I’m pleased to have author Valerie Burns writing as V.M. Burns from Chatanooga, TN here to speak about her writing and new release, The Novel Art of Murder that’s on blog tour with Escape with Dollycas into a Good Book.
Great to have you here, Valerie. How long have you been published? What titles and/or series have you published and with which publisher? Have you self-published any titles? Please give details.
My first book, THE PLOT IS MURDER, was published by Kensington Books in November 2017. That was the first book in my Mystery Bookshop Mystery Series. I have three mystery series:
Mystery Bookshop Mystery Series (Kensington)
The Plot is Murder (1) – November 2017
Read Herring Hunt (2) – April 2018
The Novel Art of Murder (3) — November 2018
Dog Club Mystery Series (Lyrical Underground)
In the Dog House (1) — August 2018
The Puppy Who Knew Too Much — February 2019
RJ Franklin Mystery Series (Camel Press)
Travellin’ Shoes (1) — July 2018
Sometimes I Fell Like a Motherless Child (2) —July 2019
Excellent! They all sound great! ell us a little bit about them.
The Mystery Bookshop Mystery Series is set on the shores of Lake Michigan. When Samantha Washington’s husband dies, she quits her job as a high school English teacher to follow their shared dream of opening a mystery bookshop. However, opening a mystery bookshop isn’t her only dream. She also dreamed of writing British historic cozy mysteries. Each book in this series contains the contemporary mystery that Samantha is living and the British historic mystery she is writing. The fourth book in the series, WED, READ & DEAD is scheduled to release on April 30, 2019.
The Dog Club Mystery Series starts in Indiana. When Lilly Echosby’s husband, Albert sells cars. When he wants to trade Lilly in for a younger model, she is furious. When Albert is murdered, the police arrest Lilly. Lilly and dog enthusiast and best friend, Dixie Jefferson, have to prove her innocence by finding the murderer. The second book in this series, THE PUPPY WHO KNEW TOO MUCH, releases on February 12, 2019.
The RJ Franklin Mystery Series is set in Northwestern Indiana. This series features a policeman and his godmother, Mama B as the sleuths. It is a multicultural mystery which includes a glimpse into the life of the African American community. All of the titles in this series are taken from Negro Spirituals and the books include soul food recipes. The second book in this series, SOMETIMES I FEEL LIKE A MOTHERLESS CHILD, will release in July 2019.
A nice variety of mysteries. Describe your goals as a writer. What do you hope to achieve in the next few years? What are you planning to do to reach these goals?
I love writing so my goal is to continue writing cozy mysteries for as long as possible. I want to improve as a writer and storyteller. Improving has been a continual process which started with going back to school to get my Master of Fine Arts degree in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. It was a great decision that helped get my writing career started. Now, I continue to learn by reading and attending conferences. In 2018 I attended two writing workshops/conferences. In 2019 I plan to double that number. I learn a great deal by attending workshops, networking with other writers, and trying new techniques.
A great plan. I’m sure it will helpful to your goal. What type of reader are you hoping to attract? Who do you believe would be most interested in reading your books?
I hope to attract readers who are looking for an entertaining story. My books are not world changing epics, however I hope they will amuse and entertain. Critics of genre fiction often call it “escapist.” Honestly, I’m okay with that label. Sometimes, people need to escape reality and spend time in a place that feels comfortable with people you enjoy spending time with. I strive to create that place and those people in each of my books. Each time a reader picks up one of my books, I hope they feel like they are reconnecting with old friends. So, those are the people that I think will be interested in reading my books.
Characters are very important in cozies. I’d also like to think of the Cobble Cove folks as friends to my readers except for the killers, of course – lol!
What advice would you give other authors or those still trying to get published?
It’s not easy to get a book traditionally published. Most authors (myself included) received a lot of rejections before their first book was published. However, the key is to keep writing. Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, James Patterson, Agatha Christie and F. Scott Fitzgerald were all rejected. However, books are subjective and just because one agent, editor or critic doesn’t like it, doesn’t mean the book shouldn’t be published. A rejection means that book wasn’t for that person at that point in time. I’m sure every publisher who rejected J.K. Rowling would love an opportunity for a second chance. If having a book published is your dream, don’t give up and NEVER stop writing.
Excellent advice. I’m still trying to find an agent and become traditionally published, but I’m thankful for the books and series I have out through Solstice, my small, online publisher.
What particular challenges and struggles did you face before first becoming published?
Getting published isn’t easy. One of the challenges is getting your foot in the door and finding someone to read your manuscript. Most publishers don’t accept unsolicited manuscripts from un-agented writers. Agents receive tons of queries from writers looking for representation and can afford to be selective. As a writer, we send out queries and don’t hear anything back for weeks, sometimes months, if at all (I once received a rejection for a manuscript over a year after the query was sent). Writing is very solidary and it’s easy to take rejection or silence as a judgment of your writing skill. One thing that helped me was connecting with the writing community. Mystery Writers of America (MWA) and Sisters in Crime (Sinc) are great organizations. Both will allow unpublished authors to join (male and female, don’t let the Sinc name fool you). Sisters in Crime even has a “Guppies” group which is a great place to make connections, get feedback and ask questions. It’s a great way to maintain perspective.
