Today I have the pleasure to introduce one of my favourite mystery writers and a very good friend, Anna Celeste Burke. Welcome back to my blog. Please tell my readers, what type of crime fiction do you write and why?
I write mystery fiction that most regard, these days, as “cosy mystery.” Adult themes, of course, but no graphic violence or explicit sex, and little or no profanity. The stories I have authored vary a great deal in terms of story length, how light-hearted they are, and in their level of suspense. All include a dash of humour and romance. I prefer to write mysteries that drift toward the lighter side of the continuum because I find that I have more fun writing them. I do enjoy reading thrillers, too, though, and may yet take my writing in that direction.
Did anyone influence or encourage you to become a writer?
I loved writing stories as many children do, but backed into the business of writing by choosing an academic career. I did not realize, until I earned my PhD, how much of my life would be spent writing. When they say publish or perish in academia, they mean it!
Writing fiction started as a way to free me from the confinement imposed by academic writing. Writing about social and behavioural science topics, even when it comes to policy and practice issues of poverty, violence, addictions, and mental health is pretty dry stuff. No room for the whimsical flights of fancy that fiction allows.
Retired and writing fiction full-time now, I still find myself writing about some of the same topics I studied as the characters in my stories encounter them but in a very intimate and personal way. Since I made the switch to fiction writing, my husband, and my sister have been great sources of support!
Tell us about the concept behind your books. How did you get the idea?
I write books in three series. The Jessica Huntington Desert Cities Mystery Series set in the Coachella Valley, in and around Palm Springs; The Corsario Cove Cosy Mystery Series that takes place in a fictional location on California’s Central Coast; and The Georgie Shaw Cosy Mystery Series set in Orange County, California—the OC. As I say on the homepage for my website, all my books involve “Snooping into life’s mysteries with fun, fiction, & food–California style!” Murder and mayhem, weighty subjects I write about under the influence of sunny skies and blue Pacific waters. Before I was a stuffy professor, I “worked for the Mouse” at Walt Disney World as a chef, so my characters always eat well as they fight off evildoers and figure out whodunit.
Who is your favourite Detective?
I loved Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, and the Hardy boys when I was a kid. As a teen, I moved on to Sherlock Holmes, Miss Marple, and hard-boiled sleuths like Philip Marlow and Sam Spade. Since then I’ve read hundreds of mysteries and enjoy reading stories about well-known women sleuths like VI Warshaswski and Kinsey Millhone. I also have some favourites among popular but less well-known sleuths like Kali O’Brien, and Josie Bates—lawyers in California settings like my Jessica Huntington. I tend to prefer stories that feature ‘amateur’ or ‘accidental’ sleuths, like Stephany Plum, to police procedurals that often veer away from the ‘cosy’ toward the thriller end of the continuum. I do like the Rizzoli and Isles books that have inspired the television series. One of my all-time favourites, The Thin Man Series, combines a police detective with the antics of an amateur sleuth sidekick–his wife and their beloved pooch, Asta! I love the combination of humour, romance and mystery served up in those classics by Dashiell Hammett.
I have things in common with many of the characters in my books. It’s no accident that in Murder at Catmmando Mountain, Georgie Shaw’s trained as a chef, “works for the Cat,” and has to deal with the murder of a co-worker in a theme park. Much of that story line is intertwined with my own since I was a chef at Disney World. That did not include finding a murder victim in the theme park, however. Jessica Huntington, protagonist in the Desert Cities Mystery series, and I share her penchant to play ‘fairy-godmother’ as she is wont to do—lavishing gifts on her friends. She’s far better able to do that than I am, wielding a black AMEX card like a magic wand. Mm, mm, mm, the things I could do if I had one of those! Kim Reed, lead character in The Corsario Cove Cosy Mystery series steps out of the Jessica Huntington series. When we meet her in A DEAD SISTER, she’s working for the ruthless Hollywood music producer, Mr. P. A streetwise runaway, survivor of childhood poverty and abuse, she spent way more time on the street than I did. Her fate might have been mine if I hadn’t lucked out as a teenage runaway and thrown in my lot with a rock and roll guitar player who turned out to have a heart of gold. And to whom I happen to still be married more than forty years later!
What is more important in your books – the plot twists or the characters?
I consider my stories “character-driven,” but I do love a good mystery. I hope readers who drop in for the murder and mayhem will come back to find out what happens next to my main characters.
Why is mystery/crime fiction so popular?
