trip. Then a bomb blows the duty train off the tracks in the middle of Communist East Germany. Sharon then has to rely on Dimitri’s help to make it to Berlin.
Sharon is very serious about being a good soldier. She does well on her physical training (PT) tests, she takes military correspondence courses and college classes. She’s earned the right to wear her corporal stripes, but her personal life sucks. She’s just broken up with her boyfriend because he felt she was more interested in the military than him.
Dimitri was conscripted into his army. He has a talent – he’s trilingual in Russian, German, and English and works as a translator. Dimitri had no desire to become a soldier, simply because he wants to stay “under the radar.” His father died during a second tour to Afghanistan and that’s what soured him to military life. He makes the decision to help Sharon because he believes if he turns her in, whoever he turns her into will take the credit and he’ll get shipped off to a war zone.
REGINA: What was the inspiration behind the book?
STEPH: In January 1988, I won the soldier of the quarter for my battalion. In July 1988, I was selected to go to Berlin on the Berlin Orientation Tour. My unit drove me up to Bremerhaven where I was going o catch the train. They left at 4:00 pm (I had to wait until 10:00 pm before the train left) I found a café, curled up with a brotchen and a book, and the plot came to me. I must have used four or five napkins writing it down.
REGINA: That’s so interesting! Could you tell us what to expect in the future?
STEPH: I have a short story called “Shadows and Light” which will come out in the Desert Breeze Borealis Anthology in December 2010. It’s a sci-fi/speculative story. My heroine, Persephone Talon is investing the Uudon trade on the Borealis station and runs into my hero Elijah Kess – literally.
REGINA: Do you plot your stories in advance or just start writing and see where the story goes?
STEPH: I usually a plot a beginning and let it go from there. I use a combination of Plotter/Panster elements.
REGINA: Do you belong to a writer’s group?
STEPH: I belong to Writing.com. It’s a great place to fine-tune your writing.
REGINA: What role does geographical location play in your storylines?
STEPH: I’m very deliberate in picking locations. The most important thing is that it must have romantic elements so I can blend that into the story.
REGINA: For plot development have your methods changed since you began writing? How?
STEPH: I’m more of a plotter now. When I first started I was a panster, but as I learned about writing and structure, I incorporated more plot-like elements into the story.
REGINA: Outside of your writing life, is there something you would like to advocate through your writing?
STEPH: I’ve been blessed in that I’ve had a healthy life, but there are two causes close to my heart. Since learning the tragedic story of the Romanovs when I was a senior in high school, I learned everything I could about hemophilia, a blood disease that usually affects males. With hemophilia, the blood doesn’t have a clotting factor. Nowadays it can by managed, but back then the Tsarvich, Alexis, had to suffer with it because they didn’t know how to treat it. I wrote about it in my contemporary romance, “Are Your Dirty Little Secrets.”
My young son, Joseph, has what’s called Sensory Integration Dysfunction. (SID) His sensory system didn’t get set properly when he was born. He’s hypersensitive with his hearing (loud sounds bother him) and he has a hyposensitive vestibular and proprioception sense. A lot of his early childhood therapists thought he was autistic, which he isn’t. SID can present by itself so this has been an education process for everyone who interacts with him.
REGINA: Who is your favorite author and why?
STEPH: Right now I’m feeling Jean Plaidy (a pen name for Victoria Holt) She wrote historical fiction about the kings and queens of England. In fact, I discovered Jean Plaidy on that trip to Berlin in 1988. As I waited at the café, I read, “Queen in Waiting,” by her. It was my first Jean Plaidy and it remains my favorite. It’s about how George II met his wife, Caroline of Ansbach.
REGINA: Thank you so much for sharing with us, Stephanie. Good luck with Destination: Berlin. We look forward to the second part of your interview with us tomorrow.
STEPH: Here's a link to Destination: Berlin's Book Trailer on You Tube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cuav1ZTlWOA
A faint creak pierced the air breaking her thoughts. When Sharon looked up, she spied a Soviet soldier also buying a cup of coffee. A warm shiver slid down her spine. She knew the Soviets also used the duty train; she just though she'd never see one. He was tall and filled out the uniform well. From the markings on his uniform, she gathered he was a non-commissioned officer, but that was all. To her surprise, he approached her booth.
"Good morning, Corporal. I am Junior Sergeant Dimitri Nagory of the Soviet Army. May I join you?"
Sharon looked up. He was talking to her – in English! She motioned for him to have a seat.
Dimitri sat down and smiled. "If you don't mind my asking what is your name, Corporal?"
"Sharon," she answered, as distantly as possible. She never thought she'd meet a Soviet soldier on the Berlin Duty Train. This felt like a page out of a LeCarre spy novel. "Sharon Cates."
"Is this your first time on the duty train?" he asked.
Sharon stared at him. Nosey Soviet. Cpt. Heathers had cautioned her about them during her security briefing.
"Because it is the first time I have seen you," Dimitri continued, sipping his coffee.
"Ah, yes," Sharon finally answered. Should she finally entertain those hints of espionage and secret spy scenarios? "It's my first trip to Berlin."
Destination: Berlin is a Print book only. Here's where you can buy it: Amazon:
Barnes and Noble:
Goodie Time: Post a comment. I'll pick two lucky winners out of a hat to receive an autographed postcard of the cover. Follow me on my blog tour and earn a chance to win an autographed copy of Destination: Berlin. To find out the dates on the blog tour visit my blog, "Romance Under the Moonlight."
Romance Under the Moonlight
BE MUSED, APRIL 2010
THE HUNGARIAN – MAY 2010 Desert Breeze Publishing