Author Kealan Patrick Burke
Kealan Patrick Burke is an award winning author who has been labeled “one of the most clever and original talents in contemporary horror” by Booklist. His works cover a wide array of genres from crime, horror, and mystery fiction to dark fantasy. He is best known for his novels Kin, The Hides, and Currency of Souls, the collections Ravenous Ghosts and The Number 121 to Pennsylvania, novellas like Vessels and The Turtle Boy, and his short works that have appeared in publications such as Cemetery Dance, Subterranean, Masques V, Grave Tales, and Horror World just to name a few. All his titles can now be found at Amazon in e-book format.
A man of many talents, Burke is also an actor appearing most recently in such films as Gregory Lamerson’s Slime City Massacre.
What was it like being born and raised in Dungarvan? What is it like where you are from? Do you get back often? What do you miss most about Ireland?
I don’t get back there as often as I’d like, unfortunately, but I’m hoping to visit this Christmas for some long overdue time with my family, all of whom are still there. Growing up in a small coastal town in the south of Ireland was, I imagine, not much different from growing up in the states. The landscape would be the biggest difference, I suppose. The buildings are older, more ancient stone than wood and stucco, and the landscape greener. What I miss most about Ireland are the people, and of course, my family.
Did you experience any culture shock on while relocating to the US?
Not really. I found the emphasis on convenience a little jarring. You can practically do everything without ever getting out of your car. And the traffic here is a nightmare. The biggest surprise for me though was how well-regarded the Irish are here. At the first sound of a genuine Irish accent, people start smiling and welcoming you. It’s lovely.
“The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allen Poe. Once I read that there was no turning back for me. I knew I wanted to be a horror writer.
Do you happen to remember what the first story you ever wrote was about?
I don’t, but I can guarantee it was awful.
How did you get into this line of work?
I was given a two year opportunity to do nothing but write when I first came to America. At the time I had no idea if my writing was any good, or whether or not it would sell. If it didn’t, I would go back into the workforce knowing I’d given it as good as shot as I could. As it happens, the work did sell, and I was off to the races.
Do you still work full time as a fraud investigator? Do you think that line of work has a certain influence on your writing style? How do you find the time to do both?
No, I write full-time now. I don’t think the job had any influence on my style, but it taught me a lot about people, specifically criminals and how thin the line is between us and them, how easy it is for ordinary people to find themselves committing crimes. While I worked that job, I didn’t find the time to write, so nothing at all got written. This was a factor in my decision to leave.
I love to travel. If possible, at least once a year I take a road trip. The best one so far was a trip out west. We drove from Ohio to California and back via an alternate route, so we got to see a lot of the country. It was the trip of a lifetime for me. I’m also a big movie fan. And of course I’m a voracious reader. I’m also a gamer.
As a photographer what do you think is the most important thing to remember when photographing live subjects? What do you most like to capture on film?
I like to photograph contrasts, whether the subject is human, animal, or inanimate. The effect of light and shadow on objects fascinates me. I think it’s important that a photographer can truly appreciate what they’re looking at before trying to capture it, and not be preoccupied with what the end result is going to look like. Style can inhibit appreciation of a scene before the scene gets captured. But this is coming from a hobbyist, not a professional.
You are also an actor when the situation presents itself. Have you always been interested in theater? Would you rather write a good story or act it if you had to choose?
I’ve always loved the arts, no matter what the form, and would love to paint and sculpt and carve if I knew I would be any good at those things. I’m not much of an actor either, but when the opportunity to have fun in a creative way presents itself, I’m only too happy to try it. I would always prefer to write a good story than act. Writing is acting anyway. We have to pretend to be a whole host of people.
How do you think your writing style has evolved over the years?
I think I’ve grown more confident, honed my style a lot and unlearned many of the bad habits that characterized my earlier efforts. I’ve unlearned the tendency to overwrite, embraced simplification, and have learned how to edit my work.
The 8 minute film Peekers was written by Rick Hautala and directed by Mark Steensland based on your short story. Did you get a kick out of that? What was it like to see their take on your work?
I definitely did get a kick out of it, and I think the guys did a wonderful job of adapting the story. It’s always a thrill to see someone else’s take on what you’ve written.
Is there anything about you that your readers would be surprised to learn?
I’m sure there are lots of things about me that people would be surprised to learn. But how many of them are fit to share? I’m afraid of heights (deathly afraid), and I can speak fluent Gaelic, a dying language that has no absolutely no practical value outside of my home country, but is still a wonderful language and part of our cultural heritage.
Patience and persistence.
Is there any one subject you have yet to write about that you would like to cover?
Oh yes, far too many to list here. I would love to write a big sprawling epic coming of age novel like It, or Boy’s Life or Summer of Night, or Something Wicked This Way Comes. I’d love to write a western, a crime noir novel, a haunted house novel, an alien invasion novel…the list goes on. After all, if I didn’t have subjects that interested me that I hadn’t yet written about, I’d be done.
Who would you consider to be some of the best authors of modern day?
Again, far too many to list here and it’s tough to do so without forgetting someone. Current favorites of mine are King, McCammon, John Connolly, Dennis Lehane, Cormac McCarthy, Michael Marshall Smith, Gillian Flynn, Glen Hirshberg, Joe Hill and Scott Smith. Of the newer breed, I’m quite fond of the work I’ve read from John Little, Ronald Malfi, Norman Prentiss and Eric Shapiro, to name just a handful.
What projects are you working on at the moment?
I’ve just completed Nemesis, the last book in the Timmy Quinn series, and now I’m working on a long overdue novella for an anthology of barbershop-themed stories. After that, I’ll be starting work on a sci-fi/dark fantasy thriller entitled Miles at Night.
If you could pick your last words, what would they be?
I would hope that my death would not be so sudden that I didn’t get to pick my last words. But they’d probably be: “The great bulk of my fortune is hidden in the…” And then I’d die.