Bookin' It

So Many Books. So Little Time. Let's Review!

Bonus Author Interview: Anna Celeste Burke

So happy to have Anna Celeste Burke with us today. Anna is the author of the Jessica Huntington Desert Cities Mystery Series, and a real nice gal, too. I know you’ll enjoy meeting her this morning. Please feel free to comment below, and ask any questions of Anna Celeste you might have. She’ll answer, I promise.


Anna Celeste Burke: Thanks for featuring me on your lovely, blog, Marcia! It’s an honor to be interviewed by such a delightful author. I enjoyed reading Wake Robin Ridge and Swamp Ghosts very much.

Bookin’ It: Thank you, Celeste, and I will return the compliment. I enjoyed A Dead Husband, too. It was one of my first cozy mysteries, and a lot of fun to read. Tell us how long you’ve been writing.

ACB: Well I’ve been writing for decades. Nonfiction, though, articles, book chapters, and monographs published in traditional academic outlets.  On the side, I started writing fiction about twenty years ago. When I retired, I already had a couple horror novels, a sci fi short story, and even a script or two under my belt.  For about five years I attended the Maui Writer’s Conference, and participated in workshops on fiction writing.

Bookin’ It: What is the biggest difference, to you, in writing fiction and writing non-fiction?

ACB: Well I’m still finding my way in the world of fiction writing. The thing I like most is the fact that it is such an unbounded, creative activity.  The downside is that the route to getting published is much less clear than it was for my academic work.   Although the review process was grueling, and rejection a fairly regular occurrence, once your work was accepted for publication you were pretty much guaranteed to reach your target audience.   As a self-published author, in a world where millions of books are published each year, it takes some work to get your book noticed and into the hands of your intended readers.

Bookin’ It: Can you tell us a little bit about the Jessica Huntington Desert Cities Mystery Series?

ACB: Glad to! Jessica Huntington is a young woman who has lived a privileged life. Now in her mid-thirties, she’s hit by a series of unfortunate events: loss of her law career, the deterioration of her marriage, and futile efforts to save it by having a baby. Finally she finds the love of her life in their bed with “Hollywood Barbie”. She’s sort of in shock, but after retreating to the California desert near Palm Springs, she’s hit by another trauma. Her best friend’s husband is murdered. In her effort to help her friend, Jessica is pulled, headlong into murder and mayhem.  She comes face-to-face with a side to life in the Palm Springs area she never knew existed.  The first book in the series, A Dead Husband, was released in mid-December, 2013. The second book, A Dead Sister, was just released mid-April.

Bookin’ It: What do you hope readers find in your book? What will they take away after reading it?

ACB: I hope they experience the book as a romp, set in a place known for glitz and glam. I’d like readers to enjoy the natural beauty, the history, and the surprising diversity of the community. It’s a spicy gumbo of a place, with roots a couple thousand years old.  The native people still play an active role, and the Hispanic heritage is alive and well, co-existing alongside a variety of newcomers that call the Coachella Valley home, including a lot of retirees like me.  So setting is ‘another character’ as readers have noted in reviewing  A Dead Husband.

My other big hope is that readers come to love Jessica and Bernadette and the other characters at the center of the series.  More important to me than the 5 stars for the first review of A Dead Sister, was just that. The reader commented that reading A Dead Sister was like ‘seeing a good friend again—a warm & comfy feeling. ’ Yay!  

Bookin’ It: Can you tell us a little bit about the story line in A Dead Sister, without giving away too much?

ACB: Sure. Like A Dead Husband, this second book, A Dead Sister, involves murder close to home. Jessica’s childhood friend, Kelly Fontana, was the victim of a hit-and-run, killed shortly after graduating high school. That was back in 1999. In 2013 some guy picked up for a drug offense says it wasn’t an accident but a murder. Jessica is compelled to find out if that’s true or not. Who could have wanted to kill the nineteen year old auburn-haired beauty, and why?

As there was in A Dead Husband, there’s a lot of humor in this second book. There’s even a bit more romance than there was in the first. Her ex-husband and his Hollywood diva aren’t done yet. There’s quite a scene, courtesy of “Cassie-the-worm-hearted” as Jessica calls her.  And, in one of Jessica’s shopping meccas, Rodeo Drive!  Did I mention there’s a lot of shopping and good food in both books? Anyway, Jessica dives into the murder investigation.  As you might guess, in no time the cold case heats up.

Bookin’ It: Where are you headed next in the series?

