Get to know American western author, Stephen Burckhardt
Stephen Burckhardt is an American author who is currently living in Düsseldorf, Germany. Born in Wichita, Kansas, Stephen’s family moved around quite a bit when he was young but always stayed in or around the Wichita area.
Stephen spent a few a years living on a ranch near Benton, KS. This is where he developed a deep love for all things western. It was on the ranch where Stephen learned to ride and care for horses, tend to chickens and cattle, drive a tractor, and shoot various types of firearms. Being a proud member of the Cherokee nation only deepened his interest in history, animals, and native traditions.
After earning a degree in journalism from Wichita State University, Stephen spent years writing for various publications and eventually worked for a news service as an anchor for their east coast news feed. The job was depressing.
Stephen spent his days talking about war, murder, kidnappings, rapes, corporate polluting of communities, and so much more. He decided if he was going to have to have a career dealing with the worst of the world’s events, he would rather have a job doing something to stop them instead of just talking about them. Stephen went back to school and earned his second degree in forensic criminology.
Just as Stephen was beginning to look for a job with a crime scene unit, he had an accident that changed the direction of his life. After surviving seven surgeries in six months in 2004, six of which were brain surgeries, Stephen spent the next five years recovering and another five years trying to rebuild his career.
In January 2013, Stephen met the love of his life, P.R. Burckhardt. The happy couple was married in December of that same year. With the marriage, Stephen also became a parent to P.R.’s twin daughters.
After the wedding, Stephen moved to Germany to be with his spouse. With the move, Stephen had to rebuild his career once more. After discussing career options with P.R., Stephen decided to finally pursue his dream career as an author.
In 2014, Stephen began freelancing as a ghost-writer. One of his early assignments was writing a western for Luis Antwoord titled Western: In the Company of Thieves. It was after this project that Stephen developed an insatiable desire to continue writing westerns under his own name.
In 2015, Stephen and P.R. adopted a Russian rescue dog, Shaggy. Shaggy has been the perfect addition to their happy home.
Ramona : Tell me about your latest book
Stephen Burckhardt: I am currently working on Into the West: Sharon Springs. This is part three of my Into the West Saga Serial Collection. The serial concept is based on the old “cliff-hanger” movie serial short films they used to play before the main feature in American cinemas. Each book in the collection is written as an instalment in a saga. The sagas are divided into five or six novellas. These books are great for anyone who wants to read a good story but doesn’t have the time to sit and read a full novel.
I drew heavily from family stories for much of this serial. My father and his sisters spent time in children’s homes in Oklahoma in the 50’s. I grew up hearing stories of their years in the homes.
When I was much older, I had a friend whose great aunt came to Kansas on the orphan train. The stories of her experience fascinated me. I decided to make a trip to Concordia, Kansas to visit the Orphan Train Museum there.
The more I learned about this time in American history, the more fascinated I became. When it came time to pick a theme for my first book series, I knew it had to be based on the orphan trains and the triumphs and tragedies their young riders had to face.
Ramona: How many book have you published so far?
Stephen Burckhardt: So far I have six books in publication that I have either written or have been a contributing writer.
The first two books I wrote as a ghost-writer. The first was a book about essential oils and how to use them. The second was the western for Luis Antwoord titled Western: In the Company of Thieves.
After getting good reviews for my ghost-writing, I decided to write westerns under my own pen name, Stephen Burckhardt. My current project is my Into the West Saga Serial Collection.
The first novella in the serial is Into the West: The Orphan Train. The second novella is, Into the West: A New Home. Both are currently available through my website, ww.StephenBurckhardt.com.
I am currently working on the third novella in the serial, Into the West: Sharon Springs. As soon as I finish part three, I plan to begin writing part four, Into the West: Most Wanted, right away.
I have also been blessed to be a part of several short story collections complied by award-winning, bestselling western author Scott Harris. He challenged several of his fellow western authors to write a 500 word short story based on a writing prompt he provided. The books he complied contain 52 micro short stories from Scott, I, and 50 other western authors. There are currently two books in publication: The Shot Rang Out and A Dark & Stormy Night. Two more books in this series will be available before Christmas. These books are also available through my website.
