Meet Novelist Darcy Burke

Award-winning writer Darcy Burke transports her readers to the Regency period with tales set in England, Scotland, and Wales. Her considerable talent thrust her into the limelight in 2008 when she finaled in the prestigious Golden Heart®. She loves all things British—except tea and eating tomatoes for breakfast—and makes a mean Yorkshire pudding.

Darcy lives on the edge of wine country in the suburbs of Portland, Oregon with her husband of 18 years, her 9-year-old dancing daughter, and her 5-year-old Thomas the Tank Engine-loving son. They have three cats. Maura can’t get enough petting. Maura’s sister, Kira, is a five-year cancer survivor who lost her right rear leg after radiation therapy. Duke is a young Bengal cat who enjoys stalking the sisters and cuddling with Darcy’s kids.

Before becoming a mom, Darcy worked as a technical writer and project manager. These days she’s a serial volunteer. She’s currently serving as president of the parent support organization at her daughter’s elementary school. Volunteering has been her way of life for some time. She spent more than a decade volunteering at the international level for her sorority, Phi Sigma Sigma, including five years on the board of directors. In those rare times when Darcy’s not busy with her kids, helping at their schools, or writing, she enjoys wine tasting, scrapbooking, and, of course, reading. Her favorite books are romance and YA. She takes in some movies and a select number of television shows, including LOST, The Amazing Race, The Vampire Diaries, and 24.

Join me as we learn more about Darcy and her journey to publication.

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Darcy’s Journey Begins

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•Did you jump into writing and rocket to contest fame, or did the process happen over time?

I started writing in high school. Handwritten pages of dreck. I started a bunch of novels between then and my 30s, and my big plan was to write my bestseller while on maternity leave with my daughter. Hahahaha.

I decided to get “serious” about writing in 2005—and then it took me a good year to get to the place where I felt like I was a “writer,” meaning writing almost every day. I thought about finishing one of the books I’d started, but instead decided to write a “practice” book. That book took 13 months to finish and man, was it practice. It currently resides in the dark recesses of my hard drive where it will enjoy eternity.

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•Why did you choose to write historicals? What is it about the Regency period you find most fascinating?

Like most college students, I tried out a few majors before settling on history, which I just loved. When asked if I planned to be a history teacher, I said, “No, I’m going to write historical romance novels!”

As you said in my intro, I pretty much love everything British. I did a lot of my college studies on medieval and Tudor England. In fact, I sort of stayed away from anything post-1800 and now I’m writing in that very period. I write Regency because that’s what I enjoy reading. It’s also a bit more sanitary than medieval times. :-) Some day I’d love to write a series set in Elizabethan England.

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•We’re all writers, whether our efforts are emails, grocery lists, or notes to our children’s teachers. You’ve done technical writing and published a number of articles. How do the skills you learned in those endeavors contribute to your novel writing?

Technical writing really helped me write with clarity and brevity. One of my critique partners says I’m a very economical writer (which she means as a compliment, and which I take as such) and I’m sure that comes from the tech writing background.

I’ve written numerous manuals, training documents, PR materials, and magazine articles for my sorority. I also served as an editor of our magazine. I really appreciated the opportunity to work with professional women of all backgrounds and ages, and learned so much from them. Writing of any kind helps improve your written communication skills. Never underestimate the importance and power of that grocery list!

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Darcy’s Milestones

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•Things really began happening for you in 2008. One could say it was a Glorious year. Why is that?

My first novel taught me a lot about, well, everything, so when I started writing my second novel, Glorious, I had much more confidence. The book and the process just felt different. It was not only easier, it was more fun. I also began working with a specific critique partner who was brilliant at showing me the importance of word choice and making each sentence count. The first contest I entered Glorious in was the Yellow Rose, where it took second place. This was followed by first place in the Summer Sizzle and second place in the Maggies. The capper, of course, was when it was named a 2008 Golden Heart Finalist.

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•March 25, 2008 is a day forever etched in the memories of 64 romance writers. Phones rang in the U.S., Canada, Great Britain, and Australia telling those women they were Golden Heart finalists. One of those calls was yours! When did it come? What were you doing at the time? And how long and loudly did you squee?

It was spring break and we were packing to go to the beach with my parents. I knew it was “the day” and I must admit I was dragging my feet with the packing (had to keep checking those blogs that were tracking phone calls!). It was probably around 10:30 a.m. and I was upstairs packing when the call came, but my husband beat me to the phone. I heard what he said to the caller and immediately knew there was something up. I don’t even remember who called me, but I sank down on my son’s toddler bed and listened, dumbfounded. After I hung up, my husband gave me a hug and was very patient as I emailed my CPs and other writers. It was a day-long squee. Oh, and thankfully the campground had Wi-fi so I suppose it was more than a day long…

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•Good news came your way again last month in the form of another phone call—this one from a top-notch agent. Please share the experience and what it meant to you.

