Let's start with you telling us a little bit about yourself, Belinda.
About me…hmm. If there was such a thing, I spend far too much time reading – and then writing. I have a minor obsession with paneer, which is a kind of Indian cheese, so delicious. I’ve been happily engaged for a few years now, though don’t ask me about the wedding! I can plan a plot across four generations of exciting doom, but a color scheme? Ha! Save me!
What would people be most surprised to learn about you?
Startling facts from the land of me? Other than my writing, I have always been involved in other artistic endeavours…which includes formal training in opera, and playing jazz flute, at which I was successful, and the attempt to learn to paint at which I was…not. And as far as my writing goes…I love science fiction! Reading, writing – it’s my secret obsession, into which I have recently made my first real foray!
When did you start writing, is it something you've always been interested in, or did it develop later in life?
I remember being eight years old, and being asked to choose a special project for school. I wasn’t allowed to write a better Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (the next year I would enter the world of fanfiction and do it anyway, though not for class credit!) but I did manage permission to make my project a book of poetry. Suffice it to say, I really, really wanted to write something, even if I now cringe at my eight-year-old self’s idea of “fine rhyme”! But, twenty years later, here I am, still going…and I don’t plan to stop any time soon!
Has it been everything you thought it would be or not?
It’s been far, far better! For me, writing is necessary – I have to get the words out or I think my brain might explode. Being able to share those words with the world, now, that is literally a dream come true.
How did it feel when you realized that your very first book was going to be published?
Well it’s not like I actually, literally, danced so hard while sitting still that I fell off my bed! Of course not! I would never do that. I’m far too dignified and…stuff.
What's your favorite part of writing a book?
This is a difficult question. When I’m editing, the first draft is my favorite part – and when I’m writing the first draft, I can’t wait until it’s done so I have something with a real shape to edit. But overall, I think the very first spark, when suddenly my brain floods with an irresistible scene, is the best bit. For one instant I can almost see the whole book, and the characters and their defining moment take form. I love that instant.
Do you get time to read for pleasure? If so, which books do you enjoy?
I always make time for reading! It soothes my soul, inspires me, and reminds me what it is I want to achieve in my own writing. As for favorite books, the list is long…very long! But the top few would have to be Frank Herbert’s Dune, Murasaki Shikibu’s Tale of Genji, and Ray Bradbury’s…well, everything! I’ve never met a genre I didn’t like, and that includes non-fiction. Research is the writer’s best friend, after all!
Are there any other genres you'd be interested in writing?
Oh, yes indeed! In fact, I really write all the genres, though most of the plots I end up with still have a thread of romance in them – it’s part of the human struggle, after all. But my current experiments are in hard sci-fi. This is because I am finally overcoming fear of my own unworthiness in the face of the greats I admire…and because I was struck by a sudden attack of plot. Space dragons! I see space dragons!
Please tell us a little about your most recent release.
With pleasure! The Shadow Road is actually available everywhere on January 12, though you can grab it at Pride Publishing already, due to the magic of early release! It continues the tale of the Eight Kingdoms, as the stories of Bran, Macsen, Myrddin, and Kas begin to merge with the central Arthurian myths. There are tests of love, and tests of power...and of course plenty of steam to keep the winter warm!
What can we look forward to in the future from you?
Well, as mentioned above, a new experiment in science fiction – and of course, more of the Eight Kingdoms series, which is just about at the halfway point now! There are more Tales of the Eight Kingdoms coming too, Deathless is next and it will be out next month if I’m remembering correctly…and then there’s epic Chinese fantasy, and the massive, urban contemporary fantasy/romance project which is Holy, next on my list to give intensive attention to!
Anything you want to say to your readers?
Only to thank them for reading – in a very real way, my readers are the reason for my existence. I hope you all enjoy the bits of me I share with you in the form of stories, and are looking forward as much as I am to more words and the release of new books!
Belinda Burke's most recent releases:
The Shadow Road (Eight Kingdoms 4)
Spring is dead. Summer is divided. Autumn has its darkness…and Winter waits.
In the wake of Dealla’s latest atrocity, Macsen has learned a lesson he will never forget. To love is to fear, and he intends to make sure that his fear never comes to pass. Bran is less than pleased with being left behind while Macsen hunts Dealla, but he has trouble of his own to distract him. An unknown ability is growing in him—magic that has nothing of Summer in it. Disturbed, Bran convinces Macsen to come with him to question his mother. Only she knows who Bran’s father is, and the secret half of his bloodline is the most likely source of his new power.
Elenn agrees to Bran’s request, but for her own reasons. Faelan, one of the gancanagh, is to be Bran’s guide to his father, and she has ordered him to seduce the Red King and prove his love false. Faelan has no desire to follow through, but also no choice. His queen has commanded, and he must obey.
Macsen and Bran aren’t the only lovers whose feelings are being put to the test. After five thousand years of separation, Myrddin has no choice but to accept Kas’ help in restoring the spring and its rite to the mortal world. The difficulty is that he wants Kas to desire him for himself, not out of necessity, and the whole of reality is standing in his way.
Where is the line that divides determination from desire? Love is power—but is it enough?
Dark Side of the Sun (Eight Kingdoms 1)
An ancient pact was once broken by the theft of Summer's Prince. Now, the Red King has found him. To live, to love, they seek the dark side of the sun...
A thousand years ago, Milesian invaders gained ownership of Ireland from Summer's Queen through trickery. Since that day, the green isle's native sidhe have been imprisoned in their hidden kingdom, bound by their ancient pact with the Milesians.
Now, the treaty has been violated. The Milesians have stolen Bran Fionnan, the son of Summer's Queen. Trapped in the human world with no way of returning home, Bran is held under a death threat that forces him to work for his captors. He must forge weapons the Milesian huntresses can use to slay their new foe: the Red King.
