Posted in Cozy Mystery, Interview, New Releases

Interview of Sarah E. Burr, Author of #Trending Topic: Murder, A Trending Topic Mystery

Welcome to Ruff Drafts, Sarah. I see you’re from New York City which is not far from my home on Long Island.

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.

In 2017, I began my writing journey with self-publishing. My first title was a novella called The Ducal Detective. Taking place in the fictional Realm of Virtues, my little novella about a Duchess solving the murder of her parents has since turned into an eleven-book saga that continues to grow. My latest self-published novel is Harrowed Heir, with a new Court of Mystery novel arriving this winter.

Trending Topic #Murder is my first traditionally published novel, which arrived on the scene September of 2020. It is first in the Trending Topic Mysteries, published by Camel Press.

Congratulations! We have a lot in common besides being New Yorkers, as I also write mysteries. I just published the fifth book, No Gravestone Unturned, in my Cobble Cove series.

Tell us a little bit about your books — if you write a series, any upcoming releases or your current work-in-progress. If you have an upcoming release, please specify the release date.

Trending Topic #Murder, first in the Trending Topic Mysteries, shines the spotlight on celebrity blogger and social media consultant Coco Cline after she discovers a dead body in her clients’ store. With her rep on the line, Coco is forced to untangle a web of deadly secrets in her small, beachside town.

Coco’s story takes into account how ingrained social media has become in our everyday lives and showcase really just how much information is out there at our fingertips. It goes to prove that anyone can be a couch detective if they put their mind to it!

Trending Topic #Murder made its debut September 8, 2020, and I am currently working on Book 2 in the series.

I will also be releasing the next Court of Mystery novel this winter.

Interesting choice of occupation for the character of your new novel.

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?

My main writing goal has always been to capture all the stories whirling around in my head and wrangle them into a manuscript. There are so many unfinished tales that have been marinating in my mind for years…my goal is to write as many of them down as I can. I also want to explore more genres outside of mystery/cozy mystery. My first major writing project that I ever completed was a fantasy series for young adults. I wrote most of it while in college, so it definitely needs some polishing, as I’ve learned so much about writing and communicating my thoughts since graduating. I would love to return to that series someday, clean it up, and publish it. I also have a few psychological thrillers in mind.

Achieving these goals is all about time management. I already write two series, so for any projects that pop up outside of those, I need to be mindful of time and my publication commitments. They come first. But where I’m blessed to be able to write full-time, I have the ability to carve out “project time” during my workday to pursue these other writing interests.

Sounds like we have the same goals. I like to explore other genres, as well, and have written short eBooks and stories in them, as well as non-fiction articles and will be publishing a non-fiction cat book soon. I’m also hoping to add a second cozy series. I agree time management is essential. It’s very important for me to organize my writing and promoting time because I also work full-time as a librarian.

What type of reader are you hoping to attract?  Who do you believe would be most interested in reading your books?

I would love to bring more young women and men my age to the cozy mystery genre. Sometimes, I think cozies get overlooked by twenty and thirty-year olds, which is funny because most cozies feature a young heroine. By creating a more contemporary and modern main character in Coco Cline—someone who is attached to her phone and knows the power of social media and the web—I hope I have created a character that younger generations can identify with. I’ve loved cozies all my life, so I’m a little bias about how awesome the genre is, but I think a lot of people could benefit from reading about an everyday heroine who takes justice into her own hands. I think if we were all more like the heroines in our cozy mystery novels, the world would be a fairer, more just place.

That’s very true. While my main character is in her forties, I try to feature characters of various ages including teens, children, and seniors in different books of the series. The main character of my new cozy that I’ve been querying to agents is a young woman in her twenties.

What advice would you give other authors or those still trying to get published?

Believe in your work. You know its value, so don’t give up because a few people thought differently. Querying can be one of the most demoralizing experiences in the world. You’ve put your heart and soul into your submission, only to have it rejected over and over again. I kept a spreadsheet of every rejection I received during this whole process. I pull it up every so often to remind myself that it only takes one person, one publisher to believe in your work as much as you do.

On a more practical note, proofread your submissions multiple times and even have a friends or family member proofread for you. A polished piece does wonders for the person on the other end of the line experiencing your work for the first time. And a catchy tagline for your book or series is always a winner!

Excellent advice. I think authors can identify with that.

What particular challenges and struggles did you face before first becoming published?

I really struggled convincing the literary world that the cozy mystery genre was ready for a social media-savvy main character. I got a lot of rejections saying readers wouldn’t be able to understand or identify with Coco using her phone and computer to investigate her victim and suspects. I found this odd, considering my 83-year-old grandmother has a Bitmoji character. It felt like some publishers didn’t quite understand that the world had gone viral. Luckily, I found a publisher that believed in this book and believed that audiences would fall in love with Coco Cline and her squad.

Even before I started querying, I struggled with being ready, or believing my manuscript was done. Of course, it was far from done, but I eventually realized I had gone as far as I could go without help. Help from an agent, help from an editor. That was when I knew it was time to query. I needed someone else to help me take this book to the next level.

Thanks for sharing.

Do you belong to any writing groups? Which ones?

As of right now, I am not involved with any writing groups. I am about as introverted as can be. A bit ironic, since I write about a main character who loves the spotlight. I tend to bounce my ideas off my beta readers.

You’re not alone in that. Many authors do the same.

 What are your hobbies and interests besides writing?

Every writer is a reader, first and foremost. I love sitting out on my porch with a good book. I am also an avid video gamer, lover of Broadway musicals, and swimming. I am a big movie and TV buff, as well.

Nice variety of interests.

