Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Featured Author: Mary Burton

I'm happy to have bestselling author Mary Burton here today to talk about her romantic suspense novel, No Escape, the second in a series, published by Kensington Publishing. Don't miss the first book in the Texas Rangers series, The Seventh Victim, look for the third in the series, You're Not Safe, coming in April 2014, and enjoy an excerpt from No Escape here after the interview.

About the book:

Forensic psychologist Dr. Jolene Granger has helped the Texas Rangers solve cases of multiple murders in the past. In fact, Jo did her dissertation on serial killer Harvey Lee Smith. That's the only reason she can think of that he wants her--and only her--to be the one to hear his dying confession. She agrees, vowing not to let this monster who buried his victims alive claim a foothold in her psyche. She hopes to learn about bodies never found and to bring closure to families who have not been able to lay their missing loved ones to rest. She knows Harvey has secrets to share. It just turns out that they're just not all the sort that Jo wants to hear.
She's also not expecting to encounter Brody Winchester, whose arrest of Harvey earned him his Texas Ranger star. But there he is. Newly transferred to Ranger headquarters in Austin and determined to stick close until the unaccounted victims are found. Too bad the two haven't spoken since the divorce that severed their brief and painful marriage.

Ill and with his every movement monitored, Harvey still exudes menace, despite no longer being a threat. Or is he? Someone is killing women just the way Harvey did, sending furtive messages to him, claiming credit and seeking approval. 

Harvey's got a protégé, one who's becoming bolder and more vicious every day.  Brody and Jo have to uncover the secrets within the trail of shallow graves and finish the puzzle before its creator takes his final bow. They need to do it now. Harvey's about to die and the killer isn't finished yet.

Interview with Mary Burton

Mary, you have twenty published books. How long have you been writing, and how did you start? 

I’ve been writing forever. I started writing when my children were babies. I'd put them down for a nap and then write as fast as I could, knowing I only had a couple of hours.  Those babies are in college now so that’ll tell you I’ve been at this a while.

What’s the story behind the title No Escape?

My editor named the book, and I really think he nailed it!

Do you have another job outside of writing? 

Writing is a full time job for me.

How did you create the plot for this book? 

When I was plotting No Escape, I was attending the Writer’s Police Academy, which brings mystery and suspense authors together with law enforcement experts. It’s a great event and never fails to inspire another story for me. Anyway, at the conference I attended a shallow grave seminar. (I know, sounds crazy.) As I stood in the woods with my fellow classmates and listened to the instructor, the ideas for the next book started spinning.   I had a rough outline for the book within a couple of weeks.

What’s your favorite line from a book? 

“The autopsy revealed what Brody already suspected. She’d been buried alive.”

How do you get to know your characters?

I do my best to map out their lives, but it’s not until I start writing the first draft that I really get to know them. When you put a character under pressure you really find out what they’re made of.

Which character did you most enjoy writing?

Jolene Granger. I liked her the instant she popped into my mind. I love her because she’s smart and so together but suffers from the same doubts and worries that we all struggle with. 
What would your main character say about you? 

LOL. She might not think I’m all that exciting. I’m either behind the computer, cooking or chasing dogs.

I can relate! Are any of your characters inspired by real people?

No. I might notice something in particular about someone and brazenly steal it for one of my characters but across the board they’re a mish mash of people, experiences and research. 

Is your book based on real events?

No. I have a very active imagination, and it doesn’t take much—-for instance a shallow grave seminar--to get me spinning a new plot.

Are you like any of your characters?

I wish! My heroines don’t worry about calories, their snappy comments are well thought out (except in the first draft when it’s still mostly my voice), and they’re brave enough to run toward danger. 

One of your characters has just found out you’re about to kill him off. He/she decides to beat you to the punch. How would he kill you? 

I’m thinking poison. Mix that poison in a carrot cake and I’m done for.

If you could be one of your characters, which one would you choose? 

I’m very partial to Dr. Jo Granger. She’s smart, kind hearted and she is fearless. She is one of my favorite characters.

With which of your characters would you most like to be stuck in a bookstore?

Brody Winchester. He is one nice-looking man, and he has a wicked sense of humor.

Tell us about your favorite scene in the book. 

When Brody sees Jo for the first time in 14 years. He keeps reminding himself that his visit is business and not personal but the minute he sees her on a climbing wall in the gym, surrounding by the cheering at-risk teens she mentors, he’s fascinated by the person she’s become.

