Mary Burton: an interview

11_13 No Escape revise blue band


 Mary, welcome!  Thank you for joining us.

 You’ve created homicide departments for both the Richmond and Alexandria police departments for your books.  Why the switch to what seems to be a more formal “agency?”  Aren’t the Texas Rangers more like the FBI?

 The Texas Rangers are an elite group of men and women within the Texas Department of Public Safety and have a lot more resources than most local Police Departments.  I thought it would be interesting (for me and readers) to have more and quicker access to information and forensic data in the pursuit of this particular killer, especially considering the condensed time period in NO ESCAPE. I was also influenced by the reputation and history of the Rangers.  They’re the source of legends.  Often you hear the phrase ‘One Riot, One Ranger,’ associated with this elite group of lawmen.  Created in 1823, the Rangers have state wide authority, which also opened up some plot opportunities.


THE SEVENTH VICTIM was the first time you set a book in Austin, the headquarters of the Texas Rangers. Now you’re taking us back there in NO ESCAPE.  What’s happening now?

I’m betting you’ve already guessed there’s trouble afoot.  It begins with an old case, when serial killer Harvey Lee Smith insists on telling his deathbed confession to THE SEVENTH VICTIM’s forensic psychologist Jo Granger. She wants to find out what Harvey has yet to share–the whereabouts of victims whose families hope for closure.  She doesn’t expect him to get inside her head.  And she doesn’t expect to encounter ex-husband Brody Winchester, who earned his Texas Ranger star arresting Harvey. And nobody expects a new killer, one that’s mirroring Harvey’s terrifying M.O. of burying his victims alive.


Harvey manages to “get inside” Jo’s head by turning the conversation to her, asking her questions and telling her to “look inside herself.” What makes her susceptible to his probing?

She’s grown up with questions about her family.  Her parents told her one story all her life and, for reasons she’s never been able to explain, that story just never rang true.  Harvey seems to understand that she has questions about her childhood.


Brody Winchester and Jo are suddenly thrust together because of Harvey.  It’s the first time they’ve seen each other since they divorced fourteen years ago, after a brief, painful marriage. They have a lot of baggage.  What made you think they could ever get over their past?  

They were young when they were first married and both have grown up over the last fourteen years. I had confidence that they’d realize it was okay to forgive each other for mistakes that they both regret.


 Brody takes a lot of heat for his past behavior. How difficult was it to make him a character readers can root for?  

How many of us have made mistakes in our youth?  Brody is no different.  However, he owns up to his mistakes and he wants to make amends.  I thought he deserved a second chance and that readers would come to agree with me.


So many characters in the book are keeping secrets.  Harvey, the copy-cat killer, and Jo’s mother keep people in the dark.  What are Jo’s secrets?  Brody’s? 

Brody’s secret is that he never believed he was good enough for Jo.  That belief plagued him greatly when he was younger and may have contributed to some of his bad decisions.  Now that he’s older, confident, and a success in his own right, he can be the man Jo deserves.  And Jo, well, I don’t see her as having secrets.  She’s the one honest person in the book.  She’s always suspected her mother held secrets and she decided early in her life to be upfront and honest.


Suspense novels and romantic suspense are consistently popular with readers.  Why is that?

 In my mind romance and suspense are the prefect blend of genres.  You’ve got the sizzle of romance and the smoke of the mystery.  One offers the reader hope at the end and the other offers justice.  And what I really love about the blend is that each creates such delightful conflict for the other.


What makes you return to the suspense genre again and again?   

I love it.  There are so many angles that I can use to approach romantic suspense that when I’m writing one I just never get tired of it.


What’s next?

I’m calling upon the Texas Rangers again for YOU’RE NOT SAFE, which will be published in April.  This time it’s Ranger Tec Bragg and vineyard owner Greer Templeton.  Though favorite characters will return to the story, this is the first time readers will meet Tec and Greer.  And, as do NO ESCAPE and THE SEVENTH VICTIM, it takes place around Austin, this time on a vineyard in the Hill Country.


Where can readers find out more about your books and work-in- progress?

