MEET MARY BURTON...
Mary Burton enjoys hunting serial killers. A New York Times and USA Today bestselling novelist, she’s tracked them down in her hometown of Richmond, Old Town Alexandria, Austin and, now, Nashville in books that have brought her acclaim and a loyal readership.
Mary’s been intrigued by investigative work and the people who do it since Virginia was stung by a string of serial killings spanning more than twenty years. So, it’s not surprising that many of her novels, for which she’s been compared to Steig Larson*, Lisa Gardner**, and Lisa Jackson***, are propelled by the acts of multiple killers and the people who pursue them. COVER YOUR EYES, her latest, follows suit and is the first of four stories set in Nashville featuring the Morgans, Music City’s preeminent law enforcement family.
Mary's admiration for the work of law enforcement and the skills, insights and tools it requires, is evident even in her earliest forays into suspense, such as 2005’s In Dark Waters, in which a romance evolves when the Sheriff's office is called upon to solve a murder in rural Virginia. Later plots explored arson investigation, a flawed witness protection program, and the reopening of a cold case.
With her novel I'm Watching You, Mary began connecting characters over several books, taking individuals from the same police department or law enforcement agency of one book and giving them their own story in another. For I'm Watching You she created a homicide unit for Richmond, defined its strengths, weaknesses, people and resources, and kept those people and elements in place through two additional stand-alone books, Dead Ringer and Dying Scream.
The multi-book arc gives Mary several additional creative options and not only for character development. She notes that the larger canvas also allows her to incorporate more of the forensic and procedural detail that fascinates her and readers, and to explore dynamics unique to teams of investigators working together over time.
In addition to her Nashville novels, Mary’s other "connected" books are Senseless, Merciless and Before She Dies, all set in Alexandria, and The Seventh Victim, No Escape and You’re Not Safe, featuring investigators from the Texas Rangers.
Mary's research includes interviews with law enforcement personnel, forensic seminars and lessons at the firing range. She is a graduate of the Henrico County Citizens Police Academy and the Richmond FBI Citizen's Academy, and has attended Sisters in Crime's Forensic University program and the Writers Police Academy in Jamestown, North Carolina, where the curriculum has included undercover work, autopsies, and theories of why people kill.
Despite her emphasis on hard facts in the crimes she portrays, Mary's approach to each new novel is psychological. To begin her story she needs answers to three questions about her killers: Why do they kill? What demons drive them? And, how do they choose their victims? The answers are as critical to her plot, she says, as they are to detectives solving a murder.
A Richmond native with family roots as deep as the nation's, Mary has made her home there for most of her life. She is a graduate of Virginia's Hollins University and worked in marketing before committing to write full time. Her first manuscript, a historical romance, was published in 2000.
Mary wrote several more romance novels before embracing the dark world of suspense. She’s even managed to bring danger to her holiday novellas A Ranger for Christmas, featured in the 2014 anthology, OUR FIRST CHRISTMAS, with works by Lisa Jackson, Mary Carter and Cathy Lamb, and Christmas Past, which appears in the New York Times bestselling holiday anthology Silver Bells.
The author of twenty-two published novels and four novellas, Mary is a member of Thriller Writers of America, Mystery Writers of America, Romance Writers of America and Sisters in Crime. She travels frequently for signings, book club visits, and speaking engagements at conferences, book festivals, book stores and libraries. She is also known for her highly regarded "Unraveling Romantic Suspense" workshop and her day-long program "Writing Your Book...The First Step.”
An avid baker and an accomplished cook, Mary's discovered that the creativity of the kitchen entwines with her professional routine in unanticipated ways. It’s her ideal retreat when the writing hits a rough spot. Once there, she's working out dialogue, untangling plot lines and figuring out how to trap a killer before the oven has a chance to preheat.
When not committing murder, Mary pursued her Baking & Pastry Arts Certificate at the University of Richmond's Culinary Arts Program, completing it in June 2014. She’s also involved in adoption issues and has made appearances on behalf of Coordinators2inc, a lifetime adoption resource organization. She and her husband spend time alternately enjoying and lamenting their newly empty nest and spoiling their miniature dachshunds Buddy, Bella and Tiki.
