Tell us a little about yourself.
My name is Amy Lee Burgess and was born in New England but now live in Houston, Texas. I have two dachshunds and love to travel. I’m learning French and love animals, especially wolves, which is why I write about shifters.
What genre/genres do you write?
Right now I’m focusing on paranormal mystery and paranormal romance. I blend the two, but I think the mystery takes precedence over the romance. In The Wolf Within series, the main protagonists, Stanzie and Murphy, have been struggling to define their relationship and each other within it for four novels now. There hasn’t been a HEA ending yet, but there has been struggle, growth, and gradual understanding. I also dabble in horror every once in a while, but that’s mainly short stories. I haven’t written a full-out horror novel. Yet.
If you are a pantser, how do you handle when you write into a corner?
I’m the Queen of the Pantsers, I swear. Every night as I try to get to sleep, I envision a different scene coming up in my current novel. I’m very character driven, so I imagine my characters into scenes I really love, but sometimes they don’t necessarily tie in with the novel so I have to figure out a way to bridge the gap. When I start a novel, I let myself write for three chapters and if I don’t have a clear understanding of what the main plot is, I won’t write again until I work it out. Which means I do a lot of thinking before I fall asleep. My novels usually begin in my head with the opening scene and it all leads from there. But the seeds must be sown in chapters one through three and after that I am committed to a certain plot. Now, subplots can, and often do, take longer to work out. The last novel I wrote, I don’t think I worked out “whodunit” until three chapters before the end. I had a host of people who could have and had motives, but I didn’t choose until a certain scene when it gelled for me. That one was a wild ride.
What do you think makes a good story?
I like reading about characters drawn in shades of gray. I really like it when someone you kinda hate at the beginning turns out to be the hero in the end, or vice versa, someone you thought was pretty cool ends up revealing himself as not quite so great. Characters need flaws. If they are perfect they aren’t real. I love romance, so I like to read about relationships that go up and down. Things have to happen. I like when there is a main plot going on that all the characters are moving forward, but there are all these little pit stops here and there as they interact and forge relationships. If there’s something paranormal in there, I love it.
Whatever became of your very first book?
My first real novel was a vampire novel that I chronicled in installments on my blog. It bloated out into I think six novels before NaNoWriMo two years ago when a friend challenged me to write a novel. I put aside the vampires and wrote 90,000 words in eleven days which became Beneath the Skin, the first of the Stanzie novels. But what happened to the vampires? Well, recently I pulled out all six of the novels, dusted them off, and basically rewrote it using all the tools and skills I’ve learned since publishing Beneath the Skin. The result was a novel called The Circle which I am shopping around and hoping to find a home for.
Is Inside Out part of a series? If so, tell us about it.
Yes. Inside Out is the fourth novel in The Wolf Within series. The series is about a woman, Constance Newcastle, who has become an Advisor to a Great Council member, Jason Allerton. He sends her on investigations throughout the world to different packs within the Great Pack. Jason has a definite agenda which Stanzie discovers, little by little, in each different book. In the first novel, Beneath the Skin, she bonds with Liam Murphy and it was neatly arranged by Jason Allerton who wanted them together. Murphy is also Jason’s Advisor and goes with Stanzie on all her adventures. Stanzie and Murphy’s relationship starts off somewhat antagonistic and there are all kinds of ups and downs and misunderstandings between them as they fall in love. Their pasts are pretty tragic and they both drag a lot of baggage around they need to deal with. But they never have much time to concentrate on each other because of all the drama they encounter on their adventures.
Was Inside Out easy to write?
This particular novel in the series was one of the easiest to write once I figured out the main plot – which ironically came me in a short little scene near the beginning that I was going to cut because it didn’t seem to advance the plot but then I realized, oh my God, yes it does! The rest of the novel practically wrote itself after that. I started out only knowing that Stanzie was going to go home to her birth pack, Mayflower, but I didn’t have the faintest idea why.
How long did it take you to write?
I write pretty fast. I write for at least one hour every weekday morning and generally Sunday nights for four or five hours straight. Inside Out took me two months to write from start to finish.
What is your favorite part? (If you’d like to share a little excerpt of that part, you may do so.)
My favorite scene is the last one and I wish I could give you an excerpt but that would be giving way too much away. It is a mother/daughter scene between Stanzie and her mother, Lauren. I credit my editor with suggesting my original ending wasn’t gripping enough and she steered me toward a mother/daughter confrontation and it ended up blowing me away. Stanzie got to say so many of the things she’d bottled up inside her for years. I love my characters and I really love it when they have breakthroughs and epiphanies and this scene was definitely one of Stanzie’s best.
