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Monsters are funny. Fight me.

1) Let’s start with the basics. What is your Author name; use your Pen name if you have one.

Scott Burtness

2) What is your genre and what drew you to it?

I write horror and paranormal comedy. You want Children of the Corn? I want Children of the Cornballs. You want Dawn of the Dead? I want Dawn, Dishsoap of the Dead. In a nutshell, I love writing about ordinary folks making an extraordinary mess of things. For me, though, ‘ordinary’ includes vampires, werewolves, zombies, sasquatches, witches, aliens, shapeshifters, trolls and more.

I’ve always loved horror comedy films. The Evil Dead movies, Shaun of the Dead, Cabin in the Woods, Tucker and Dale versus Evil… If it’s got monsters and is funny as hell, I’m in. When I started writing my first book, Wisconsin Vamp, I was actually writing it as a screenplay. That was circa 2007. It wasn’t until many years later that I flipped the script into novel format. When I started that screenplay about a mediocre bowler in small-town Wisconsin turning into a vampire, all those horror comedy flicks were lighting up my brain like a marquee on the Hollywood strip.

Ironically, I prefer reading epic fantasy and hard sci-fi. Weird, right?

3) Do you prefer writing dialogue, action or other scenes?

Yes! If I had to rank them, though, I’d go with: 1- World building, 2- Dialogue, 3- Action.

My books are urban fantasy set in Midwestern settings. The world building is a hell of a good time. I love finding the small details of a place and using them to create more than a visual of the setting. I want my readers to really feel like they’re in the place. When describing a bowling alley, it’s more than the loudly patterned carpet. It’s the way your shoes stick to the decades of spilled beer and cheap carpet shampoo residue. If I’m taking my reader to a bar, it’s more than a bartop. It’s a bartop polished with spilled olive juice and disappointment. For me, building a world is using all the senses to put my reader in a mood, and it is fun as hell.

Dialogue would be a close second. I love writing average, everyday folks, and average, everyday folks can say some really funny stuff. I’d rather listen to a couple of old codgers talk about the weather than a poet laureate lauding the storm gathering on the horizon.

Action is great to write as well. Since I write comedy, my action sequences always skew funny. A good example is a brawl scene in my book, A Scarecrow Wins an Award. True story: There is a butter sculptor at the Minnesota State Fair. For almost fifty years, this lady has carved the likeness of the Princess Kay of the Milky Way contestants (think beauty pageant for the dairy industry) from giant blocks of butter. She does her work in a refrigerated glass walled room in the Dairy Building at the fair. I sent my main character and his pursuers into that butter sculpting room and let hilarity ensue.

4) How did you come up with your cover design?

My first trilogy, Monsters in the Midwest, have covers that feature each book’s main character. Right around when I was finishing the first book, Wisconsin Vamp, I’d rewatched The 40-Year Old Virgin with Steve Carell. The movie poster is a closeup of Steve in a classic Glamor Shot pose. He has this adorable, optimistic smile, and these rays of light are shining out from behind him. That feel, that whole vibe, was exactly what my main character Herb exudes throughout the book, so I went with that as the inspiration for the cover design. It’s just Herb with all his dorky enthusiasm shining through. Once that first cover was done, the next two followed suit. Northwoods Wolfman is a shot of Dallas the werewolf mid-turn, looking all cocky and stuff. Undead Cheesehead features zombie Stanley in all his nerdy and awkward glory.

My new series, (hold on to your hats… there’s a long series title coming) The Misadventures of a Paranormal Post-Relationship Personal Effects Repossession Specialist, has a very different aesthetic. The books follow August Shade, a shapeshifter whose job is to get your favorite whatever back from your ex after a messy breakup. Each cover features four images that represent main characters, main themes, and an animal that August shifts into that figures prominently into the story. They’re a little throw-back in style. The illustration style and palette are definitely retro. The hope is that they evoke feelings of mystery, the supernatural and occult, and humor.

5) What is the hardest challenge in being a writer?

Selling books. Full stop. Writing a book ain’t that bad. Publishing it as an indie author is a snap. Selling them? Holy crap, it’s hard. Maintaining a website, running ads and promotions, keeping up with social media, tabling at comic and horror cons… It’s endless. It is also incredibly rewarding. Every new reader I find, each new review I get, is indescribably awesome.

