Author Interview with Stephanie Burkhart

February 17, 2012

Today I have the privilege of interviewing Stephanie Burkhart, author of several romance novels and short stories in a variety of genres including paranormal, fantasy, historical and contemporary. Her recently released titles include Danube in Candlelight, the third book in her Budapest Moon series and Victorian Scoundrel, the first book in her new Windsor Diaries series.

 Stephanie Burkhart

Welcome to The Hope Chest Reviews, Stephanie.

1. When did you first know that you wanted to be a writer?

I was young, around 6. I remember watching The Electric Company and the Spiderman skits were my favorite. I'd go to the kitchen table and make Spiderman comics. When I was 11, I found comic books, which would take me on grand adventures. Soaps taught me about character-driven romance. I wrote action/adventure superhero tales as a teenager, but it wasn't until I went to Berlin in 1988 that I buckled down and wrote my first novel, Destination: Berlin using a pen name, SG Cardin.

2. What part of the writing process do you find to be the most challenging?

Internal conflict. I'm such a wuss. I'd like to think I can take you to the far off places full of action, adventure, mystery, suspense, and romance, but I need to flesh out my internal conflicts a bit more.

3. Who or what has inspired you the most in your writing career and in what way?

My friend, Dina Hickman, inspired me during my formative years as a writer. She wrote a series, unpublished, called Once Upon A Time, and it had everything - family saga, love, lust, greed, betrayal, honor, nobility, you name it. I'd call it a historical fantasy. I was hooked, anxiously waiting for her next part in the story. Her love of writing, her passion, her exuberance for storytelling wrapped me a warm embrace as well. Dina was always encouraging, honest, forthright, and willing to share. She taught me two things: to be writer, you have to be a reader, and that you're always learning.

4. The setting of your Budapest Moon series, early 20th century Hungary, is a rather unusual one for a romance. I understand you spent some time there while in the military. Could you tell us a little about the country and your experiences there?

Tazsur Air Base

I spent 3 months in Hungary from July - October 1997. It's been 14 years now since I was there. I was deployed to the Taszur Air Base and assigned duties as the base physical security NCO. 

The air base was an old Soviet air base they turned over to the Hungarians. The Hungarians in turn leased it to NATO so it could be used as a staging area into the Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian theatre. It was the closest, most practical base to land C-141 and Boeing 747 aircraft. My experiences left several impressions with me.

 Tazsur Air Base

The Hungarian people were warm-hearted, proud, and hard working. I especially loved working with our interpreters. Hungarian is not an easy language to learn with its Russian roots, so I admired their ability to speak English. Most of them were also fluent in a 3rd language - either Russian or German. 

I spent 3 days in Budapest on a USO tour. The city took my breath away. From the Széchenyi Bridge to Fisherman's Bastian, I was in awe.

Back on the base in Taszur, near Kaposvar, I used to go running. What amazed me was the sky. I felt like I could reach up on my tiptoes and touch the clouds. Several of these impressions found their way into the series. Katherine's reflections of the sky and Budapest's cityscape are in The Hungarian.

 Stephanie Burkhart

 The Hungarian countryside was beautiful - lots of green grass, and a moderate temperature. The best cappuccino I ever had was at the cantina on the air base.

Hungarian food was hearty - I especially enjoyed the goulash. There was steak, chicken, potatoes, and peppers. At the time, I didn't appreciate the wine, or tokaji, the country had to offer.

One memory that will always stay with me is walking into the mess hall for breakfast and looking up at the TV only to discover the heartbreaking death of Princess Diana.

5. The Budapest Moon series is a little different than other paranormal romances I've read in that the stories are more historical romances in which a supernatural creature plays a role rather than having an elaborate fantasy world built around them. What made you decide to write something outside the norm?

I wanted to write a romance using a setting where you just might believe supernatural creature lived. With that in mind, I felt confident using Hungary as the setting of the series, especially since I spent time there. Budapest is that rare, undiscovered jewel on the Danube with its exotic architecture, and it captures a unique blend of east and west cultures.

6. At least one character in each book of the Budapest Moon series plays the piano. Do you share their musical talents?

I took guitar lessons when I was in Junior High School, but I never stayed with it. I find listening to the piano soothing to the soul and I thought that a werewolf would also find the piano relaxing as well. It's said music can sooth the savage beast.

7. In the Budapest Moon series, the witches who assist the werewolves through their transition each month, use various plants and herbs to further boost their enhanced healing abilities. Do you have an interest in natural and alternative medicine?

I have a mild interest in natural/alternative medicine. I'd rather take something natural than a pill if I can. In my stories, I prefer more naturalistic healing efforts for the same reasons. Not only that, before doctors used leeches to bleed patients, healers used more natural methods - herbs and roots to cure.