Well, that phone call was every bit as exciting as the Golden Heart call. On January 4, I was on the phone with my mom and the caller ID didn’t come up. Even so, I just felt I should click over and it was Jim McCarthy of Dystel and Goderich. I’d queried him right before Christmas and he was kind enough to request the full. He read really fast! Shaking, I asked him to hold on. He said I could call him back and I said, “No! This is great!” I was thrilled to accept his offer and am so excited to work with him. Finding the right agent is sooooo important. Truly one of the most important things you’ll do in your writing career.

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Darcy’s Challenges

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•Writers face many challenges. What are some of yours?

Time. Budgeting time can be tough with two little kids. I keep thinking it’ll get easier but my friends with older kids says it just gets harder because pretty soon you become a taxi service.

Wanting to do everything. If I could get away with sleeping four hours a night (or less!), I’d do it. I hate missing things. Hmmm, I think this became about time again, LOL.

Not crying at inopportune moments. I’m a bit of a heart-on-my-sleeve kind of girl and it only seems to be getting worse. I can’t sing in public because I cry. I can’t watch singing in public because I cry (not a concert, but a musical or kid show, etc.). I can’t talk publicly about people I care about (like give an award or a thank you to someone) because I cry. It’s so embarrassing! Writing lets me do it all on paper. No crying that way. :-)

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Darcy’s Writing Process

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•Pantser or Plotter?

I’ve used a different process for each book. I’ve been a pantser (not a good idea) and a plotter (works much better for me). I’ve used storyboards and outlines. I really wish I had a consistent process. Remember, I used to be a project manager! I used a detailed scene-by-scene outline for my last book and I liked that quite a bit. I’ve started using that for my WIP and so far it’s working well. Maybe I have a winner! Whatever the process, I definitely need some sort of road map. I’m absolutely in awe of people who can sit and write to turning points off the top of their head.

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•Plot-driven or character-driven?

Character-driven. One of my favorite shows is LOST and that’s just about as good as character-driven stories get. Sure, there’s lots of other stuff going on too, but the characters are what makes that other stuff interesting. Characters are what invests me in a book, a movie, a television show. No surprise that I’m a people person too.

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•Go with the flow or follow a schedule?

Right now go with the flow. When both kids are in school every day, I’ll be able to set a schedule, but for now, things are much more fluid and it works okay.

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•Research in advance or as you write?

Both. I research the time and setting, and things that affect major plot points. I also research things as they come up. For example, if I decide to write a scene in an actual  place (like Vauxhall or Almack’s) and I need to know specific things about it: what’s going on there on or around that date, how’s it laid out, etc., I’ll research that stuff on the fly. I have a lot of books, one of my favorites being the Encyclopedia of London. Seriously awesome tome that includes every street, nook, and cranny, and all the places therein from the entire history of London.

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•Noise or quiet?

Both. I don’t often get true quiet, but I like it a lot. I do some of my best mulling/plotting driving in my car in silence (when the kids aren’t with me, of course!). I’ve been known to listen to music occasionally, but it often becomes a distraction I can’t tune out. I like  music!

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Partners on Darcy’s Journey

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•Our characters claim much of our time as we spend hours in front of our computers capturing their stories. However, each of us has a cast of real life characters who inspire, encourage, and support us. Who are some of the many members of Team Darcy?

About six months after I started writing more seriously, I joined a Yahoo critique loop. On that loop I met Lacey Kaye, Jackie Barbosa, and Erica Ridley. I still crit with all of them as well as another writer, Janice Goodfellow who I met through Jackie. It’s amazing the relationships that develop online in the writing community. I consider these women among my closest friends and I’ve never even met Janice!

My husband is incredibly supportive despite not “getting” the romance genre. I laugh at this because he’s never even tried to read a romance, including mine. Yet, he loves romantic movies. If a movie doesn’t have a happy ending, he’s pretty annoyed. He’s a total romantic at heart. I think I just have to find the right book for him to read.

I also have this amazing friend, Kayla McAfee, who reads all my books. Multiple times. Our daughters went to preschool together and one day I was at her house working on class scrapbooks (we were the scrapbookers for their class – what a job that was!). She had an open Judith McNaught book on a table in her living room. She’s one of my all-time favorite authors and we gabbed about our favorite books and authors all night. I dragged her to hear Julia Quinn talk not long after that and we’ve been dishing romance ever since.

Finally, there’s my mom, to whom I owe my love of romance. Mom also reads my books and is so wonderfully supportive, both in my writing and every facet of my life. I’m lucky enough to live just 10 minutes from her and appreciate the time we get to spend together. Growing up she was my biggest inspiration and I can’t wait for her to see my books on a shelf!

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Darcy’s Journey Continues

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•What are you working on now?

I’m working on edits from my agent in preparation for submission to editors. I’m really enjoying this process. I’m also working on another book that features secondary characters from the one we’re prepping.

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•I understand another category may be calling your name. Is that so?

Maybe! I have an intriguing idea for a YA about brother and sister twins that I’d like to pursue. Though it’s a YA, it’s still a romance at heart.