What do you like most and least about being an author? What is your toughest challenge?

What I like most about being an author is connecting with readers. I absolutely love knowing my books connect with people and bring them joy. Hearing from readers how much they enjoyed one of my books has got to be one of the best feelings in the world.

What I like least about being an author and my toughest challenge are linked together. I’m really kinda awful with my newsletter. I try to write a newsletter quarterly, but I find it really tricky to share new details. I use social media so much to connect with readers and let them know the big news, that my newsletters always felt like a regurgitation of information. To overcome this hurdle, I’ve started using my newsletter to share exclusive content regarding my books, like short stories or character profiles. Since it is a more creative outlet, I find writing those types of newsletters more enjoyable than just listing my accomplishments or upcoming release information.

I have a similar issue with my newsletters, and I really like your idea for creating interest.

What do you like about writing cozy mysteries?

I love picturing myself as my heroine. It gives me the chance to live another life and have adventures I’ve not experienced. I love the warm, welcoming feeling of a cozy mystery setting. I moved around a few times growing up, so I never really had those deep bonds that cozy MC’s have with their hometowns or the places they live. I also love the idea of solving a mystery. For the longest time, I wanted to be a detective (my idol still is and will forever be Nancy Drew) so writing mysteries has become as good as solving mysteries to me.

I know the feeling. I also enjoy the writing process and becoming absorbed in my own story.

Can you share a short excerpt from your latest title or upcoming release?

From Trending Topic #Murder:

I nodded, heading toward the front door, surprised by the lump forming in my throat. Not one to normally show an abundance of fragile emotion, I took a deep breath, trying to calm my nerves. As much as I wanted the horrible image of Stacy out of my head, pushing her away felt disrespectful. Adding to the fact I hardly knew her, even though I saw her every day for nearly a month, I was racked with guilt over the whole thing. If I hadn’t waited around before letting myself in, perhaps I would have thwarted her attacker, or at least taken him by surprise. Why was she alone at the store? Olivia and Peter were always there to supervise her work. How did the culprit get in and out of the store if all the doors were locked? As I slid into the driver’s seat, I realized I hadn’t yet asked myself the biggest question of them all. Who could possibly have killed her?

Great excerpt. Thank you.

Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about you or your books?

I’m an open book! I love connecting with readers, so please feel free to reach out to me through whatever channel you enjoy best. I love posting content about my books, but also about my new dog, Eevee. She’s my first furbaby as an adult, so she is getting a lot of screen time!

Thanks so much for the interview, Sarah. I’ve shared your blog tour below. Best wishes on your new release and your forthcoming books.

Trending Topic #Murder (Trending Topic Mystery Series)
by Sarah E. Burr

About Trending Topic #Murder

Trending Topic #Murder (Trending Topic Mystery Series)
Cozy Mystery
1st in Series
Publisher: Camel Press (September 8, 2020)
Paperback: 218 pages
ISBN-10: 1603816305
ISBN-13: 978-1603816304
Digital ASIN: B08DH78VXM

Meet 28-year-old celebrity blogger Coco Cline, who has started her own social media consulting company in her hometown of Central Shores, Delaware. Her new clients, Peter and Olivia Chen, are ten days away from the grand opening of their specialty consignment shop when Coco finds their store clerk Stacy dead behind the register.

Worried that a cloud of suspicion will ruin their chances of a successful business launch, the Chens ask Coco to work alongside the inexperienced, small-town police force to speed up the investigation. Using her celebrity status and social media savviness, Coco realizes Stacy’s seemingly ordinary life was all an act. Following a trail of cryptic online posts and muddied gossip, Coco and her friends discover Stacy’s questionable relationships just might be the reason for her untimely demise.

About Sarah E. Burr

Sarah E. Burr grew up in the small town of Appleton, Maine and now lives outside New York City. Since she was seven, Sarah has wanted to be Nancy Drew, but she wasn’t stumbling across any mysteries in corporate America. Deciding it was time to follow her dreams, Sarah left her career in healthcare information technology three years ago and started writing mysteries of her own. The Trending Topic Mysteries is her first traditionally published series. Sarah also writes the Court of Mystery series.

Sarah attended Elmira College and graduated with degrees in Political Science and Philosophy & Religious Studies. She loves to weave these themes into her writing. When she’s not spinning up new stories, Ms. Burr is off seeing Broadway musicals, reading up a storm, video gaming, and enjoying walks around the city.

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I'm a retired librarian and the author of the Cobble Cove and Buttercup Bend cozy mystery series and other novels, short stories, poems, articles, and a novella. My books include CLOUDY RAINBOW, REASON TO DIE, SEA SCOPE, MEMORY MAKERS, TIME'S RELATIVE, MEOWS AND PURRS, and MEMORIES AND MEOWS. My Cobble Cove cozy mystery series published by Solstice Publishing consists of 6 books: A STONE'S THROW, BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE, WRITTEN IN STONE, LOVE ON THE ROCKS, NO GRAVESTONE UNTURNED, and SNEAKY'S SUPERNATURAL MYSTERY AND OTHER COBBLE COVE STORIES. My new Buttercup Bend series published by Next Chapter Publishing includes THE CASE OF THE CAT CRAZY LADY and THE CASE OF THE PARROT LOVING PROFESSOR. I've also written a romantic comedy novella, WHEN JACK TRUMPS ACE, and short stories of various genres published as eBooks and in anthologies published by the Red Penguin Collection. My poetry appears in the Nassau County Voices in Verse and the Bard's Annual. I'm a member of Sisters-in-Crime, International Thriller Writers, and the Cat Writers' Association. I live on Long Island with my husband, daughter, and 2 cats.

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