by Debbie Burke
Debbie Burke is not that unusual a name. But what if there are two Debbie Burkes who are both authors? Hmm.
About a year ago, I googled “Debbie Burke.” As expected, my thrillers, TKZ blog posts, news articles, and website came up.
But I did a double-take when I saw “Debbie Burke” was the author of jazz articles and a novel entitled Glissando.
I hadn’t written any of those.
I discovered she is from the Poconos and now lives in Virginia Beach, VA.
For simplicity’s sake, from here on, I’ll refer to us at “Montana Debbie Burke (MT DB)” and “Virginia Debbie Burke (VA DB).”
A few months ago, I started to receive odd emails addressed to “Debbie Burke” that I initially thought were spam and deleted. More messages came from someone named Magdalena, who said she had texted me several times and wanted to talk about a jazz award. I realized Magdalena must be trying to reach VA Debbie. I replied that she had contacted the wrong Debbie Burke but I didn’t know an address for VA Debbie.
Then I received an email from “Debbie Burke” and, no, I wasn’t cc’ing myself.
VA Debbie had seen a comment by “Debbie Burke” on the Authors Guild discussion thread that she didn’t write, so she reached out to me. Turns out we’re both AG members. How confusing must that be for AG?
We had a good laugh about the mix-up and struck up a correspondence. Being writers, we inevitably played “What if?”
What if Debbie Burke interviews Debbie Burke?
So, today, here we are.
It’s my pleasure to introduce…Debbie Burke from Virginia.
MT DB: I’ve described how I learned about you. How did you first learn about me?
VA DB: I was setting up my profile in Goodreads and saw that your name popped up with a book…something about the devil…I said hey, that’s not me!
MT DB: Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
VA DB: Born in Brooklyn, now living in Virginia Beach. Most of my career has been in communications, either in printing, publishing, PR, media and so on. I was a columnist for my local paper when we lived in Pennsylvania and I became the editor of a regional business journal there, then the editor of a lifestyle magazine.
My first book came about in 2011 when I joined a community band at a local university, playing sax (I had lessons in at The New School for Social Research in NYC the 1980s. Yes, I’m dating myself).
Anyway, I was in the band and hearing all about these very famous musicians who were said to live nearby. Wow, I thought, I’d love to find out more about the jazz legacy of this area, where can I find a book on that? Surely the local library had something on it. But nobody had written about it. The more I dug, the more I found out about the area’s connections to jazz from the 1920s onward. No book? No problem, I decided to write my own. That was the start of something beautiful. That was The Poconos in B Flat and others have followed. I love writing about jazz.
MT DB: Where can your articles and blog posts be found?
VA DB: My blog (www.debbieburkeauthor.com) is all about the jazz world. I’ve done over 400 interviews of not just musicians but also jazz photographers, artists, record execs, promotions people and authors. I have published some articles that are deep in the archives at All About Jazz and wrote for the Jamey Aebersold blog a while back.
MT DB: Your first novel is Glissando. What inspired you to write it? How did you develop the main character Ellie?
VA DB: Ellie is a composite of a middle-aged woman who’s found that she’s had just about enough of men, period. She joins a university band (that is the only similarity, I promise) where she meets a musician whom she falls very, very hard for. He’s married, and his wife has just graduated from college. A whole lot of drama ensues and Ellie has to make some tough choices about the musician and another man she’s become involved with.
I was inspired, I am inspired, by the dating (mis)adventures of women my age. The difficulties of finding somebody good, the idea of falling in love and in lust when you’re past your mid-point. It’s fascinating to me. I like to write strong women who are more than a little flawed. I don’t agree with all the things Ellie does in the book, but she sure feels real to me.
MT DB: You’re working your second novel. Care to share details?
VA DB: Sure! It’s about a stolen song, a stolen kiss and a stunning family legacy. A jazz bassist finds out his ancestor was enslaved on one of the biggest plantations in Georgia, and miraculously comes across a song that he had written. A shocking secret bubbles up and he embarks on a journey to face it and make things right.
VA DB: Yes, Gender Disparity in UK Jazz – A Discussion. The experience was amazing times two. Sammy Stein is the consummate interviewer and knows the UK jazz scene with an enviable thoroughness. She’s a great writer and has excellent contacts who made the content very honest and accessible.
I needed to deal first with the logistics of the language itself; avoiding the instinct to “correct” certain words that are spelled differently in the UK than in the US, and the same goes for idioms and expressions of speech. The other major task was creating it and developmentally editing it as we went along. I think we hit all the right notes, if you pardon the pun. Within three days of uploading it to Amazon, it made number 6 in the very competitive category of “Jazz Books.”
MT DB: What is your main strength as a writer?
VA DB: Hearing my characters’ voices telling me the story.
MT DB: What quality as a writer do you need to work on?
VA DB: I’m a “pantser” – no outline in my fiction, writing by the seat of my pants. Well, I’ve come to find out the hard way that the more story threads you have, the more challenging this is. Actually, for me right now as I finish my WIP, it’s hellish. Though I feel like an outline could be suffocating, one guy I watch on YouTube (Michael LaRonn) made a great suggestion in one of his videos, which is to make the outline as you go. So it’s a roadmap that’s informed by your ongoing experiences of writing, not something that had been imposed on you before you knew how the book was going to unfurl.
MT DB: You recently started an editing business. What prompted you to hang out an editing shingle? What type of editing do you offer?
VA DB: I’ve been doing this for many years, and just decided to formalize it with Queen Esther Publishing LLC. It’s one of the most exciting things I’ve ever done, but also very intimidating. Being organized is the key. I have an idea of what I’ll work on each day, and even if everything doesn’t pan out exactly, I’ve stuck to it with broad strokes.
The editing I do – book manuscripts, professional articles, theses, and anything else really – goes all the way from proofing to line edits to developmental editing. I also coach authors in self-publishing and building an author platform.
MT DB: Any other information you’d like to add?
VA DB: It was so nice to “meet” you and read some of your books. I had no idea how you wrote or what you wrote about and was hoping I wouldn’t have to change my name! I’m kidding of course, but I’m sure you felt the same relief. If somebody were to mix us up and look for our books on Amazon, they’d be in for a treat, regardless of which Debbie they got.
MT DB: I couldn’t agree more!
On Twitter: @jazzauthor
On Instagram: @jazzauthor
On Facebook: debbieburkejazzauthor
Editing Services: www.queenestherpublishing.com
Recently VA Debbie posted her interview with me on her blog. If you’d like to read it, here’s the link: https://bit.ly/DebbieBurkethrillerwriter
To paraphrase P.T. Barnum: “Say anything about us as long as you spell our name right.”
That’s D-E-B-B-I-E B-U-R-K-E!
Holiday note: Today is my last post for 2020 before the annual two-week break. Warmest wishes to the TKZ family for happy holidays. May you share this season with loved ones and enjoy it in good health! See you in 2021.
TKZers: Do you have a “name twin,” or “alter ego,” or “doppelganger”?