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Five Things Darcy Has Around Her When She Writes

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~ Cherry coke – I drink one every day, usually late morning. I don’t drink coffee so this is my caffeine crutch

~ Lip balm – I apply it perhaps a bit compulsively

~ A cat – usually Kira, in fact she’s sitting here right now…

~ Sticky notes – for jotting research notes, reminders (both writing and non-writing related), and books I want to read (sooooo many)

~ Distraction – it’s where I’m at in life. When my son starts kindergarten next fall it will get quieter, but I’m not sure that’s a good thing. :-)

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An Accomplishment That Means a Great Deal to Darcy

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You know, for all that I like to talk, I don’t like drawing attention to my successes. I mean, I like to share and all, but it’s hard for me to say, “Lookee what I did!” That said, for me the single greatest accomplishment in my life is being a mom. I never, ever imagined it would be, but it’s one of those things you can’t know until you do it. I planned to be a working mom, but as soon as my daughter was born I knew I couldn’t leave her. (I did, but only for about 5 weeks until the day care gave her someone else’s breast milk – I took that as a sign!)

My daughter has sensory processing disorder (you can Google it, because I could devote an entire blog site to that journey!) and at 9 years old she is so successful and so capable, and I know it’s because of the commitment I made as her mom (and my husband as her dad). She’s had a wonderful support group (speech therapists, occupational therapists, hippotherapist, grandparents, friends, so many people!) over the years and has been able to thrive and grow into an amazing little girl. I’m so, so proud to be her mommy.

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•Oh, Darcy, my heart goes out to you. Watching a beloved child deal with difficulties is one of the most challenging aspects of parenting. I’m sure being there for your daughter has impacted your writing life. How do you deal with her disorder, and what have you learned about yourself because of it?

It’s definitely played a role in my writing, and perhaps I’d be further along in my career if there hadn’t been hurdles for our family, but I wouldn’t change a thing. Being her mom has taught me so much about patience and selflessness and what it really means to love someone unconditionally. I firmly believe things happen for a reason and in good time. I was meant to be her mom and when the time is right for our family, my writing career will take off.

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Darcy’s Question for You

•I’ve enjoyed having you as my guest, Darcy. You gave great answers to my questions. Now it’s time to see what your guests have to say, so go for it.

When you talk about romance novels with people, what attributes do you find yourself drawn to? If you’re talking to someone who’s never read a romance and you want them to experience what you love, what book would you recommend for them to read?

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Learn More About Darcy

Visit her website ~ www.darcyburke.com

Friend her on Facebook~ Darcy Burke

Follow her on Twitter ~ darcyburke

About Keli Gwyn

I'm an award-winning author of inspirational historical romance smitten with the Victorian Era. I'm currently writing for Harlequin's Love Inspired Historical line of wholesome, faith-filled romances. My debut novel, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California, was released July 1, 2012. I'm represented by Rachelle Gardner of Book & Such Literary. I live in a Gold Rush-era town at the foot of the majestic Sierras. My favorite places to visit are my fictional worlds, other Gold Country towns and historical museums. When I'm not writing I enjoy taking walks, working out at Curves™ and reading.
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30 Responses to Meet Novelist Darcy Burke

  1. MaryC says:

    Hi Darcy,

    I love your GH call story. I remember my first one. We had squirrels living in the roof above my baby’s room and I was freaking out because I could hear them scratching on the light fixture. I remember babbling something to the caller about how I was so excited to final that I didn’t even care about the squirrels anymore. She must have really thought I was nuts. (No pun intended;)

    I really enjoyed your interview. I teach 9-10 year old’s so I really appreciate hearing about your daughter’s success. It’s so hard to see children struggle.

    Best of luck to you!

  2. Anne Barton says:

    Hi Darcy — I’m a bit late, but I wanted to say hi. What a great interview. I loved your husband’s comment and am now wondering if you’ll dedicate your first book to the cat, him, or both. ;)

    Congrats on all your successes, writing and otherwise!

  3. Quilt Lady says:

    Hi Darcy, great interview! I would recomend any thing by Constance O’Banyon or Elaine Levine to any one that hasn’t read romance before. Also Elizabeth Hoyt, all of these authors are great.

  4. Darcy Burke says:

    Hi Bev! I can never get enough call stories either. They’re wonderful things to read when I’m having a bad day. :)

    Thanks for stopping by, Mary. Squirrels?! That’s a new one for me. I’ve heard of mice, raccoons, but never squirrels. Did you try training them like Willy Wonka? ;)

    Hi Anne, great to “see” you! Yeah, my hubby’s a keeper for sure. And I have to dedicate my first book to my kids and my mom too. My daughter sort of expects to see her name inside (she really likes Julia Quinn books because her name–Quinn–is on the cover).

    Quilt Lady, I love Elizabeth Hoyt. The Serpent Prince is one of my all-time favorite books.

  5. Great in-depth interview. I’m write with you with the waterworks, but I don’t let them stop me from speaking. :) I have been known to cry at certain commercials. Life is full of lovely surprises and I’m so happy to hear of your agent call. I predict great things this year for you and I can hardly wait to see you in print.

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