8. In your steampunk, historical time travel romance, Victorian Scoundrel, your fictional British royals seem to share certain characteristics with some members of the real life royal family. Do you consider yourself to be a royal watcher, and if so, do you have a favorite?

Oh, I love the royals! Growing up, I thought Princess Diana was one of the most beautiful women in the world. I admired her charity work and she had a way of touching your heart in an open, honest way. When she died, my heart went out to her boys. I admit I'm a sucker for a love story so I enjoy hearing about William and Kate. In Scoundrel, Alice reveals she has dyslexia - a challenge for any one. "Alice" is inspired by Princess Beatrice. "Edmund," the mischief maker takes his inspiration from Prince Harry. I'm in the preliminary stages now for book 2, A Gentleman and A Rogue, where I introduce Edmund's brother, Richard. Researching is always fun for me.

9. Can you give us any hints as to what might be in store next for the characters of both the Budapest Moon series and the Windsor Diaries?

Book 4 of the Budapest Moon series is due out in December 2012. It's 1927, Budapest, the roaring 20's and Sophia Varga is a successful actress in the Hungarian film industry. She's also carrying on a torrid, passionate affair with Zoltan Kristos, the Minister of Reconstruction. Zoltan is a werewolf who can barely control his feral nature. What will happen when their affair is exposed? The novel is titled: The Secret Door.

Book 2 of the Windsor Diaries, A Gentleman and A Rogue, is due out in November 2012. It's 1855 in Lincoln, England. Edmund, Alice, and Grayson must find Keira and set the time line straight, but Keira's been 4 years without Edmund and she finds Jonas Byron appealing, in an earthy way. Can Edmund win Keira's heart and set the time line right? Complicating matters is Edmund's brother, Richard, who is determined to stop Edmund. When Richard meets Lady Jocelyn Dunkirk, Lord Ridgecroft's daughter, he's smitten. What will Richard do for love?

10. I understand you've had some new books released very recently. Could you tell us about them?

The Faberge Secret is a contemporary romantic suspense that takes place during Christmas. The setting is split between Brattleboro, VT, and St. Petersburg, Russia. The heroine, Elise, is a museum curator. She acquires a rare Faberge Egg. The hero, Dimitri, is the true owner of the egg. Can Dimitri keep himself and Elise safe from his rival who hunts for the egg?

Twilight Over Moldavia is book 2 in my Moldavian Moon series which is set in Romania in the 1880's. The Moldavian Moon series is a shade darker than the Budapest Moon series. In book 2, the hero, Prince Stefan, a witch, has been cursed to become a werewolf on his 18th birthday. (How he came to be cursed is book 1 in the series, The Wolf's Torment.) Complicating the situation is Timon, a werewolf who hunts him, determined to see the curse reach its fruition. Can Caroline's love save Stefan from his curse?

11. What else are you working on that we might see published soon?

I have a fantasy romance due out in April 2012, The Green Rose. Sonia and Ivánstan must seek the green rose in order to bring peace back to Gaia. Can Ivánstan break the battlements around Sonia's heart to earn her trust and love?

In May, my short story, a vintage romance set in 1946 California will be included in the Victory Tales Press Spring/Summer Anthology. It's called Journey of the Heart, and has a "sweet" heat level. Rachel Santori is in danger of losing her winery. Can drifter James help her save it?

12. Last but not least, here's a fun one before we go: If you could trade places for a day with a character in one of your books which one would it be and why?

Oh, that's a tough one. I'd have to say "Alice" from Victorian Scoundrel. That's one girl on a mission. She tries so hard to avoid the mischief, but it always finds her. Then there's Grayson... Beatrice from The Wolf's Torment is a close second.

Thank you so much for visiting with The Hope Chest Reviews today, Stephanie. It has been a pleasure interviewing you, and we wish you all the best.

Author's Bio: A member of Generation X, Stephanie Burkhart was born and raised in Manchester, NH. She joined the US Army for a great adventure and spent 11 years active service, 7 in Germany. Upon leaving, she found herself in California and now works for LAPD as a 911 dispatcher. Her favorite football team is still the New England Patriots.

Visit Stephanie on the Web

Stephanie's Website

 Stephanie's Blog




 You Tube

 Read our reviews of Stephanie's books.

The Hungarian

The Count's Lair

Danube in Candlelight

Victorian Scoundrel

We hosted a givaway of Stephanie's books, during which the entrants had to submit a question about her work. Here is a selection of those questions and Stephanie's answers:

Maggie Toussaint
Why does history hold such a wonderful allure for you? I see threads of history woven through all your books (Victorian Scoundrel, among others) and your deft hand with the subject shows how much you care about getting things right. What drives you to write about the past in a new way?

