Ms. Burke graciously granted me an interview after reading her novel, Magic Bridge. If you haven’t read it, please do. Very few authors come out, independently published, with such power as the powerful writing she displays. A high school friend, Deanna Birdsall, “introduced” us on Facebook. Tommy and I spoke briefly then I requested to review her book. My original thought was, “It will be a sweet little book and I will give it a sweet little review.” My next thought was, “Oh please don’t be horrible so I don’t have to mangle my integrity.” Then my next thought was, “Oh please have fairly decent editing so I don’t have to cringe with every sentence.” And … I was not only pleasantly surprised, I was knocked out of my chair. Magic Bridge is a love story, a story dealing with emotions, and a story that no one should forego experiencing. My review is located on the Book Reviews page of this site. And my interview with Thomasina Burke is here:
Sara: I know that you said the idea and characters came from your husband, friends, and lost loved ones. How deeply were you affected while you were writing this book?
Ms. Burke: When the book was first conceptualized, my beautiful sister Kelley Bridgette (Bridge) was in the final stages of her battle with breast cancer. It just broke my heart; my sisters and I are very close because of the truly horrific childhood we endured. They were my fiercest protectors, and to lose one was unfathomable. There were many days when I sat at the computer writing and simultaneously sobbing at my own words. My book is very personal; my brother-in-law Matt died in a plane crash at only 22 years of age, so it was natural that my characters would be named after two truly beautiful souls; Matthew and Bridgette. One funny aside, neither of our daughters will read the book because they feel as if I “killed off their father!”
Sara: Have you traveled to all the places you mention in Magic Bridge? If so, which is your favorite and why?
Ms. Burke: Let me preface this by saying that travel represents something really important to me, as I was pretty much agoraphobic, would not fly in an airplane, and barely ever left my house. I was crippled by panic and phobias, and it took many years for me to work through conquering those fears. So, for me, travel represents mental health and my own courage to get in an airplane even when it still strikes utter fear in me. Now, back to your question! Yes, we have travelled to all of the places in Magic
Bridge. It is difficult to pick just one, so I will have to go with the top two; Dingle, Ireland and Vernazza, Italy. Ireland calls to
my soul in a way that no other location does; the castles, shimmering mists, and Celtic crosses are so evocative for me. There is also an indefinable aura in Vernazza, the smells and sights that make it one of the most uniquely beautiful locations in the world.
Sara: What did you learn as a writer while you were putting Bridgette’s and Matt’s story on paper?
Ms. Burke: Someone once asked when I “knew” I was going to be an author. Although I have always liked to tell stories and have the “gift of gab,” I am first and foremost a nurse. Five years ago, if someone had told me that I would write a book, which was actually well received, I’d have said something like “yeah, right!” What I learned as a writer is that your characters do have their own voices and they take on a life of their own. I never had a pre-conceived idea of what Bridgette and Matt were going to do next
Sara: How many boxes of tissues did you go through while bringing Bridgette and Matt to life?
Ms. Burke: Tons! ! I fell in love with both of them, and I suffered for both when Matt’s time came to an end. I wrote that chapter out on the front porch of our cabin, bawling my eyes out the entire time. My husband finally came outside and said,“Are you okay?” I asked him to read it to see what he thought, and my big, stoic goof of a husband started crying. That is when I knew that I had“nailed” that section.
Sara: I notice the point of view changes by chapter with your primary and secondary characters. What made you decide to use the first person point of view each of these chapters?
Ms. Burke: It was a style that I have admired in other authors, such as Jodi Piccoult. To be perfectly honest, however, I wrote the entire book in Bridgette’s voice. It was my wonderful editor Candy Green Gustavson that thought the changes of voices would be more effective. I think it really worked for this book, and I am continuing on in that style for the sequel.
Sara: What advice can you give to someone that considers writing a first novel?
Ms. Burke: I will tell you the exact advice that I have been giving my hiking buddy for the last five years, “sit your butt down and write every day, even if it is two sentences!” I am thoroughly convinced that everyone has a good book in them that they just need to let out. About two months ago, that same hiking friend told me she had something for me. She proceeded to hand over a flash drive containing a 90,000-word book that she had written over a four-week time period! And its good!
Sara: Did you have another story that you wanted to tell before this story where Bridgette and Matt wanted to have their story told first?
Ms. Burke: Although I am visiting some of Bridgette’s “dark places” in the second book, dealing with some of her childhood abuse and phobias, I don’t know that I would be able to write the story of their background. It may be difficult for others to understand, but I feel that if you write about perpetrators of abuse, it shifts power to them again. However, I can share that there will be a trilogy of Magic Bridge books.
Sara: Is there a particular place or time of day that helped you write more effectively?
Ms. Burke: I am a School Nurse at a High School, so when the last bell of the day rings and all the teenagers make their escape, I sit in my nice, quiet office and get some good writing done. My daughter is an Interior Designer that has decorated my office beautifully, and even feng shui’d it, so that it is a beautifully calm sanctuary. Right now, school is out for the summer, and I’m trying to figure out where to write. My house isn’t an option, since I live in what I have dubbed the “Burke Commune,” with a daughter, three grandchildren, and my husband adding to the chaos.
Sara: Thomasina, our mutual friend Deanna connected us so that I could read your book. First, I’m eternally grateful for her friendship from high school days, but now I’m grateful that she was the wheel that connected us. Is Deanna a character of your book?
Ms. Burke: Deanna was and is a dear, dear friend and she is beautiful, inside and out. Although she isn’t a character in the first book, I’ll have to work her in to the second one! Her family was so wonderful, I always felt like I was safe in her house. Her Mom was even my daughters’ babysitter!
(Note to readers: I had to ask this, but honestly didn’t “feel” Deanna in the characters Ms. Burke brought to life)
Sara: The last question I have for you is: Am I going to be privileged to read another novel by you? Or are you going to make me want more for the rest of my life and feel unfulfilled?
Ms. Burke: LOL. Already answered that! I really felt like I had to continue on, because so many people asked about Bridgette and what she would do with her life. A lot of people made comments like“your book changed the way I looked at life,” or “I am going to talk to my parents about their end of life wishes,” or “Is she going to get together with Luke?” I feel that I have a responsibility for my readers to know that Bridgette will forge ahead, find love again, and live her life with passion and strength.
On a more personal note: I could not have read this book at a sooner period in my life. You touched my heart and soul on so many levels with Bridgette and Matt. I want to thank you for granting me this interview, and thank you for granting me the privilege of reading Magic Bridge and taking me on a journey that I did not know was there. I lived and went to high school in Phoenix, and never met Thomasina Burke although we shared common friends. A trip to Phoenix will be somewhere in my future and will hopefully include a visit with her.
So dear readers, grab a cup of your favorite drink, go to your most comfortable area, be sure to have a box of tissues and a little time without interruption and read Magic Bridge. You won’t be disappointed.