A Q&A with Clark Burbidge, author of The Relic
Today, Clark is taking readers back to where it all began with the launch of an updated, expanded edition of StarPassage Book One: The Relic (Morgan James Publishing), where two teenage siblings find themselves desperate for answers when a mysterious relic reveals its age-old secrets and power.
Join our heroes on a series of dangerous adventures to solve the relic’s riddles, save lives, escape the ever-increasing Tracker threat, and experience some of the most dreadful and exciting moments in history. Will they learn from the past–should they change it if they can? Is there any hope for survival?
The action-packed, non-stop odyssey of the StarPassage series not only entertains readers but shows them how to persevere and find hope through everyday challenges and life’s biggest storms as well as helps give them direction, purpose and a reason to become something more than they otherwise might have been.
What inspired you to create this series?
A silver star at the top of my son’s family Christmas tree a couple of years ago. It was a beautiful setting as they placed it at the top and I commented that there was a good story there somewhere. The idea kept bouncing around in my head and then combined with the difficulties we experienced when I was growing up with what I now have come to understand was my Father’s struggle with PTSD from his experiences in the Korean War. Within a month the story was well underway. I wanted people, especially children who struggle to feel there is real hope that they can overcome family challenges and personal challenges. This book provides such hope and encouragement I believe.
How would you describe the characters Tim and Martie?
Tim is a sturdy 6+ foot high school sophomore. He is athletic and intelligent but feels helpless in his current situation. He is doing his best to try to understand and be the adult in his little sister’s life but feels unequal to the task. Martie is a gymnast and hopelessly optimistic go-getter. She is in middle school and 3 years younger than Tim. She believes anything can be solved and is a total sucker for any time of adventure. You might say she is fearless although it is partly because she isn’t experienced enough in life to understand the risks and consequences that sometimes are present. She is worried about her parents and really is having trouble comprehending how their perfect family could so quickly have run into such deep trouble. She is at a loss how to go forward with her life.
How would you explain the family dynamic between Tim, Martie, and their parents? How does it evolve through the book?
They are a very close family who really care about each other. They have always worked and played and discovered as a team. Their togetherness has always defined their family. But they are in complete disarray as the book begins. This is the central quest of the book. How to bring the family back together. It involves helping their dad deal with his PTSD and their mom overcome her related depression both of which is pulling them in opposite directions so they are no longer a team but fighting alone as individuals. Their travels through history are the relic’s way to help them pull together and overcome. Will they do it? Does it work? You’ll have to read to get the answers…
What was the most rewarding moment you experienced in writing StarPassage: The Relic?
I write as if I am experiencing the story for the first time so I honestly don’t know how it will end up. So when I got to Christmas in the book and they had the strange visitor and then I discovered who was going to come to dinner and resolved how that would happen it was an incredible experience. Intertwining history with the lives of characters that feel so real and current was a tremendously rewarding experience.
What was the biggest challenge you faced in writing this book?
How to set the stage and provide the background for the current challenge in an interesting and dynamic way. The Fugitives Drift chapter was very important to that because it creates an exciting event in the middle of a story and it hooked me without letting me know how it fits in. I feel the background happens through several chapters now interspersed with excitement and adventure. That was very satisfying to discover how it worked together.
As an author who has written multiple books, how did the process of writing StarPassage: The Relic compare to your past work?
There was a lot more research involved. My last trilogy involved a completely fictional world and that had its own challenges of creating the mythology and setting. However, in StarPassage not only am I dealing with contemporary settings that have to be real, I am dealing with several separate real historical circumstances that require accuracy blended with literary license in a believable way. This involved research on many levels and it created a different challenge that I very much enjoyed.
What does your writing process look like?
I don’t really set an outline per se. I like to write as if I am experiencing the story as the characters do. This means I don’t know what I will discover when I round the bend. It makes it very exciting for me to write and I can hardly wait to get back to it. In a way it is like what I hope my readers experience when they put my book down, I hope they can’t wait to find out what’s next. This also keeps me from experiencing writer’s block.
