Friday, November 18, 2011

Interview with Dana Michelle Burnett

Can you tell readers a little bit about yourself and what inspired to write in this particular genre?

I’ve written for years. I wrote several short stories that were published in literary magazines, those became my first literary novel, but I craved the freedom that the paranormal offered. It was so tempting to write in a genre where anything is possible.

What is it about the paranormal, in particular ghosts, that fascinates you so much?

I think it would be hard to find a person that in some way has not been touched by the paranormal in their everyday lives and every town in America has its ghost stories. I’ve been lucky enough to live near a Civil War battle field and many old mansions, so there was an abundance of stories.

What inspired you to write this book?

I was just day dreaming one day, playing the “what if” game that all writers play. I had the idea of a ghost inhabiting the body of a teenage girl’s date at a dance. I couldn’t shake it, so I went with it.

Please tell us about your latest release.

Spiritus is about a teenage girl that moves to her family’s ancestral home in an Indiana small town. It isn’t long before strange things start to happen and she realizes the ghost of a man who claims to be her husband from a former life haunts the place. As the secrets unravel, she begins to wonder if it’s love or revenge that the ghost wants.

Do you have a special formula for creating characters' names? Do you try to match a name with a certain meaning to attributes of the character or do you search for names popular in certain time periods or regions?

I was lucky with my characters for Spiritus. Becca, the name of the heroine came from popular Civil War era names and popular names of teenage girls in my area. You can’t swing a dead cat around without hitting a Becky, Beckie, or Rebecca. I was at Wal-Mart and overheard some girls talking about a friend of theirs named Becca and decided it was just unusual enough to work. As far as Alastor, I’ve loved the name since I heard it back in elementary school, but it was Alasdair. When I was researching the ethnic origin of the name, I discovered that another version (Alastor) actually means “vengeful spirit”.

Was one of your characters more challenging to write than another?

Jonah Ericson, the other love interest, was difficult to write because I just didn’t want him with Becca. A writer shouldn’t pick favorites, but Alastor just captured my imagination in a way Jonah didn’t. Jonah was a little to full of himself and still too immature.

Is there a character that you enjoyed writing more than any of the others?

Alastor was so much fun to write. He was playful and mischievous, but still managed to just pull at my heart strings. He is just so honest and a true gentleman, that’s something you don’t see very often. His entire existence is tied to Becca and he never lets her forget it. I’m looking forward to more of his pranks in the second book.

Do you have a formula for developing characters? Like do you create a character sketch or list of attributes before you start writing or do you just let the character develop as you write?

I actually pick out celebrities, models, random catalog people, and other photos to represent my characters. It helps to flesh them out in my mind, thanks to Photoshop I can change eye and hair color so that they match what I’ve imagined. For Becca, I also had to create a family tree so that I could visualize her relationship to Alastor. In this book, even the house itself is a character of sorts so I chose a few of the houses in downtown Corydon and combined them in Photoshop. I also sketched out a detailed floorplan to help me.

What is your favorite scene from the book? Could you share a little bit of it, without spoilers of course?

My favorite scene is the Homecoming Dance. Becca is making an attempt to be normal and agrees to go with Jonah. While there Alastor takes over Jonah’s body so that he can dance with Becca and actually kiss her. Becca doesn’t realize anything until he kisses her and then she realizes it’s Alastor. It’s sort of my wow moment.

“May I have this dance?”

I turned to see a much recovered Jonah holding his hand out to me. Without a word, I placed my hand in his and let him lead me to the dance floor. His strong arms pulled me close, holding me against his body.

“My beautiful Becca,” He said in a moist whisper against my forehead.

I waited for him to say something else, but he didn’t. When I stole a glance up at him he had his eyes closed while his lips still rested against my hair. I felt that there was something that I should say or do, but I didn’t know what it could be. I shifted slightly away from him.

“Don’t.” Jonah begged.

Without opening his eyes, he lowered his lips to mine. He brushed his mouth over mine with such gentleness that I wouldn’t have been sure that he even kissed me if it wasn’t for the tingling running through my body.

Neither of us moved, his lips hovered over mine. He pulled me even closer, this time his lips lingered, making my knees go weak. There was a sensual passion this time. There was no trace of boyish clumbsiness.

I knew then and pulled away, terrified and not sure how he did it.

“Alastor!” I gasped.

I looked up into Jonah’s face, searching his eyes for an answer, but behind his face, deep in the soul of those eyes was Alastor.

“How?” Was all I could ask.

Pulling me close again, he looked down at me through another man’s eyes. Images of old movies with tearful endings came to mind as he pulled me to him.

“Please don’t scream.” He said against my hair.

“How did you do it?” I demanded, nearing hysteria.

“Does it matter?” He asked as we waltzed about the floor, so much more graceful than before. “You asked for a kiss and I gave it to you.”

I tried to fend off panic. I knew this was impossible. I was shaking so badly that my teeth began to chatter. “Alastor…I can’t…”

“Please,” Alastor begged. “Please, you asked me to give you this one night. I’m asking you to give me this one moment.”

Did you find anything really interesting while researching this or another book?