6) What is the one thing you wish you knew at the beginning of your writing journey?

The importance of producing new work in a predictable manner. So, so, so important. If you need a year to write a book, that’s fine. You’d better release a book a year. If you can push out two a year, sweet! You’d better have a book ready to read every six months. Readers want to be loyal. They want to read your next book. But they won’t wait forever. If you can’t produce something new for them to enjoy on a regular basis, they’re going to drift away.

When I released my first book, I hadn’t thought about writing a sequel. It took 18 months to get that next book done, and almost two more years to get book three done. That’s brutal for readers. Brutal!

7) What is your favorite character from any book you have ever read?

There’s an older sci-fi novel called Ringworld by Larry Niven. There is a character named Teela Brown, a young woman who has never experienced hardship or been hurt or even been a little sad… because she was bred to be lucky. For generations, human birth was controlled with a birthright lottery. Basically, your ability to reproduce was based on whether your name was pulled from a hat. Teela was the product of six generations of lucky birthright lottery winners. She is a fascinating character, wonderfully complex in her naivete, and expertly written by Niven.

8) Where is your favorite place to read?

End of the day in bed. There’s nothing like letting everything from the day go, reclining in my big, comfy bed, and soaking in a few chapters of a great book.

9) What is you preferred method of reading a book? (Audio, paperback, hardcover, or eBook)

I’m an ebook fan. I mean, come on! Why use two hands when one will do?

10) Name one of your favorite authors.

Questions like this are always tough. Do I go ‘mainstream’ so I can seem relatable? Do I go obscure so I can seem deep and counter culture? Do I go controversial and get folks all riled up?

I guess I’ll go with the truth. Douglas Adams. Hitchhiker’s Guide changed me as a kid. Completely reshaped who I was and who I’d become. For that reason and many more, Doug will always be nearest and dearest to my heart.

11) Villain, hero or “show steeling” side character? Which would you be?

Show steeling side character! Some of the most brilliant moments in every book, film, and show are from that character you didn’t see coming. Case in point: In the TV series, Firefly, and follow-on movie, Serenity, Jayne Cobb has some of the funniest and also surprisingly poignant lines and moments in the show. Like in the beginning of Serenity, when the ship is entering atmosphere and things ain’t going so great. The ships captain, Mal, is stomping around the ship as it bucks and twists through its rough reentry. Jayne’s head pops out of a door and he says, “Are we crashing again?”

Classic. Chef’s kiss comedy.

So yeah, sign me up to be that show steeling side character!

12) What is your best book memory?

My first convention. Minnesota has a great horror con called Crypticon. I’d released my second book, Northwoods Wolfman, and decide it was time to try slinging books at a convention. I got a table at Crypticon 2015, and had an absolute blast. People I met at that con are still good friends of mine today. The celebrity guests were amazing, too. I got to party with Lance Henriksen. Lance Henriksen! And people bought my books. For a new author, selling that first book in person is a phenomenal feeling.

13) What is the name of your book/series? Tell me a little bit about them.

Let’s go with the new series, The Misadventures of a Paranormal Post-Relationship Personal Effects Repossession Specialist. Book one is An Oracle Walks into a Bar. Book two is A Scarecrow Wins an Award. Book three is… in progress!

The books follow August Shade, a curmudgeonly shapeshifter living in the cracks of Minneapolis, Minnesota. In August’s world, humans and paranormal creatures live side by side. His job is to get your favorite whatever back from your ex after a messy breakup. The jobs never go smooth, and August is always teetering on the edge of disaster. As the series progresses, August is also being drawn into things way too big for him to handle. Government conspiracies. Aliens. Powerful paranormal overlords. It’s a lot for the poor shapeshifter to handle. Thankfully, he’s got plenty of beer and his give-a-damn is busted.

14) Do you have a website? If so, what is it?

15) Where can we find and follow you? (Name your social media platforms.) - My monthly newsletter, The Paranomedy Pint

16) If there anything important that you would want my readers to know about you?

I like beer. A lot. Hell, my monthly newsletter, The Paranomedy Pint, has a section dedicated to what I’m drinking, and my book and show recommendations include drink pairings!

If it weren’t for beer, I wouldn’t write. Seriously! I do almost all of my writing at bars and breweries. If you want beer-fueled urban fantasy, I’m your guy.


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