ACB: I’m working next on book 3, A Dead Daughter. I’ve written the prologue and my heroine is in a bad way.  Now, I have to write the back story to reveal what happened and why. How can Jessica possibly get out of the situation she’s in and will she be okay? Events in the first two books happen pretty close together, during one hot and hellish summer. The third book unfolds later in the year and the trouble comes from another direction. Oh yeah, and in this book there’s mom to deal with. I won’t tell you what’s up because that would spoil one thread in the story. Jessica’s mother, Alexis Baldwin Huntington Cranston something Bortoleto, is in the house! All the old favorites, Bernadette and the other ‘cat pack’ members, will be there at Jessica’s side. Some surprises, too, of course.


cropped head shot

Anna Celeste Burke: Life is an extravaganza! Figuring out how to hang tough and make the most of the wild ride is the challenge. On my way to Oahu to join the rock musician and high school drop-out I had married in Tijuana, I was nabbed as a runaway. Eventually the police let me go, but the rock band broke up. Our next stop: Disney World, where we trained to be chefs. More education landed us in academia at The Ohio State University. For decades I researched, wrote, and spoke about a number of gloriously nerdy topics. Retired now, I’m still married to the same sweet guy and live with him near Palm Springs, California. The Jessica Huntington Desert Cities Mystery series is set here in the Sonoran Desert, a spectacular place to ponder life’s mysteries while relishing the delights of the desert resort cities.


Be sure to check out Anna Celeste Burke’s Jessica Huntington Desert Cities Mystery Books. You’ll have a great time reading them.

A Dead Husband

A Dead Sister

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7 thoughts on “Bonus Author Interview: Anna Celeste Burke

  1. burke59 on said:

    Thanks, Marcia, for posting this interview on your terrific blog. One of the best parts of this whole adventure in mystery writing has been meeting dedicated authors, like you, along the way. I can’t wait to see who you’ll feature next!


    • You’re welcome, Celeste, and I agree. I’ve met so many great people since I’ve been blogging and even more since I started writing. You among them. And I’ll give you a little hint as to next week’s Author Interview guest: Deborah Brown, who writes wonderful cozy mysteries set in south Florida. (How about that for a HINT, eh?) 😀 Hope you’ll stop by and see what she has to say. Have a great day!


  2. waldeneffect on said:

    I really enjoyed this interview — thanks for taking the time to drop by, Anna! It’s interesting to hear from another author who’s making the leap from non-fiction to fiction (although I’ve primarily been self-publishing in the non-fiction field as well). What kind of non-fiction did you write? Did you use any of that expertise in your fiction books?


  3. burke59 on said:

    So nice of you to ask…I worked in the behavioral health arena and have a longstanding interest in mental health and substance abuse problems, policy and treatment related issues. Mostly, I published in academic journals in social work, psych, sociology, and have some book chapters with traditional publishers that cater to the academic crowd. Monographs were published by the funders that paid for the research. The whole publishing thing was sort of ‘wired’ to the rest of what I did as a prof. Because I taught social work students I had an interest in trying to understand practice as well as the science related to social and behavioral problems. I like the self-help arena, too, but never published in it.

    I still use some of the research methods I picked up. Also some of the themes that interest me in writing fiction have to do with pondering whether human problems are psychological or existential…sickness or evil, problems ‘determined’ by our circumstance or entered into by choice. That line between mental illness and [supernatural] evil was one of the things I liked most in Stephen King’s books, at least his early works. How about you? What do you find most interesting or challenging about writing/publishing fiction v. nonfiction?


  4. waldeneffect on said:

    That makes your books look so enticing! And since they’re eligible for lending, looks like I know what I’ll be borrowing next month through Amazon Prime. 🙂

    Rather than answering your questions here, I’m wondering if you’d be interested in doing an interview on the topic of non-fiction vs. fiction publishing over on my blog. If so, drop me an email at and we’ll chat. No worries if you’re too busy, but if you’re interested, I’ll definitely include space to plug your books….


  5. burke59 on said:

    I’d love to chat more about that…Marcia and I were emailing about that today. One of the legacies of academic writing is a need to do better waging war on weasel words! Maybe you and I can do a bit of comparing notes, there, too about our experience! Will email you…thanks!


    • This is exactly the kind of connection I have been hoping my guest authors would make. More chances to meet new readers and other authors, and get the word out about what you are doing. Anna, I’m so glad you are going to interview Celeste. I’ll help you get the word out when you are done!


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