Interview with Author/Illustrator Jenny S Burke

Recently I did a little foray into the wonderful world of asking other people to write my blogs for me in the form of an interview, and it seemed pretty popular so I asked the delightful Jenny S Burke to come along and share a glimpse into her life and creativity.

J. S. Burke Q1. Hi Jenny, thank you so much for agreeing to be interrogated! Could you please tell us what kind of books you write?

I write books with science, art, adventure, and a twist of fun! My first books were Crystal Geometry and Crystal Colors. These are hands-on activity books with kits of beautiful crystals to help youngsters (and adults) have a deep understanding of math, chemistry, and organic chemistry. I learned to draw cartoons to help make this clear. These book/kits are used in schools. Then a science fantasy book began to grow in my mind with adventure and some unusual art; this eventually became The Dragon Dreamer. My dragon-ladies grew huge fantasy snowflakes in the clouds and made them into amber ornaments. So I drew what I saw and finished another art/science & colouring/activities book: Fantasy Snowflakes Activities.

I recently published The Dragon Dreamer by J.S. Burke (Lind Press) for middle grade and young adult readers. It’s a fast-paced science fantasy/adventure with flying dragons, an undersea world, and an unexpected friendship. Arak is a young, insecure dragon who is taunted by other young dragons. He leaves the clan, crashes on ice at sea, and is seriously injured. Scree, a fearless, shape-shifting octopus, finds and heals him. When an undersea volcano erupts it triggers a towering tsunami and a deadly chain of events. Can Arak use his unique talents and friendships to save the dragons? The Dragon Dreamer is also a story with unique characters learning to accept and appreciate their differences. You can see it on Amazon (paperback and e-book) and on Barnes & Noble and Kobo.

Type “octopus and dragon” in the Amazon search box and The Dragon Dreamer appears at the top. Dragons are well-known in literature, but the incredible octopus has been sadly ignored by most writers. I worked as a marine biologist and have seen that the octopus is amazingly suited to the  imagination! Octopuses are very intelligent beings with distinct personalities, and they have more brain neurons than  humans.  Octopuses have formed strong friendships with people. One octopus became concerned after feeling the illness in her human friend, using the sensitive sensors in her arm suckers.

FRONT2LowDPI Octopuses can taste with their arms and change the shape of their bodies. They have two eyes similar to ours and  thousands of tiny eyes in their skin. These skin-eyes allow an octopus to camouflage; octopuses can change the colour and  texture of their skin to match what is behind them. The mimic octopus can shape-shift to perfectly resemble at least a  dozen other species, including crabs, stingrays, and jellyfish. If an octopus can choose to mimic others so realistically, why  not choose to communicate with Arak, The Dragon Dreamer?

 Q2. What were your earliest influences? What did you read as a child?

There was no library in our town when I was young and the school books were boring . . . but our retired next-door-  neighbours had a huge collection of comic books! They let me sit in their home and read for hours. I loved the story lines  and creative cartoons. I read the dictionary and devoured tasty new words. An amazing elementary school teacher  started a poetry club that I joined, where I learned the challenge of choosing the perfect word.

During middle school I made friends with a boy who read sci-fi. He let me borrow his Andre Norton books! From that point on I was hooked on science fiction.

 Q3. What are you working on at the moment?

I’m writing a sequel. Black Lightning continues the adventures of the characters we got to know in The Dragon Dreamer. We meet the anticipated ice dragons and they are not what Arak expects. I was afraid I had run out of inner story, but it’s growing! Which is good, because this time I have a deadline.

 Q4. What can we look forward to in the future from you?

I’ll write more science fantasy books and maybe another science/art/math book. I want to be more involved in groups that help the environment and people. And I probably can’t really stay away from art!

Jenny, I know being an artist you do your own covers, and I have to say, I love the one you did for The Dragon Dreamer, it’s so vibrant and eyecatching.

 Q5. Who are your favourite authors?

I love the alien worlds and adventures in Alan Dean Foster’s Pip and Flinx books. I like the respect for life and appreciation for the connectedness of everything in Rachel Carson’s Silent SpringThe Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Spears has wonderful imagery and an accepting, intrepid heroine. The rabbit characters in Watership Down by Richard Adams are memorable, the world is real, and I want to be there. I’ve read many wonderful books. Why did I enjoy a book so much? What makes a great character? Dialogue? Pacing? Story arc? Plot twist? As a writer I’ve re-read books to hone my craft, asking these questions, but I still feel the magic. I want my books to bring magic into the lives of my readers.

 Q6. What do you do when you’re not reading?

I’m writing! Or working on art of various sorts. I draw stylized scrimshaw on large display conchs and tiny abalone necklace shells. I paint and make pen-and-ink drawings. I was strongly influenced as a child by the simple elegance of the jewellery in the Smithsonian Natural History Museum. Now I make affordable jewellery with gemstones, sterling, pearls, Swarovski crystal, and more. I use proper Fibonacci proportions (i.e. math! It IS useful!), weight the design for colour density, and balance by historic gemstone meanings. What could be more fun? Then I’m back in my imaginary/real worlds . . . writing what I experience.

Q7. What is your writing process?

I keep paper and pens everywhere so I can jot down ideas at any time. I make a rough story outline, short character biographies, and start typing. I remember my own dives and adventures, and research anything I need to understand better like volcanoes. The world grows in my mind and flows down my arm into my fingers. I keep typing, revise as I go, and type notes for what I want to expand or add. I seek feedback from readers. After many edits, more feedback, and professional edits, it’s almost done!


Jenny, thank you so much for sharing your innermost secrets with us and introducing us to an amazing world. I wish you huge success with The Dragon Dreamer and all your future projects.

 THE DRAGON DREAMER e-book will be on sale for $0.99 through January 18, 2015.