Ramona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Stephen Burckhardt: For me, a very personal challenge is due to my neurological condition. After the brain surgeries, my short term memory is basically non-existent. I have to keep very detailed notes to be able to keep the book consistent. I am constantly referring back to my notes as I write.
When I wrote the first book, Into the West: The Orphan Train, I didn’t have the money for an editor. My mother and a friend of mine tried to help me by editing it for me but even with the three of us working on it, many typos and inconsistencies made it through into print.
After that, I got a job teaching English as a second language a few days a week so I could afford to pay for things like a professional editor. My editor, Greg Wood, reedited my first two books for me and I was able to update the publications. A good editor makes all the difference in the world if you care about producing a quality product for your readers.
In general, I would say getting your work noticed is by far the most difficult part starting out for any new self-published author.
I was naive when I began this endeavour. I assumed it would be easy to get friends and family to share my work on social media and they would bring me to the attention of their friends, who would share me with their friends, and so on.
I assumed, after about a year or so with the help of friends and family, I would have enough of a fan base to build from that I would be able to just write for a living. It’s been three years and that dream is still not in sight.
As it is, I spend a great deal more money supporting this dream than I actually make from it. To get your work noticed you need to have reviews of your work on the sales platforms you use. On average, people, even those who love your work and support it, do not always have the time or want to take the time to fill out forms to review your work for you.
There are also a great number of people who take advantage of naive self-published authors. You have to be ever vigilant watching out for scammers.
Ramona: What motivated you to become an author?
Stephen Burckhardt: I’ve always dreamed of being an author. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t creating my own worlds and stories. No matter what I do in the future, I will always continue to write, even if it’s just for me. I have so many ideas spinning around in my head every day. I will never be able to get them all down on a page.
Ramona: What brought you to write this book?
Stephen Burckhardt: The stories from my family and friends led me to this topic. The things the children endured as riders on the orphan trains were just incredible. Many did end up with loving families but many more were taken in as, basically, indentured servants. It was a tough existence and their stories deserve to be told and remembered.
Ramona: What book or books have had a strong influence on you or your writing?
Stephen Burckhardt: It’s a rather eclectic group of work. The one that always comes to mind first is Silver Metal Lover by Tanith Lee. This has been my favorite book since I was a teenager. It explores the question of what make us human, it has always resonated with me. I also grew up reading Shakespeare and Pablo Neruda. Their use of language was captivating. By the time I was in my late twenty’s, my bedroom looked more like a library. I always had a book in my hands.
Ramona: How hard is it to establish and maintain a career in writing?
Stephen Burckhardt: It is incredibly difficult. If you try to go the traditional publishing route, there are numerous hurdles to get over just to get your book in the hands of someone who can publish it. Even if you get your book to the right person, there is no guarantee they will even take the time to read it. If they do read it, and it doesn’t immediately stand out as the next potential Harry Potter, you are unlikely to make it past the first round for consideration.
Then there is the question of whether to get an agent or not. If you want an agent you have to be sure you get a good one. There are many people who present themselves as agents or publishers nowadays but turn out to be someone who is basically using the same self-publishing platforms you can use on your own.
If you go the self-publishing route, you need to be ready to spend a good deal of your own money and a great deal of time getting established. I have personally had to invest in computers, programs, editors fees, promotional items, website hosting and domain fees just to name a few of the start-up expenses. When your royalty check for your published works is on average $0.70 a month, it can be very discouraging. Not to mention the time you devote to this. I do not even know the number of nights I have been up until 3 or 4 in the morning working on social media, promotions, or just writing my books. Then I have to turn around and be up to teach classes later in the morning. It can be exhausting.
When you are self-published and you do not have a large budget to work with, you end up having to do everything yourself from designing book covers to web design. You can spend a great deal more time on the set up and promotional work than you ever do actually writing your books.
However, if you aren’t willing to devote this time to try to get a fan base following then the odds of you selling very many books is not good. But when you are determined to succeed and finally fulfil that dream of writing for a living, you keep plugging away at it all, no matter what.
Get in touch with Stephen Burckhardt on:-
Email: [email protected]
Amazon Author Page: https://twitter.com/S_Burckhardt