I’d like to welcome V. M. Burns (Valerie Burns) from Chattanooga, Tennessee to Ruff Drafts.
How long have you been published Valerie and 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 in 2017. I have 3 series:
Mystery Bookshop Mystery Series, Kensington
The Plot is Murder, November 2017
Read Herring Hunt, April 2018
The Novel Art of Murder, November 2018
Wed, Read, & Dead, April 2019
Bookmarked for Murder, November 2019
A Tourist’s Guide to Murder, January 2020
RJ Franklin Mystery Series, Camel Press
Travellin’ Shoes, July 2018
Motherless Child, September 2019
Steal Away, October 2020
A Dog Club Mystery Series, Lyrical
In the Dog House, August 2018
The Puppy Who Knew Too Much, February 2019
Bark if it’s Murder, August 2019
Paw and Order, August 2020
Sit, Stay, Slay, December 2020
Congratulations! That’s quite a list. Tell us a little bit about your books — any upcoming releases or your current work-in-progress.
I write cozy mysteries. My Mystery Bookshop Mystery Series is set in Southwestern Michigan on the shores of Lake Michigan. The protagonist, Samantha Washington was a high school English teacher who dreamed of quitting her job and opening a mystery bookshop. After her husband dies, she sells her house and takes the insurance money and follows their shared dream. However, owning a mystery bookshop wasn’t Sam’s only dream. She also dreamed of writing British historic cozy mysteries. This series is unique in that it features two mysteries in each book. Readers get to solve the contemporary mystery Sam is living through, and the British historic cozy that she is writing.
That sounds great. I’m also a cozy mystery writer of the Cobble Cove mystery series featuring a librarian and a library cat, but I also write standalones and other genres.
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?
As a writer, I want to create entertaining, well-written mysteries that readers will enjoy. I’m not perfect and I’m constantly working to improve my craft and become a better writer. One of the best things that I have done to achieve my goal was getting my Masters in Fine Arts in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University in Greensburg, PA. The program helped me tremendously, but I know that I have much more to learn. So, I continue to take seminars, workshops, and courses to learn as much as I can. I read books on craft, as well as mysteries by other authors. Finally, I challenge myself in various ways to stretch and try new techniques. I hope to get better with each book I write.
Those are excellent goals. I agree that as writers, we need to keep learning, writing, and improving.
What type of reader are you hoping to attract? Who do you believe would be most interested in reading your books?
I think readers who like puzzles will enjoy cozy mysteries. Basically, that’s what cozy mysteries are. The reader is reading a story. Throughout the story, the author is dropping clues to help solve the puzzle to figure out whodunit. The author is also leaving red herrings (false clues) which may throw you off track. It’s up to the reader to put the pieces together and figure out whodunit by the end of the book. Cozy mysteries are considered “clean mysteries,” with no sex, bad words, and no graphic violence. Therefore, they appeal to people from all age groups.
Very true. Cozies have a wide audience.
What advice would you give other authors or those still trying to get published?
Keep writing and don’t give up. Getting published rarely happens quickly. The road to publication is long, bumpy, and filled with potholes, roadblocks, dead ends, and detours. However, if you stay the course and don’t give up, then you will reach the end.
Perfect advice. Writers need to be persistent and a little stubborn to reach their goals. I’m still trying to find an agent as I continue to write and publish books and stories.
What particular challenges and struggles did you face before first becoming published?
I think the biggest challenge I faced before I was published was in figuring out the publishing maze. Most publishers won’t accept manuscripts which aren’t submitted by an agent. Finding an agent can be like you’re on the quest to find the Holy Grail. Each agent wants something different (ie 10 pages and a synopsis, first 3 chapters, first 50 pages, first 50 pages and a plot summary, etc.). After you navigate the maze and send the query, then the waiting game starts. It can take months before you receive a rejection with no idea why. It was a long process for me, but perseverance paid off in the end.
I’ve experienced that myself and am still hoping my perseverance pays off with signing for an agent in the future.
Do you belong to any writing groups? Which ones?
I’m a member of Mystery Writers of America, Crime Writers of Color, International Thriller Writers, and Sisters in Crime.
Great groups. I’m also a member of International Thriller Writers and Sisters in Crime.
What are your hobbies and interests besides writing?
As you might guess from my book covers, I’m heavily involved with dogs. When I was younger, I used to compete with my poodles (Coco and Cash) in canine obedience and agility. Both of my dogs were registered with Therapy Dogs International and made monthly visits to nursing homes and hospitals. I also enjoy baking and eating. And, I love reading cozy mysteries.
That’s nice that your dogs are therapy dogs. My parents had poodles when I was young, and they also had German Shepherds when I was growing up along with lots of cats, my favorite pets. I currently have 3 cats whom I’ve featured in my writing. I enjoy including both cats and dogs in my books and stories.
What do you like most and least about being an author? What is your toughest challenge?
I love writing, but there are a lot of components to being an author which don’t involve writing and there doesn’t seem to be a guide on how or what to do. My biggest challenge is in staying on top of my social media feeds. I struggle with how to engage with readers on Twitter and Instagram (and all of the other forms of social media). However, I believe you can teach an old dog new tricks, so I’m working on it.
LOL. You’re right on target with that. Working full time as a librarian, I find it difficult to juggle all the non-writing parts of being an author and still have time to write, but I think I’m getting a handle on it by prioritizing duties and keeping a strict calendar.