The name thing with Alastor was interesting and then there was a little bit about Cedar Glade that caught my attention. Cedar Glade was a farm in Corydon and during Morgan’s raid, townspeople gathered there during the battle. It didn’t play a very big role in Spiritus, but it will in the next book. I can’t even imagine the fear and panic inside that house as cannon balls landed in the yard. I’m thinking that Becca should have a very vivid memory of that; something tells me that a hundred years wouldn’t make you forget that.

What is the most interesting thing you have physically done for book related research purposes?

I tend to act out the motions of my characters as I write, so getting caught with a toy pistol or practicing how a person could manage to hit her head in a quarry bottom tops the list. While not really interesting to most, it was pretty humiliating for me.

Can you tell readers a little bit about the world building in the book/series? How does this world differ from our normal world?

This world isn’t so different. Anyone that has ever visited a small town will understand. The pace of life in small towns is different and there aren’t really any strangers. Everyone looks slightly familiar and know each other going back for generations. It’s not so much a different world as a different way of life.

Do any of your characters have similar characteristics of yourself in them and what are they?

Becca and I both have difficulty developing friendships. She and I both tend to be on the outside of everything looking in. It took me a long time to be okay with that and as the series progresses, I hoping that will come out in Becca too.

Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? How do you deal with it? I tend to get writer’s block at the beginning of a new novel. After that, the characters wake me up at night and the story takes over every drive or walk. When writer’s block does happen, I tend to listen to music in themes related to the scene that I’m writing. Usually that helps and I’m back to going without sleep or peaceful drives in no time.

Do you have any weird writing quirks or rituals?

I used to smoke, so I keep a pen or pencil handy to chew on or just twirl between my fingers. I also tend to talk to myself or argue with my characters aloud which is fine if I’m working at home, but people tend to look at me a little funny if I’m working at McDonalds.

Do you write in different genres?

I wrote one non-fiction book and then focused all of my attention on my fiction work. I released my short stories in a literary novel entitled Ghost Country. I wrote a contemporary romance, Two Out of Three, that I released just before Spiritus.

Do you find it difficult to write in multiple genres?

Not really, but it hasn’t made me very successful. Readers tend to associate a writer with a particular genre, but I changed genres with each phase of my life. I wrote Two Out of Three when I was young and single. To show how young I was, it took me close to fifteen years to gain the confidence to publish it. Everything back then was about the perfect man and complicated relationships. I began writing Ghost Country after my daughter started asking questions about our Native American heritage. Now, I’m writing about the paranormal which I do have to say has been my favorite so far.

When did you consider yourself a writer?

I really considered myself a writer when an essay of mine was published and I was paid $100. I think I told everyone from bank tellers to drive thru attendants that I was officially a real writer. I wrote pretty steady for the next few years, then marriage and my daughter took over my life. It wasn’t until last year that I remember that part of myself. I realized I really missed being that person, a real writer, and I couldn’t wait to write again. When I decided to start writing again, this time I told everyone that I was getting back to the real me.

What are your guilty pleasures in life?

I love a good glass of red wine, a good book, and my bed. I’m also a reality show addict and I love old movies. I discovered The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing about a month ago and it’s my newest favorite. The older I get, the simpler my guilty pleasures get.

Other than writing, what are some of your interests, hobbies or passions in life?

I am the proud dance mom to a beautiful eight year old girl. So we spend a lot of time on her passion, competitive dance, and I often feel that I’m just along for the ride. I also love gardening and travel.

What was the last amazing book you read?

I loved Amanda Hocking’s Switched and I’m looking forward to the re-release in January. It has to be my favorite paranormal book of late, but I still have a connection to my literary roots and I don’t think anything beats Angela’s Ashes.

Where is your favorite place to read? Do you have a cozy corner or special reading spot?

I love reading in bed. I slip into pajamas, prop myself up with pillows, cover up, and read into the wee hours of the night. It’s amazing!

What can readers expect next from you?

My next book will be book #2 in the series entitled Haunted, then book #3 Incarnate, and after that I’m not sure.

Where can readers find you on the web?

I’m everywhere! Facebook at , Twitter at , and my site


A love that refuses to die…

“As I watched him vanish into a soft mist that faded away, I knew that he was no ordinary spirit…I knew that he was a dangerous entity that could be in some corner of another realm planning his revenge, but I also knew that I was hopelessly in love with him.”

When Becca moves into her ancestral home in Corydon, Indiana, her life takes a puzzling and thrilling turn when she meets the ghost haunting the halls. As the seductive spirit lures her closer and closer, she learns about her own past and starts to understand that some mistakes are meant to last.

Becca McAllister has always been different from other girls her age. Never part of the "in crowd", Becca never really fit in anywhere. When her mother dies and her father moves them to the small town of Corydon, Indiana, Becca didn't expect things to change.

But things do change when Becca accidentally makes contact with a one hundred and sixty year old ghost, Alastor Sinclair, that haunts the halls of her new home.

To Becca, Alastor is a seductive spirit that seems to see straight into her soul. To Alastor, Becca is what he was waited a century for--A second chance.

But the closer they get, the more Becca realizes that this isn't the first time she and Alastor have known each other. Worse still, is she the one responsible for his death so long ago? And if so, did he come back for love or revenge?

Available at

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