Author Interview: Heather Burch

Two weeks ago I reviewed the debut novel Halflings by Heather Burch, which is due for publication at the end of the month. Now, I have the honour of chatting with Heather about her writing and her experiences with Halflings.

Halflings is Burch's first book to be published, but before this success she had written five other books for adults. It wasn't until she got the idea for Halflings that she realised she was better equipped to write for teenagers than adults. As a woman who worked with teenagers, as an ordained minister and motivational speaker, it makes sense that her target audience should be teens.
"At the time I wrote Halflings, I hadn't read any YA books (a big publishing no-no!) I didn't know the trends, the attitudes, the storylines ... but I know teenagers. I've spent years working with teens and I wanted to give the teen I knew the type of story they would enjoy. They were my inspiration. Before Halflings I was writing novels for adults. Which was stupid, really because I'd rather hang out with teens. :)"
Despite never having read YA novels herself, wrote Halflings in four months and started on the sequel before it was even picked up. But luckily for readers across the globe, it was picked up by Zonderman.
"That was the coolest phone call I've ever received!!! I thought my agent was calling me to say thanks for a Christmas present (last year) instead, she started talking about the offer, hard cover to trade paperback, how it will be in Wal-Mart! I was shaking so bad I had to lay the phone down. Then, she said "three book deal" and I practically fainted. So, it's been a long process, but a very exciting one."

What YA rules do you think you broke? I found a lot of your interaction between teens more realistic than other paranormal YA fiction.
Well, one of the big ones was the multiple POV. We get perspective from several of the main characters. Sometimes this is pretty tricky to pull off, but for Halflings--with its ensemble cast--I knew it was the only way. And I did, ahem, kill off some pretty significant characters--again, a bit of a taboo in YA. But nothing is impossible! It just has to be executed correctly. As far as the interactions ... I used my everyday life. At almost any given time on the weekends, there are somewhere between two and five teenagers at my house. I have boys, so that's probably why Mace, Raven, and Vine read pretty real. They are. I'm constantly using and amping a situation here to maximize my characters. (Uh, we don't ever fight hell-hounds, but I can whip your butt on HALO!)

What other kinds of novels have you written? You said they were for adults, did they fit into the supernatural genre?
They were all adult romance. One was the story of a woman who met her soulmate ... while married to her soulmate. Sound weird? Well, she met the man she would fall in love with after her husband died, but she met him too soon--while her husband was alive. Of course, she was confused and torn. I wrote it about five years ago and I think it was the beginning of my fascination with love triangles.
Was it hard to write a supernatural ya novel? It's a big trend and they always seem to look for something different. What do you think set halflings apart?
I didn't want to write Halflings. I know that's a shocker, but I'd felt like I'd learned the nuances of an adult romance and I didn't want to jump ship into a completely new genre. So, I threw out all the rules and wrote what was in my heart. I didn't write what I thought teens were reading. I wrote a story I thought the teens I know would be intrigued by. It was a risk. I didn't know if anyone would like it. But I felt like I owed it to the characters to tell their story. It wasn't about if it would sell or not. It wasn't about if it would be trendy and fit the "market" or not. I wrote it for me. I wrote it for the Halflings becasue I was obsessed by the idea of exploring their world. When I entered Halflings in a writing contest, it finaled. Then, it placed. Then, an editor at Harper Collins requested it. So, you can see why I call them my little orphan angels. I didn't think anyone would want them. But they did! 
There was a lot of religious talk in halflings, as there should be considering the subject, were you ever worried that would limit your audience?
Honestly, I think it would only limit people who are rather closed minded. You know how grandparents are always wanting to show you pictures of their AMAZING grandkids? Well, that's how I felt about Mace, Raven, Vine, Zero ... I didn't care who wanted to look at them, I was just proud to flash the pictures. I tried to write Halflings from a point of view that kept somewhat of the integrity of what I knew of angels. Things I'd learned and studied out over the years...not so much the trendy stuff you can find on the internet now--not that there's anything wrong with that--but ancient texts and scripture. Of course, I took it into the fiction realm, 'cause that's what I do, but many of the intricasies of Halflings mythology is rooted--somewhat deeply--in actual biblical accounts of men and women encountering angels. And yes, to my knowledge, all angels in scripture are male. They are warriors, not some wimpy dudes floating around with harps. And they are a seperate race. We won't become angels after death. I guess there were just too many 'cool' aspects to these creatures to not explore them.   
Was there something that inspired the lost boy story and their struggle to side with the light?
Wow, there were so many things that inspired this, it's really hard to nail down a specific one. My two boys were a huge influence. One's a musician, one's an athlete. They are pretty much complete opposites. Very Mace/Raven-like. Exploring that dynamic is still big for me as the books progress.
When can we expect the sequel and do you have anything you can share with us?
Well, I just saw the cover and I love it. For those who like the first, this one is similar. Nikki looks tougher--you know, like one would after being hunted by hell's army--and there is a nice surprise in the background. Mace and Raven!Guardian begins shortly after the ending of book one (for all of you who were stunned by the cliffhanger, don't worry! Soooo many questions will be answered in Guardian) anyway, Nikki gets to take an amazing journey with the Halflings, but of course, the fun can't last too long, a major catastrophy is waiting and Nikki has to use her ability as a Seer or countless lives will be lost. Writing Guardian was the most fun I've ever had writing a novel. I think the sparks that ignite in Halflngs get a chance to burn intensely in Guardian. I hope everyone loves it! 
Thanks so much to Heather for agreeing to talk to me, and I highly recommend that everyone get their hands on Halflings when it's released on February 1st. 
You can see my review here.


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