Mary is currently at work on her fourth Nashville novel, and anticipating the May 2015 publication of her new Union Street Bakery novel, At the Corner of King Street, written as Mary Ellen Taylor.
*Publishers Weekly, **Library Journal, ***Library Journal
A Q&A WITH MARY BURTON . . .
Welcome, Mary, and thanks for joining us!
You chose Nashville as the setting for your new suspense novel, COVER YOUR EYES. What drew you to that city?
Several things made Nashville the right choice for COVER YOUR EYES and the three connected books that follow. I wanted a big city setting, but one small enough that its families, traditions, politics and institutions are part of the fabric of people’s lives, not impersonal. When I visited Music City for my first Killer Nashville conference, it gave me the same sense of permanence and personality that drew me to places such as Austin, Old Town Alexandria, and Richmond for earlier books. Once I knew I was going to write about music and murder, it just felt right that my fledgling characters would call Nashville home.
So, how do music and murder mix?
The story opens as Dixie Simmons, an up and coming singer whose late night set pulled her audience to their feet, is discovered dead the next morning, viciously murdered. She was last seen on her way home, just a half-block from her car. Enter homicide Detective Deke Morgan who is reminded of another case, that of another woman, a singer whose high profile killing was solved by his late father thirty years ago, and which lawyer Rachel Wainwright is trying to reopen.
No spoilers, but can you tell us more about that?
Yes. As I mentioned, Rachel is working to overturn the guilty verdict in the decades-old murder case closed by Deke’s father. She’s arguing for the release of DNA test results she believes will prove her client innocent and, thinking she’s being stonewalled by the police, has gone public with her quest. Deke says he’s not interfering but she doubts he’s bothered to do anything to speed things up. She knows he and his siblings don’t want anything to harm their father’s reputation—or theirs as the city’s preeminent law enforcement family. Neither trusts the other and as the present day killing spree continues, Deke and Rachel each hold pieces of seemingly different puzzles, useless until they somehow find the link between past and present.
You said there are three upcoming books tied to COVER YOUR EYES. How are they connected?
Each features one of the four Morgan siblings—three brothers and a sister and is set in Nashville. After COVER YOUR EYES comes BE AFRAID in May 2015. It’s Rick’s story. He’s recovered from the bullet wound he received while working undercover and has joined the homicide team. Alex takes center stage in November 2015’s I’LL NEVER LET YOU GO. He’s an agent for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. After that is Nashville Police Department forensic expert Georgia’s book.
Where can we find out more about your books and what’s coming next?
I post updates and photos and check in often on Facebook so there's lots of info there. And my site is always open for business. Plus, as my calendar shapes up for 2015, I expect to have a number of opportunities to visit with readers and other writers. Event listings can be found at maryburton.com/events.
Thanks for having me!
EXCERPTED FROM MARY BURTON’S COVER YOUR EYES:
“Help me figure this out?”
The question mark didn’t hide the command woven around the words. “Me. But I’m the enemy.”
The intensity in his eyes softened a fraction. “Perhaps not as bad an enemy as I first thought.”
Electricity snapped between them and a force she’d never known tugged at her. Suddenly, she wanted to touch hi. To feel the rough stubble of his chin under her fingertips and against her cheek.
Jesus, Rachel, really? He’s the last guy you should--
Rachel silenced the warning. “Thanks.”
Deke’s gaze ignited with an intensity that nearly took her breath away. She felt devoured by his gaze and he’d not made one step toward her.
He was a man who lived his life apart. Out of necessity, yes, but also maybe a little out of fear. She understood that fear. The fear of feeling too much. Their kind of emotion was a double-edged sword that cut easily.
But in this moment consequences hovered on a distant horizon far out of sight. She had only now and the tension pulling her toward him.
She took one step. “Stay.”
© 2014 Mary Burton COVER YOUR EYES
COVER YOUR EYES by Mary Burton
Kensington Books/Zebra Mass Market Original/Fiction
November 2014/On Sale 10-30-14/$7.99 ($8.99 Canada)