What song would you pick to go with your book? 

Zac Brown’s "Jolene." If you listen to the song’s words it has nothing to do with No Escape, but there is something about the mood and emotion of the song that really caught my attention.

Who are your favorite authors? 

Love Nora Roberts, Tony Hillerman and Lisa Gardner.

What book are you currently reading and in what format (e-book/paperback/hardcover)? 

It’s a nonfiction book called Grain Brain. I love books on nutrition and cooking. It’s in audio form, and I listen to it when I’m at the gym. 

Do you have a routine for writing? 

I write every day. I don’t work for a set number of hours but have a set number of pages I feel I should write. Once I’ve hit my page goal, I’m done for the day. Sometimes the pages take me a few hours and sometimes they’ll take me all day.

Where’s home for you? 

Richmond, Virginia.

You’re leaving your country for a year. What’s the last meal (or food) you would want to have before leaving?

A hamburger, French fries and a vanilla milkshake!

Would you rather work in a library or a bookstore? 

I did work in the library when I was in college. I enjoyed it a lot, so I think I’d like to go back there.

Where is your favorite library, and what do you love about it? 

The Gayton Library in Henrico County is my go-to library. I love that place!

You’re given the day off, and you can do anything but write. What would you do? 

Hike, shop and a massage!

What’s one of your favorite quotes? 

“Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.” --Thomas Edison

What three books have you read recently and would recommend? 

Touch and Go by Lisa Gardner, The Time Between by Karen White, and Half a Lie by Darin Strauss.

What are you working on now? 

I’m working on a new romantic thriller set in Nashville, Tennessee. 

Come back when you can tell us more about it!

Excerpt from No Escape

Jo turned on the shower, kicked off her shoes and socks, and then leaned on the sink, staring into the fogging mirror.  She was grateful her expression looked calm and her cheeks had not flushed with shock.  Brody Winchester.  She’d heard he’d moved back to town but had hoped Austin was big enough for her to avoid him. 

For several seconds she stared until the steam misted over all traces of her.
“Holy shit,” she whispered as she turned and pulled off her hoodie, workout shirt and pants.

She stepped into the shower and ducked her head under the hot spray, barely noticing as it streamed over her body and rinsed the salty sweat from her skin. 

Brody f-ing Winchester was in her house.  Getting a soda out of her fridge.  Brody f-ing Winchester was sitting on her sofa like it was old home week. 

Brody f-ing Winchester.

Her ex-husband. 

It had been fourteen years since they’d last seen each other.  For several years after their divorce she’d dreamed of facing him again and demanding an apology.  She’d imagined him seeing the error of his ways and offering sincere regret.  The dream had sustained her for a time but after several years, she’d simply grown tired of being angry.  And so she’d let Winchester go, truly believing he was out of her system.

And then she’d seen him standing in the gym, staring at her as if she were an odd curiosity.  She’d been taken aback, lost her hold, and practiced speeches recited too many times after the divorce were forgotten.

She groaned.  She’d invited him into her home.  Offered him a soda.  And a sandwich.  You were always a pushover around him.

She willed the water to wash away her thoughts and disappointments.  Let go.  Let go.  The familiar mantra lapped over her, taking with it some of the emotion.

Brody’s arrival wasn’t personal.  It was business.  And he was acting like an adult, a professional.  He wasn’t the newly enlisted twenty-one-year-old Marine who had all the answers, and he wasn’t looking at her as if she owed him.  Nor was she an awkward eighteen-year-old grateful for any kind of love and attention.  She didn’t need him, not as she thought she had all those years ago.

The hot water beaded on her forehead.  She was thirty-two.  He was thirty-six.  If they couldn’t act like grown-ups now when would they ever?  The past was the past.  Let it go and move on. 

This time tomorrow her interview with Harvey Lee Smith would be over and Brody would be out of her life again.  Case, hopefully, closed.

She shut off the water, toweled off, dried her hair quickly and dressed in a dark pencil skirt, white blouse and matching jacket.  She put on her pearl necklace and earrings and as she promised was ready to leave within thirty minutes.

