Saturday, April 14, 2012

Interview with Jeremy Burns

Wolf Majick Reviews would like to welcome Jeremy Burns for a quick interview about his new novel From the Ashes.

Delia: About From the Ashes:

Jeremy: From the Ashes is a historical conspiracy thriller that has been described as The Bourne Identity meets National Treasure, a genre comparison that I don’t think is too far off the mark.  A far-reaching conspiracy dating back to the Great Depression threatens to rear its terrifying head in modern-day America as a brilliant history student named Jonathan Rickner investigates the sudden death of his older brother.  While digging into his brother’s dissertation research, Jon discovers the threads of this decades-old conspiracy, threads that lead back to the Hoover Adminstration, the Rockefellers, and the rise of Nazi Germany.  Featuring a covert government agency of assassins that has kept the shocking truth of this conspiracy hidden since the last days of World War II, the secret history of a McCarthy-era rogue agent found hanging off the Brooklyn Bridge at the height of the Cold War, and a labyrinthine treasure hunt hidden in the monuments and museums of Manhattan by John D. Rockefeller himself nearly a century ago, From the Ashes is “a thrilling race against time to expose a diabolical conspiracy that would shatter everything we think we know about the 20th century” (Boyd Morrison, bestselling author of The Ark and The Vault).

Delia: Did you have any specific inspiration for your novel?

Jeremy: I’ve always been a history aficionado, and I grew up on the globe-trotting historical mystery treasure hunt adventures of Indiana Jones and his ilk.  During my first trip to New York City in June of 2006, I came across a rather famous Manhattan monument that really stirred something in me, and I immediately realized I had to do something with it.  I’m being intentionally vague as to the identity of this site, as it’s where I set the novel’s climax, but it was my research into this site, and the history (and historical personages) surrounding it, that led me to the conspiracy at the heart of From the Ashes.

Delia: Who is your favorite character?

Jeremy: I really love Jon, but that’s at least partially because there’s a lot of me in him.  Ultimately, though, I think Wayne might be my favorite character.  His haunted past and internal struggles really allowed me to write a conflicted, dynamic character.  In the original outline of From the Ashes, Wayne didn’t even exist as a character.  In the early stages of the novel, a friend of mine asked off-handedly if he could be a character in my novel, and, considering it for a moment, I agreed.  While my friend joked immediately thereafter that I’d make him a cab driver or something, his request challenged me to look at the story with a fresh eye and to see what new dynamic he could add to the story.  Now, I can’t imagine the story without him, and I’m incredibly grateful to my friend, Wayne Wilkins (who, sadly, I have lost touch with), for his off-hand request five years ago that lead to a tremendous character and a whole new level of storytelling for From the Ashes.

Delia: I hear there is going to be a giveaway.  Can you give us some info on that?

Jeremy: The Kindle, Nook, iBooks, and eReader editions of From the Ashes will be free on Friday, April 13 and Saturday, April 14.  Starting on Sunday, April 15, those versions will be available at a special discounted price of only $2.99 for a very limited time.

Delia: Do you use social media to help promote your book?  If so, can you share your pages so readers can check them out?

Jeremy: I have been on Facebook since it was only available for college students (Mark Zuckerman and I are the same age), and my Facebook page at  HYPERLINK "" is one of my main sources for keeping in touch with my fans (my other being my main website at  HYPERLINK ""  I also have a Twitter account ( HYPERLINK "" that I’ve just recently started using, and I anticipate it becoming more a part of my networking and promotions in the near future.

Delia: Do you have any plans for a second novel?

Jeremy: I am working on the second Jonathan Rickner adventure now, titled Of Faith and Treason.  Its historical and geographic scope are even grander than those in From the Ashes, and the stakes are higher than they’ve ever been.  At present, I’m shooting to have Of Faith and Treason hit bookshelves later this year.  In this series alone, I have a further four novels in various stages of planning (as well as another twenty-plus ideas for later books in the series).  Stay tuned to my websites for further developments on Of Faith and Treason and future Jon Rickner adventures!

Delia: Any suggestions for aspiring novelists?

Jeremy: Stick with it.

No author’s first draft of a book comes out perfect, so don’t get frustrated and quit if your first attempt isn’t up to snuff.  That’s what second (and third, and fourth…) drafts are for.  A large part of the early drafts of writing From the Ashes was me learning how to write a novel. Read a lot and read widely; there’s really no better way to learn how language works, how to craft characters, how to plot and pace, and all the other tools in the writer’s toolbox.

Don’t follow trends for a quick cash-in.  If you’re not truly passionate about the characters, plot, and subject of your novel, how can you expect your readers to care?  Your apathy will show in your work, and readers will be turned-off.  And don’t try to emulate another successful author’s style or voice.  That’s fine for early-stage writing exercises, but when you’re actually writing your novel, make it yours, from the story and characters to the way you use your writer’s toolbox of diction, syntax, and figurative language.  The writers whose style you want to emulate are successful with that style because it is genuinely their own.  Find your own voice, and let it grow into something that your readers will admire as being distinctively yours.

Network with other writers.  There can be a temptation to be reclusive when it comes to writing, particularly when you have the idea that you’re so excited about and you don’t want any other writers to steal, but my experience has been that fellow writers – at least, the professional ones – are more excited to write their own ideas that they’re passionate about than pilfering anyone else’s ideas.  The tradecraft insights and publishing insights you can glean from other writers can be invaluable.  Besides, one of the coolest things about meeting (and ultimately, hanging out with) some of the biggest names in the thriller industry when I was still unpublished was the realization that they are just regular people, just like you and I.

Which brings me to my final point: Stick with it.  The only reason to ever give up writing a story is if it ceases to interest you anymore (heaven forbid!).  If you have a story that you feel needs to be told, take the time to learn the tradecraft necessary to tell it well.  And then tell it.  The publishing industry is a volatile one to be sure, but with the rising popularity of eBooks and a recent boom in independent publishers, there are more opportunities for new authors to break into the industry than ever.  Step one is to write the best story that you possibly can.  And if your story is good enough, it’s just a matter of persistence and that one lucky break to get your start as a published author.  And whenever things feel hopeless, take heart in remembering that every single one of your favorite authors was once just as unpublished as you are now.

Delia: What is your favorite novel?

Jeremy: That’s a tough one.  I read about 150 books a year, and many stand out as phenomenal.  If I had to pick just one, I’d probably say Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  Umberto Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum and The Name of the Rose, Michael Connelly’s Void Moon, J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, George Orwell’s 1984, and Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy also stand out as favorites.  Beyond that, I have too many favorites to count.

Delia: Do you have anything in your TBR pile that might interest readers of your novel?

Jeremy: I have shelves upon shelves of books in my TBR “pile”, not to mention the numerous books I want to read but don’t yet own.  One book that immediately stands out to me, though, is Steve Berry’s upcoming historical thriller The Columbus Affair, about which I will be interviewing Mr. Berry for the May issue of International Thriller Writer’s monthly webzine, The Big Thrill.  Another is H. Rider Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mines, one of the first and most enduring classic adventure fiction novels, the protagonist of which (Allan Quatermain) was one of the key inspirations for the character of Indiana Jones (and one reason why Jon Rickner’s middle name is “Allan”).

Thanks so much Jeremy for stopping by and sharing your insights! Hopefully everyone will check out your novel, free on Amazon till April 14th!

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