Kirk Burris: epicure, wanderer, author
Kirk Burris is a man of many talents. After attaining a degree in psychology with a minor in English, Burris became a photographer and Realtor while also developing passions for cooking, snorkeling, travelling and, of course, writing. He’s been everywhere from Tokyo to New York, and you’ll find international references as well as delicious dishes tucked into his romance and mystery works. Here’s a taste of the Missourian-now-Floridian’s life and work.
Welcome, Kirk. I understand you're a cook as well as an author. Tell me more.
Cooking is definitely a passion of mine. As a young child in the 70s, I was subjected to all the “quick fixes” that every mother leaned on. Ragu in a jar. Hamburger Helper, Tuna Helper. SPAM, of course. And if a vegetable didn’t come in a can, it didn’t make it to our table. We were poor, living in the Midwest, and I didn’t realize you could actually buy fresh spinach until I moved out when I was 18. Once I started cooking for myself, I realized I had some talent, and soon began developing my own recipes. As with everything, practice makes perfect. So these days, I call myself a home chef. One day I hope to finally produce the cookbook I started working on 10 years ago with my mother. She passed away last year, so it’s a goal of mine to finish it one day when time allows. I’m looking at starting a cooking blog in the meantime where I’ll share some of my favorite recipes.
Your second novel, 12 Pills, was just released. What can you reveal about the book?
12 PILLS was a fun adventure for me. My debut novel, Breaking Sandcastles, teased a murder mystery, but it was really more of a romance. I had some fans that asked me to do a full-on mystery, and I was eager to give it a go. I’ve read a fair amount of Grisham and Patterson, so I wanted to try that genre. I’d say 12 PILLS is very fast paced, much like Patterson’s work. It keeps moving.
Apart from the blurb you can read online about the plot, an FBI agent on the hunt for a serial killer targeting his childhood friends, I can tell you that the characters are pretty flawed. They seem “peachy” on the surface, but you start to figure out they both have security issues. Agent Whelan saw his previous partner gunned down in front of him and is dealing with the trauma of that. His new partner, Agent Miranda Jones, is his immediate superior. She has issues revolving around the need to prove herself — and not just to her superiors, but to herself. So you’ve got this pair of agents both looking to validate themselves, which puts added pressure on finding this psychopath who’s killing someone once a week. The pressure is immense. It doesn’t help Agent Whelan that he is immediately smitten with Agent Jones. It’s almost a side plot, his constantly reminding himself that he can’t pursue an intimate relationship with her. (As if she’s even available.)
I try to keep the characters very real and down to earth, not some stereotyped super-agents like you see in a lot of fiction. They enjoy laughing and having a drink with friends just like most of us. They pull their hair out when frustrated and have dreams and nightmares. Agent Whelan’s nightmares were especially fun to write.
And what about the first novel?
Breaking Sandcastles was my debut novel. It is extremely personal to me, though not about me in any way. You could say I poured myself into those characters, especially Marion Kelly. I hadn’t been writing, only dabbling, and not seriously since college. I set out to write a powerful love story. I’m a huge fan and believer in love. I was inspired by my dad for the character of Jonathan, a gifted painter. My dad’s an artist. And he also loved my mom like I’ve never seen anyone love someone before. In the book, Jonathan works to convince Marion, who is insecure (my running theme), that she is worthy of receiving and living the life she wants, and that it should include love. Specifically his. He’s eleven years her junior, which didn’t seem like such a big deal when I was writing it. But reviewers were often shocked. Some appreciated the notion, some not so much. Marion meets Jonathan when he’s only 17, so I guess they inferred some sort of inappropriate relationship, but I make it very clear that nothing happens between them until they reconnect when he is 22. Then it becomes a rollercoaster of ups and downs, with a lot of laughs and tears. My favorite reviews compare it to The Notebook by Sparks. One person even suggested it was better, which made my day. It certainly has a lot more humor than Nicholas Sparks’ work. I like to laugh and find a lot of things funny in life, so humor definitely works its way into my stories.
