Monday, February 13, 2012

Mary Burton, Guest Blogger

My guest today is Mary Burton. A Virginia native whose family’s Richmond roots run as deep as the nation’s, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Mary Burton also resided briefly in Alexandria, the setting for BEFORE SHE DIES. She graduated from Virginia’s Hollins University, began a career in marketing and, after a decade, left her job to begin writing. Burton’s first book was published in 2000. Eleven more romances and three novellas followed before she turned to serial killers for her suspense novels, Before She Dies, Senseless, Merciless, Dying Scream, Dead Ringer and I’m Watching You.

Thank you, Mary.

Those Not-So-Loveable Villains

The villain in BEFORE SHE DIES is obsessed with the occult.  He believes witches live among us and it is his duty to rid the world of them.  He is a man who can blend with society’s best during the day and stalk the streets for his next victim at night.

He is the most important character in BEFORE SHE DIES?  What, you say?  Surely the most important character is the heroine Charlotte Wellington.  She is a successful defense attorney with a dark and dangerous past.  Or what about homicide detective Daniel Rokov?  He is a sharp-minded policeman who works tirelessly to catch bad guys.  The most important character in any of my romantic suspense novels is the villain. 

Don’t get me wrong.  Charlotte and Daniel are critical to BEFORE SHE DIES.  They add an intelligence, spice and edge to the book.  But do they drive the story?  The real plot driver in BEFORE SHE DIES, and any of my romantic suspense novels, is the villain.  After all without the villain there would be no murder and mayhem and there’d be no suspense to bring Daniel and Charlotte together.

I think back to the times when real life serial killers stalked my home state of Virginia.  When the D.C. Snipers were on a rampage people were afraid to gas up their cars, schools canceled sporting events and state troopers lined all the exits along I-95.  In 1987 Southside Strangler stalked the streets of Richmond, women were afraid to go out alone, to leave their windows and doors unlocked or to trust strangers.  The D.C. Snipers and the Southside Strangler held the attention of the entire world while law enforcement worked tirelessly to catch them. 

Like a stone tossed in a still pond, a villain shatters tranquility. 

That’s why it is so important to me to understand why the killers in my books kill.  What drives them?  How do they choose their victims?  What methods of murder do they use?  I can spend hours and hours trying to understand my villain and why he does what he does. 

It’s also important to me to create a balance in the villain.  Though there is never any doubt in the reader’s mind that he is evil, the killer often can have moments of kindness and humanity.  No character should be all evil and no character can be all good.  It is this mix of dark and light that makes a villain frightening.  You will never know what he’s going to do next.

My job is to create a villain that terrifies you, keeps you turning the pages of my book, and encourages you to lock your doors at night.  Here’s hoping the villain in BEFORE SHE DIES does just that.

Thanks for letting me visit!


New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Mary Burton’s romantic suspense novels include the just published Before She Dies, her two earlier Alexandria, Virginia set novels Senseless and Merciless, and her thrillers Dying Scream, Dead Ringer and I’m Watching You. All have been published as paperback originals by Zebra Books.

A Virginia native whose family’s Richmond roots run as deep as the nation’s, Mary was born, raised in, and raised her own family there. She graduated from Hollins University and began a career in marketing before writing her first novel, a historical romance, published in 2000. Eleven more novels and three novellas for Harlequin followed. In total, she has written nineteen novels and four novellas.

She is a graduate of the Henrico County Citizens Police Academy and the Richmond FBI Citizen’s Academy, and has participated in Sisters in Crime’s Forensic University program and the Writers Police Academy in Jamestown, North Carolina, where she attended seminars on undercover work, autopsies, and the theories behind why people kill.

When not killing people—the total is upwards of a dozen now—or researching, Mary can be found pursuing her second love, baking, practicing Astanga yoga, enjoying her family, playing with her miniature dachshunds Buddy and Bella, or pursuing her Baking & Pastry Arts Certificate at the University of Richmond.

Mary Burton writes full time.  Her next suspense novel is The Seventh Victim, which will be published in February 2013.

Mary Burton
Zebra Books/Mass Market Original/Fiction
February 2012/On Sale 1-31-12


Susan Elizabeth said...

Great guest post by Mary Burton!

I grew up in the Chesapeake Bay area of Virginia, but had family in both Richmond and Roanoke (home of Hollins). I'm wondering not only if Ms. Burton and my paths have crossed, but also if our writing has been influenced by any of the same factors.

I'm excited to read some of her work!

Lesa said...

Thank you, Susan. That would be interesting to know if your paths have crossed. I don't know if she'll get back to you to discuss that or not, though.

I hope you enjoy her books!

Karen C said...

I am so far behind! I just finished Senseless and put Merciless on my wish list and now I learn she's got a new one out (which is now on the list, too). I've enjoyed all of her books - usually can't put them down! Thanks, Lesa.