The Write Way Café welcomes author Diane Burton, whose insatiable curiosity and love of writing has her writing in various genres and loving it all.
When did you first have the thought you'd like to write a book? Was that first thought related to writing romance?
My children were going off to college and I was facing the “empty nest.” After years of taking care of everyone, I thought it was time I did something for myself. That was over twenty years ago and I’ve loved every minute of it. I’d read so many romances that, of course, I had to write one. Fortunately for the reading public, those first stories will remain hidden. LOL Somehow, I couldn’t write straight romance. My stories always ended up with a mystery.
Where did the idea for your story come from? What type of research did you do?
I was a huge fan of “Remington Steele” back in the 80s, so it seemed natural when I began writing my first Alex O’Hara novel that the detective had to be a woman. Along with The Case of the Bygone Brother being my first mystery, I had another first. I wrote the second book in the series first. Then I found that instead of filtering in so much backstory I needed to write it as a separate book. I’m so glad I did.
Why did you pick the setting you did?
The Case of the Bygone Brother takes place in a small resort town on the shores of Lake Michigan. I’d always loved the west side of Michigan and had vacationed there many summers. My fictional town of Fair Haven is a combination of the towns along the coast. When I started writing the story, my husband and I lived in the middle of the state and would take “research trips” over to Holland, Grand Haven, South Haven, etc. But it wasn’t until we moved there last year that I really got the flavor of the area with its strong Dutch population.
Are your main characters completely imaginary or do they have some basis in real people?
All my characters are imaginary and not based on real people. I emphasize that because I use a lot of Dutch names—for some, including the missing brother, I used family names. From the early 1600s until the mid-1800s, my ancestors came from The Netherlands. I’ve never been happier for the genealogical research my husband and I have been doing since the first years of our marriage.
What did you learn? For instance, what did you learn about yourself, your process, the writing world; about PI’s, missing people, and resort towns?
My best friend is married to a retired police chief and professor of criminal justice. He’s my go-to person when I have questions. He gave me insight into the different type of work private investigators handle—which of course gave me ideas for future books.
I wrote the story entirely in the first person point of view, like the classic detective novels of the 30s and 40s—Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, etc. This was more difficult than I expected. Since everything is seen through Alex’s eyes, the reader only knows what she knows. No leaking clues by going into the villain’s point of view. No insight into Nick’s (her love interest) motives. I had to know them, of course. This was a real departure from romantic suspense.
Tell us about your writing space and how or why it works for you.
Years ago, my husband salvaged a huge (7 or 8 feet long and 4 feet wide) drafting tabletop from a plant that was being torn down. He used the wood to make a lovely writing desk for me. (His furniture making skills are phenomenal.) It’s in my basement office with a daylight window overlooking a pond with various wildlife, including geese (unfortunately) who come right up to the window. I love the location and my desk, but my favorite space is in my living room recliner with my laptop. It’s comfortable and I can block out all sorts of noise—except my husband’s favorite reality shows like “Alaskan State Troopers.” I think I need earplugs.
What are you working on now?
So many projects, so little time. LOL As soon as I shipped Bygone Brother off to my freelance editor, I began writing the third book in my Outer Rim Series about strong women on the frontier of space. I need to tweak the second Alex O’Hara mystery and I just wrote a short story for The Roses of Prose Holiday anthology. The Santa Tradition appeared in three installations beginning last Sunday. Here’s the link to the first part: http://rosesofprose.blogspot.com/2014/12/the-santa-tradition-by-diane-burton.html
Would you like to try your hand at writing a different genre? Which one and why?
Actually, this is a different genre for me. My first published book, Switched, was a science fiction romance. Since then I’ve written four more sci-fi roms and a romantic suspense. For The Case of the Bygone Brother, I returned to the contemporary time period that I cut my writing teeth on many years ago.
If you were not a writer, what would your dream job be?
Writing is my dream job. I love what I do. But if I had to choose another occupation, it would be an astronaut. I’d love to go into space. Why else would I write sci-fi romance? <grin>
Who is your favorite hero/heroine?
Nancy Drew. When I was young, I read all my mother’s books then started getting more as gifts. Although I “graduated” to adult mysteries and romances, the spunky girl detective has a special place in my heart.
A PI mystery
Alex O’Hara finally gets a case that will give her bottom line a much needed boost. She might even be able to change her diet from ramen noodles to prime rib. All she has to do is track down a man who’s been missing for over ten years. Piece of cake . . . until an old flame arrives and a mugger roughs her up with orders to back off.
I whacked my head on the display shelf.
I whacked my head on the display shelf.
Well, what would you do if you were lying across the top of a four-drawer lateral file cabinet, and your arm—yardstick attached—was wedged between the wall and the cabinet, trying to retrieve the license renewal application that if you mangled, crushed or couldn’t get would mean the end of your business, and the ex-love-of-your-life stood in the doorway looking at your butt?
The shelf shook on its braces from contact with my head. Never mind that the encounter didn’t do much for the aforementioned body part. The Fair Haven Chamber of Commerce awards rattled, and signed Detroit Tigers baseballs pelted my head, shoulders, and the back of my thigh. I dropped the yardstick and swore.
“I thought you promised your mother you wouldn’t swear anymore.” He would remind me of that vow.
“Relapse,” I muttered as I looked over my shoulder.
In that loose-limbed, cocky manner I once thought scary, sexy, and so cool, Nick Palzetti stood in the doorway to the spare office. He even dressed the same in a black leather jacket, black knit shirt, and jeans that molded his hips. Lordy, he could still make my mouth go dry.
As I wiggled back and sideways across the long cabinet, I felt my skirt ride up. Of all days to wear a skirt. With my foot, I searched for the desk chair I’d climbed to get on top of the cabinet. I’d kicked off my high heels before standing on the chair, probably the only smart thing I’d done so far.
“Red panties, you naughty girl.”
About the Author: Diane Burton combines her love of mystery, adventure, science fiction and romance into writing romantic fiction. Besides the science fiction romance Switched and Outer Rim series, she is the author of One Red Shoe, a romantic suspense, and The Case of the Bygone Brother, a PI mystery. She is regular contributor to The Roses of Prose and Paranormal Romantics blogsites. Diane and her husband live in Michigan. They have two children and two grandchildren.
For more info and excerpts from her books, visit Diane’s website: http://www.dianeburton.com