When she emerged from her bedroom, her cats had surrounded Brody.  Atticus, a sixteen-pound orange cat, sat at the end of the sofa staring at Brody as if he wanted to attack.  Shakespeare, a wiry black cat with a snub nose tail, sat on the floor out of his reach, and Mrs. Ramsey, a small gray tabby, sat in his lap, purring as he rubbed her between the ears.

God, what he must think of her.  All these years and she was still not only the nerdy smart girl, but also the single lady with the house full of cats. 

She snatched up her purse and snapped it open.  “Ready?”

He finished off his soda and gently nudged Mrs. Ramsey back onto the couch.  As he rose, his gaze lingered on her a half a beat before he held up the can.  “Yep.  Where’s your trash can?”

Her first instinct was to take the can and throw it out for him.  She’d have done it for anyone but him.  “Under the sink in the kitchen.”

As he disposed of the can, she checked her wallet to make sure she had enough cash as well as her ID.  She tucked in a notebook, extra pens as well as a point-and-shoot camera.  “I’ll follow you to the airport.”

He moved toward her, hat balanced in his hand, each step measured. 

When had she forgotten he was so tall and broad shouldered?  He’d been like that in college, possessing a room simply by entering.  Age had certainly not whittled away his muscle tone.  He was broader in the shoulders and his legs and his wrists had grown thicker. 

He’d never been classically or pretty-boy handsome.  “Very male” had been the best way to describe him.  Age had not only wiped away the traces of youth, but had left his face with a raw-boned leanness that bordered on menace. 

“It could be a late night,” he said.  “Better not to leave an extra car at the airport.”
No doubt his frame all but filled the front seat of that Bronco.  “I don’t mind.”
“It’ll be easier if I drive.”

A rebuttal danced on the tip of her tongue and then she swallowed it.  The more she protested, the bigger deal she made out of the whole situation.  And this was not a big deal.  It was business. 

“Fine.”  Atticus meowed, jumped off the back of a chair.  “Let me feed the cats.”

He held out his hat, indicating the way to the kitchen.  “You’ve wrangled yourself a real herd here.”

“They kinda found me.”

“You’re a soft touch.”

“Maybe.”  She opened the kitchen pantry, scooped out a mound of dried food and dropped it into three different bowls scattered around the kitchen and den.  Atticus took the bowl by the bin.  Shakespeare moved to his bowl under the kitchen table and Mrs. Ramsey ate behind the chair.

“That big red one runs the roost,” Brody said.

She filled a water bowl and set it beside Atticus.  “I’ve had him a year.  But as soon as he arrived he took over.”

“Is he growling?”

“He growls when he eats.  Defense mechanism, I suppose.  Vet thinks he fended for himself a good while.  He was half starved and pretty banged up when he came to me.”

“Give the ’ol boy credit for surviving.”

“Let me check in with my neighbor and let him know I’ll be gone.  There’s a fifty percent chance of rain this evening, and if we get grounded the cats will need to be fed.”

He followed her out the front door.  “Still watch the weather every morning?”

Still eat Frosted Flakes in the morning?  The unexpected memory had her pulling the front door closed with a too-firm slam.  She turned the key in the lock until the dead bolt slid into place.  “The first personal reference to our short but brief marriage—the elephant in the room.”

He stood at the base of the stairs, one foot on the bottom step.  “I never was good at pretending.”

“Cutting honesty from what I remember.”

He settled his hat on his head.  He tightened and released his jaw.  “There something between us we need to lance before we get this show on the road?”

“No.”  Emotions tightened and released.  She nodded toward the house to her right.  “I’ll be right back.”

About the author:

New York Times and USA Today bestselling novelist Mary Burton has been intrigued by investigative work and the people who do it since Virginia, her home state, was stung by a string of serial killings that spanned more than twenty years. Not surprisingly, many of Mary's suspense novels are fueled by the acts of multiple killers and the people who pursue them, as is No Escape, her latest and the second in a trio of stories set in and around Austin that began with The Seventh Victim. Her third Austin-set novel, You're Not Safe, will be published in April 2014.

The author of twenty novels and three novellas, her earlier novels include I'm Watching You, Dead Ringer and Dying Scream, set in her home town of Richmond, and Senseless, Merciless, and Before She Dies, set in Alexandria. 

She is a member of Thriller Writers of America, Mystery Writers of America, Romance Writers of America and Sisters in Crime, for which she is president of the Central Virginia chapter.

Mary is currently at work on her next novel, set in Nashville.

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