Spotlight Interview · Spotlight Interview Thursdays

Spotlight Interview with author Michael Burns

glow in the dark

Hi dear Readers!

I hope the holidays were full of love, family and friends for you. Today I have another Spotlight Interview with author Michael Burns. Enjoy!


Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?

My most recent day job was teaching at the high school level for nine years on a remote Indian Reservation 100 miles west of Tucson. I worked for the Bureau of Indian Education, within the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

The part of Arizona where I taught has a relatively pristine environment. It was so far from my home, I had to live on the reservation during the week, from Sunday evening until Friday afternoon. It was very isolated, but I was able to breathe clean air, and see the Milky Way at night. This was a time of great spirituality in my life. I was able to do a lot of soul searching about what is really important in our lives.

What inspired you to write?
I’ve always wanted to be a writer. My first novel gained some traction in the form of good independent reviews, and that novel was Hot Planet. It’s an environmental novel about climate change I began writing in 1990. My goal was to warn the world that climate change would not be pleasant. I’ve updated this novel several times as I keep getting new information about this issue.
When Hot Planet got a really good review, it convinced me that I needed to write about other compelling topics.

What inspired your novel?
There is no one thing that inspires me. I would say that true inspiration comes from within in that our subconscious mind controls our behavior. I can’t write unless I’m constantly telling myself that I can write. Constant pep talks given to me by me.

What is the genre?
I write in different genres, and sometimes multiple genres. Summer of the Beast begins as a good old-fashioned murder mystery, but quickly morphs into a supernatural/horror thriller—two seasoned detectives on the trail of what they believe is a serial killer. They soon find more than they expected.

The Horn is a sea adventure, mostly action but with some romance. The First Miracle is pure Christian fiction. Police State is a very graphic and disturbing dystopian novel. It is based on my belief that what happened in Germany in the 1930s could happen here in America, except it would be a hundred times worse due to the surveillance technology that the government has put in place. (Every year that I worked for the BIA I was mandated to take and pass an Internet security test. One thing I learned is that cell phones can be tracked in real time even when they’re turned off, and that they can be turned on remotely, even if they’re off, and the microphone used to listen in on your conversations.)
Sanctum Sanctorum is a war novel set in the Middle East in the near future. The Spacemen is science fiction based on the current ongoing militarization of space. Northwood & Other Short Stories is a collection of my short stories, except for my short story Lipstick. My most recent work, Starship Hunters, is a sci-fi novel that is set in the future, about a safari to distant planets within the Milky Way Galaxy, except the story takes a big turn when unexpected aliens arrive on the scene.
In my job as a teacher for the BIE, I taught language arts. My daily program called for reading short stories and analyzing them in depth. Over the years, I became something of an expert on short stories.

What draws you to this genre?
My novels are the result of my current level of interest in any given topic, and so they are usually written in a different genre. I like to challenge myself and these novels require research, sometimes a lot of research.

How did you develop your plot and your characters?
The plot for each novel is based on a topic that might develop into a good story. With each story, my goal is to further the story from the beginning paragraphs. No roadblocks for the reader. To tell a good story, you have to have believable characters. I first develop these characters in my head based on the plot of the story. I find myself revising their dialogue over and over again, until I get it right.
I don’t think of myself as a story teller, but rather a story crafter. I try to be a good craftsman. Writing a short story requires a different approach as the entire story must be told in just a few pages.

What inspired your protagonist?
With each novel and genre, I try to find protagonists who operate within their personal moral code, flawed or otherwise. The characters, by their actions and their dialogue, must move the story forward at all times.

What inspired your antagonist?
Human nature? Today, we have to accept that there are evil people living among us. Criminals, thugs, gangsters, terrorists, and white collar criminals who care nothing about hurting others.

What was the hardest part to write in the book?
There are four major elements with each story: 1) exposition 2) rising action 3) climax 4) falling action/resolution. Rising action is always the most difficult. It takes a lot of time to create suspense, conflict, and tension.

What was your favourite part of your book to write?
Beginning, middle, and ending. They are all my favorite parts. I like to start a book, knowing that a creative adventure is beginning, but I also like to write the ending, knowing that another project has been finished. I do enjoy all aspects of being a writer.

Are you a full time or a part time writer? If part time, what do you do besides write?
I am a full-time writer.

What are you currently reading?
Seven Pillars of Wisdom, by T.E. Lawrence.

Who would you say are your favourite authors?
Ian Fleming, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and James Jones. For short stories, Rudyard Kipling. You could say I’ve definitely been influenced by the English writers, or in the case of Doyle, an Irish-Scots writer.

How about your favourite books? What would be your top 5?
From Russia With Love by Ian Fleming. Last Word (My Indictment of the CIA in the Murder of JFK) by Mark Lane. From Here to Eternity by James Jones. Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein. Silent Spring by Rachel Carson. Of course, there are many more, and I’m not sure about the top five or even the top ten, but the above books are definitely among my favorites.

What are your future projects, if any?
I am working on the two sequels to Starship Hunters, and I want to publish them simultaneously, so it may take a year before they are ready. I’m finding it is a monumental task, but I am having fun with this project.

What is your preferred method for readers to get in touch with you and your books?
I don’t have my own website. Readers should leave reviews or comments on both Good Reads and Amazon. I welcome all reviews, good or bad.

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Have a nice, comfortable office chair. Have a large bookshelf nearby and keep reference books at hand. Be willing to drop everything to do research at a moment’s notice.

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