STEPH: It's a strong connection deep in the fiber of my being that's really hard to explain. I find the past fascinating, and perhaps, it's that "what-if" which drives me to write about the past in a new way.
Cristina Chancellor
What is the most difficult or easiest part in writing about the Victorian era?

STEPH: The most difficult part is doing the research and making sure I'm accurate. The easiest part is imagining the characters and how they act and react to situations given the norms of the society.
Kathy Scott
What do you love about writing?

STEPH: I love how I can use my imagination to create different worlds and settings.
Adella Gonzalez
What was your inspiration for The Hungarian?

STEPH: I wanted to write a paranormal romance with werewolves instead of vampires so I had that in the back of my mind. Next, I needed a setting and since I'd been to Budapest, I thought that would make a lovely setting. I drew on a little of my love for Victoria Holt and her gothic heroes in creating Matthias. Originally, the story was written for the 2008 Writer's Digest Popular Fiction Contest. It was a short story, just under 4K long and the story was the 1st Runner up in the Romance Contest.
Cynthia Hagood
How many best sellers have you had?

STEPH: While I haven't been on any recognized best seller lists, I'd have to say The Hungarian is my best selling title. Just recently, my short story, A Polish Heart, did very well on the Amazon Lists, Reaching #55 in the Free Contemporary Romance category.
Beth Shepherd
How do you balance writing time and family time?

STEPH: I'm a planner. And I have to stay strong to my plan. I have the mornings off so I catch up on emails and type in the morning. In the afternoon, I'm at work, but I can write on my down time which helps. If I'm off, I help the kids with homework.
John Hutchens
What book of yours would you recommend as your most exciting read?

STEPH: My most exciting read is Twilight Over Moldavia. It's book two in my Moldavian Moon series. Prince Stefan is cursed to become a werewolf on his 18th birthday. Can Caroline's love save him?
Zoltan Almasi
Are you Hungarian?

STEPH: No, my background is French, Polish, and Ukrainian.
Jennifer Bielman
Did you have to do any research for Victorian Scoundrel?

STEPH: Yes, I did a lot of research. My topics included: The Great Exhibition of 1851, Prince Albert, Victorian clothes and fashion as well as Hyde Park and Rotten Row.
Debra Pearlstein
What compelled you to write your first novel?

STEPH: My first novel is Destination: Berlin, written under my pen name, SG Cardin and it was inspired by the trip I took on the Berlin Duty Train in 1988. The story went through several edits. It's a 'sweet' romance geared toward a YA audience.
Audrey Larson
What was your inspiration for writing The Hungarian?

STEPH: I get very little inspiration from dreams so the inspiration for The Hungarian came from desires and research. I wanted to write about werewolves and since I'd been to Budapest, I thought it was such a unique setting where you just might believe a werewolf lived there.
Mary Calabrese
Do you ever scare yourself while writing?

STEPH: Did you know I wrote horror short stories for The Tabloid Purposes under my pen name? I have several horror shorts that I wrote that I find scary, but with my romance, I tend to write more suspenseful elements than horror ones.
Amy Woods-Smith
What book are you most proud of writing?

STEPH: Right now, The Count's Lair. It's been recognized by the Reader's Favorite 2011 Award Competition, winning "Silver" in the Romance: Sci-Fi Fantasy Contest. I'm also soft on Anton and Amelia's story.
Terri DeProspero
My question is which of your books is YOUR favorite.

STEPH: This is a toughie. I'd say Victorian Scoundrel, but The Count's Lair is a close second.
Diane Baum
Which was your favorite book to write and how long did it take you to write?

STEPH: Victorian Scoundrel. I started in June 2010 and finished in Sep 2010.
Pamela  Peddy
How long, on average, does it take for you to write a book?

STEPH: 3 Months.
Nicole Belletiere
How long did it take you to write your books?

STEPH: A novel length book generally takes me 3 months give or take a few weeks.
Jason Lawless
How long does it take to write one?

STEPH: Generally, 3 months.

Cindy Thurman
How do you come up with ideas for books?

Sylvia Belle
How do you decide on topics for your books?

Veronica Sandberg
Where do you get your ideas for any of your books?

STEPH: (The answer is for all) For the Budapest Moon Series, I picked my "must haves," Budapest, werewolves, myths, the time frame, then I researched for fashion and inventions for the time. As I researched, ideas started tumbling around in my head. For Danube in Candlelight, I did a bunch of research on the political climate in Hungary in 1922 and interestingly learned there was a budding film industry in Hungary.

The Windsor Diaries: My "must haves" are Victorian England, time travel, and lots of strange steampunk gadgets. Again, as I researched the Victorian age, I stumbled upon the Great Exhibition and decided to build the plot around that event.