About Maria Schell Burden:
Hello! My name is Maria Schell Burden and thanks for looking at my info here on Book Goodies.
When I was young, my mother took all five of us kids to the library every single week. It was without a doubt the highlight of the week in our family. We would each come home with a stack of books and my mother would read to us every night. We read aloud to each other in the family car on road trips (passing the book from person to person, each reading a chapter until the book was finished). And of course, we broke the rules and read under the covers after lights out until the flashlight quit working. My love of literature and books is all your fault, Mom and Dad. And I’ve done it to my own kids—when they were young, we read all of my childhood favorites (our #1 all-time favorite will always be T-Bone the Babysitter by Clare Turlay Newberry) and carried on the tradition of reading everywhere we went.
Books are in my DNA and stories have been trying to get out of my brain and onto paper since I learned to talk, read and write. I have always read a lot of historical fiction, (I cut my teeth on the works of Janice Holt Giles, Allan W. Eckert, Gwen Bristow and others). I love anything related to American history, be it fiction or nonfiction, I enjoy a good mystery, and yes, on occasion, a well-written romance novel keeps me curled up by the fire for hours. Children’s literature has always been important to me, and I love to discover talented new authors in this field.
I am married to Kent Burden, a brilliant nonfiction writer who is a health and wellness expert. He has 8 or 9 books published last time I counted and has many more in development. We own a small independent publishing company called MLF Press.
I hope you enjoy my stories!
What inspires you to write?
Inspiration comes from a lot of different places for me. It’s in my daily life and the hilarious things people and animals do around me, it’s in my family history, and in my certifiably nerdy personality. Some mornings I wake up and just can’t get to my yellow legal pad or computer fast enough. When a story idea hits me, I write it down and then it is just hanging out there like a gift waiting to be opened or a juicy piece of ripe fruit that I can’t wait to pick and sink my teeth into. I’m truly giddy at the thought of starting new writing projects and seeing them come to fruition.
Tell us about your writing process.
For longer works like historical fiction and historical biography I outline a lot and spend a lot of time on character sketches because it’s really important for me to get the facts and storyline correct. I do most of that early stuff on a yellow legal pad (a lot of them, actually.) I always end up adding more characters I need later to move a storyline along and I just sketch them as I go. For me, the writing itself happens on my laptop or iPad and takes final shape there.
For children’s books, I always start by writing out the story or stanzas (if it’s a rhyming story) on a legal pad, and scratching and rewriting as needed. At some point I type it out and email it to my family, get notes, make adjustments and then get started on the illustrations if I’m doing them myself, or I write up the descriptions of the illustrations and a timeline for publication if I’m hiring an illustrator to do the illustrations.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
No, I don’t really talk with them, but they often talk to me in my dreams. Sometimes if I’m struggling with a plot problem or trying to improve some dialogue, one of my characters will bug me about it in my sleep and I’ll wake up saying “Duh! Why didn’t I think of saying it that way?” Some of my characters are actually ancestors of mine or my husband, so I sometimes feel an actual DNA connection with them and an obligation to get the story right because it isn’t just entertainment–it’s a real person’s life.
What advice would you give other writers?
Stop thinking about writing and start writing. Your stuff might just be brilliant, and if it isn’t, then make it better, then polish it until it is brilliant. But if there is nothing to polish you will never know. So start already!
How did you decide how to publish your books?
My first two books were commissioned and published in the 1990s by a small, independent publishing company and I liked how that company could publish books they were passionate about. I was truly grateful for the opportunity to have my work published and I learned a lot from them. But my husband, who is a super talented nonfiction writer and wellness expert, had several titles he wanted to publish, and a few years ago we decided it was time to open our own publishing company (MLF Press) and be in control of our own work. We have 12 books published so far! Our son, an enormously talented fiction writer, published his first book “Flash Bang” with us, but honestly, his work is so epic, so incredibly good that he really needs an agent so he can get a big publishing deal and start writing full time.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
I believe that book publishing is going through a painful period of reinvention. Some people say “now that anyone can publish a book digitally” that nothing but junk will be published. I disagree. There is indeed some bad writing for sale out there, but in the end readers will reward good writing and reject bad writing, just as they always have, and when the dust settles the “book” publishing business will thrive on more levels than ever. The best writing will rise to the top and those authors will make millions, but many other authors whose works in the old system would never have seen the light of day, now have the opportunity to make a living with their work by selling it in a new way. How can that be bad?
What do you use?: Professional Editor, Beta Readers
What genres do you write?: Children’s Literature, Historical Fiction, Historical Fiction Novellas, Historical Biography, Young Adult Fiction
What formats are your books in?: Both eBook and Print