I’m a member of SINC Guppies and, even though I’m published, I learn a lot from them.
Do you belong to any writing groups? Which ones?
I’m a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, Crime Writers of Color and Thriller Writers of America
Great groups. I’m a fellow member of Sisters in Crime and Thriller Writers of America. I also belong to a local group and the Cat Writer’s Association.
What are your hobbies and interests besides writing?
I enjoy baking, but am starting to enjoy cooking. I read and for many years, I competed in performance events (agility and obedience) with my poodles. I also used to do pet assisted therapy.
Sounds like you’re a fellow pet lover.
What do you like most and least about being an author? What is your toughest challenge?
I love writing. I have a lot of ideas and getting them out of my head and onto the page is a fantastic thrill. I love seeing how the stories and characters develop. My least favorite part about being an author is editing. Authors edit a manuscript multiple times before it ever gets printed, which means reading, reading, and re-reading the same story over and over and over. My toughest challenge is making time for edits. I’d much rather write.
Editing can be even more time-consuming than writing, but authors including myself find promoting an even bigger challenge.
What do you like about writing cozy mysteries?
I love writing cozy mysteries. I love creating characters and watching them evolve. I’m not a plotter. I prefer to get a basic idea for a story and then start writing and see where the characters and the story take me. Sometimes, I write myself into a corner, but generally the characters will show me the way out. Cozies are, in my opinion, driven by the characters.
I agree with that completely, and I’m also a pantster. I take very few notes and don’t really outline. Sometimes the outcomes even surprise me, but the characters, as you said, do take control.
Can you share a short excerpt from your latest release?
“If you don’t get your fanny out of that dressing room in the next thirty seconds, I’ll come in and drag you out.”
I recognized the tone in my grandmother’s voice well enough to realize she meant business. Three hours of trying on every bubble-gum-pink bridesmaid dress in South Harbor’s one and only wedding shop had left all of us in a foul mood. I took one last look at my reflection in the mirror and resigned myself to my fate. The hoopskirt under my ballroom gown was so large I had to turn sideways and wiggle to get through the dressing room door, but given this was the seventh or eighth dress I’d tried on, I had mastered the technique fairly well.
In the main viewing area at the back of the large store, I walked up the two stairs and stood atop the platform designed to look like a wedding cake to showcase the dresses to loved ones. I stood atop the platform of shame and waited for the laughter I knew was inevitable.
Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about you or your books?
All of my books are available as ebooks. The Mystery Bookshop Mystery Series is available in bookstores and in large print. The Plot is Murder and the Dog Club Mystery Series is also available in audiobook. The RJ Franklin Mystery Series can be ordered as Trade Paperback or ebook format.
That’s great, Valerie. It was so nice speaking with you today. I’m sharing your blog tour below. Best wishes on it and your new release.
The Novel Art of Murder
by V.M. Burns
About the Book
The Novel Art of Murder (Mystery Bookshop)
3rd in Series
Kensington (November 27, 2018)
Paperback: 256 pages
Digital ASIN: B07B7B4C8Q
Mystery bookstore owner Samantha Washington is trying to keep her grandmother from spending her golden years in an orange jumpsuit . . .
The small town of North Harbor, Michigan, is just not big enough for the two of them: flamboyant phony Maria Romanov and feisty Nana Jo. The insufferable Maria claims she’s descended from Russian royalty and even had a fling with King Edward VIII back in the day. She’s not just a lousy liar, she’s a bad actress, so when she nabs the lead in the Shady Acres Senior Follies—a part Nana Jo plays every year in their retirement village production—Nana Jo blows a gasket and reads her the riot act in front of everyone.
Of course, when Maria is silenced with a bullet to the head, Nana Jo lands the leading role on the suspects list. Sam’s been writing her newest mystery, set in England between the wars, with her intrepid heroine Lady Daphne drawn into murder and scandal in the household of Winston Churchill. But now she has to prove that Nana Jo’s been framed. With help from her grandmother’s posse of rambunctious retirees, Sam shines a spotlight on Maria’s secrets, hoping to draw the real killer out of the shadow
About the Author
V.M. Burns was born in Northwestern Indiana and spent many years in Southwestern Michigan on the Lake Michigan shoreline. She is a lover of dogs, British historic cozies, and scones with clotted cream. After many years in the Midwest, she went in search of milder winters and currently lives in Eastern Tennessee with her poodles. Her debut novel, The Plot is Murder was nominated for a 2017 Agatha Award for Best First Novel. Valerie is a member of Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, and a lifetime member of Sisters in Crime. Readers can learn more by visiting her website at vmburns.com
Purchase Links – Amazon – Barnes & Noble – IndieBound: – Books-A-Million – Hudson Booksellers
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