Crime and thriller author Mary Burton’s professional background is in marketing. In fact, she wrote a book on the subject – “The Insider’s Guide to Direct Marketing.” She also has written (and ghostwritten) articles for periodicals including the Virginia Review and Innsbrook Today. Married with two children, Mary enjoys yoga, cooking, hiking and triathlons. So how did this seeming lady next door become the author of some of today’s premier mystery and crime novels?

Crime and thriller author Mary Burton’s professional background is in marketing. In fact, she wrote a book on the subject – “The Insider’s Guide to Direct Marketing.” She also has written (and ghostwritten) articles for periodicals including the Virginia Review and Innsbrook Today. Married with two children, Mary enjoys yoga, cooking, hiking and triathlons. So how did this seeming lady next door become the author of some of today’s premier mystery and crime novels?


Mary’s path started with historical romance, not murder and mayhem. In “A Bride for McCain” she established a pattern of women who will and do tackle the world around them while coping with whatever personal issues Mary heaps upon them. Her skill in creating these intriguing characters and masterfully constructed plots has contributed to her success in mystery/thriller.


“Before She Dies” is Mary’s latest offering, due out Jan 31. “No one knows about defense attorney Charlotte Wellington's murdered sister, or about her childhood spent with the carnival that's just arrived in town. For Charlotte, what's past is past. But others don't agree. And as a madman's body count rises, she and Detective Daniel Rokov are drawn into a mission that's become terrifyingly personal.”


Sit back, enjoy and keep the lights on.


Q. Why did you make the leap from historical romance to stories that rattle our spines, yet put a smile on our face? 


A. I’ve always loved suspense. And when I wrote historicals I was always itching to add more mystery and suspense.   Many times in the rough draft I’d have a strong suspense element that I loved, but that I also understood just didn’t fit with the gentler genre. Invariably, I’d cut out the mystery thread but the desire to write suspense just got stronger and stronger. However, as much as I wanted to write suspense, I also didn’t want to abandon my romance roots. Romance adds an energy and vibrancy that keeps the reader turning the pages. For me, romance and suspense are a perfect balance of emotion and action.


Q. Do your friends and family ever raise a brow at your ability to come up with such diabolical killers? 


A. Most folks who know me are shocked when they read one of my suspense novels. I’ve heard all kinds of comments that make me smile. “Can you believe she is someone’s mother?” “But she seems so nice.” And when readers meet me for the first time they are also surprised. One gal I met recently at a book club meeting was certain I’d be a dark and scary person. For the first half of the book club she didn’t speak to me but just stared. It wasn’t until after the meeting that she came up to me with a big smile on her face. “You are so different than your stories.”


Q. You avidly support Banned Book Week. Would you briefly explain what that project is about?


A. Founded in 1982 and sponsored by the American Library Association, Banned Books Week celebrates our freedom to read. Though our right to read any book of our choosing is protected by the First Amendment many classic and modern books have either been challenged or banned. It’s a freedom we should never take for granted. 


A couple of years ago I put the call out to some of my author friends, and we joined with the local library for a Banned Books Week event. Each of us read from our favorite book that had either been banned or challenged. It was an eye-opener to me that classic books such as “A Wrinkle in Time” and “To Kill a Mockingbird” were once in danger of being pulled from a library shelf. 


Q. Your love of baking has taken you to volunteering at the University of Richmond's culinary arts program. Have you considered melding thriller tales and baking into a series? 


A. I have not considered putting a baking storyline into a suspense only because my books are pretty fast-paced and there’s just not much time in the story to bake a cake or wait for the bread to rise.


Baking for me is just a really wonderful creative outlet that gets me away from the computer and yet still allows the current story to simmer on the back burner in my brain. I’ve always joked that you can tell how the writing is going by the number of cupcakes on the counter. Lots of cupcakes mean a lot of heavy-duty plotting in my head.


I enjoy baking so much I’ve shifted from volunteering at University of Richmond’s Culinary Arts Center to working toward my baking certificate. And needless to say, my husband and kids are totally spoiled with my baking.


Q. Having established yourself in the romance and murder/thriller genres, is there another genre you would like to immerse yourself in? 


A. I really do love the romantic suspense/thriller genre. I’ve got so many characters and plots swirling in my head that it will be a good while before I run low on ideas!


http://www.maryburton.com/


DA Kentner is an author and journalist. www.kevad.net