About the Author
Stephen Burckhardt is a pen name for western author, Dianne Burckhardt. The photo of "Stephen" is Dianne's father, Steve Stephens. Dianne took this photo of her father when she was in college studying photojournalism as part of her communications degree. Her father was about the same age in this photo as Dianne was when she started writing the Into the West Saga Serial.
Dianne was born in Wichita, Kansas. Her family moved around quite a bit when she was young, but always stayed in or around the Wichita area living in Goddard, Benton, Valley Center, and finally settling back in Wichita. Dianne spent a few a years living on a ranch in Benton, KS as a
child. This is where she developed a deep love for all things western. It was on the ranch where Dianne learned to ride and care for horses, tend chickens and cattle, drive a tractor, and shoot various types of firearms. Being a proud member of the Cherokee nation only deepened he interest in history, animals, and native traditions.
After earning a degree in journalism from Wichita State University, Dianne spent years writing for various publications and eventually worked for a news service as an anchor for their east coast news feed. Dianne sat in a broadcast booth eight hours a day, Monday through Friday, broadcasting headline news stories and various features.
The job was depressing. Dianne spent her days mostly talking for eight hours a day about war, murder, kidnappings, rapes, corporate polluting of communities, and so much more. She decided if she was going to have to have a career dealing with the worst events in world, she would rather have a job doing something to stop them instead of just talking about them. Dianne went back to school and earned her second degree in forensic criminology. Just as Dianne was beginning to look for a job with a crime scene unit, she had an accident that changed the direction of her life.
In 2004, Dianne endured seven surgeries in six months, six of which were brain surgeries. After the fifth brain surgery, Dianne developed an antibiotic-resistant MRSA staph infection in her head and spent weeks in ICU barely clinging to life. At one point, she died but came back to life after a few minutes. Even after defying death once, she was not expected to survive the infection. Miraculously, Dianne pulled through, but spent the next five years recovering from the effects of the traumatic ordeal.
Dianne was advised she would never be able to recover enough to go back to work or be able to live free of pain medication. She was advised to accept her fate and live on disability. Dianne refused to accept that prognosis and began to research her conditions on her own.
After years of trial and error, Dianne was able to recover enough to return to work and was eventually able to work full time. About this same time, Dianne was able to finally live free of prescription pain medication once more. Writing became an important therapeutic tool in an effort to retrain Dianne’s brain and slowly find ways to rebuild the connections that had been severed by the repeated neurological trauma.
It was mostly due to this neurological trauma that Dianne decided to write her first book series under a pen name. After the brain surgeries, Dianne suffered serious damage to her language skills. She could not remember simple words. Her short-term memory was greatly damaged and is still an issue today, but is showing continual improvement. With her new challenges, Dianne was not sure she would be to write well again. She decided to write as "Stephen Burckhardt" dropping the last "s" from her maiden last name and adding her married last name to create her pen name.
Writing under this pen name gave her some security. If her first attempt at writing a book was a complete disaster, she could just walk away and no one would know it was Dianne who actually wrote it. She was greatly surprised when her first book won not only one, but two awards, in the first and only writing contest she had ever entered. The problem now was, no one knew it was Dianne who wrote the award-winning western. It also made doing interviews difficult. Which is why Dianne decided to come out as the actual author, but will continue to use the pen name Stephen Burckhardt for the Into the West Saga Serial and future books in the Territories Saga Serials as a thank you to her father for his contribution.