We could use a lot of that right now.
Right? The world is crazy at the moment. The corona pandemic is tragic, on so many levels. My heart absolutely breaks for everyone who has been affected by this horrible disease. I tend to wear my emotions on my sleeve and get so compassionate about people. I constantly feel like I’m watching Sally Field in Steel Magnolias after her daughter’s funeral. One second I’m crying, the next laughing, then pause for a moment and repeat. Life has just become insane in 2020 and I look forward to resuming a sense of normalcy as much as everyone else. I actually saw a person online comment about someone else’s work failing to mention the coronavirus and how thoughtless it was. I try to be a socially-aware person, though it gets harder as I age. So I went back and added an acknowledgment to 12 PILLS, reminding people I wrote it over a year ago before COVID-19 existed. I ask people, given how much real drama our lives have right now, and we are forced to watch it play out on the news every night, to please just enjoy 12 PILLS for the fun, escapist reading it is intended to be.
Perfect. And you also have a fun short story available?
Yes. Soul Survivor. It’s a very sweet, paranormal romance short story. I sort of play with the notion of why some souls get trapped here on Earth instead of moving on when they die, and what it takes for them to be released into the next realm. The story addresses those answers. The notion of how a human can fall for a ghost interested me, and then it’s all brought home in the end when a team of ghost hunters set out to capture our main character, the ghost who’s stuck haunting an old warehouse.
What drives you to write? Were you inspired by other authors?
I started writing stories very early. Grade school, junior high. Always short stories or poetry. Looking back, I suppose most of them were some sort of commentary as to what I was going through in my own life at the time.
Ironically, in high school, I read at least a book a week. And all of it was science fiction or fantasy, which I still love. And I may try my hand at that genre one day. I have an idea for a time-travel novel that I’ve been tinkering with. I know it’s not great for new authors to jump genres when they’re trying to grow an audience. So that’s tough, because I love so many genres myself. I’ve started penning the first few chapters of a young adult novel about angels. I just love so many topics.
As for authors that inspired me, most would be sci-fi authors. Frank Herbert (Dune is so amazing) for his world-building. Melanie Rawn and David Eddings for their unbelievable character building and epic storytelling. I love Grisham’s early work; The Firm and The Client were great. His books the last few years have become unnecessarily wordy and slow.
What are you working on now?
I’m about 10 chapters or so into the follow-up to 12 PILLS. I can’t say much without revealing some spoilers for the first book. (Like who survives). But it will be a stand-alone story, so new readers can enjoy it, as well as fans from the first. For those who have read 12 PILLS, I’ll dive a bit more into some of the characters. I hope to build them up into a series. The follow-up will also prominently feature someone who suffers from an extreme case of schizophrenia and multi-modal hallucinations. Perhaps it will shine a light on that disorder that hasn’t been brought into the public’s attention for a while.
What are you reading?
I just read A Protector’s Beginning by Kyle T. Davis. It was a fun sci-fi romp. I read Becoming by Michelle Obama. It was every bit as classy and relevant as I knew it would be. She’s such a powerful force in our country right now. She’s too smart to get into politics herself, but if she did, she’d make a hell of a president. My dad has a huge book collection, so I’m always borrowing copies from his library. A lot of mysteries. I just started Mortal Prey by John Sanford. His style is different than what I’m used to, but I think it’s good to challenge yourself like that when you’re an author. It broadens your palate. Perhaps not as much as my lobster bisque or my homemade dolmades (stuffed grape leaves), but it’s all good.
Thank you so much, Kirk! Great “chatting” with you.
Find Kirk Burris and his books at:
12 PILLS https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08FVBRBKV
Breaking Sandcastles https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01MQDKECC
Soul Survivor https://www.amazon.com/dp/B072JFN2RG
Author website: https://kirkburris.com/
Amazon profile page: www.amazon.com/author/kirkburris