How much research did you do for the book? What type of research did you do?
As mentioned above there was a lot of research from very different eras. It took me to George Washington’s diary’s, old ship designs and google maps of the southwest to unpublished personal family histories and interviews with veterans as well as a ton of reading of a wide variety of books to try to get every angle of the experiences of the Carson family right. The actual research was on and off for about 18 months time.
What drew you to the genre of young adult fantasy adventure?
I believe young adults and middle readers need exciting reading that also inspires and uplifts with strong well designed characters that can be identified with and respected. They are not superheroes but rather regular people that demonstrate the power each of us have within to bravely stand for what we believe, have hope and the faith that we are never alone. I believe my books can make a difference with young adults and help give them direction, purpose and a reason to become something more than they otherwise might have been.
What is the key to attracting young readers?
I believe they want to have a story that transports them to an adventure where the can find something of themselves in the characters and identify with the process and thereby absorb the lessons so they can apply them in their own life. It is not just about attracting, rather it is about holding attention with real stories that compel and inspire. Making them memorable and raising their expectations in life and their courage in stepping up to do hard things. I believe all young people are better off if they learn that they can accomplish hard things.
What has been one of your own greatest adventures?
By far my greatest adventure has been marrying my wife Leah which created a blended family of 10 children overnight. It has been wonderful and full of unexpected twists and turns almost daily. This wild ride of course continues. We have overcome great challenges along the way and have much still to accomplish but it has been something we have done together and we both cherish every day, every challenge and every joy. Oh and by the way…they just keep on coming…
When did your interest in writing begin?
I have always been a story teller and have written some in the past. However, in 2010 I was out of work and trying to find a job. I had some stories that I had always wanted to put to paper so I did. Then I decided that I wanted to see if I could get published and actually have strangers like my stories. One thing led to another and I have found it very rewarding and satisfying every step of the way.
Which writers inspired you as a kid? Which writers inspire you today?
As a kid I read a lot of Isaac Asimov and Ray Bradbury (Sci-Fi). In my 20’s and 30’s I enjoyed more of Tolkien and CS Lewis as well as history and historical fiction. Nowadays I am always reading a couple of books trying to appreciate good writing styles and discovering interesting parts of history.
Was your family involved in your writing process? To what extent?
They acted as readers and provided some helpful feedback on flow and interest levels and hooks. Also they have acted as models for some of the art in my books. However in StarPassage they were the inspiration for the relic and the concept of PTSD which were very central to the story. My wife and I are currently writing a book together and it has been tremendously satisfying and fun to share that experience.
What does your family say about your books?
They like them and probably are way too easy judges. I must say though by the time one is published they get a little tired of hearing the scraps of story and doing read throughs and having ideas bounced off them and hearing me up at 2 in the morning because I had a new idea and I had to record it right then.
In what ways do you hope readers are inspired by StarPassage: The Relic?
I have kind of addressed it but I hope it will inspire them to have confidence that they can overcome any difficulty and that they will never be alone in doing so. They have a Father in Heaven who cares, is involved and is always there for them in both spiritual and real, practical ways.
About the book
Two teenage siblings find themselves desperate for answers when a mysterious relic reveals its age-old secrets and power.
Tim and Martie Carson are the only ones who can save their family from a downward spiral fueled by their parent’s struggles with PTSD and depression. When they realize that an ancient relic discovered under mysterious circumstances holds the key to unlocking answers hidden in the past, the siblings embark on a race against time to learn the relic’s secrets while avoiding the Trackers, sinister shadowy figures doomed to haunt history and drawn to possess the relic for their own evil purposes.
Travel through history with the Carson family as they struggle to understand the relic’s secrets. In their race against time can they decipher the clues and piece together the puzzle containing the answers they desperately seek? Or will they be trapped forever by the evil forces relentlessly pursuing them?