Date Published: 08-04-2021
Publisher: Severed Press
Planetary geologist Dr. Micah Clarke, his nine-year-old daughter Faye and his assistant Catalina Abril are abducted at gunpoint; forced to join a megalomaniac’s paramilitary expedition down an Amazon tributary ruled by murderous pirates and cannibal tribes. The goal—recover a meteorite capable of providing clean energy for the world. But prehistoric terrors lurk around every bend in the river. Swarms of six-inch titan ants and a seventy-foot Titanoboa tear a bloody swath through the flotilla. Micah is convinced that some unknown intelligence is manifesting these primeval horrors to protect the meteorite’s secrets. To defend his daughter, Micah must battle monsters, pirates and cannibals, all leading to his ultimate confrontation with an ancient force possessing the power of creation, or total destruction… and the doomsday clock is chiming midnight.
What is the hardest part of writing your books?
There are two major challenges to writing my books, which I define as Horror/action/adventure stories.
The first is developing relatable central characters, because without them the terrifying experiences are meaningless to the reader. You don’t want to feel like a 1950’s B monster movie which always had the tough, pragmatic, military “Brick Squarejaw,” character, interacting with an overly intellectual scientist and an attractive lady scientist who falls in love with him. I think that ensemble started with the movie THEM (one of my favorites) but devolved into a trope after that. The readers don’t live in that world, so the characters must straddle the line between being capable of surviving while being relatable.
In Primeval Waters I envisioned Dr. Micah Clark as a very intelligent but flawed hero who’s squandered his reputation by starring on a marginal cable television show. But he only did that to support his ten-year old daughter, and I think that professional sacrifice humanizes him. His counterpart is an attractive, intelligent woman with secrets of her own—I’m dancing around a major spoiler here. But Catalina Abril is a very dynamic character who could carry her own book.
The second challenge is creating a compelling “Threat Vector.” Superstar action/adventure author Matthew Reilly (Ice Station) taught me that danger should always come from two different sources—three if I’m feeling ambitious. Hence my characters in Primeval Waters must not only survive against resurrected prehistoric creatures but also escape modern pirates and the heavily armed paramilitary team that kidnapped them. The danger never lets up and the stakes are always life and death. That approach appeals to a generation of readers that grew up playing video games, where the danger is always fast and furious.
What songs are most played on your Ipod?
I have very eclectic (that really means weird) taste in music, leaning towards things like Tom Waits, old punk and 1960’s psychedelic garage bands like Davie Allan and the Arrows. But while writing, I lean towards film soundtracks from composers like James Horner or Ennio Morricone. Another interesting form of ambient music for writers is video game soundtracks. These tend to be hours of atmospheric electronica that can put you in the right mood.
Since it’s Halloween I’ve just published a list of my favorite holiday songs in the article 13 Forgotten Halloween Classics, which is now on horrornews.net—and it ain’t a normal list. All those songs can be found on YouTube and Spotify, so check it out and get your ghoulish groove on!
Do you have critique partners or beta readers?
Not so much. I think having partners is a great idea, but, my being kind of a recent interloper in the writing community makes that a challenge. It’s also hard to find someone willing to read hundreds of pages as a favor. Fortunately, I have my publisher, Severed Press, who I submit detailed pitch documents to. Those pitch documents are really pared down versions of my own neurotically detailed outlines. So, if the story misses the mark Severed Press will tell me. So far, I’ve been lucky, mostly because I’m a pretty tough self-critic. Using my initial 20K outline and the truncated pitch document as a compass I can’t stray too far from true north.
But… I’m starting to branch into different genres now, where I’m virtually clueless, so if anybody wants to jump in as a beta reader the door’s wide open. Any volunteers?
What book are you reading now?
A Dangerous Man by Robert Crais. But that won’t last long because it’s impossible to put any Crais book down. He’s a brilliant writer. I’ve also been rereading some old favorites, like George MacDonald Fraser’s Flashman novels, which are hilarious historical fiction. But, reader beware, the Flashman novels are structured as the diaries of a British Victorian era military officer—a liar, coward, cad and misogynist who categorizes humanity as British or… other. Very politically incorrect, but rip-roaring comedic adventures.
How did you start your writing career?
I started out in television and film production. Back in the early 2000’s I created a paranormal series called Creepy Canada, which ran in the USA as Hauntings and Horrors. I was constantly writing material for that series. From there I produced and often cowrote racy After-Dark shows for Cinemax/HBO, such as Forbidden Science and Lingerie. When HBO cancelled their After Dark shows I was left at a creative crossroads. I wrote and directed one last feature film for them, then switched to fiction writing. Creating a novel, without broadcaster guidelines or budget limitations was intoxicating. I hope to keep writing fiction until my fingers fall off.
I just signed a publishing agreement with Severed Press for my next book, Dominant Species. This follow-up to Scorpius Rex, was inspired by an article about scientists placing human brain stem cells into monkeys, and the moral issues that creates.
This time, military contractor Dave Brank and his crew are in the New Mexico desert tracking down escaped, genetically engineered creatures. These seven-foot, dinosaur like creatures are virtually bulletproof and, due to the use of human stem cells, highly intelligent. But those human stem cells have also made them self-aware. They’ve been horribly mistreated by their human creators and only want to be free to raise their young. The downside is that they see humans as the enemy, and an easy food source. My hope is that readers are torn between seeing them as monsters, or cheering them on.
After that I may try writing one of those Blushing Books style, racy paranormal romances. After years of writing Cinemax’s After Dark shows along with three horror novels, I think I’m qualified.
I’ll entertain any offers… wouldn’t it be great if book deals were that easy!
About the Author
Primeval Waters is William Burke’s third novel, following a long career in film and television. He was the creator and director of the Destination America paranormal series Hauntings and Horrors and the OLN series Creepy Canada, as well as producing the HBO productions Forbidden Science, Lingerie and Sin City Diaries. His work has garnered high praise from network executives and insomniacs watching Cinemax at 3 a.m.
During the 1990’s Burke was a staff producer for the Playboy Entertainment Group, producing eighteen feature films and multiple television series. He’s acted as Line Producer and Assistant Director on dozens of feature films—some great, some bad and some truly terrible.
Aside from novels Burke has written for Fangoria Magazine, Videoscope Magazine and is a regular contributor to Horrornews.net
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