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Interview with E. Paige Burks

She is a graduate of Texas A&M University, where she received her degree in Agricultural Communications and Journalism. She lives in Houston with her husband, a toddler, two dogs, and a smattering of cats. She loves to eat Mexican food and take naps!

Her book Return to Royalty won the Draft to Dream contest in the YA category in 2016 before being published in 2017. The Gexalatian Tale Series has been in her head since 2007 when she was just 17 years old and in high school. Seeing the series published and in print is a life-long dream for her.

Q.1 Tell us something about yourself not many people know?
Hmm…I’m really bad at remembering dates. This is important because, in the Return to Royalty world, dates are important. I keep a 1-inch 3-ring binder full of notes and calendars so that I can keep it all straight!

Q.2 When should we expect your next book? What will it be about?
Soon! I’m about halfway finished with the third book in the Gexalatian Tale Series, and I would love to have it finished for a March 2022 release.

Q.3 What made you write A Gexalatian Tale Series?
I started writing this series when I was in high school. I found out about NaNoWriMo, and that’s how it started. However, that was the same year that my grandmother passed away, so in a way, writing these characters became cathartic for me. It was a way to channel my emotions into something constructive and help me deal with the loss. Some of the early manuscripts are pretty angsty because of that!

Q.4 Do you feel any competitive pressure from fantasy films? If not, why?
Of course. My husband compares my book to Twilight a lot, and I hate it because these are my characters and my ideas and not the least bit like Twilight, in my opinion. Am I influenced by films like that? Absolutely! You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who isn’t influenced by something they’ve consumed, be it movies or books. But I enjoy the fantasy genre as a whole, so if it looks interesting to me, I’ll watch it. And my characters have been with me for so long now that I’m not worried about those things influencing the story. I already know where I want the story to go, and I’ve already written the ending…now. I just need to write everything in between.

Q.5 What is one stereotype about fantasy writers is absolutely wrong? What one stereotype is dead on?
Wrong: I don’t drink a lot of coffee like most authors say they do. I enjoy some every now and then, but not a lot.

Accurate: I have a cat. Four, to be exact! I once thought I would only be “the mother of cats,” but then my son came along, so now I’m “mother of cats and boy,” lol.

Q.6 Do you ever research real events, legends, or myths to get ideas?
Yes! I love to read Greek mythology, Nordic mythology, and Egyptian mythology. I also love to use names from those cultures. I just love the ideas of the stories! I also research Latin to use as the base for the language in my series. I don’t have Tolkien-level language creating abilities, but it’s cool to use words that actually stem from a real language.

Q.7 What is the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
Honestly, and this is super weird. It took me a long time to realize that men are just like women. They feel feelings and have thoughts and emotions and are human just like anyone else. The day I realized that I think my characters became much more dynamic, especially since my two main characters are a male and a female. I did a lot of emotional growth throughout writing this series, and it’s interesting to look back on how young/naïve I was and to see how far I’ve come. I came from a very sheltered, religious upbringing, so I think that’s why it took me so long to see each person for who they truly are.

Q.8 Where do you as an author draw the line on gory descriptions and/or erotic content?
Haha, this is a tough question for me. As I mentioned, I came from a rather sheltered upbringing, so sex was a total no-no. I do think it’s exciting to tip-toe around it. I don’t like to write erotic content explicitly because I feel like it can take away a bit of the excitement of the romance plot. Also, since I write for YA readers, I’d like to keep my books age-appropriate.

As far as gore, I do have some scenes that are bloody, but nothing that you wouldn’t find in, say, anime or something like that. I don’t like violence for the sake of violence, but I do feel like there are times when it’s necessary to show how cruel your villain can be.

Q.9 How many books have you written? Which one is your favorite?
So far, I have written three books and two short stories, which have been featured in anthologies. My favorite book is definitely Return to Royalty, and my favorite short story is called Hitler’s Guardian Angel.

Q.10 How do you select the name of your characters?
I use a website that has a lot of different categories of name generators. Some names I have no idea, so I got there, and some names, like Nyx and Jet, I knew right from the beginning. I’m big on names having meaning, so I like to make sure that the names match the characters.

Q.11 What fantasy realm would you choose to live in and why?
This is tough. I’d love to live in Gexalatia or somewhere like the Eragon Universe, but I’d need to have magic and have my own dragon. I love dragons.

Q.12 Do you believe in writer’s block? If yes, how do you deal with it?
Yes and no. I think sometimes writer’s block is simply procrastination, and I also think writer’s block is actually not having any ideas and being stuck because you don’t know where to go from there. Usually, when I get stuck, I put the piece away for a while, or I pick up the story somewhere else and write the scene in my mind, then come back and stitch the pieces together.

Q.13 Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with good or bad ones?
Yes, I think everyone does. Bad ones get me down, but I’ve got a lot of supportive people around me who don’t hesitate to remind me that my book won an award. It can’t be that bad if it won an award, right?? But it definitely feels very personal when someone criticizes the thing that I love and have poured my blood, sweat, tears, and soul into!

Q.14 Do you have any unique and quirky writing habits?
I write in spurts. I hole up in a room and want to be left alone, and can be like that for a number of days at a time. I turn into a hermit, and then once the spurt is over, I’m back to ‘real-life.’

Q.15 Outside of your family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author?
I have a former teacher who was majorly supportive. I credit him for giving me the push I needed when I was dealing with a lot of difficult life changes as a young adult to keep me from giving up on my writing. Thank you, Mr. B!

Q.16 Who designed your book covers? How do you select him/her?
The cover for Return to Royalty was part of the winnings from the Draft to Dream contest. For the rest of the series, there is an artist that I love whom I work with. I think I will eventually have her redo the first book cover to match the others, but her artwork is fantastic, so it’s expensive. For my other book, The Heart of the Guardian, I did the artwork myself. I’ve actually become quite proficient in design since starting my publishing journey, and I actually just started a job a few months ago as a graphic designer, even though I don’t have any formal training! I was freelance for a while as a designer and editor, so I’ve done a handful of covers for my clients.

Q.17 What three things should readers expect from your books?
Action, adventure, and romance. And magic and dragons.

Q.18 Which famous person, living or dead, would you like to meet and why?
I would have loved to have seen Freddie Mercury live at a concert. I love Queen, and I love his voice. He was so dynamic as a vocalist, and it’s truly a tragedy that he’s not around anymore to create more amazing music. I think I’d also like to meet Lady Gaga. I bet she’s cool.

Q.19 What is your favorite book by other authors and why?
The book that really catapulted me into wanting to be a fantasy writer was The Sight by David Clement-Davies. It was the first book that I remember reading as a child and being moved to tears. That was the book that “opened my eyes” to what a skilled writer could do within a fantasy world.

Q.20 Share the experience of your journey so far?
Amazing! Scary! Exciting! Hard. For anyone out there who has a story to tell, just tell it. Even if it’s just for you and no one else. Do what you love and write from the heart, and the rest will fall into place.

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