What do you like about writing cozy mysteries?
I love reading cozies and as a writer, I enjoy creating them. I love putting clues and red herrings together and trying to weave a plot that will (hopefully) entertain and intrigue the reader.
It’s true that it’s beneficial to write what you know and what you enjoy reading because that will be attractive to readers who like the same types of stories.
Can you share a short excerpt from your latest title or upcoming release?
“Attention.” I clinked my knife against my glass. “Attention.” Unfortunately, no one listened, and the chatter got louder rather than softer.
My sister Jenna Rutherford leaned close and whispered into my ear, “Does the phrase ‘herding cats’ mean anything to you?”
I glanced down the table. My boyfriend, Frank Patterson, had reserved space for us in the upper level of his restaurant. Initially, I attributed the upper area seating to the fact that it was Friday night and the lower level of the restaurant and bar was full, so he was providing us space in the not-quite-open-to-the-public section to give us a quiet place to dine. However, after watching and listening, I suspected the seating arrangements had more to do with preserving the sanity of his paying customers.
Thanks for sharing an interesting excerpt. Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about you or your books?
When an author is traditionally published, they don’t have control over many aspects of the publishing process (eg book prices, release dates, alternate formats). Most of those decisions are made by the publisher, not the author. However, I have been pleased that my publisher, Kensington Press, has made all of the books in my Mystery Bookshop series available in large print and all of the books in the Dog Club series are available in audiobook format. Making books available in multiple formats is more than a personal preference or convenience. It is vitally important for visually impaired book lovers to have access to books.
Those are good points. I currently publish with two Indie publishers who publish my books in various formats from eBook and paperbacks to large type, audio, and hardcover.
Please list your social media links, website, blog, etc.
Thanks so much for the interview, Valerie. I’m sharing your new release’s blog tour and giveaway below.
A Tourist’s Guide to Murder (Mystery Bookshop)
by V.M. Burns
About A Tourist’s Guide to Murder
A Tourist’s Guide to Murder (Mystery Bookshop)
6th in Series
Publisher: Kensington (January 26, 2021)
Paperback: 256 pages
Digital ASIN: B087YRY1S4
While visiting the land of Miss Marple and Sherlock Holmes, bookstore owner and amateur sleuth Samantha Washington finds herself on a tragical mystery tour . . .
Sam joins Nana Jo and her Shady Acres Retirement Village friends Irma, Dorothy, and Ruby Mae on a weeklong trip to London, England, to experience the Peabody Mystery Lovers Tour. The chance to see the sights and walk the streets that inspired Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle is a dream come true for Sam—and a perfect way to celebrate her new publishing contract as a mystery author.
But between visits to Jack the Ripper’s Whitechapel district and 221B Baker Street, Major Horace Peabody is found dead, supposedly of natural causes. Despite his employer’s unfortunate demise, the tour guide insists on keeping calm and carrying on—until another tourist on their trip also dies under mysterious circumstances. Now it’s up to Sam and the Shady Acres ladies to mix and mingle among their fellow mystery lovers, find a motive, and turn up a murderer . . .
About V.M. Burns
V.M. (Valerie) Burns was born and raised in the Midwestern United States. She currently resides in the warmer region of the country in East Tennessee with her two poodles. Valerie is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Dog Writers of America, Crime Writers of Color, International Thriller Writers, and Sisters in Crime. Valerie is the author of the RJ Franklin Mysteries, the Dog Club Mysteries, and the Agatha Award-nominated Mystery Bookshop Mystery series.
January 21 – I’m All About Books – SPOTLIGHT
January 21 – Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book – REVIEW
January 21 – #BRVL Book Review Virginia Lee Blog – SPOTLIGHT
January 22 – Carla Loves To Read – REVIEW, GUEST POST
January 22 – Maureen’s Musings – SPOTLIGHT
January 22 – Reading Is My SuperPower – REVIEW
January 23 – Paranormal and Romantic Suspense Reviews – SPOTLIGHT
January 23 – Literary Gold – CHARACTER GUEST POST
January 24 – I Read What You Write – REVIEW
January 24 – The Book Diva’s Reads – SPOTLIGHT
January 25 – Christy’s Cozy Corners – REVIEW, GUEST POST
January 25 – FUONLYKNEW – SPOTLIGHT
January 25 – My Reading Journeys – REVIEW
January 26 – Reading, Writing & Stitch-Metic – SPOTLIGHT
January 26 – Diane Reviews Books – REVIEW
January 27 – Celticlady’s Reviews – SPOTLIGHT
January 27 – Books a Plenty Book Reviews – REVIEW, CHARACTER GUEST POST
January 27 – Island Confidential – AUTHOR INTERVIEW
January 28 – Here’s How It Happened – REVIEW
January 28 – Brooke Blogs – SPOTLIGHT
January 29 – Book Club Librarian – REVIEW
January 29 – View from the Birdhouse – SPOTLIGHT
January 29 – Books to the Ceiling – CHARACTER INTERVIEW
January 30 – Author Elena Taylor’s Blog – AUTHOR INTERVIEW
January 30 – Sapphyria’s Book Reviews – SPOTLIGHT
January 31 – Ruff Drafts – AUTHOR INTERVIEW
January 31 – Baroness’ Book Trove – SPOTLIGHT
January 31 – My Journey Back – CHARACTER INTERVIEW
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