What was your least favorite part to write?
I’ll try not to give much away here, but there is an attempted rape scene and it was really hard to write because the would-be rapist was someone Stanzie had looked up to and the betrayal was shocking. Also, the technical aspect was nerve wracking. Would she fight? Run? I played out several scenarios with friends asking them to imagine themselves in this situation. I talked to a martial arts expert who told me just why it probably wouldn’t work if she fought and yet most of my friends were adamant that fighting back was the way to go. One of them beta read the scene and had a fit when I had Stanzie lunge for her phone instead of fighting him head on. My editor and I struggled over her panties at one point – would they rip or would they just tangle around her knees? You’ll have to read for yourself to find out which way we went.
What can you tell us about your world building? What makes your world stand out?
I think my world building is pretty complex. The shifters are a parallel species to humans who have basically had to live in the shadows for fear of being exterminated. My shifters are not your typical very strong, aggressive Alpha types. They are, to me, real people who are able to turn into wolves. They can’t shift unless they have sex with another shifter and only up to 48 hours after a sexual encounter which has to be male/female. Yet, there are characters who are bisexual – who would probably be gay if they were humans — but the need to shift is too strong for them to deny their wolves. They organize in bonded pairs and triads (and there’s a hint on how to be bisexual in the Great Pack). There is an Alpha pair (or triad), but unlike most shifter worlds, my Alphas are in the position for finite periods of time and while they do rule the pack, their main goal is to reproduce. Women can only have one live birth and once they do, they are rendered sterile. So children are cherished and very much desired and becoming an Alpha at one point in your life is a huge goal for every shifter. In smaller packs this is easily achievable, but the larger packs present difficulties if you are not popular. I’ve also introduced some drama into the Great Pack by way of a conspiracy within it. I can’t give details because how deep it is becomes clear only as the novels progress and I don’t want to ruin the experience for anyone who wants to read the entire series.
What’s your favorite TV show or movie of all time?
Okay, here is where I confess I am huge fan of all things supernatural so the original Night Stalker with Darren McGavin is going to top my list followed closely by the 2005 version with Stuart Townsend. I will also admit to being a Stuart Townsend fan and I’ve based the character of Liam Murphy on him – at least looks wise.
If you could chose a period in history to be born in, what would it be and why?
Probably Victorian England because it is a fascinating and rather dark period. Very repressed in one way but I’ll bet there were also some really decadent pockets of society. I’d also like a chance to solve the mystery of who Jack the Ripper really was.
What was the most embarrassing thing your husband/boyfriend/partner/friend ever did to you in public?
In my early twenties I was a vegetarian and when I started dating my first husband, who is Italian, it wasn’t a big deal until the first family gathering when almost every dish contained meat. I was doing fine with pasta and vegetables, but one too many family members must have said something to my ex because he suddenly demanded that I eat a meatball. We were at a table full of his family, all strangers to me, and he was in my face telling me if I loved him I’d eat the meatball. Most of the people at the table ended up leaving and I eventually caved and ate the meatball, but I never really forgave him for that. Probably why he’s an ex!
What is the one place you have never visited but would love to?
Hands down the answer would be Ireland. Some of The Wolf Within novels are set in Ireland and I don’t like writing about places I’ve never been. This is an example of the perils of pantsing. I thought it would be sexy to have an Irish male lead (Stuart Townsend is Irish) and at the time I wrote the first novel I never expected it to be a series nor did I ever intend to have Stanzie go to Ireland. The first book takes place in Paris – a city I adore and I’ve visited multiple times – and Houston, which is where I live. But gradually as the series has grown, I’ve taken Stanzie and Murphy to Ireland and so now I need to go too.
If you were stranded on a desert island and could chose any famous person (living or dead), who would you chose to be stranded with you and why?
Oh come on, you guys can guess this one. Do I need to say it? Stuart Townsend. Why? Well, in addition to him being very hot, I also think he’s fascinating. I half wonder if we’d even get along because he’s very reactive and some of the things he posts to Twitter and Facebook make me sputter. It might be a very volatile experience. But I also think beneath certain stylistic differences, we have the same basic core principles so we’d argue, but we’d eventually work out a compromise. Or so I fantasize.
Cake or Chips Chips. I have always gone for the salty/sour versus the sweet.
Steak or Veggie Burger I like them both, but I guess I’d lean toward the steak. (That one meatball led to the complete downfall of my vegetarian diet. Which is exactly what I feared would happen.)
