Friday, August 24, 2018

Interview with H.L. Burke (Spice Bringer Blog Tour)

Today we're excited to welcome H.L. Burke to Lands Uncharted as part of the Spice Bringer blog tour! I'll share more about the book below, but first we have an interview with the author! Enjoy! (If you like cats and / or the TV show Psych, I'm pretty sure you will 😊)

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I'm a chaotic creature. A military wife. A mother of two superhero princesses. The keeper of an awesome Majestic Tiger Beast. Wrangler of dragons. I keep busy. I write stories. Do you have any coffee? I think I need coffee.

I can see why! What prompted you to start writing? Are you one of those authors who knew you were meant to write since childhood, or did it come as a discovery later in life?

Definitely childhood. I started dictating stories to my mother before I could write, though I'm not sure I had a concept of it as a “career.” Calling it a career even now seems weird to me. I'm still not sure I'm not just playing with words.

I know what you mean! Which fictional character (book or movie) do you most relate to, and why?

Shawn Spencer is my spirit animal. I adore the TV show Psych with is quirky, quippy, referential humor, and I love how Shawn does what he wants and never lets anyone tell him no. His weakness, not wanting anything to be taken seriously, especially him, is also kind of my weakness. Plus we're both fans of delicious flavor. We have the sweetness.

Such a great show :) What are your go-to foods or beverages while writing?

In a rare “day-time” session, I'll do coffee or tea. I don't usually eat while writing, but I might save a piece of candy or ice cream as a reward if I hit my goal. I usually write at night, though, which means it's wine time. Maybe herbal tea if the wine's gone (Why's the wine gone?!!?!).

Time for a late-night wine run! What advice would you share with an aspiring author?

Unless you are wildly allergic, get a cat. If you are allergic, I'd suggest a plushie. Dragons also work, but they're harder to come by. Cats are great for marketing. If you don't have anything published yet but want to start your social media presence, post cat pictures. The internet will love you. Also, you can observe your cat and write about them. Cats inspire great literature all the time. Most of my favorite characters are human cats. I really like cats. Did I mention that?

You really do post some of the best cat pictures. We're all about exploring new worlds here at Lands Uncharted - if you could choose one place to visit, real or fictional, where would you go?

I've always wanted to take a vacation in the world of the Myst computer games. I like solving puzzles. I like the ambiance. It's fantastic but with low risk of death. No Orcs with battle axes. Just different ages you can hop to using linking books. Plus you probably have to solve a multi-step puzzles and read three journal entries just to use the bathroom, so I'd never be bored.

Ooh, good choice! Now, let’s talk about your new release! What inspired you to write it?

I was watching one of those trivia channels on Youtube (I can't remember which one), and they were talking about why salt and pepper were the primary seasonings in western cuisine. Salt has a storied past as a preservative of great value, but pepper is an odd little spice. Why that instead of paprika or saffron or chili powder? Part of the video was a story that spice traders used to talk up the value of pepper by claiming it was grown in groves guarded by serpents … which was a cool idea. Originally it was just a story about that, then I asked why the spice was so valuable in the world.

Around the same time, I started developing terrible asthma like symptoms that were keeping me up at night unable to breathe.

I mentioned I love cats? Well, my best cat ever is my current cat, Bruce Wayne (Batcat). He is the most affectionate cat I'd ever had, and he decided he wanted to sleep pretty much on my head every night.

What I didn't realize what that I had a mild cat allergy that apparently had been suppressed for my whole life but which now decided it wanted my attention. So … I cured the night wheezes by telling Bruce he couldn't be in the bedroom anymore (he still hasn't forgiven me), but those night time episodes had me thinking about a character dealing with serious lung issues, and Niya grew out of that.

Interesting! How did you develop the fantasy world of Spice Bringer?

In bits and pieces. I mentioned the pepper snakes in a previous answer. Niya's disease “the rasp” also has been covered. The choice to make the country the story takes place in more tropical, resembling India/South East Asia, came naturally from the subject matter (that's where many spices originated).

The system with the monks and the various branches of their religion partially came out of a conversation with a friend who said, “Why do characters never talk to God/gods in fantasy?” My thought was that, well, if characters could get direct information about the best choice to make from God, they'd always make the right choice and therefore no mistakes and no mistakes is very bad for conflict…but then I thought of a character who maybe has that option, to talk to God, but chooses for some reason not to listen…and something bad happens. That brought me the followers of the All-Knowing God and Jayesh, the disgraced former monk who lost everything in one act of disobedience and is on a path of redemption.

I love that! Can you share anything about what you’re working on now?

I'm working through the third book in a romantic fantasy trilogy. It's called “The Green Princess.” The books in the series are Flower, Fallow, and Flourish. Book one is out, so you'll have to read it because I can't talk about the third book without spoiling major plot points in books one and two (two will be out hopefully in September). However, the series as a whole has a protagonist with plant magic, an adorable plant dragon, and a love interest who is just…daww…he's like a human puppy dog with protective instincts and big gray eyes and all the adorbs.

He really is a sweetheart, and the plant magic is so cool! No visit to Lands Uncharted is complete without Top 3s! Give us a Top 3 list, in the category of your choice.

Psych episodes:

"Lights, Camera, Homicido" - absolute hilarious undercover set up, James Roday's purposefully awful Spanish accent, the blurring of fantasy and reality … writer humor

"Shawn and Gus of the Dead" - Mummy! The camera sequence. Gus running from things screaming. The thirteen point turn.


Ha, I totally should've seen that one coming :) If you want to see some of these Bruce pictures and more Psych references, you can find H.L. Burke on her website, Facebook page, Reader Group, Twitter, and Instagram. Now, don't you want to hear more about this fantastic book?? Here's the back cover blurb:

A deadly disease. A vanishing remedy. A breathless journey.

All her life, Niya's known she will die young from the fatal rasp. She survives only with the aid of vitrisar spice and a magical, curmudgeonly fire salamander named Alk. Then an ambitious princess burns down the vitrisar grove in an effort to steal Alk so she can claim her rightful throne. Joined by Jayesh, a disgraced monk, Niya and Alk must flee to the faraway Hidden Temple with the last vitrisar plant, or all who suffer from the rasp will perish.

But even as Niya’s frustration and banter with Jayesh deepen to affection, the rasp is stealing away her breath and life.

For a girl with limited time and a crippling quest, love may be more painful than death.

Spice Bringer releases on August 28th! You can pre-order it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and iBooks, or at Uncommon Universes for an autographed paperback! And believe me, you want to, because I had the opportunity to read an advance review copy, and this book is SO GOOD!! Also, make sure to stop by the Facebook Release Party on August 31st! Not only do you get to hang out with Heidi, but I might even be making an appearance... :) 

Thank you so much for stopping by, Heidi, and congratulations on your new release!


  1. Love this story, and I enjoyed hearing the way the different ideas fell together. That strangeness is the way of it for us creative types.

  2. Great interview, Heidi! I enjoyed learning about your story inspiration, and it is really interesting that traders claimed pepper groves were guarded by serpents.

    1. It's a fun story, even though I really got far away from that original inspiration in the written book. The pepper snakes are there, but they're more a nuisance and only really at the very beginning.


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