Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Author Spotlight Week - Creating a Paranormal World, Setting

Growing up as a girl in the 1970's, I remember some of my favorite books were the Hardy Boys mysteries. The best part were the settings – the spooky caves and dank manors. I could just close my eyes and I'd be there in the scenes. As a teenager, I fell in love with Victoria Holt. She revitalized the gothic romance with her 19th Century settings, dark, spooky mansions, and imperiled heroine. What else do the Hardy Boys and Holt have in common? Secrets.

All those elements attract me to paranormal writing – dark, haunting castles, exotic locales and secrets. In "The Wolf's Torment," I blend all of these elements to establish my setting – Delfin Castle in Constanta, Moldavia, a town snuggled up next to the Black Sea.

Delfin Castle is the ancestral estate of the Sigmaringens, the ruling family of Moldavia. I envision a castle similar to Bran Castle, on a hill, with several towers, which are different sizes, each providing a majestic view of the Black Sea. The castle has secret passages, dark corners, and hidden balconies. You have to live in the castle with Sonia and Mihai in order to navigate the maze within.

Romania implies exotic. While the climate and seasons are very similar to the mid-Atlantic states in America, the food, customs, and even religion are different. The Romanian people are very superstitious and witching in Romania is a recognized profession to this day. The food consists of wine, meals such as lamb and pork, oatmeal, crepes, and vegetables such as cabbage, onions, and peppers. Fish is also a big part of the diet as is cold soup.

While Romanians are generally a friendly people, their customs mean a lot to them. From religious customs to superstitious customs, Romanians embrace them with a passion. In "The Wolf's Torment," I blend them together when Mihai, Viktor, Sonia, and Theresa color Easter eggs. The first egg colored must be blue and given to children for good health and luck. When Sonia cracks the egg Viktor gives her, she believes she's brought down bad luck on them. When Sonia's father can't continue on Martisor, she takes it as a sign of bad luck as well.

For me, every paranormal story must have a juicy secret. In "The Wolf's Torment," both Mihai and Viktor have secrets to keep – Mihai is a witch and Viktor is a werewolf.

Setting is so important to a story because it establishes a mood – a tone. A paranormal is perfect for shadows and secrets and that's a big part of the appeal for me.


From The Pen & Muse:
A complete werewolf story through and through, Burkhart does it again with an amazing cast of characters, entertaining dialogue and plot. Lovers of historical paranormal romance will enjoy this read, the first in the Moldavian Moon series.



"Come." He gestured to the door and she walked out. Mihai slipped in front of her and they took a hall that led towards the servants' area of the castle. Just before they reached the servants' living quarters, he opened a door that was disguised as part of the stone wall and went inside. A small table with a candle in a pewter holder stood near the door. Mihai lit it and closed the door. Theresa followed him as they ascended the stairs. Thank goodness her dress had a thick crinoline under it, keeping her fairly warm. The staircase was cold and made of stones, yet Theresa was thrilled to learn of this secret passage.

They climbed for several minutes. They must have been high up in the castle by now. Mihai passed two wooden doors in the staircase until coming to a third at the end of the staircase. He opened it and Theresa walked into a darkened room illuminated by a small sunbeam coming in through dirty glass doors. Mihai walked over to the fireplace, placed wood and kindling in it, and started a fire. While he did that, Theresa walked around the room.

It was compact, yet cozy. There was a shelf with blankets, pillows, books, maps, and writing tools. A huge telescope mounted onto a metal tripod rested in front of the glass doors.

The fire blazed to life and Mihai grabbed a blanket, throwing it in front of the fireplace. He motioned for Theresa to sit down and she did. Mihai sat next to her. His expression appeared intense, and then softened.

"I bet you're wondering why I brought you here."

"I am curious."

"Well, I would have preferred to show you the winery or even take you out on the royal yacht, but it's still winter and too cold for those things."

"I understand."

"This is my escape when I can't leave the castle."

She arched an eyebrow. "Oh?"

"I like to look at the stars. My mother acquired the telescope." He paused and pointed to a stack of papers on a nearby shelf. "Those are my homemade star charts."

"You're an amateur astronomer?"

"I am." He paused again, and drew in a breath. "I brought you here because this place is private and special to me, and I know we could talk without being spied on."

She giggled. "Us? Spied on?"

"I case you hadn't noticed, my father is very keen that you."

"I did notice." His expression stilled and grew serious. Granted, she was nervous too, but she tried not to show it so much.

"So, do you?" she asked.

"Do I what?"

"Like me?"

He rubbed his hand across the nape of his neck. "Well, I would like to learn more about you."

BLURB: Mihai Sigmaringen has a secret – he's a witch. Will love give him the courage to save his family from a destructive werewolf.

Visit the Book Trailer on You Tube and give it a 'like' at:

The Wolf's Torment is available as an ebook only on Kindle, Nook, Kobo, and Sony Ereader. Formats include: PDF, html, and epub which can be found on the Publisher's Website at:

About the Author: Stephanie Burkhart is a 911 dispatcher for LAPD. She also served as an MP in the US Army. Multi-published, she has a children's book, "The Giving Meadow" with 4RV Publishing. She's an avid reader , loves coffee in the morning, and her second favorite movie witch is Emma Watson's "Hermoine" from Harry Potter.

You can find me at:
Tweet me at:


  1. I've been meaning to get here all week, but it's flying by. What beautiful photos you have on this post!

    I'm a 70's girl myself so I know just what you're talking about.

    I love the questions you've been placing on the DBP connection loop too.

  2. You so carry your reader into the heart of both your characters and your settings. These pics are awesome, Steph. Best wishes for your books.

  3. JoAnn, it's great to see you pop in. I'm enjoying the questions, too but I'd like to see a little more participation. :) Hey, I'm easy!

    Sherry, thank you so much for popping in. I hope I make the setting feel like a supporting character. That's what I strive for!


  4. I recognized Neuschwansteing Castle, but not the other two. Nice post.

  5. I worked with a doctor who was from Romania. In fact, his father escaped from there and came to America and had to rebuild his life. He did. He gave all his kids a college education.
    I have been fascinated with Romania ever since and have researched it and the language so I find your blog so interesting and informative. Those castles look formidable, don't they? So much of Romania is still remote. That's why they filmed Cold Mountain there.
    Your book, the Wolf's Torment, looks like a wonderful story and the cover is gorgeous. All the best to you.

  6. I lived in Spain and we toured lots of castles over the three years. I can see this as a great location for a story.

  7. Caroline, great to see you. One is Bran Castle, considered "Dracula's" Castle. It was on sale a couple of years ago. The other is a Castle on the Romania coast overlooking the Black Sea.

    Sarah, thanks so much for sharing that story. How heroic he was to leave. I agree - even today, outside of Bucharest and the major cities much is still rural.

    Linda, ah....I'm a sucker for a great castle. I lived in Germany for 7 years in the 1980-1990's and traveled throughout Europe seeing a lot of castles, too. I just love the look. Thanks so much for popping in.