Chocolates or Roses Roses. But lavender ones or yellow ones.
Boxers or Briefs or Nothing at all Briefs. Boxer briefs are sexiest.
Vampires or Cowboys Vampires. I don’t like cowboys which makes living in Houston inexplicable, I know. Let’s just say there was once a flood in New Orleans which chased me to Houston and then a good job came along, and so did a divorce, and now I am where I am!
There’s no place like home…or is there?
When Stanzie is asked to investigate her birth pack- Mayflower–she isn’t prepared for what she finds.
No one respects the Alphas and the newest adult member of the pack is being encouraged to leave. Why? To make matters worse, the men are dangerously intent on mating and shifting with her.
How far will the pack she thought she knew go to get what they want? Without her bond-mate, Liam, Stanzie must face this alone and, barely ahead of threat of violence, must solve the mysteries, and fast.
WARNING: Vulgar language, sexual situations, group sex, violence
A Lyrical Press Paranormal Romance
Alan looked at me and panic flooded his silver blue eyes. “Stanzie.” My name was a horrified plea.
I could see the ghost of a wolf’s muzzle beneath his mouth. He held out a hand and recoiled when he saw the dark fur on his palm.
“Take off your clothes, Alan,” I urged, but he stood there, transfixed. I hastily unbuttoned his plaid shirt and pushed it off his shoulders. “Help me,” I cried as I tugged at his sleeve.
“I don’t know what’s happening to me,” he whispered. His body gave a bone crunching shudder and he stared at Faith and Scott’s wolves, terror etched across his face. The wolves waited together, shoulder to shoulder. It was a damn good thing I hadn’t shifted myself. Poor Alan was clueless.
I fumbled with the button on his fly and then the zipper. His throat rippled and he threw back his head and howled. The noise nearly scared the shit out of me, but I somehow managed to get his zipper down and then I pushed him onto his ass so I could pull his jeans off. He was no help at all, caught in the throes of the first emergence of his wolf. His body morphed in and out of focus. It was like trying to undress someone by strobe light and I had to shut my eyes so I wouldn’t lose my concentration. Alan whimpered and whined. Shifting was painful sometimes–especially when we fought it and he was. He didn’t know how to relax into the chaos and let it flow. He still struggled for control, for a way to reason out the process, and that was impossible. Shifting did not make sense. It just happened.
“Let go. Alan, just go with it,” I coached in a quiet voice as I sat as near as I could to him. He writhed on the pine needles and screamed as his bones shifted beneath his skin. “It hurts less if you just let go.”
“Stanzie!” My name turned into an anguished howl and just when I had begun to get scared, it happened. Alan blinked out of this plane and when he blinked back in, he was shifted.
His wolf was gorgeous. Dusky black with ice-blue eyes. A touch of gray at the tips of each paw. Big too. Bigger than Scott’s gray wolf. He rolled to his feet and sprawled onto his face when he tried to walk. Two legs to four was a bitch for some people. It had never fazed me, but Grey told me it had taken him half an hour to figure out how the hell to walk the first time he’d shifted. I grinned to remember the story and reached out to pat Alan’s wolf on the head. He whined at me.
“Get up and walk. Four legs are fun,” I told him. I was on my hands and knees now, so we could look eye to eye. If he got up, that is. Faith’s wolf pranced over and nudged him with her dainty muzzle. He whined again and she gave a coughing bark. In wolf speak she told him to get off his ass.
Scott’s wolf approached me and stared at me so hard I knew he tried to tell me something, but I couldn’t figure out what. Then it hit me. Duh. I was still in human form.
I stood up so I could strip off my jeans and t-shirt. Scott’s wolf waited impatiently. Alan’s wolf had gained his wobbly feet but seemed stuck in one position. When Faith’s wolf nudged his back end with her nose, he promptly fell over again and I snickered. Alan’s wolf gave me a reproachful look and I patted his head in apology. Scott’s wolf moved behind me and bumped the back of my knees so hard I fell over. Alan’s wolf wheezed with lupine laughter. “At least I can walk on all fours,” I muttered. Naked, I crawled away a few feet to give myself space for shifting. Only nothing happened.
Amy Lee Burgess wrote her first ghost story at age ten. Born in New England, she has also lived in New Orleans and Houston, survived fires, floods, hurricanes, divorce and the premature cancellation of several of her favorite television shows. Turning her back on such shocking betrayals, she is now writing about ghosts, vampires, and other paranormal things and is much happier for it.