The Red King is Macsen Cadoc, a vampire—a hunter who cannot stand being hunted. He seeks vengeance for the Milesian attacks in spilled blood—Milesian blood, and the blood of the sidhe traitor who has forged their weapons.
When the one he finds is a victim, not a traitor, everything changes.
Bran Fionnan is the Milesian's most valuable prize, but from the moment Macsen sees him, he wants him…and the Red King is not accustomed to being denied—by anyone. What begins with desire may end in extraordinary ways, but first there are questions that must be answered.
What is love? Can it help Bran overcome lost ties and a lifetime's worth of anger? Can it help the Red King gain more than the satisfaction of his lusts?
Excerpt from The Shadow Road (Eight Kingdoms 4)
The Red King’s arrival made the mortal night rich with shadow. It was only a few weeks past Samhain, but there had been no slow descent through autumn to the sleeping season—not this year. This year, the leaves had barely turned when the snow had begun to fall. Now, the Red King stalked the layer of fresh, new whiteness as a blood-tinted wolf who left no prints behind him.
Macsen had gained a name as an omen of death where his own wasn’t known, ran wild across the night and hid from nothing, not even the sunlight. It grew dimmer and grayer as the winter intensified and the snow continued to fall. Despite that, there were humans everywhere, long trains of people moving from one side of the island to the other, seeking a safe place, a haven. There were a thousand lives he could have had as prey at any time, not just mortals but immortals, beings and beasts both in their myriad kinds.
He had only one victim in mind.
Where are you, woman? Dealla, where is it you are hiding?
He named her in his thoughts, named her with the wild howl of the wolf as he climbed from one hill, one mountain, one valley to another. The smell of her was strongest in her palace, a stink of witch-magic that he knew well, but the woman herself wasn’t there. The cold of the scent told Macsen that she hadn’t been there for some time. More than that, there was silence in the whole fortress, an empty silence. There were no guards, no servants, no waiting huntresses in the circles of the walls.
Wherever the woman had gone, she had taken the activity that surrounded her along, and had left no sign of when or if she intended to return.
Snarling, furious, thwarted in his first attempt at vengeance, Macsen left the palace behind and hunted the snow-clad woods around it, followed the frozen rivers. No road, no path, no secret way led him to her, or even to a sign of her, but there were other mortals in his way. Their presence in the wild answered the emptiness that had greeted him in the fortress.
Jaws open, breathless, he moved as a shadow among the falling flakes of snow, gathered the wind and the presences the wind carried behind him. Voices, whispers and laughter followed him. Artless fiends followed him, moved along the path he had marked behind him with terror and death. He hunted—he Hunted. But the prey he sought was denied him, and it was the world of the woman who had done so that paid the price.
Instead, he found one of those who were hers. A huntress, or so she thought herself. A huntress, stalking the silence of the night with a shining weapon, stolen magic that glittered in her hand.
She knew him when she saw him. The awareness was in her face, and Macsen dissected her every expression, every hint of horror, in his first sight of her. She was one of the ones who would run from him, if she could. But she couldn’t, and in the space it took her to draw a breath, Macsen shared this knowledge with her in panting laughter.
The wind echoed him, and the ones who followed him. It seemed for an instant that each star was only a mirror, tossing back that sound, and the sword trembled in her hand. One step at a time, the Red King approached, then drew himself up out of the wolf-shape and into something almost human. He faced the woman, considering.
Was there any purpose to his question?
She is already terrified. Maybe…
He was on her in a moment, one hand holding her wrist and the dangerous weapon she carried far away from him. The other held her chin so tightly that she was already bleeding from the pressure of his fingernails, and he turned her head with an irresistible grip.
“Dealla. Where is she?”
Defiant silence answered him, slipped into sobbing as he tightened his hold. He listened to her dispassionately, let her pound at him with the hand he didn’t have pinned, let her kick at him as she pleased. If even terror wasn’t enough, terror and the threat of death, then there was no point to any of this. Huntresses. He’d thought himself done with them, done forever, but now here he was, killing among them without thought for wasted blood or purpose.
Macsen sank his teeth into the throat of the woman he was holding almost carelessly. She screamed, but the snow deadened the sound, and the strength faded from her as he drank away her life.
Drops fell from her throat and stained the snow, Summer raspberry red, and Macsen dropped her and closed his eyes.
Summer raspberry, Summer richness…
He had killed until he was red with blood, dripping with it, until the odor of visceral flesh was his only companion. Unsatisfied even now, he was growing tired of pointless death. He had quenched as much of the thirst inside him as he could, and he missed his lover. Behind his eyelids, he could see Bran smiling, reaching for him. He could almost taste the immortal flavor that had won him over all other things.
Home. Waiting for me… The one left behind in darkness.
The wind rustled at the sound of Macsen’s voice, and his wants crystallized. He counted the days and knew it was time to go back. Despite not having yet found the one he was seeking, he had said a night, no longer. One night in the Red Kingdom. The days that Winter night gave him in the mortal world were all but up, and to find that woman… It would take more time.
She isn’t where she belongs. I will have to Hunt her out.
If she had been anyone else, he would have smiled at the thought, but instead of a test of skill it was only a test of his patience. “I hate her. I hate her more than the sun!”
The sun gave me Bran.
He was the Hunter King, but some things were more precious than blood or revenge. Macsen left the body for the shadows, the carrion eaters, the ones who had followed him to pick at the flesh of his kills. He turned away into the snow, and between one step and the next he was the stalking wolf again.
He turned to the east, to the sea and his own country. The storm followed him, and the laughter of the winter wind, and the peering starlight.