Please welcome Mary Burton to the LR&M Blog! After reading THE SEVENTH VICTIM, I was glad to get a chance to talk with her and learn more about what she writes - and how she writes it.
I hear you have a new novel coming out in February, can you tell me about it?
THE SEVENTH VICTIM is set in Austin, Texas and tells the tale of photographer Lara Church who is the lone survivor of a serial killer called the Seattle Strangler. She’s been moving around the country for seven years using her 150-year-old bellows camera to take images. But as the book opens, she’s decided to stop running from her tragic past and to rebuild her life. What she doesn’t realize is that the killer never forgot her and is now preparing to finish the job he started all those years ago. When he strikes again in Austin, Texas Ranger James Beck takes the case and soon uncovers clues tying his victim to those in Seattle.
What inspired you to write THE SEVENTH VICTIM?
Books almost always start with character for me. I began to wonder what would happen to a woman who escaped a serial killer. How would the tragedy change her life? Would she live her life differently? Just asking those questions really got my mind rolling and the book fell into place.
Any plans to celebrate the release?
No special plans. I’m already hard at work on a new romantic suspense and will no doubt spend the day writing. I do have several signings planned and it’s always great fun to meet readers and talk to them about the book.
Your novel touches on some sensitive subjects, rape, domestic abuse…How do you deal with this emotionally as your characters come alive?
When I write the rough draft of a book, I often soft-pedal the harder emotions. It's not until the second or third draft that I really dig into the emotions. It’s not always easy, but I learned long ago that if I’m not on the edge of my seat as a writer then my reader won’t be on the edge while reading the story.
Both Lara and Danni are victims, and made an impact in my mind from the novel, are they mirrored after anyone in real life?
None of my characters are ever mirrored after real people. They are an amalgam of bits from the news, documentaries, non-fiction books I’ve read and a ton of other places.
Any chance we will get to see more of Danni in future novels?
Danni was one of my favorite characters in the book as well. You will definitely see her again in a romantic suspense set to come out in 2014 and maybe in other projects.
You have released books across different genres. What is next from you? More romantic suspense?
I’ve several romantic suspense novels ready for release with Kensington. In November you’ll see NO ESCAPE which features Dr. Jolene Granger and Texas Ranger Brody Winchester, and in 2014 a yet to be titled romantic suspense featuring vineyard owner Greer Templeton and Texas Ranger Tec Bragg. And I’m currently working on another romantic suspense set in Nashville, Tennessee.
Also new for me under the name Mary Ellen Taylor I have a women’s fiction novel, THE UNION STREET BAKERY that goes on sale February 5th from Berkley Books.
What genre is your favorite to write? LOL. That’s like asking which of my children is my favorite. Romantic suspense will always have a big piece of my heart. I love writing it. But I also really enjoyed writing the historicals and the short contemporary novels. And the women’s fiction was also great fun to write. They all present different challenges.
How do you take yourself from one time period to another when you begin a historical novel? Does it become harder or easier to picture yourself in the setting?
I’m a huge history buff and spend spare time visiting historical sites. It took some adjustment when I first started writing historicals and I had to consider travel times, lack of electricity and the manner of dress. But the historicals in many respects are no different than romantic suspense. It’s all about character and people really haven’t changed that much over time.
Do you have a novel you have written that stands out as “the best of the best” in your mind?
THE SEVENTH VICTIM is really one of my favorites. If you’ve not read me, THE SEVENTH VICTIM is a great book to start with because it’s the first of three novels I've set in Texas and it has lot of twists and turns that will keep you guessing to the end.
As an author, you must be a reader! What books do you enjoy the most? Are you an audio, e-book or are you a traditionalist who loved paper novels?
I’ve enjoyed all three but lately I’ve been listening to audio books. I’m a real multi-tasker and I love to listen to a book while I’m at the gym or on a long walk.
Do you have an all time favorite novel? Character?
This is too hard to answer. There just have been too many great books. Lately, I tend to enjoy fantasy, science fiction and of course nothing is better than a great romance.
Lastly, where do you write? Read?
My office is the ‘living room’ of my house. I started writing when my children were babies and this was the most central room in the house. I could see and hear everything. It was a little chaotic but it worked. And lately, I listen to books while I’m on the go. I download audio books right to my phone and listen as I go.
EXCERPT FROM MARY BURTON’S THE SEVENTH VICTIM
He pushed his cup away from him. “I’m not sure how much more Texas coffee I can stomach.”
“I made this latest batch. It will be good.”
“Good coffee in Texas? I don’t think so.”
She cocked a brow. “Be right back.”
Before he could answer, Danni vanished behind the counter. She grabbed a new cup and carefully poured coffee into a mug. She moved toward him with quick, purposeful steps and then set the mug in front of him. “That’s good coffee.”
“I can’t write legibly, and I can’t cook a lick, but I can make coffee.”
He took a sip and found he was pleasantly surprised. “Good.”
“Puhleez. It’s the best.”
“I’m from Seattle. We are ground zero for coffee.”
“As long as I’m on duty the coffee will be good.” She took the half-full cup and set it on her tray. “Enjoy.”
“Thanks, Danni.” As she turned he said, “Hey, didn’t that girl that was killed work here?”
Danni’s eyes grew suspicious. “Yeah. You a reporter?”
Raines shook his head. “God, no.”
“Do I look like a cop?”
Danni arched a brow. “Yeah.”
“Nice to see I haven’t lost that.” At her confusion he added, “I used to be a cop. Long time ago. I guess the case caught my eye. Hard not to ask questions. Sorry.”
His honesty appeared to disarm her. “No harm. And for the record, I didn’t like what they said about her in the news today.”
“I guess I just didn’t like the way they boiled her life down to bare facts. She was so much more than that.” Anger hardened her face, but there was no hint of tears. “Her uncle is flying in tomorrow to claim her.”
“I feel for them. I wouldn’t wish losing a child on my worst enemy.”
“What can you tell me about her, so I’ll remember more than the basic newscast?”
Danni’s voice grew softer. “She was kind of corny. Liked pink and singing Lady Gaga in the kitchen. She was moving to New York. I was kinda jealous of her.”
“You’ve got nothing to be jealous of, Danni. You strike me as a sharp kid.”
She snorted a laugh.
“Was there anybody who might have wanted to hurt her?”
“Mack and I were talking about it, and none of us can think of anyone. Like we told the Rangers, we’re all thinking it was some random guy.” A customer at another table caught her attention. “I’ve got to go.”
He watched as she moved toward another table and began to gather up plates. Danni was a tough nut and no wilting flower. Just like his daughter.
He could almost hear his wife now. “That girl of ours is going to be a general one day.”
He sipped his coffee, thought of his wife, Susan, and how much he missed her, their daughter, and home. Pushing aside a pang of guilt, he redirected his gaze to the patrons.
Within seconds he spotted a slight blond woman enter the café. She wore jeans, a T-shirt, and sandals and had a backpack slung over her shoulder. She was as slight as a teenager, but she moved with a confidence that only came with maturity.
Beck had been right. She wasn’t the meek girl who’d fled Seattle seven years ago. As a man approached her, Raines noted slight stiffening in her back as she extended her hand. Her handshake was firm and her gaze direct.
She laughed as the graying gentleman in his fifties spoke. After what looked to be a question, she pulled out a notebook and made a note. They chatted another half minute and then she made her way to the diner register, where she ordered a coffee. Just as quickly as she came, she was gone.
Lara Church, the Seattle Strangler’s last victim, had managed to rebuild her life.