Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Writers on Writing: An Interview with Kristin Burchell

Photo Credit: Kristin Burchell

Kristin Burchell and I met at Oregon SCBWI’s Great Critique last January. We were fortunate to be in a YA group with the amazing Cidney Swanson (SAVING MARS). Kristin sat next to me, and I couldn’t believe that not only did she write historical fantasy, but she had written one set at Versailles, just like I had. Although our books are set in different time periods, we both love lyrical language, history and magic. Soon we began to exchanging work, and she was a great help to me on the book I’m currently querying.

I was so happy when Kristin told me her agent had sold her debut novel, THE WITCHES OF PROPOSAL ROCK, to Astraea Press.  Proposal Rock is a rock in Neskowin, Oregon, where my family and I vacation every year. I’m so excited that a book inspired by one of my favorite places is going to be published!
Recently Kristin and I met over Lebanese food to discuss her publication journey.

When did you decide to be a writer?

I’ve been writing my whole life. Even when I was a little kid, I wrote little books. When I started teaching, I started writing novels, and I would often imagine stories about teaching. We did a lot of travel during that time, and I became interested in the Terror and Marie Antoinette. My novel about Marie Antoinette was the first one I sent out in the late 90s.

How many novels have you written?

I’ve written five to completion, and I’m in the process of writing another one. Two of them are not based on a historical time period.  WITCHES OF PROPOSAL ROCK takes place on Proposal Rock as if it were in New England during the time of the witch trials.

Most of your novels are historicals. What kind of research do you do for your stories?

I love to travel to the places I’m writing about. I read a lot about the French revolution for my novel about Marie Antoinette. I read a lot of Shakespeare’s plays and about Shakespearian England for one novel. I wish I could go to England.

Proposal Rock on a not-so-stormy day
How did you get the idea for THE WITCHES OF PROPOSAL ROCK?
I was at Neskowin on one of those beautiful stormy days at the beach. I was thinking of all the  good stories of people proposing on Proposal Rock. Then my mind went to the morbid—what would happen if something bad happened?

How did you get your agent? How did you know she was the right agent for you?

When I was researching agents to submit to, she said she was looking for suspenseful historicals, which is what I write. Then when I talked to her on the phone, she said she read my sentences out loud a couple of times. She really liked the language.

I submitted a query letter. She asked for a partial in September. Then she requested a full in April of the next year. I signed with her in August. I revised the manuscript a lot with my critique group before I sent it.

I know it took a year and a half for you to sell your book, THE WITCHES OF PROPOSAL ROCK. How did you stay sane through the submissions process?

My agent was really good and told me to keep writing and not to get discouraged. Luckily, I was already writing another novel.  I tried to remember what it’s all about: it’s not about getting published, it’s about the craft and enjoying the craft.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on revising the original novel about Marie Antoinette. I am finishing a novel I’m co-writing with a friend. I am in the baby stages of a novel about the Terror.

What books or authors influenced you?
Young Adult:

Historical Fiction for adults:

What piece of advice would you give to other writers?
Remember: Keep writing because you love to write, not just to get published.

That's great advice! Thanks for sharing about your publication journey with us, Kristin.


  1. Congratulations to Kristin on her debut. May the journey be as joyous as can be, and here's to many more!

  2. Proposal Rock looks amazing! Is that a bunch of trees on it? I can just imagine witchy things going on there! :)

  3. Yes, it is covered with trees. There's a trail going up, but it's really steep, so I haven't made it to the top--yet!

  4. Wonderful interview! Can't wait to see this one in print!