11_13 MB2 author photo croppedI post updates and photos and check in often on Facebook, so there’s lots of info there.  And my site is always open at  Now, as my calendar is shaping up for 2014, I also expect to have lots of opportunities to visit with readers and other writers in person.  Events are listed on my site at

Thanks for having me!



Mary Burton

Zebra Books/Mass Market Original/Fiction

November 2013/On Sale 10-29-13/$7.99 ($8.99 Canada)





                Joan Schulhafer, Joan Schulhafer Publishing & Media Consulting, 973-338-7428, Vida Engstrand, Kensington Books, 212-407-1573,















Lara Church, the heroine in my latest novel, THE SEVENTH VICTIM is an artist, vegetarian and the lone survivor of a vicious killer.  It’s been seven years since the attack, which she cannot remember.  He’s never been caught and, to keep from worrying over a madman she can’t remember, she’s continually moved from place to place and completely dedicated herself to her art, wet plate photography.

I’ve already had questions from readers about this process, which was invented in the 1850s, and I’m happy to share a bit about what I learned. It involves glass negatives dipped in chemicals, inserted in a bellows camera and then exposed for thirty seconds or more.  It requires a portable dark room and takes a skilled hand.   What’s wonderful about this process is that it can record greatly detailed images that are stunning.  It’s a process that I’ve always been fascinated with and as I was thinking about Lara’s needs and personality, I realized it could be the perfect art form for someone searching for the missing details of her past.

Since even the most dedicated artist has to eat, I thought I’d share one of Lara’s favorite treats.  She’s not the kind of gal who spends hours in the kitchen but when she emerges from her dark room she’s often starving and ready for something sweet.

Lara’s Almond Treats

 1 cup almond butter (or peanut butter)

1 cup golden raisins

1 cup coconut

1 teaspoon vanilla

Toss all ingredients into a food processor and blend.  The mixture will become a thick paste.  Form into balls, roll in any extra coconut you have, refrigerate for a half hour and enjoy!

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A Central Virginia native whose family’s Richmond roots run as deep as the nation’s, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Mary Burton graduated from Virginia’s Hollins University and began a career in marketing. After a decade she left her job and began writing. Her first novel, a romance, was published in 2000.

Following that book, Burton wrote sixteen novels and novellas for Harlequin and Silhouette before entering the dark world of multiple murderers and their motives with Senseless, Merciless, Dying Scream, Dead Ringer and I’m Watching You, as well as her novella Christmas Past, which appears in the 2008 New York Times bestselling holiday anthology Silver Bells.

Her commitment to realism has led to eye-opening interviews with law enforcement, to forensic seminars and to the firing range. 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. Recently, she attended the Writers Police Academy in Jamestown, North Carolina. There she attended seminars on autopsies, undercover work and the motives behind murder.

Mary Burton is an avid baker and an accomplished cook. When not writing, researching or baking, Mary practices yoga, enjoys her miniature dachshunds Buddy and Bella, volunteers at the University of Richmond’s Culinary Arts Program, attends professional conferences, and visits with readers and booksellers.


2_22 tsv mary burton

It’s been seven years since the Seattle Strangler terrorized the city. His victims were all young, pretty, their lifeless bodies found wrapped in a home-sewn white dress. But there was one who miraculously escaped death, just before the Strangler disappeared.Lara Church has only hazy memories of her long-ago attack. What she does have is a home in Austin, a job, and a chance at a normal life at last. Then Texas Ranger James Beck arrives on her doorstep with shattering news: The Strangler is back. And this time, he’s in Austin.He’s always craved her, even as he killed the others. For so long he’s been waiting to unleash the beast within. And this time, he’ll prove he holds her life in his hands-right before he ends it forever..




When I write I need silence. TVs, people, music, or my miniature dachshunds can pull me out of the story if I’m knee deep in the fray trying to find the logical connections that I know link my characters, motivations, and the story plot. However, when I’m at the gym, in my car, or cooking silence is the last thing I want to hear. I want music. I want to feel connected. And I listen to music every chance I get.

What I’ve discovered is that when I’m plotting a book, I’m drawn to certain songs. I’m not sure why but some songs just ‘fit’ better with the current book. BEFORE SHE DIES was no exception. The emotions and sentiments attached to these songs really fit my hero and heroine Charlotte and Daniel. This couple can appear very reserved and cool in public but when they are alone it’s clear there is a lot of passion simmering between them.

