Horror Author Kealan Patrick Burke Speaks at Valencia College


Mickenzie Hannon

Contemporary horror author Kealan Patrick Burke spoke at Valencia College and read an excerpt from his upcoming novel on Mar. 25.

Mickenzie Hannon, Reporter

Valencia College’s Writing and Connecting in Times of Quarantine Visiting Author series featured a reading and discussion from contemporary horror author Kealan Patrick Burke on Mar. 25.

Burke won the Bram Stoker Award in 2005 for his novella “The Turtle Boy” and has earned Bram Stoker nominations five other times. In addition to his novels, Burke has written over 200 short stories. He is also an active member of online horror literature communities.

The event started with Burke reading an excerpt from his novel, “Mr. Stitch,” which is about a hyper imaginative child who goes missing after becoming convinced there is something living in the shadows of his house. “Mr. Stitch” has not yet been published, but Burke shared that the novel is currently with his agent.

Professor Kirsten Holt helped host the event and encouraged prospective student writers to pursue careers in the arts, despite common financial concerns. “The reality of the starving artist is not without some truth,” Holt said, “but it’s also completely possible to be a successful creative, and Kealan is proof of that.” Holt listed the work experiences Burke has pursued outside of writing, including designing book covers, writing scripts for shorts and films, writing graphic novels, and running his own publishing company.

Burke’s prior jobs, as Holt joked, “reads a lot like a Craigslist series of ads.” Burke has worked as a waiter, drama teacher, editor, security guard, assembly line worker, salesman, bartender, landscaper, grunge band vocalist, fraud investigator, and mapmaker.

After reading an excerpt from “Mr. Stitch,” participants had the opportunity to ask Burke questions in the Q&A session. Participants asked questions about small publishing companies, receiving feedback, choosing the horror genre and more.

Writing within the horror genre was not a choice Burke necessarily made. “It’s the entertainment I enjoy. I gravitate more towards weighty themes and darker outcomes,” Burke said. “I want people to read the books, and I want them to be jolted by it and to be giddy at the experience of a safe kind of fear: the kind you can close the covers on it and be done with, not the ones that you have to live.” Writing horror stories is “a great way to explore the human psyche through the panics of fear and terror and creating monsters to embody the things that scare us,” Burke explained. While he enjoys horror, Burke does not want to limit himself to that genre. “I would love nothing more than to write a great western, science fiction novel, fantasy novel.”

Born and raised in Ireland, Burke immigrated to the United States in 2001. His experiences and upbringing in Ireland, as he explained, heavily influence his style of writing. “I am in the unique position of being able to write with different sensibilities based on the places I have lived,” he said. From a cultural standpoint, Ireland has always been a nation of storytellers. “The climate there [in Ireland] kind of shaped the combination of those two things: telling stories around the fire [oral storytelling] and the climate.” According to Burke, spending at least half his life in Ireland had a profound effect on him. “I was cultivated as a storyteller over there. It’s a land of green and grey, and I think those shades feature prominently in my writing, as well.”

Burke is currently releasing a graphic novel for John and Sandy Carpenter’s Storm King Comics, outlining a new novel and releasing the novella “The Widows of Winding Gale.”

The Visiting Author events are free to attend, and participants affiliated with Valencia who attend the event have the opportunity to receive digital copies of the visiting author’s work. The next Visiting Author event will feature Juliana Spahr on Apr. 23. Information and registration for the event can be found on Eventbrite.