Mystery fiction is second only to romance in its popularity among readers. Why we love mysteries is no mystery. Life is full of them. Every day is brimming with problems, puzzles and dilemmas; one of the reasons I opted for a career studying human behaviour. Pondering life’s mysteries is just what we do given the capacity we have to see ourselves and others in a larger context. That context is often daunting—big and complex. Perhaps reading mysteries is a form of mental exercise. When we’re faced with a new challenge, a mystery we don’t understand, we’ll be ready because we’ve had all that practice. I’ve read another mystery author who likened it to the thrill we get riding a roller coaster. That analogy is probably more true for mysteries closer to the thriller end of the continuum than the cosy mystery, but all mysteries convey some suspense. I think wondering whodunit and why when one human takes the life of another, is a profoundly human quality.
Why do you include humour in the mysteries you write?
Humour is a hallmark of cosy mystery and an integral part of that vicarious thrill ride we take when we read a mystery. As a reader, mysteries cast us into the role of the innocent caught in a bizarre circumstance that we don’t understand. Like finding ourselves, unceremoniously deposited on the ground after a slip and fall. Maybe it’s embarrassment or surprise, but once we figure out we’re not hurt we often laugh. I see it as more of that mental training mystery stories provide.
Life changing events often present us with laugh-or-cry moments. Humour is certainly one way to make dark subjects lighter.
What are you working on now?
I have several projects in various stages. I’m putting the finishing touches on Gnarly New Year, book 2 in The Corsario Cove Cosy Mystery Series. Kim and her hunky surfer dude and new husband, Brien, [another character from the Jessica Huntington series] will be back. It’s New Year’s Eve and their honeymoon’s in for more murder and mayhem after a finding Santa’s killers in book 1, Cowabunga Christmas! Gnarly New Year will be available for preorder May 1st.
Love Notes in the Key of Sea, book 2 in The Georgie Shaw Cosy Mystery Series, is nearly complete and will be included in a summer beach read anthology. In book 1, Murder at Catmmando Mountain, Georgie Shaw meets homicide detective Jack Wheeler. A new mystery brought them together, but an old one just might drive them apart.
I’m also working on A DEAD MOTHER, book 4 in The Jessica Huntington Desert Cities Mystery Series. A story based on an episode in A DEAD MOTHER, Maddie’s Project, is included in Mother’s Day Magic with Love. That’s an anthology of 12 stories about moms, for moms, with part of the proceeds from the sale going to support the effort to find a cure for MS. That’s 99 c/p well spent!
LINKS FOR ANNA CELESTE BURKE
FACEBOOK AUTHOR PAGE: https://www.facebook.com/annacelesteburke
AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00H8J4IQS
Jessica Huntington Desert Cities Mystery Series, Books 1-3 @ http://www.amazon.com/Jessica-Huntington-Desert-Cities-Mystery/dp/B00YIY37ZY/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1448586983&sr=8-2&keywords=Jessica+Huntington
Love a Foot Above the Ground, Prequel to Jessica Huntington Series @ http://smarturl.it/loveabove
Cowabunga Christmas! Corsario Cove Cozy Mystery 1 @ http://smarturl.it/cove1
Mother’s Day Magic with Love http://www.amazon.com/Mothers-Day-Magic-Angela-Ford-ebook/dp/B01AVHGNJI
Happy Homicides 2: Thirteen Cozy Mysteries (Crimes of the Heart) http://www.amazon.com/Happy-Homicides-Thirteen-Mysteries-Crimes-ebook/dp/B01B3FKGOU
Murder at Catmmando Mountain Georgie Shaw Cozy Mystery #1 http://smarturl.it/georgie1
Life is an extravaganza! Figuring out how to hang tough and make the most of the wild ride is the challenge. On my way to Oahu, to join the rock musician and high school drop-out I had married in Tijuana, I was nabbed as a runaway. Eventually, the police let me go, but the rock band broke up. Our next stop: Disney World, where we ‘worked for the Mouse’ as chefs, courtesy of Walt Disney World University Chef’s School training. More education landed us in academia at The Ohio State University. For decades, I researched, wrote, and taught a number of gloriously nerdy topics. Retired now, I’m still married to the same, sweet, guy and live with him near Palm Springs, California. I write mysteries set in sunny California! The Jessica Huntington Desert Cities Mystery series, set here in the Coachella Valley, the Corsario Cove Cozy Mystery Series set in California’s Central Coast, and The Georgie Shaw Cozy Mystery series set in the OC. Coming soon, The Misadventures of Betsy Stark that also take place, here, in the Coachella Valley.