Tell me what you think of my playlist. And be sure to let me know some of your favorite songs because I’m always on the lookout for a great song!

Thanks for letting me visit!

Unstoppable, Rascal Flats
Need You Now, Lady Antebellum
I Can’t Make You, Love Me Adele
Crazy Girl, Eli Young Band
I Don’t Want This Night to End, Luke Bryant
Rolling in the Deep, Adele
Big Girls Don’t Cry, Fergie
What Hurts the Most, Rascal Flatts

About the Author:

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



When I’m writing I don’t often have much time to read.   And what reading time I do have is limited to research books.  But when I turn in a book and have a few weeks of downtime, my first stop is the bookstore and library.  Armed with my TO BE READ list, I collect all the books I’ve been coveting and dive in.
Reading for me is a bit like filling the well.  I find myself relaxing as I crack open a book and settle back on the couch.  I let go of worries about plot, structure and characterization and just enjoy the story before me.  It’s a true gift to be swept away by a story and forget that I really should be cooking dinner or switching the latest load of laundry. 
Today I was online ordering books from the web and from my local library.  I never limit myself to any one genre or one author.  I read across the board and even search out that which might not only be fun but challenging. 
I’ve got a real mixed back on my TBR pile right now.   And no doubt by the end of the day, the list will be even longer.  Right now it includes:
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, Stieg Larsson
Moonlight Mile, Denise Lehane
The Lost Art of Listening, Michael Nichols
Ice Land, Betsy Tobin
The Wolves of Andover, Kathleen Kent
My heroine Eva Rayburn in SENSELESS is a big reader.  Her books are neatly almost reverently organized in her small room.  Books have been her companions for years and at times her salvation. 
So what have been some of the books you can’t bear to take off your keeper shelf?  I’m always looking for a book to dive into and would love to hear your suggestions.
Mary Burton captivates readers with stories of mystery, crime and relationships–destined to keep readers on the edge of their seats.  Her January 2010 book SENSELESS is a romantic suspense set in Virginia.  When she’s not writing her latest novel, she is most definitely in the kitchen cooking.


Write.  Bake.  Feast.
Baking isn’t just about food for me.  It is a valuable utensil in my writer’s tool kit.   When a pesky book character gives me attitude and won’t reveal their secrets, I head to the kitchen.  When a plot won’t untangle, I pull out the pots and pans.  And when the pieces of a novel just won’t come together, I get to mixing batter, whipping butter cream or icing a cake.  The kitchen is where I work out just about every tough story question. 
Why does baking work to unravel a story problem?  I’ve no hard and fast evidence on this one, but my theory is that baking engages the creative side of the brain just as writing does.   Typing endlessly can land our brains in a rut and the best way to free it is to try another creative endeavor.
I’m hoping your New Year’s resolutions don’t have anything to do with diet.  If it does, feel free to jump past the cookie recipe I’m about to share.  (Warning: these cookies are darn good and you might be sorry you skipped over them.) 
This isn’t my recipe but one created by my friends Nancy and Mike who were kind enough to share.  Some (meaning me) have called these cookies sinful, too delicious and a real diet buster.  But they are well worth the time it takes to bake and they are the perfect companion to a cup of tea and a favorite book.   
Senselessly Sinful Cookies
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon milk
2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup oil
3 cup flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup corn flakes
12 oz chocolate chips
Cream butter with sugar.  Add egg.  Stir in milk, vanilla and oil.   In a different bowl mix in flour, baking powder and salt.  Gradually, mix dry ingredients into wet batter.  Mix well and add oats and then corn flakes.  Finally, mix in chocolate chips.  Chill the dough for about an hour and then scope onto greased baking sheet.  Bake at 350 degree for 8 to 10 minutes.  

Mary Burton captivates readers with stories of mystery, crime and relationships–destined to keep readers on the edge of their seats.  Her January 2010 book SENSELESS is a romantic suspense set in Virginia.  When she’s not writing her latest novel, she is most definitely in the kitchen cooking.